Today's Debate: How much power to patients?

While doctors are struggling for medical power with hospitals and insurance carriers on the one side, they're also struggling for power with patients on the other.

Patent Medicine ad from McCord Museum, CanadaSometimes, watching TV, I feel like I'm back in the late-19th century heyday of patent medicines. (Picture from the McCord Museum in Canada.)

Whole cable channels are held aloft by phony treatments for impotence, hair loss, fatty thighs, wrinkles, and some maladies which seem wholly invented. Restless Leg Syndrome?

Now, with the boom in home DNA testing, some ethicists are wondering where to draw the line.

While doctors are struggling for medical power with hospitals and insurance carriers on the one side, they're also struggling for power with patients on the other.

Patients ask for medicines by name, describing symptoms seen on TV. Or they don't even come in with their imaginary maladies, leaving you to pick up the pieces when the cure is worse than the disease.

Patients not only choose when they're sick, and claim to overrule doctors in treatment, they often decide when they're not sick, even when they are. This is especially acute in areas of mental health.

Today's patent medicine craze is costing big money, in a health care system which can't spare a dime for decent medical records.

Is there anything we can do about it?