Death itself comes to be regarded as a failure of medicine and doctors, rather than the inevitable culmination of every life.
Over the past several decades, the economic interests of the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries have both pressured and tempted medicine to overextend itself. The traditional moral commitment of the medical profession to relieve suffering and to care for the dying has been gradually displaced by a futile and misguided attempt to solve humanity’s most profound existential problems through biotechnical means. Doctors now apply more and more powerful treatments towards the end of life and try to prevent diseases by seeking out and correcting more and more risk factors. All this has led to an epidemic of overdiagnosis and overtreatment affecting us all, but perhaps particularly harming the old.
Doctors and other health professionals are gradually beginning to understand that they may now find themselves in the unfortunate position of doing harm while trying to do good; academic researchers are working to investigate the extent and effects of overdiagnosis, and how it might be mitigated; and journalists and policy-makers seem finally to be beginning to take the issue seriously by promoting greater public debate.
The challenge of preventing overdiagnosis