Just like there are good doctors and bad doctors, I think there are good quacks and bad quacks. That might sound surprising, but just getting a qualification doesn’t make a person a good doctor; and similarly, the absence of a qualification doesn’t make someone a bad quack.
A bad quack is someone who is out to exploit patients — someone who takes advantage of their ignorance; gives them false hope; and charges them for “treatments” which he knows are useless. He takes patients for a ride; and panders to the patient’s desires for quick fix solutions to make a quick buck. In fact, it’s often the “qualified doctors” who are the worst quacks, because they peddle unproven and expensive treatments such as “stem cell ” therapy, and can get away with this because they have a medical qualification, which gives them a license of do what they please!
It’s true that most quacks are bad quacks, but on the other hand there are good quacks as well. These are usually people who always wanted to be healers, but for various reasons couldn’t get the academic qualification required to be able to practise medicine legally, which is why they are forced to become quacks. Good quacks know their limitations, and are quite happy to refer patients to qualified specialists when they encounter complex problems.
They usually have a great bedside manner and a healing touch, which is why they inspire confidence in patients. They have a high EQ (emotional quotient), and patients respond to their empathetic and caring style.
The secret to their success is the fact that most problems which take a patient to the doctor are self-limited, and will get better on their own. The body heals itself very efficiently, which is why “treatment” for most symptoms works extremely well. This is why the “cure” rate for quacks is so high, and their patient satisfaction scores are usually excellent. Most of what they advise — for example, IM (intramuscular) vitamin injections for “weakness” — have few side effects, and the secret behind their therapeutic efficacy is the placebo effect.
We all know the harm which a bad quack can cause, but I think we sometimes need to appreciate the good which a good quack can do. He’s willing to work under conditions under which no qualified doctor would. He charges a fraction of the cost of what MBBS doctors do. He’s very service oriented, because he realizes that his entire business depends on keeping his patients happy. His bedside manner is usually excellent, and his patients trust him.
I think we need to learn to make use of these quacks. They have years of clinical experience, which is why their clinical intuition is usually excellent. The very fact that they’ve been around for many years means they are providing a useful community service.
Rather than brand all quacks as being bad, maybe we should identify and select the good quacks and provide them with additional training so that they become even better and are able to provide a valuable community service.
by Dr Aniruddha Malpani
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in LinkedIn and has been republished here with the author’s permission.