I distinctly remember a conversation between my parents and me, and I am guessing many of you had the same conversation. Parents: “Why would you do something like that?” Me: “Everyone else was doing it.” Parents: “If everyone else jumps off a bridge, would you do that?” Room goes silent.
There is something that plagues humans from the time they are young until the time they are old. It’s called peer pressure. This direct, indirect, spoken, or unspoken influence comes from those around us, and is responsible for people doing things that are outside of their comfort zone, ethical boundaries, or moral standards. Basically, it can cause a person to do something they would otherwise not do, and do that thing knowing in their gut they are making a mistake.
The thing about making mistakes is that we often don’t think nearly as much of the act or behavior until it ends with a bad outcome. We often will not realize that peer pressure was even taking place until things end with trouble. It is at that time that it hits us… how we fell for it… we let ourselves get sucked into something so stupid… and we can’t believe that we let that happen.
A patient was diagnosed with cervical cancer in her early thirties. When they removed her uterus, she was told she had a DES-cervix. When she asked, they told her that they were able to tell by her cervix that her mother had taken a drug called diethylstilbestrol. According to Wikipedia, “From about 1940 to 1971, the medication was given to pregnant women in the incorrect belief that it would reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and losses.” It turned out that this widely used drug caused many side effects to the babies born to these mothers, one of which was cancer. And, as with the case of my patient, these horrific, often deadly, side effects did not show up until decades later.
And please, re-read the quote above from Wikipedia. The key words in that sentence are incorrect belief. This means that the medical establishment and the doctors prescribing these drugs believed incorrectly that the medication was effective and safe. It was neither!
The doctors meant well, thought they were doing a great thing, and likely had big hearts, but the outcome was catastrophic. And my guess is that most of the women took the drug trusting that their doctor knew best. They probably listened to their friends who were also taking the drug. The trusting of their doctor and the influence from their peers likely persuaded them enough to not research the drug on their own, ask a lot of questions, or consider possible long-term harmful consequences.
When the patient that I mentioned above asked her mother if she had taken diethylstilbestrol, she said that she had. Her mother told her that she and four of her close friends were all pregnant at the same time, that the doctors were raving about this drug, and that all of her friends were taking it, so she took it too.
Make sure every healthcare choice you make is preceded with lots of questions, in-depth research, and very careful consideration. All of the lawsuits you hear about from legal firms on the television ads for medications and medical procedures that turned out to be not-so good, are lawsuits for medications and medical procedures that doctors once believed incorrectly to be safe and effective. And remember… if all of your friends jump off a bridge, you definitely do not have to follow.