Recently I accompanied my housemate to the doctor for what was eventually diagnosed as “Fuck if I know but your lymph nodes are huge.” The treatment for FIIKBYLNAH is steroids to bring down the swelling and, if you are my housemate, a sedative so the steroids don’t keep you up for 36 hours straight. The doctor was a little bit reluctant to prescribe sedatives to someone who was waking up choking on their own spit (housemate didn’t help this any by asking for benzos when she meant Benadryl). Yes, the steroids should help that problem, but it would be a real shame if the doctor triangulated wrong and she ended up sleeping through her own death. But 36 hours without sleep is bad for you too, so the doctor compromised by asking me to “check on” her.
Let’s be clear: it takes four minutes of oxygen deprivation to incur permanent brain damage. Nothing that could be called “checking on” was going to happen at a frequency of four minutes. I could sit there and watch my housemate sleep, at least while she was napping, but the doctor wasn’t telling us to do that. So basically she was asking for a lot of work from both of us that would, in the event of an actual problem, lead to discovering the body faster.
This is a reasonably simple example of a problem I see in the medical field a lot, where they make gestures towards problems but aren’t really weighing costs and benefits. It makes me feel really unsafe.