Not all innovation equals progress. The science of medicine is proof enough.
We all have to deal with medicine sooner or later, one way or another. Its current state impacts us all. And we all should be concerned.
Today’s so-called western medicine is based on what Robert O. Young, MSc, DSc, PhD, defines as a rivalry between French scientist Louis Pasteur and his compatriot and colleague Pierre Jacques Antoine Béchamp.
If you ask any high-school (or university medical school) student, they will know Pasteur’s name and those who have got good marks would know, too, that he invented what is known as “germ theory.”
Béchamp, almost unknown to those not keen enough to dig deeper, invented the so-called “terrain theory.”
Robert O. Young sums it up neatly: say you have a tank of fish, and those poor creatures start showing signs of disease. If you follow Pasteur, and nobody else, you would start by vaccinating the fish. If Béchamp made more sense to you, well, you would start by cleaning the tank first.
Béchamp used to call it as “treat the patient, not the infection.”
Pasteur would figure it all out too late, on his death bed, too: “Le microbe n’est rien,” were his last words, “le terrain est tous.” In English: the microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything.
And yet, what we know as western (or accepted) medicine forces us all to view physicians as divine masters who look at their computer screens, see more or less reliable lab test results, and prescribe a dose of this or that pharmaceutical product, not caring much about that product’s side effects. They would tell you that they had made the assessment of risks compared to benefits, and the benefits have won. Oh, and yes, if you have any side effects, we would prescribe some other pharmaceutical concoction to make it go away.
Speaking of which: check it out next time you visit your medical attendant. How many times will s/he look at you rather than the computer? How many times will s/he type with the speed of highly qualified typists instead of using her/his hands for the classic medical tetrad: inspection, palpation, percussion, auscultation (watch, touch, drum, listen)? Physicians are to use their eyes for the first step, fingers and palms of their hands for the following two, and ears, with the help of the stethoscope if needed, for the last one.
The ancient medical advice was not only that medics should do no harm, but also that they must listen to and hear their patients may come as a surprise to most of today’s newly-minted doctors. Tell them the good old maxim according to which the patient is a physician’s best diagnostician, and all you’ll get is a blank stare.
Considering that only about 13 per cent of current medical school alumni in North America have taken the Hippocratic oath, no wonder.
It’s pretty shocking news to many that elementary school pupils know more about food groups than medical school students. Nutrition courses often don’t award credits, and where they do, they’re so brief they can’t include such information like that a human being is what a human being eats.
If you’re lucky, you’d make it into a magic circle that would be increasing the content of your medicine cabinet following each visit to your physician.
Should you have additional insurance for such expenses, either your own or one paid by your employer, you’re even luckier: your insurer will cover most of your pharmacy bills.
There have been numerous learned tomes written about when and how this tragic shift happened. You can start with the Rockefeller Foundation, and go all the way up to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s well-researched and perfectly documented volume, The Real Anthony Fauci for explosive updates till today.
But imagine that you happen to be a conscientious patient. You have learnt that there exist other means of treatment, from physiotherapy and chiropractic to heal your moving parts, all the way to naturopathy, to improve your diet and supplement your body with ingredients it may be missing.
There exist many more such fields of medicine. Practitioners call them alternative, integrative, functional or holistic. Many of those treatments had existed long before today’s so-called classic or western medicine appeared on the scene. Most of them had been efficient and useful before the so-called classic or western medicine became what it is now: a business like few others.
Except: they weren’t such money-makers as today’s patented drugs happen to be.
Where insurance companies saw the light and decided to admit such invoices, they’d impose strict limits on how many, say, chiropractic adjustments they would cover. The number of treatments that are effective and efficient and, yet, simply inadmissible as such, is overwhelming.
We don’t give a hoot, they say, about your efforts to become an active patient, one who tries to see that at least a part of the issue is inside her/him, one who actively tries to repair her/his body and thus, chase the complaint away.
Classic (western) medicine tries to fix the symptoms rather than the syndrome.
Got a headache? Here’s (insert here a pain-killer of your choice) and – if the pain persists – call me in the morning.
Who cares why it hurts to begin with? The pain is gone, and that’s what matters. That this approach leaves the condition uncontrolled? So what?
It got worst in the last few years: if your pain persists, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency facility.
A physician carrying her/his medicine bag calling on you in your home? Are you nuts or are you nuts?
Add the increasing number of telephone consultations instead of personal visits to your physicians’ surgeries. The circle is almost complete.
To apply the final touches, medical authorities have created procedural rules, a.k.a. protocols. A patient presents this or that symptom, the physician prescribes this or that treatment. Any deviation or divergence, no matter how minute, may cost the physician her/his licence. So, they follow the rules even though, in their heart of hearts, they know better.
A personal memory: my Dad was a cardiologist. Once, I witnessed a guy dropping by in his office, asking for a Swiss medication for his heart. That was long before the Internet, he must have heard the name somewhere.
My Dad took him to a room next door where he had a stress-test bike, went through all of the tests he could think of, and read the ECG records right then and there (can you imagine anything like that here and now? I can’t!).
Sir, he told the patient, what you need are special herbs, and I will book a visit for you with a lady who happens to know her stuff.
He called, long-distance, described the patient’s condition, told the person on the other end that this was what he needed, wrote the address on a scrap of paper, and the patient left, happy smile on his face.
My Dad called that lady again: please make sure the patient we just debated has to come back to see you at least three times.
Seeing my face, my Dad explained: that lady lives on the top of this mountain, the guy has to park in the village below, he has to walk up, it’s about two kilometres each way, and the altitude difference is quite steep. And that’s the only thing he needs: exercise. This way he’ll get enough to last him a week or two.
I shared this story with a Canadian cardiologist.
Ah, he said, I wish I could do what your Dad did.
And, after a minute’s silence, he sighed again: those were the days when medicine still used to be a calling.