Secular Patient Advocacy?

Hey, I don’t know anything about this field, but I thought some of my readership might.  My best friend’s mother is in really bad shape because of cancer and because of delayed diagnosis because of doctors being indifferent to her care.  She sent me the following e-mail:

Can you ask the Secular community what patient advocacy resources are available, and where to demand better, more thoughtful treatment? I think a lot of the shit Mom’s had to deal with has been a combination of medical error and the terrible quality of health care in SC, but I feel like this process has been complicated because, in general, doctors and nurses are rude and dismissive. This is a huge problem because I think it sends people into the arms of quacks on the “alternative medicine” side, and I’d really like there to be some kind of secular answer to that bullshit. I just don’t know where else to start.
Any thoughts you have would be wonderful, and if you don’t know, that’s OK too.  Secular community help me out!

Why Alternative Medicine Exists

I have been sick for nearly six weeks, there’s something wrong with my stomach.  I’ve been to three different doctors, had seven tests done, each with different supervisors and doctors and nurses.  I am nauseous, if I eat to much it won’t stay down, and my stomach and intestines hurt.  I have lost 20lbs (and part of my brain is all “huzzah” but I’m so tired, it’s not a very enthusiastic “huzzah”).

It’s like overnight my guts mutinied and I can’t get them back under my control.  And, while my doctors have diligently tried to give me things to help, they’ve either not worked or had side-effects so bad that I’ve been unable to take them long enough to see if they worked.  The thing about an upset stomach is that you can still work, you’ll be grouchy and very tired, but you’re awake.  The thing about working when you’ve been knocked out by a drug is that you can’t.

So, of course, when people find out you’re not feeling well they 1. have a cousin/brother/aunt who had the same thing and it turned out to be celiac/stomach acid/cancer and 2. you should try acupuncture/unproven diet/homeopathy, it really worked for my friend/loved one/family member.

And when you’ve felt like crap for six weeks, you’re pretty much willing to try anything to feel better.  Even I, skeptic extraordinaire (I guess) am tempted to do things I know are useless.  I sit here and think, “Well, maybe the placebo effect will help even if nothing else does.”  It’s nutty, I know it’s nutty, and yet I am so miserably sick and there seems to be no explanation or cure forthcoming, it’s hard to say no to something that might possibly work, even through magical thinking.

Here are otters, they make things ever so slightly better.