Friday, June 3, 2011

Witty comments from some great minds on the unnaturalness of most medicine

I have always appreciated the wisdom and wit of the doctor, poet and essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes. Here is his comment on medicine:
I firmly believe that if the whole material medica, as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be better for mankind--and all the worse for the fishes.

Another famous quote about using natural methods to achieve or maintain health comes from the inventor, Thomas Alva Edison:
The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.

Or how about this lovely quote from Florence Nightingale:
We know nothing of the principle of health, the positive of which pathology is the negative, except from observation and experience. And nothing but observation and experience will teach us the ways to maintain or to bring back the state of health. It is often thought that medicine is the curative process. It is no such thing; ... nature alone cures. ... And what [true] nursing has to do ... is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him.

Ben Franklin was another genius who commented on the unnaturalness of what passes for medicine:
He's the best physician that knows the worthlessness of most medicines.

The Hippocratic Oath is traditionally sworn to by medical students upon finishing their studies and becoming a doctor. Here is the relevant passage from that document:
I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

The other great Greek doctor/philosopher that is considered one of the founders of Western medicine is Galen, and he is famous for saying,
First do no harm.
. If you expect to try to heal the body, you cannot use methods that work against its own healing mechanisms, at least not without doing enormous harm to the patient. That seems obvious, right? And yet the whole of modern Western medicine now consists almost entirely of drugs and surgical procedures that interfere with or even completely destroy the body's own healing mechanisms. What is UP with that?

It is my fervent hope that more and more doctors will tire of not being able to make anyone well, that they will tire of merely prescribing more and more medications and surgery, never seeing their patients get better, always seeing them get worse and worse. I know there are doctors who feel frustrated by their inability to make a real difference, but their training has given them nothing else to offer. Many of them went into the profession because they wanted to heal people, and instead they find themselves merely contributing to their patients' health problems.

I saw earlier today that Representative Barney Frank from Vermont proposed a new system of funding medical research. Rather than allowing corporations that produce medical products to run the show for their own profit at the expense of patients, there will be a fund made up of a certain percentage (0.05% I believe he suggested) of the GDP, which would amount to something like $80 billion, and that fund would underwrite scientific research. The fund would buy patents at a good price, so researchers are motivated to do research, but instead of big corporations getting the profits, the government could give the patents away and drug companies would be free to produce them at much lower cost. I thought it was a first step away from a medical system run by corporations for their own profit (bad medicine!).