The deadly nature of medical misinformation

chennai: Loganayaki (27) of Krishnagiri died recently due to severe blood loss during childbirth. She and her husband attempted a natural birth at home, using a technique he’d seen countless times on YouTube.

Home births are uncommon, but they aren’t dangerous as long as you have a trained professional helping you through them. But that’s exactly the opposite of what happened in Loganayaki’s home.

During her pregnancy, her husband watched a YouTube channel about home delivery. Confident in her ability to assist her during labor, she agreed to opt for a home delivery without refusing medical care.

Loganayaki also refused to take iron tablets, which women take during pregnancy, and told neighbors she would eat green leafy vegetables. The umbilical cord was not cut after delivery, resulting in death from severe blood loss.

In another case, a 26-year-old man in Jharkhand died after consuming an overdose of oleander seeds. He consumed oleander seeds on the advice of a YouTube channel that recommended oleander seeds to relieve toothache.

While it’s common practice to rely on medical information read and watched online, doctors believe viewers need to be discerning to know the difference between misinformation and fact.

preventable fatalities

Even in a medical facility, complications can occur during childbirth. And, even after delivery, both mother and baby must be monitored.

So, trying to get home delivery by following the steps as recommended by a YouTube channel or any other online platform can be fatal.

“It’s not just one life that’s at risk, it’s two lives that are at risk. Medical complications, often life-threatening, are inevitable even when primary health centers refer us.

Some women may need a caesarean section or may experience postpartum complications such as heavy bleeding. There is no online channel to help you,” said Dr S Perumal Pillai, chairman of the Government Doctors Legal Coordination Committee.

He added that such deaths are preventable, especially given the state health department’s goal of reducing maternal deaths in the state.

“These incidents of water delivery or door-to-door water delivery without medical supervision are dangerous. Information online cannot be blocked; therefore, we must educate people on the proper way to follow medical procedures,” said Dr. Perumal.

A pregnant woman who was admitted to hospital applied coconut oil to her abdomen when she developed abdominal pain without informing her doctor. The practice is also common in hospitals, but many doctors don’t recommend it, especially for pregnant women.

Dr Arvindh Santhosh, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist, said: “There are many content creators in India who copy information from Western countries, but they do not realize the difference in the advancement of medical facilities in the two settings.

We lack one-to-one delivery service. Although we continue to make progress in the field of health, we still have a long way to go. People are introduced to the concept of home birth or water birth through these parenting consultants or birth consultants, but they are not qualified. ”

I have pointed out that the qualifications of these self-proclaimed experts begin and end with weekend courses on such topics. “It would be wrong to offer any form of pregnancy advice over just a few sessions.

These people cannot be punished by law and they even cancel doctors who bluff on social media or YouTube channels. Besides, doctors are not influencers and we don’t have time to find fault with such influencers. “We need government authorities to put in place the appropriate infrastructure to end this practice,” he said.

village health nurse

The Tamil Nadu Medical Council has stressed the need to track all pregnancies through village health nurses to ensure that home births are not attempted without medical supervision.

Doctors are urging families to educate expectant mothers about the lack of scientific evidence behind recommendations or recommendations for home birth, especially those based on digital channels.

“Messages about safe medical practices should be disseminated through schools and colleges as every family in an educational institution has at least one child.

Dr. RVS Surendran of the Tennessee Medical Board said: “Medical professionals should conduct on-the-ground inspections and conduct awareness campaigns through local groups and organizations targeting online misinformation.”

He added that erroneous content and/or factual errors on different digital platforms must be reported and the government should take action under the Information Technology Act to restrict the sharing of medical information and false information.

“Unless a complaint is filed against cybercrime, or spreading misinformation is an offense punishable by imprisonment, we will always face these challenges. Policy-level changes are needed,” Dr. Surendran added.

organ damage

A classic example of delays in treatment due to misinformation can be found among patients with diabetes.

Many people with diabetes turn to natural or herbal remedies, which can increase the risk of short- and long-term complications.

Dr. Cyriac Abby Philips explains: “I have had the misfortune of treating diabetic coma patients because they were driven by fear and suffered the ‘side effects’ of using insulin, which is a life saver for patients with uncontrolled diabetes. Therapeutic Interventions for Life.”, Rajgiri Hospital, Kerala.

While digital media is flooded with so-called experts with MBBS degrees offering drug advice, those in the medical fraternity are against the practice and lament the suffering of patients. “In specialties like cardiology, urology specialists are not able to talk about heart problems and provide medical solutions.

This is unethical,” said a consultant cardiologist at Christian Medical College. “Patients choose home remedies based on what they watch online before meeting a cardiologist or any other specialist.

We have many such cases here. Additionally, they went to a nearby clinic where their chest pain was treated as gastritis. This wastes valuable time when doctors could be dealing with cardiac emergencies. When they come to tertiary hospitals, their problems get worse, often leading to death. ”

Likewise, people with chronic hepatitis B infection who seek natural treatments eventually develop viral hepatitis, leading to liver failure. “Or, without prompt intervention with safe and effective antiviral treatments, they end up coming to us months and years later with advanced liver cancer,” Dr. Philips added.

Home remedies are often considered the first line of care in most Indian households. Most are considered benign, but some can have negative health effects.

Dr. Philips cited the continued use of fenugreek decoction to control diabetes. It can also cause thinning of the blood and risk of bleeding on the surface of the skin or internal organs.

“Fenugreek contains natural coumarins, which are blood thinners and can increase the risk of bleeding, especially in those already taking blood thinners (including antiplatelet or anticoagulant medications),” he notes.

Likewise, using turmeric in large or small doses over a period of time, along with pepper to increase turmeric absorption, may lead to turmeric-related hepatitis, which is one of the common causes of severe hepatitis worldwide. Many herbs used at home can also counteract medications that may increase toxicity or reduce effectiveness.

skin therapy

Log on to any social media platform and you can’t miss these “quick and easy” home remedies for skin and hair. But are they safe?

City dermatologists believe that the popularity of this home remedy has brought them a lot of business as many people visit them when these remedies have adverse effects.

While some of these treatments have been practiced for generations, people don’t know when to stop or whether it’s right for their specific skin or scalp.

“We see many patients who develop skin burns after using a combination of baking soda and lemon and chemical peels at home. They are unaware that these peels cannot be used without dermatologist supervision. As a result, they suffer secondary burns Burns,” says Dr Monisha Aravind, consultant dermatologist at Armoraa Skin Solutions.

Cosmetic procedures such as microneedling with derma rollers and intravenous injections to promote skin and hair growth should not be performed at home or in non-medical facilities.

“But people watch YouTube channels and try it at home, and many don’t know when to stop. “Microneedling should not be done every day as it can cause permanent damage to the skin,” she adds.

Although advanced laser procedures are now available in home settings, dermatologists warn against them because homes are not sterile environments. Therefore, it can cause many infections.

“We have to educate the people as working at the policy level takes time. Don’t fall prey to health risks with low-budget remedies. The Dermatologists, Venereology and Leprosy Society of India are working hard to bring about a change in this regard,” Moni Dr. Sha said.

need law

Several doctors recalled cases of poisoning from home remedies, as some of them could contain large amounts of steroids and cause kidney damage.

“There is a certain powder on the market that claims to relieve wheezing. A middle-aged man developed severe allergies after consuming it and died as a result.” said Dr Shanmugakani, director of medical and rural health services.

“In most cases, we never know whether kidney damage or failure was caused by home remedies and ended up on dialysis. It is only after analyzing the patient’s medical history that we realize they had been receiving this treatment.”

She added that there was an urgent need to enact a strong law to punish accused on non-bailable charges. “Ban these YouTube channels,” she smoked.

Dr. Abby believes that misinformation about medical procedures and remedies acts like a powerful current that bypasses obstacles.

“Creating more barriers will not help in the long term. But having strong policies that educate people to identify reliable sources and ongoing efforts to combat misinformation at every opportunity (either from regulators or science communicators) , which will play a role in this fight against misinformation,” he added.

“Fighting misinformation is the responsibility of a scientifically progressive society, starting with individuals and ending with a sustained group-based effort.”

Content that raises questions about existing health issues will be removed

The popular video streaming platform owned by Google is a haven for many content creators who post misleading or inaccurate information to gain views. To protect users from this harmful content, YouTube has begun removing videos that promote medical misinformation.

YouTube said its basic framework will simplify medical misinformation guidelines into three categories – prevention, treatment and denial. “These policies will apply to specific health conditions, treatments and substances whose content contradicts local health authorities or the World Health Organization (WHO),” YouTube said in a blog post in August.

YouTube denies misinformation and says it will remove content controversial about certain health conditions. “This covers denying that people are dying from COVID-19,” the blog said.

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