Would you stop seeing a doctor because of their belief in quackery, even if not related to field?

Meaning, would you stop seeing a doctor who has non-mainstream beliefs, even if those beliefs are not directly related to whatever their field of medicine is or to how they are treating you? Two things inspired this question.

  1. A dentist I went to last week was very friendly and professional, however she told me that she believes it was extremely cold this winter due to a new cycle in the Mayan calendar. I just smiled politely and she didn’t push the subject. When I told a friend about this she said she would not have trusted the dentist in regards to doing proper dental work, although in this case it was actually a hygienist who cleaned my teeth and she seemed competent and professional. The dentist also didn’t raise any red flags aside from that bizarre statement.

  2. A girl I went to high school with is studying to become a doctor at Columbia University. I have no idea what area of medicine she plans to go into. However she did post online a video from a pro-life website claiming that fetuses are aborted alive and left to die, therefore we should all think about second trimester abortions. She did not respond well to factual information and cites from unbiased websites explaining that a) ethical and competent practitioners do not leave living fetuses to die after birth unless resuscitation would be futile (aside from the fact that I cannot find any unbiased websites with information about fetuses being born alive post abortion in the first place) and b) women do not have late term abortions on a whim in most cases.

I think example 2 is more alarming because while she is entitled to not believe in abortion for moral reasons, I think that viewing citations from unbiased resources that disagree with one’s belief as a personal attack shows a huge lack of critical thinking skills which is a little disturbing in a doctor. And I think a doctor who does not believe in abortion should refer a patient to a doctor who is willing to consider that option especially if the woman’s health is endangered or there is a non-viable fetus. I feel the same way about any medical procedure a doctor would be opposed to for moral reasons, although abortion is the most common medical procedure that falls under this category.

Anyway- my point is- even if this woman were to become a standard general practitioner- would you be alarmed if you had a doctor who believed in something strange or unproven whether it be Mayans affecting the weather or something more controversial such as being known to promote biased, potentially untruthful information (doesn’t necessarily have to be abortion related)? Would you drop them over concerns that the issue indicates they may not be a competent doctor overall or would you let it go, especially if it did not affect your treatment?

Yes… If a doctor indicated beliefs that crazy, I would begin looking for another doctor.

My old dentist was the Libertarian Party candidate for Congress, a position he ran for regularly, knowing he was in no danger of winning. I think it was a hobby. I found this vaguely alarming, but not so scary as to make me leave him. Still, I made sure he never learned my personal political leanings…and I was just as happy when he retired and I got another dentist.

Someone with really serious crackpot beliefs? Say no more, I’m out the door.

It’s not so much their belief in “X” that would worry me.

It would be the fact that they are so clueless as to actually talk about this sort of controversial stuff to their patients; it makes me question their judgement.

So no.

That’s what I mean though. Not the belief in whatever, but the fact that they apparently lack judgement or the ability to think critically (and not believe everything they read on the internet).

Not believing in something for personal reasons? Fine. Not being able to understand that many websites and groups have an agenda and will promote false information to advance that agenda? Not fine.

Wouldn’t failure to provide the service you paid for, just because of your politics, be a violation of libertarian principles?

Never underestimate the human capacity to maintain and nurture cognitive dissonance.

I had a nurse once that seemed to genuinely think there was a relationship between the phase of the moon and “crazies” showing up at the hospital. Didn’t matter to me.

Sure, there’s some point where the beliefs and the field are close enough that I’d be worried about interference. But Mayan calendars, political leanings, etc.? No biggie. My experience is that the vast majority of people–even quite skilled and intelligent ones–very successfully partition their intellectual interests from each other. I was friends with a petroleum engineer for a while that also happened to be a Young-Earth creationist. I found it unbelievable at the time that anything in geology could make sense if the Earth was 4000 years old, but it didn’t seem to interfere with his work at all.

Now, if someone held a crazy belief that I had a serious moral problem with–say, vaccine denial–then I would switch providers. But that’s more like a boycott than anything else.

I think we form opinions of others’ cognitive skills from multiple clues and, eventually, they all count.

My allergist took up sailing and navigation, and showed me with enthusiasm how you could get a position based on distances to two known reference stations. He drew a diagram with three dots for the two stations and our unknown positions, and drew two intersecting circles centered on two of the dots. They were supposed to be centered on the knowns, and intersect on our unknown position, but he centered one of the circles on our unknown position. At this point he got stuck and couldn’t make sense of the diagram he was constructing. So, he did some handwaving and opted not to go any further with this technical detail.

He was of the school of thought that the patient should have great confidence in the doctor, and became a sham in this moment. It was one of my earliest experiences in appreciating that a doctor might just be trying to fool me (regardless of what the content was).

It would depend on how I learned this information. If I happen to see them coming out of the Woo-Practicing Americans Temple one day, then I would feel weird holding this against them. It would be like discriminating against a Christian or a Muslim. (And maybe they aren’t even into “woo”. Maybe they were there for someone’s wedding or something.)

However, if they try to apply their woo practices on me while I’m in their office for treatment, that’s different. Just as I would have no problem walking out of the room of a Christian dentist who starts praying over my sore tooth, I would have no problem abandoning a medical practitioner who whips out crystals or roots or whatever.

The gray area would be if they casually drop their beliefs in conversation. It depends on what kind of woo we’re talking about, I suppose. If it’s borderline mainstream with limited influence on medicine (like astrology), I’ll probably overlook it. Acupuncture, meditation, yoga, no problem. But anything else and I’ll probably not want to stick around.

Yeah, I think I’d switch doctors. *Probably *dentist, too, but I’m not as sure about that. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re dumb enough to talk about it to a patient - what matters is that they have so little native intelligence that they could be duped - they have no natural discrimination between good sources and bullshit.

If a doctor believed an abortion website about leaving fetuses to die, they might believe some very dangerous things as well (exposure to allergens that cause anaphylaxis gradually cure the allergy!).

In the mid 1990s I had an appointment with a doctor who wore a copper bracelet - the sort one can buy for $29.99 on the back page ads in National Enquirer - for arthritis pain. He was wearing it openly, so I asked if he really thought it worked, and he said something along the lines of “well, it’s worth a try.”

I never went back. That a professional trained to think scientifically and objectively could even believe in such a thing, let alone share it with a patient, left me with no confidence.

One day, I learned that one of my classmates in medical school, essentially applied and was enrolled in the school so that she could write a book about her admittedly odd nutritional beliefs and put ‘MD’ after her name. Admittedly there is some data suggesting that a low calorie diet is linked to longevity - but her beliefs were a little weirder than that. Cleanses and such - she was oversharing at the time and I got the hell out as quickly as possible, so I don’t have all the juicy details on the weirdness of her beliefs.

The thing about all of this - particularly the medical student against abortion - is that a medical degree doesn’t give you expertise in all fields of medicine. If she goes into ObGyn and maintains those beliefs, I’d be alarmed. She might make a perfectly good pathologist though. It would be interesting to see if her beliefs change after some first hand experience, which I’m guessing she hasn’t had yet. I’m always baffled by people asking for docs to give opinions outside their fields - a pediatrician probably can’t help you with your menopause questions, and likely isn’t up to date with the literature. Go through the normal channels and find the right doctor.

Not exactly quackery, but a big sign on the counter at my ophthalmologist’s office was the capper for me. It said “Dr. __________ does not treat patients enrolled in Obamacare”.


I thought she was a bit of a snot before, but now I am much more comfortable in my decision to find another ophthalmologist whose greed isn’t quite so blatant.

No, I am not enrolled in Obamacare.

I had a pharmacist who was into some serious woo. I don’t have a problem with his store selling a variety of supplements; that’s just part of the business. However, he was a big proponent of “functional medicine”, a topic with which I have limited knowledge, but everything he said about it smacked of quackery.

At the time, he was the only game in town. The day another pharmacy opened (actually in the next town, but close enough), I transferred my prescriptions and took all my subsequent business elsewhere.

I’m a bit confused by the OP - was the person believing in the effects of the Mayan calendar a dental hygienist (in which case I don’t really care about her belief in unrelated woo) or a dentist (here I’d be a bit warier, though I doubt someone wielding a drill will suddenly decompensate and think that Mayan demons are infesting my molars).

I wouldn’t patronize an M.D. heavily into anti-abortion rights ideology, though that’d be because I don’t want to give such a person my business, not because I didn’t think they’d be a competent physician on such a basis.

There’s a potential risk that a physician believing in one form of quackery will espouse others (the phenomenon of crank magnetism). For instance, one prominent antivax pediatrician (who sees Jenny McCarthy’s kid) also believes in homeopathy.
I suppose that there are docs with nutty scientific or political beliefs who make perfectly fine practitioners in their field and are trustworthy. I’m not sure I want to worry about where their lack of critical thinking skills will manifest next.

Please, do not wish her on pathology. We do not have a critical shortage of nutbags in the profession.

I just don’t like interacting with woo folks. I switched accountants when I learned mine was a total CT nut.

Haha, that would be terrible. It was the dentist who mentioned the Mayan woo, however the person who actually cleaned my teeth was the hygienist who did not say anything strange to me. The dentist just came in to make sure everything was definitely ok with my teeth.

I just googled Functional Medicine. Anything that involves a detox sounds scary.

I used to have a doctor that practiced Integrative Medicine- so woo and legitimate medicine combined. If it was anybody else, I probably would not have kept seeing him, as I don’t truck with woo of any kind, but he was so personable and we had such a good relationship, that I stayed with him for years. I’d just tell him when he came in the room that I wanted the real medicine (as in the practice of- he didn’t go so far as to prescribe homeopathics as far as I knew), and he understood.

That’s a good point. My dad owns a business that I’ve been working at for a looooong time. Many many many years ago he told me that you should never discuss money, religion or politics with other people because it’s a good way to lose half your customers. It’s a retail place (a store) so I’ve seen a lot of people in my [counts on hands and feet, takes off pants] 21 years there and I’ve seen nut jobs on both ends of the spectrum. I’ve also walked into traps and set off some of those nuts since I’m fairly liberal in most areas but being in a family business I can lean a bit right in some respects. Nowadays I’ve learned to just keep my mouth shut. I’ll just smile and nod when you tell me that Obama is ruining the country and millions of people are out of work, but I’ll also smile and nod when the next person tells me Obama is the greatest president EVAR and there’s millions of people back to work. Whatevs…
It’s easier to just keep my mouth shut then to ask for cites, argue the other side (even if I agree with them, I still don’t like bullshit stats) or engage them in anyway. If for no other reason people that bring up politics, unsolicited have a habit of talking for a very, very long time…to anyone. From time to time I’ve had to go out and ‘save’ my 16 year old cashiers because there’s some random person talking at them for 10 or 15 minutes about how [random politician] is doing [random bad thing] and they seem to think some high school cashier has any interest in it.
Also, in the 35 years we’ve been in business there’s never, once, been a political sign in on our property. We had some “RECALL PAUL WALKER” people standing on public property in front of the place but we had no choice in that. They stayed on the sidewalk.

That reminds me of this story.
Doctor advises Obama supporters to seek care elsewhere.

Wow. Is it even legal to refuse to treat a patient based on their insurance being purchased through the state or federal exchange? I know an out of network doctor visit may not be completely paid for by insurance, but wouldn’t the patient be billed for the balance?

I could be totally wrong- maybe it is legal unless you’re an emergency department. Just wondering since the article Accidental Martyr posted mentions the ethics of denying patients treatment based on politics.