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We Need To Talk About Medical Trauma

[Melissa Crawford, MD explains why we need to shine a light on medical trauma, so that changes can be made and healing can occur.]

Medical trauma is all too common. I’ve experienced my own medical traumas as both a patient and physician within our Canadian medical system. I have witnessed over the years, large numbers of patients and colleagues who have also experienced medical trauma, and now I’m spending a lot of time in my current practice helping people process and heal from issues that were caused by the very system that was supposed to help them. I have many clients who have been holding a lot of shock, trauma, shame, and anger as a result of negative experiences they have had with their medical professionals. I also see a lot of people who’ve experienced adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals of all kinds. There are many legitimate reasons why more and more people are generally distrustful and fearful of the medical system. Huge change is needed!

I also want to emphasize, that while there is a lot of harm being done, that it is very clear that NOT ALL medical professionals are perpetuating this toxic behavior. There are many aware, loving, kind and compassionate Doctors and other health care professionals within our medical system. However there are still too many who are being abusive, and this is what I’m choosing to shine a light on because if we continue to ignore it, it will never stop. The most common themes of toxic and abusive behavior that many have experienced with their medical professionals are:

  • Authoritarianism – “I know what’s best for you, better than you know what’s best for you, and so you better do what I say” (often without even providing informed consent)

  • Dismissive and unwilling to listen to their patients perspective when different from their own

  • Engaging in shaming and bullying behavior

  • Manipulative, including uttering threats if they don’t agree or comply with their recommendations (i.e. threats of being fired from their practice)

  • Disrespectful and dishonoring of their patient’s intuition and preferences

  • Other forms of emotional, mental, physical and/or sexual abuse

  • and many more.

A few very common themes I’ve heard over and over again is many mothers telling me about their birth traumas as well as adverse reactions their children have had with all types of routinely administered (orally or injected) pharmaceuticals. I personally experienced this too. In 2013, I witnessed my baby experience severe adverse reactions to childhood vaccinations. I was then dismissed by my own Doctors, colleagues and most of my friends for talking about it. I was treated as though I was crazy. For simply stating the TRUTH. This is all too common and many people stay silent about what they have seen or experienced to avoid being outcasted and discriminated against by their community, including by their own medical team and their loved ones.

The media, government and medical system have so deeply programmed the minds of people that if someone stands up to say something against a routine medical/pharmaceutical product, procedure or intervention, they are often treated as crazy and inferior citizens who are a threat to the safety of society. When in fact they deeply care about other people and are just trying to warn others that they could also be harmed.

This type of experience often creates a SECONDARY TRAUMA because these people have been harmed in some way (the primary trauma) and then are not being believed or supported, and instead are being diminished or erased in some way. They often feel very alone. What people most need after experiencing a trauma, for it to be processed in a healthy way, is to be seen, heard, supported and validated for their experience and have a safe space to process/feel their emotions. If they do not get this type of support after a traumatic event, they can stay stuck in freeze, fight or flight mode (the basis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Yes, what I’m saying is that our own medical system is causing varying degrees of PTSD in many patients.

As medical doctors, we take an OATH to DO NO HARM before we are given our license to practice medicine. Did that not mean anything? Have many Doctors have forgotten?

Many people over the years have asked me all kinds of questions. Do many doctors just have some sort of God complex? Do most of them have Narcissistic Personality disorder? Are they just greedy? How much money are they getting from the Pharmaceutical industry for the treatments they are recommending or administering? Is that why they are so pushy? Do they actually care? These are legitimate questions based on the behavior we are seeing in so many.

What I feel is that these medical professionals who are behaving in these ways have often been programmed this way and are too afraid to consider that the medical paradigm they were taught could be incorrect and even harmful to individuals and society at large. It’s too scary to consider changing their belief systems because then, their whole life and medical practice would have to change after investing so much time, energy and money to get to where they are. They are also often traumatized themselves and have not processed their own emotional wounds, and are projecting them onto their patients. They are generally not evil at their core, even though their behaviour may be. They are instead deeply wounded, often from their youth as well as from the medical education, training and work experience itself.

It is inhumane for medical students, residents and fully licensed physicians to be on-call for extended periods of time. However, the culture in our training is often to just “tough it out”. I also often see people bragging about how many hours (24-48 or more hours at times) they’ve been on-call with little to no sleep, as though they deserved some kind of medal or trophy, meanwhile their personal life and health are being negatively impacted. This attitude and mentality goes really deep within the profession and I even found myself participating at times. Thankfully, there is more awareness on these issues now and some changes are being made to encourage physician wellness, but not enough in my opinion. There are very high rates of mental illness, addictions and suicide among medical trainees and Doctors. The pressure (time and responsibility) on medical professionals is HUGE. There is no doubt about that. The way the medical educational and health care system is designed is harming both Doctors AND their patients. People who are deeply hurting often hurt others unconsciously.

I also believe that many doctors, who are practicing conventional medicine, are deeply unsatisfied by their work and burnt out because they know on some level that simply prescribing drugs is not addressing the root cause of illness in their patients (and in many cases causing harm), and therefore they are often met with unsatisfied patients who keep returning with mysterious symptoms that they have no knowledge or skills to treat. Therefore, they will tend to label these patients as “hypochondriacs” instead of acknowledging they may have gaps in their knowledge or abilities due to the non-holistic training provided in medical schools. And then, If a patient declares that the very pharmaceutical product they gave them didn’t work or harmed them, they are often met with resistance and are often told that it’s “all in their head” because these products are “safe and effective”. These Doctors are failing these patients because the medical educational system has failed the Doctors themselves.

While I acknowledge the root of why I believe medical professionals are behaving this way, this does not give them permission to continue to mistreat people the way many have been doing. Many of us are now standing up and saying enough is enough! They need to acknowledge that they have been harming people and that they deeply need healing care and support for themselves. We need people to tell their stories so these professionals can gain insight into their behaviors and how they have been deeply impacting their patients. This is how we can create a shift for medical professionals, patients, and the entire health care system. We need to acknowledge and illuminate the SHADOW present within our medical system for healing to start and for change to be made. We need TRAUMA-INFORMED CARE in our health care system and this needs to start during medical training.

During these Covid times, medical system traumas have accelerated and significantly worsened. Patients or health care practitioners (including Doctors) who were not willing to comply with the system’s recommendations are being treated like second-class citizens. There is major prejudice, division, discrimination and I would go as far as describing what has been transpiring as hate crimes against those who are not blindly trusting the government, Doctors and pharmaceutical industry. And there is plenty of evidence for why people should be questioning authority and resisting their recommendations. Evidence of harm is all around us. If they need to use these abusive tactics of manipulation, shaming, coercion and division to get their point across, then I can guarantee you that this has not been and is not about health!

The stories I’ve been hearing are heart-wrenching. People in many places are not being allowed to visit friends or family in hospital or long term care settings, simply because they did not comply. People are dying without their loved ones by their side, which is a major injustice and trauma for everyone involved. Many have lost their livelihoods because of a medical choice that goes against the grain. People are being penalized for thinking for themselves. So many people are experiencing adverse reactions to these pharmaceutical products that are being pushed on us. I see it daily in my practice. I do not support or stand by what our Canadian government, the media or our medical system have done over the last few years. These systems have directly and indirectly caused harm and trauma on societal and individual levels – psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and physically – including death and disability.

There needs to be accountability about what has happened within our medical system as a result of the corruption involving the pharmaceutical industry for the last hundred or more years. Doctors used to use homeopathy and herbs, and then powerful corporations took control of the medical schools’ curriculum so that Doctors could only use pharmaceuticals and surgeries, and more natural therapies were banned and treated as inferior. The true history of certain infectious diseases was also altered for the benefit of the pharmaceutical industry, and so the programming our society has around this has been largely built on many lies. All of the bullying, shaming, hate and division that has been perpetuated towards those not complying is not based in truth or evidence whatsoever. It leads back to a hunger for greed, power and control. Yes, that’s right. I feel that all of this trauma is happening to simply benefit the billionaire's of the worlds' corporations, and not to actually help or protect the individuals or the “greater good”, as the media tries to portray.

The already present toxicity within the system over the last Century has simply been magnified these last few years. Our Canadian health care system is crumbling as we speak. Light is being shown on the issues that were already present. As challenging as it is, this is also blessing in disguise, as more people are now seeing what was already deeply problematic. Many Doctors, Nurses and allied Health Professionals are leaving the medical system and becoming Healers, Wellness Coaches, Holistic Nutritionists, etc. These are the leaders who will help to rebuild the health care system from within OR build the new system that is already organically unfolding in the private realm.

Those whom have been harmed by the medical system (patients and health professionals) need to be acknowledged for their experiences. As a former Medical Doctor, I’m here to say that if you have been traumatized or harmed by our health care system, as I have, I’m deeply sorry this happened. My wish is that everyone can find the help they need to process their experiences and/or to help their system heal from the pharmaceutical that harmed them. I’m here to give you hope that healing is possible and tell you that I see a bright future where our health care system becomes wholistic, trauma-informed, safe, empowering and healthy for patients and health care professionals. There is hope!

With love,


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