By Michael Russell
In our western communities, statistics have been offered which account for one person in four dying of cancer and one in four of heart disease. If these figures are accurate, the other half of our population is left to account for all the kidney failures, contagious diseases, arthritis, respiratory problems and other innumerable diseases suffered by so many. To this, we must add the deaths from accidents and now the horrifying forecasts that another one in four of the total population is anticipated to suffer from mental diseases of various kinds. Statistics may present us with certain facts about our society, but it is the human side of the equation that affects us most potently.
To avoid becoming another statistic, we are forced to think about what present day medicine can do to help us. Or perhaps we should ask if modern methods themselves are part of the cause of our problems? In our medical system there is an enormous amount of drug medication. Surgical operations are so heavily in demand that patients have to wait their turn. Pathology is a roaring business and doctor’s waiting rooms are never empty. There is a great deal of activity, tests and treatments going on and no doubt much relief of pain but there seems to be little cure of serious illnesses. The wonderful treatments and surgical skills used in repairing damaged bodies after accidents and severe burns, deserves optimum appreciation in these special spheres of expertise, which are very successful. However, in spite of these and other areas of treatments offering temporary help, modern medicine cannot cure the most common diseases such as cancer, arthritis, asthma and heart disease that still plague us. ‘Cure’ in this case means that the condition is treated and gets better and better, until no further symptoms occur.
Modern medicine also offers organ transplants and these usually taken from accident victims and sometimes in the case of dual organs, from relatives or other generous donors. But a philosophy of healing that depends upon the death or mutilation of another person is surely flawed and to a sensitive person who is not desperate to live under any circumstances, somewhat horrifying. Can it be that we are ‘advancing’ to depend upon a system based on such unnatural procedures? To many people it seems that there is no stronger admission than that of the medical system’s inability to offer a cure, or even improve a patient’s diseased condition to the point where it can be tolerated and the person kept whole.
Generally, apart from drugs to suppress symptoms, or to reduce pain, doctors have a limited range of alternative medications to prescribe. It is left to the alternative professionals and the pharmacies in our country to offer safer herbal medicines, food supplements, vitamins and mineral tonics. Additional areas of concern are the pharmacist’s general products, which are always displayed and easily purchased over the counter, such as the headache tablets, laxatives and others. Medical doctors are beginning to recommend that patients ‘try’ some alternative herbal or homoeopathic medicines but they themselves always prescribe drugs. They are well educated by the drug companies who provide assistance in advising doctors as to the appropriate range of drugs to prescribe for every condition. Unfortunately very few doctors inform their patients of the possible side effects, some of which are very serious. Sometimes doctors are not fully conversant with the facts themselves. Patients are wondering more and more about the value of all the years of intense study of general practitioners if medical practice is reduced to writing prescriptions for drugs.
But possibly the most common patient’s complaint would be that of disappointment. They have a reasonable expectation that a doctor would prove knowledgeable, skilled and compassionate. They also have an expectation of a doctor who is caring enough to have a fund of experience, which would allow at least some simple wisdom, and understanding of healing enough to offer an attitude of hope and encouragement along with the written prescription. There must be many caring, dedicated and intelligent people in the medical system but they are considered rare by many of the public who are forced to turn to self-education and self care practices to ensure their health when general practitioners let them down.
Regarding the billions of dollars being spent on cancer research, no cure as yet has been announced. Economists may well question the profitability of the avenues in which these enormous resources are spent, particularly as there is no obvious satisfactory accountability to benefactors or to the public. Even after decades of serious scientific exploration into the causes of cancer, with research taking one avenue of investigation after another, it continues to baffle those who look for one simple solution. So can it now be accepted as a complex disease, with multiple causes? Some suggest that it is our modern lifestyle and our toxic environments that are the cause, which offers no solution but that we change our modern lifestyle. If so, the billions of dollars spent in cancer research could have been better spent providing the needy millions of people in the undeveloped countries with good water!
We can however be filled with wonderment and appreciation for some of the medical successes and for the fact that answers have been found to control a great deal of pain and suffering particularly in extreme situations. There are a great number of almost miraculous skills demonstrated in surgery, particularly in repair of damage after accidents and burns for instance. But internal medicines on the whole, are doubted by a large percentage of the population who no longer wish to suffer side effects almost as bad as the original complaint, or to find they have an allergy to a particular drug administered. People want safe, healing medicines that make them better, for an enduring time, if not permanently.
Although there is a gradual change in the attitude with individual doctors considering it wise to comply with requests from patients regarding alternative treatment methods, generally such requests meet with scorn or even ridicule. This leaves many to resort to self-care and self-healing methods.
By its complex referrals and functions, the medical system is self-sustaining from doctor to drug company, medical institutions, or hospitals with surgery of some kind seen as routinely inevitable. Mainstream medicine allows no thought of treating a patient by any other methods than those that are considered orthodox medicine today. The drug situation is exacerbated by the chemical cocktails of drugs which independently administered have a proven effect, but when combined in different human bodies and along with a different mix of chemical conditions, produce unexpected and sometimes dire results.
These bad reactions to drugs are called ‘side effects’ as if inconsequential, but when exploring medical texts one begins to think otherwise. There must be a better system which requires fewer hospitals, fewer doctors, less medical drugs and which embraces the vital need for better nutrition, more exercise, proper respiration, improved posture, hygiene and an education about physiological function that prepares a patient for basic self care. Doctors cannot control the diet or eat the food for the patient, or do all the general health disciplines required by the individual. So a great deal of health responsibility comes bouncing back to the patient himself. As long as patients rely upon the profession to patch them up rather than to consider them in total as complete individuals requiring assistance in reducing their fears, coping with problems, creating a good self image, gaining confidence and undertake a positive programme of self discipline, they will continue to be disappointed.
There must come a change from dependence upon anyone of any profession as we enter a new attitude and a new century of progress. We will have to learn to undertake responsibility for our own health and well being and become better educated re health matters and less reliant upon healing professionals in general until the medical system truly advances into a wider and more capable healing profession. Only then will the health of the community improve, the number of hospitals decrease, the institutions freer to concentrate on the important needs of the less fortunate.
At the same time it demands that each individual undertakes a greater measure of health responsibility and does his best to avoid disease, before we will be able to say that our community health is improving. Until that time comes, we will judge by the evidence that modern medicine is following a negative path and will have to admit defeat.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Medicine
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