Doctor No

What doctors would not do
Learn more

02.Health and lifestyle choices

Dr Sue Ieraci, emergency medicine specialist

I won’t climb ladders and use power tools when I get older

Having worked in hospital emergency departments for more than 30 years, sometimes what people do just makes me cringe. Yes, there’s the issue of young men and risk – fast cars, alcohol, aggression – but most grow out of it. But what happens when they retire and have too much time on their hands? What happens is a disastrous combination of declining reflexes, poor balance, odd jobs and power tools.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen elderly men fall from places where they should never have been – ladders, trees, even roofs. Don’t have a tall enough ladder? Please, whatever you do, don’t use the extension. Better still, get someone else to do it – it just takes a misstep, or a dizzy spell, to have you landing on the ground.

My advice is this: donate the ladder and power tools to a good cause, give a tradesperson some work, and take up a hobby – on level ground.

Dr Gabrielle Caswell, cosmetic physician

I would never get an anti-wrinkle injection from someone who is not a qualified doctor or supervised by one.

The person doing the injecting will not be covered by professional indemnity and patients are unlikely therefore to be compensated if something goes awry. These cosmetic procedures require an understanding of complex facial anatomy, intimate knowledge of the medicine used, and their placement.

Chris Burns, hepatitis clinical nurse consultant

I would never do a liver-cleansing diet

Although this is a low-fat diet, which may be of benefit to some individuals, there’s an overwhelming lack of scientific evidence both for its use and the claims that the liver is to blame for many possible ailments which an individual may be experiencing. These may be related to lifestyle, diet or other health conditions and are better addressed with the help of your own doctor. Also, people may be unaware of other health conditions and may become unwell or malnourished, or experience a worsening of their ailments if they were to undertake such a diet.

Professor Richard Dowell, audiologist

I would not listen to excessively loud music

Knowing what I know about the damage that can be done to the sensitive hearing mechanism by loud noise, I cringe at the thought of what my ears went through when I was younger. I played in a rock band for 10 years and would have had more than 10 hours per week of exposure to levels exceeding 110 decibels during that time.

I do have high-frequency hearing loss now and that’s frustrating, particularly at social events, when you’re trying to listen to someone while there are other conversations going on around you. It makes sense to protect your ears from the loudest music at concerts and clubs, as you will pay for it later. There are now earplugs available that are designed to provide a flat frequency response so that the quality of music is not changed – just the damaging level.

Dr Louise Stone, GP

I would not ignore suicidal feelings in myself or someone else

There are a number of reasons why people consider taking their own life, but for most people, suicidal thinking occurs when suffering and pain becomes unbearable. Unfortunately, many people find talking to someone about these thoughts and feelings just too difficult. They may feel ashamed or guilty about feeling this way, or they may fear being judged, criticised, or even belittled. Whatever the reason may be, it is very important that suicidal feelings are shared. Whether that is with a health professional, helpline, friend, or family member, talking about suicidal thoughts helps enormously.

For those of us who hear these stories, it is important to be a good listener, and provide non-judgemental support. There is good evidence to suggest that this makes all the difference. Suicidal thoughts are usually like waves on a beach: they come and go. Surviving a wave of suicidal thinking with the help of another caring person makes the next wave much easier to bear. Further information and support can be found 24 hours a day through the suicide call-back service ( or phone 1300 659 467) or Lifeline ( or phone 13 11 14).

Dr Linda Taoube, GP

I would never visit a developing country without the appropriate vaccinations

It always surprises me how many patients intending to travel to common holiday destinations such as Bali and Fiji are not aware of the need to have travel vaccinations prior to embarking on their trip! I have the same concerns for travellers visiting family and friends who live in developing countries – even though this might be their country of origin.

They often believe that because they have lived in that country, they are less likely to acquire food- and water-related illnesses. In fact, they may be placing themselves - and more importantly, their young children - at higher risk. Such travellers tend to take more frequent and longer trips, spend more time in close contact with people and they are more likely to visit more remote areas. The same microbes that their bodies were once used to could now make them sick.

Planning ahead is essential. Of course, in addition to the routine childhood vaccinations, children over two years of age should also be offered travel vaccines. These, along with plenty of hand-sanitising solution, would help to make their stay less tarnished by diarrhoea and other travel-related illnesses!

Dr Amanda Bray, psychiatrist

I would not use alcohol to reduce social anxiety

Many alcoholics begin abusing alcohol because they feel very anxious and uncomfortable in social situations, and find that alcohol relaxes them. Unfortunately, while one or two drinks can do the job in the beginning, it may escalate over time to a much larger amount, leaving the person with two problems – social anxiety and alcohol dependence.

So if I had a problem with social anxiety, I’d avoid “Dutch courage” and see a psychologist for techniques on how to combat it. If this fails, then certain antidepressants can be quite effective in treating it too, and are not addictive.

Chris Burns, hepatitis clinical nurse consultant

I would never have a tattoo

Not only does it fade and look silly when you are old and wrinkly, but it can be the only risk factor that some individuals have to have acquired hepatitis C. This blood-borne virus can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer in some people and may be caused purely by having had a tattoo.

Dr Vanessa Moran, GP

I would not "turkey baste" a friend's semen to get pregnant before talking to a doctor and a lawyer first!

With the new laws around sperm donation there is an increasing shortage of sperm available to single women and women in same sex relationships who are keen to start a family. I have seen an increasing number of women thinking about and getting pregnant using a friend or sometimes relative's sperm (think brother of the partner for example). There are plenty of blogs about how to do this with sometimes quite graphic and often incorrect information.

There is a lot to consider, however, that women just don't think about - for example, the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, inherited (genetic) disorders or antenatal, peri- and postnatal complications - in particular for single women with no support network. It is a medical, ethical and legal minefield and I'd suggest getting as much advice as possible before heading to the kitchen utensil section of your local supermarket.

Dr James Best, GP

I would not trust advice from a source not recognised by the mainstream medical and scientific communities

So who is “the expert”? A great way to find the answer to this most important question is to follow the principle that a true expert (or bunch of experts) is going to be:

1. Recognised as such by those in the know – those people who work in the field, and
2. Have their recommendations given that all-too-hard-earned sign of authenticity – public funding.

As a GP, the people I trust and respect as experts are those who develop the guidelines that the “coalface” health workers like myself use to deliver health messages to the public. Because there are so many of them, and all scrutinise what the others say so closely, if any of them made a seriously mistaken recommendation, the medical and scientific communities would come down on them like a ton of bricks.


Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments