Gotta Question

  Q: FMC employs a doctor who is telling his patients that they should not eat beef, because consumers do not know what they put in it.  Where is the research to back that statement ?

David Espeland

A: For the record, I am personally proud to state that I love to eat beef. I trust that producers have the consumers’ best interests in mind when raising their cattle, and that they are not putting anything unnecessary into their animals that could cause public harm. After all, they must be eating their own product, too.

Just as this statement is my personal opinion, other people may have a completely different opinion, whether they be chicken farmers, vegetarians or doctors. People arrive at their opinions based on a number of different factors, including education, empirical evidence, experiences, religious beliefs, hearsay, etc.

Free nations such as the USA grant people the right to choose whether they believe in the opinions of others. Certainly, people owe it to themselves to do some independent research prior to relying on those opinions, especially when it involves a lifestyle change.

This is where things can be a little tricky. People generally tend to rely on doctors to have done this research for them. But it’s important to know under what set of circumstances a doctor may advise a patient not to eat a particular food.

For instance, it is well advised for people with Celiac disease to avoid eating gluten. Does this mean that the doctor is opposed to eating wheat products? I would argue, “No,” and leave the carbohydrate debate up to those who partake in a zero-carb diet and those who partake in a carb-only diet.

As part of our duty to provide medical staff to the community, we at FMC must rely on a doctor’s education and collective experience. The contracts we sign with all of our providers includes the following statement:

“The provider agrees to perform his/her duties in a professional and ethical manner to the best of his/her ability, experience and talent. He/she shall abide by all federal and state rules and regulations relating to the performance of his/her duties under this Agreement. No provision of the Agreement shall create any right in FMC to exercise control or direction over the manner or method by which the provider practices primary care or to affect the provider’s independent judgment in the practice of primary care so long as it is consistent with the care, skill and learning expected of a reasonably prudent licensed medical provider in the State of Montana, acting in the same or similar circumstances.”

In order to have a job at FMC, our providers must demonstrate that they are qualified to do that job. But they have latitude in how they do it. It is our hope that all of our providers largely embrace the prevailing customs and lifestyles in our area.  But they have been trained to continually seek out knowledge and strive to acquire better understanding.  In the process, they sometimes push the boundary.

So where does that leave us? I would argue that there is nothing wrong with anyone stating their opinion, which is guaranteed by our Constitution.

Fortunately, our Constitution also grants us the ultimate right to decide whether we agree or disagree with that opinion.

And it allows other people the right to state their opinions, too. In the spirit of that statement, I would suggest that perhaps the individual who asked the original question, be asked to present evidence citing the health benefits of eating beef. I am certain that our doctor would be willing to provide a rebuttal. In this manner, both parties can lay their cards on the table so that consumers can make an informed choice.