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MY TURN

Her self-diagnosis: too much Googling

April 16, 2007|Marci Crestani | Special to The Times

Plain and simple, I am a wannabe doctor. I practice medicine with my family and friends the way real doctors practice a golf swing with theirs. This addiction of mine is a leisure activity and my enabler is Google.

With Google, you don't have to know how everything in the body works. You just have to know how Google works. Thanks to it, I managed to diagnose my dad with restless legs syndrome before it was a TV commercial.

The fact that I am wrong in my medical opinions far more often than I am right does not slow me down. My errors tend to be on the side of "You better get to a doctor today!" rather than "Aw, that boil on your eyeball is nothing to worry about."

Nowadays when I am feeling ill, I tend to diagnose myself and then go to the doctor for a second opinion. I so rarely have headaches that when I recently did have one, I was compelled to check it out. I typed in "headache as symptom of" and according to the four sites I chose to explore of the 12,200,000 results offered, I discovered I had meningitis.

These sites listed other symptoms for meningitis besides headaches -- symptoms that had been too subtle for me to detect until I read about them. When I went to the doctor the next morning to confirm my diagnosis, she told me no, it was just a virus.

I said, "Well maybe I have viral meningitis ... " but she said, "No, you don't. You'll feel better tomorrow." And I did.

If I were a doctor I would fire patients like me. Patients who know just enough to make what should be a 15-minute office visit extend into 25 minutes, with absolutely no new knowledge gleaned during this unpaid overtime. Instead the doctor usually spends that extra 10 minutes dis-informing me of what I've learned via Google. Even I have to admit there should be a Google surcharge on my doctor bills.

And yet I know I am not alone in this addiction. I've met other pseudo-doctors and we've compared notes on which websites are the most reliable. Surprisingly, there actually are a few good ones nowadays.

However, what I have finally determined is that Google should shut down its medical sites after midnight. What may be shingles during the day becomes leprosy after midnight. Take it from me, an addict, that absolutely nothing good happens on a Google medical website after midnight. And I do believe the American Medical Assn. would second that opinion.

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Marci Crestani is a Los Angeles- based freelance writer.

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