Peeve of the day

Linus Torvalds's picture

Ok, so I have lots of pet peeves, and if I wanted to blog them all I'd have no time for anything else (and a lot more blog posts than the occasional one), but this one struck me the other day.

I was at the optometrist with Patricia, who is near-sighted like me. Or rather - not like me, since I've had lasik, and since she's more nearsighted than I ever was. She's blind as a bat without glasses or contacts, in other words.

Also like me, she's allergic to pollen. She gets itchy, watery eyes. So at the optometrist, when they ask about whether she's had problems with her eyes, the allergies come up. And what do you know, they have eye-drops for that.

Ok, not surprising. But what I do find surprising is the kind of eye-drops they have. This is a doctor's office, you'd expect them to be professional. But their eye-drops are homeopathic, and the doctor talks them up as not having any harsh medication in them. Well, duh! They're saline solution.

So I sit there quietly, and don't call him out for being a quack, because real doctors do actually prescribe placebos, and maybe he does know better. And there's also no question that plain saline solution isn't a fine thing to use when your eyes are itchy.

So afterwards, I spend some time afterwards talking to Patricia about placebos and homeopathy and quackery, in my never-ending hope that my kids won't grow up to be morons. But it's been a few days, and quite frankly, it still disturbs me. I've not had any other issues with that optometrist, but I'm seriously wondering if this is worth switching eye doctors over.

Do I want somebody who sells snake-oil (ok, so he gave a free sample, and no way would I have paid for it anyway) looking at my kids eyes? Even if it's harmless and even beneficial?

I'd much rather have seen free samples of "sterile saline solution". And oh yes, please feel free to make a big deal out of the "sterile" part, and feel free to talk about how it is "all natural" and free of Tetrahydrozoline or other chemicals.

But this piece-of-crap saline solution talked about the magical homeopathic "active ingredients" (non-existent and bogus), and while it did list the "inactive ingredients" (ie water and sodium chloride - aka "saline solution"), it was basically a huge advert for teaching people bad science and paying extra for it.

And I'm not crazy. I'm not going to make my own saline solution to save money. I'll happily pay extra for "sterile". I'll pay extra for nice prepared droppers in tiny sizes, even if it means you pay actual money for just tiny amounts of water with some table salt in it (no iodine - get the "kosher" salt if you want to make your own, and use distilled water). I'll happily pay for the convenience of having somebody else prepare saline solution of the proper strength and in a convenient package.

And the funny thing is, I don't mind it when I see the same thing at the checkout counter in the organic grocery store I prefer to go to. I go there because quite frankly, the average meat department in something like a Safeway or Albertsons leaves a lot to be desired. And hey, it's an organic store, so I kind of expect it to then cater to the ignorant and the crack-pots too.

But at the doctors' office?