The Monster We’ve Created

Western medicine has overstepped its boundaries. Since the advent of the anatomical perspective some 450 years ago but escalating much more rapidly in the 20th century, medicine made startling advances in worldwide disease/plague prevention and in refining methods of anesthesia and surgical procedures for physical trauma. There have been far-reaching consequences, however, in viewing bodies as an assemblage of parts, beginning with the devaluation of the human being, the human spirit (lobotomies, unnecessary excision of organs to relieve psychological conditions, mostly on women considered hysterical – that is, in possession of a uterus).

The more medicine evolved, the greater grew the distance between doctor and patient. In little over a hundred years, medicine morphed from a disrespected and often uncompensated profession to one enshrined in virtual awe and reverence. Like the mythical Dr. Frankenstein, many medical scientists refused to acknowledge limitations. Ensconced in ivory towers of concrete and steel they labored, certain of their omniscience when it came to healing (which old time black bag doctors freely admitted could only happen within the patient, from the patient, by the patient).

The following short list demonstrates a very few concerns arising from our accepted medical model:

  • People don’t like sitting endlessly in waiting rooms when they have rushed to make it to their appointment on time. It only gives their anxiety more time to percolate. Further, it is then distasteful to be spoken to condescendingly as one is poked and prodded like a side of beef. Being diagnosed in under ten minutes, then handed a prescription and urged back out the door does not engender a healing response in the patient, nor does being ordered to book yet another doomed-to-be frustrating appointment. (And let’s not forget the follow-up phone call, giving a person dubious test results while impatiently telling them they must wait for clarification until said appointment, as the doctor is out of town.)

As long as we continue streaming into these kinds of medical practices for non-emergency health concerns, as long as we insist on using insurance-mandated providers versus choosing to participate in our own health care by exploring our options and occasionally paying out of pocket if necessary (meanwhile advocating for desired alternatives), this kind of approach will continue. Why should it change? The masses like instant. They like their pills and sometimes the effects, despite the long-term consequences of taking them. (How often do you read the fine print? But more anon …) They don’t want to relinquish  junk food, cigarettes, substances. An unhealthy lifestyle seems preferable to making precious time for cooking, proper exercise, meditation, and so on.

  •  Why don’t we Just Say No to drugs? Medicine doesn’t care if you’re a kid with an ear infection who would be cured by a gentle homeopathic remedy. Or if you can’t sit still in a boring classroom because you need more of a challenge. Even if you’re 90 and going to die soon anyway, they’re happy to give you a new hip and plenty of follow-up painkillers  (thank you, Medicare).

There are literally thousands of reasons for which drugs are prescribed. The word polypharmacy describes what transpires when any two drugs or more are given to any one person: the results are unpredictable. Unpredictable means nobody knows how they will react inside your body or mine. Now I don’t know about you, but I shrink away from anything that places me into the category of the hapless guinea pig. (And The Man thinks that smoking a joint is going to wreak havoc on my soul and cause me to become a drug addict. I don’t smoke, nor do I drink, but I have inhaled in the past. And it didn’t do anywhere near the damage that a doctor’s shot of Demerol caused me at nineteen. I keeled forward and hit the floor. Hard enough to have caused further injury.)

  • What many to most people don’t seem to like very much is the stress of having to figure out bodies that are no longer cooperating – that are aging, demanding attention, breaking down. They don’t want to take time to advocate for better healthcare, for cleaner soils and skies. Many don’t want to spend yet more money to guarantee foods without pesticide residue. If we don’t care to learn how to restructure our diets to ensure our food is also our medicine, if we are so enamored of taste to the exclusion of temperance, we are bound to pay a price for our indulgence. Listening to the body can seem daunting, but it is possible – and can be empowering in the process.

It’s frustrating trying to navigate healing alternatives, so why bother? Journey – destination – it’s all just too complicated (… and does my insurance cover that? Might as well remain with a broken system – it’s at least what is familiar). Until we acknowledge that chronic illness is best approached through lifestyle and dietary changes as well as through other, more self respectful and supportive modalities than the western medical model currently espouses, we remain handcuffed to that system. It’s time to take back the power to heal ourselves. Changes are afoot, but a fear-based healing model remains the elephant in the room. One thing is certain, the body doesn’t get better by being intimidated into healing. Western medicine still has a long way to go in practicing some badly-needed humility.


Young Frankenstein

11 thoughts on “The Monster We’ve Created

  1. This EXACTLY what i have been saying but not nearly so eloquently. i have not been to a doctor for almost 18 no wait, 20 years now, wow it has been that long. Mainly because there is nothing wrong with me. Either that makes me pretty healthy or because i don’t go no-one gets to tell me any bad news so i think and behave healthily. I blame it all on bad food and health insurance that has nothing to do with health! Good post.. c

    1. I agree with you, Cecilia. I’ve only gone for a battery of blood tests and a pap 6 years ago because I hadn’t been to a doctor in over 20 years and was applying for catastrophic insurance, which we maintain so we wouldn’t be completely wiped out financially if someone fell off a roof. Tests were all just fine, despite them wanting to slam my breasts in one of their machines (I said NO, which they didn’t like, but I was adamant).

      I’m sure I would have been diagnosed with ‘something,’ if not many ‘things’ in the intervening years since – especially in transition to menopause. But I’ve just done Chinese herbs, gone for acupuncture and regular massage, exercised more, learned to eat differently. At times it’s been confusing, but I’ve persevered. Listening to my body has been a process, yet I remain in pretty great health which actually seems to get better, despite the counterbalance of aging.

      Thanks for your comments 😉

  2. I just received a comment from a gal calling herself adamsdaughter. I will publish it only in its main parts due to the offensive language used. This young woman was quite upset, and I’ll try and address her concerns respectfully in this comment:

    She: You are condemning doctors and physicians for asking questions, “poking” and “prodding” during an appointment to diagnose and establish the patient’s ailments? Do you think because they are physicians and endured intensive schooling that they are psychic? They “poke” and “prod” to determine which specific areas are causing problems. They ask questions to eliminate possibilities and eventually lead them to the correct diagnosis.

    Me: Yes, I understand this of course. It is the “way” in which this prodding is conducted that I take issue with. It is, as I say, often like we are sides of meat and not human beings. Human beings at our best desire dignified interactions, which is certainly within the scope of a doctor’s ability.

    She: You complain about “keeling over” after a shot of Demerol? Demerol is a pain reliever typically used prior to anesthesia – what did you expect to happen?!

    Me: I wouldn’t have keeled over had I been sitting or lying down. I was standing upright and it was adminstered to me standing, not as a precursor to anesthesia. I spent years afterward wearing a medic alert bracelet stating I was allergic to Demerol, so it was an allergic reaction to the drug.

    She: Your naive statement regarding lack of information when mixing more than one medicine with another is completely false. There are books upon books on this subject, and most prescription bottles are clearly labeled with cautions and warnings about mixing drugs with other drugs. Haven’t you ever seen a commercial where at the end they say “Do not take if…” ?

    Me: Actually I don’t watch television. But yes, I know what commercials are, and know how powerful the pharmaceutical companies are who pay millions to advertise there. And likely the only reason that drug warnings are posted anywhere is because it is mandated by law. Polypharmacy, like so much of western medicine, is played down by the medical establishment because it is encouraged by the pharmaceutical companies who provide loads of free samples to physicians, encouraging them to peddle drugs to consumers. By the way, there are books written on almost any subject, some by highly credentialed authors. One can discover almost any research to support a certain position, yea or nay, on almost any subject. Gets confusing for the average consumer, to be sure.

    A blog is just a blog, not an academic paper. That being said, I do not write without having an extensive background in reading various reputable sources as well as having had extensive and varied life experience. Polypharmacy was actually introduced to me by a radio interviewee of mine who happened to be one of the caring physicians committed to the healing of patients. (Andrew Weil, Mehmet Oz, Larry Dossey are all similarly inclined.)

    Finally, many elders in our society, those most prone to being given multiple prescription meds, are not as mentally sharp as they once were. So being able to read labels thoroughly to multiple drugs while filtering complex medical terminology – then determining which drug goes with what – this is understandably left to their trusted physician. And too often these doctors are overloaded with too many patients in the present system to adequately assess what they are dispensing. They rely, once again, on either their PDR or the pharmaceutical reps who supply them. (I have several physician friends and have been in their supply rooms and observed these interactions, over the years.)

    She: And comparing modern day doctors to Frankenstein?
    Me: A value judgment, I know 😉 Though we certainly can be the subjects of medical experimentation. LOTS of evidence to prove that one.

    Thanks for taking the time to read the post. Hope these additional comments are helpful.

    1. With age comes wisdom & experience – as does the ability to make an argument & voicing opinions, without digressing to insults. I have to wonder if this was the projection of a defensive med student or someone who comes from a family of doctors.
      I am someone who has been in the cancer hospital and has battled numerous health problems for many years, including fibromyalgia, which i was diagnosed with two years ago. Based on my own experiences, I have seen both sides of this fence. I will be forever grateful for the skilled surgeon who saved my lower jaw. Without his skill and expertise my life would not be the same.
      I also resent the doctor who humiliated me, acted as if I was crazy regarding the fibromyalgia and shoved drug samples and scripts for heavy prescriptions to me, hurrying me out of her office. In dealing with my own health experiences and those around me – I admire those who have chosen a profession that is inherently noble, but I think physicians who no longer care for their patients as human beings and the greed of drug companies have corrupted the system. It isn’t the person in the lab trying to find the cure for cancer that is offensive, it is the person holding the checkbook standing behind her/him. Thank you for writing this and I find your writings thought provoking.

      1. Thanks for your supportive comments, Jancy. I am so sorry you are suffering from fibromyalgia, as is my eldest sister who was been labeled a hypochondriac for many years of her life, until both fibromyalgia as well as MS were diagnosed.
        I have friends who are themselves physicians and feel as I do, that the corrupt system is hindering their ability to administer to patients in the way they would most wish. Big systems are slow to change, and I do see changes in the medical field, though spotty, as you yourself seem to have experienced. Perhaps in the end it simply reflects the polarities of human nature, though I’m enough of an optimist that I believe with enough awareness we can change certain dysfunctional systems, and thus the world.
        Thanks for reading and sharing.

  3. Dear, dear Bela. It is urgent, imperative that people know that what has been a practise for years need not necessarily be the correct choice, or the correct version of the choice. Western medicine and styles of living have given humankind longevity, cure to strange diseases, eradication of older ones. But at what cost. You’ve rightly said that this isn’t a medical paper, nor is it a forum to discuss the wrongs or rights committed under the veil of a Hippocratic oath, but it must be said that a sustainable, wholesome solution to life and living needs to be found, if we are to truly enjoy those additional years that artificial add-ons gift us with.

    It is unfortunate that we spend our time moving away from what is balanced, and hence more wholesome “Until we acknowledge that chronic illness is best approached through lifestyle and dietary changes as well as through other, more self respectful and supportive modalities than the western medical model currently espouses, we remain handcuffed to that system.”

    A much needed post.

    1. Thank you Priya. I continue being appreciative of the time you take in commenting on my various posts. And as you live in India, it is especially poignant to me that someone from “away” appreciates the higher road western medicine has offered the world while also clearly recognizing the need for balance in participating in our own wellness. It really is time for global consciousness when it comes to the care and handling of all sentient beings. We all have much to learn from one another.

  4. Thank you for such a thoughtful post and follow-up comments… We are not competing with western medicine, we need to cooperate… it’s unfortunate some people aren’t at the level of cultivation yet… but we’ll get there! I think both sides of the coin can learn a tremendous amount from one another if we just let down our egos and realize we’re in this for the same reasons- the betterment of humanity. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment, especially since I know you will soon be a Chinese medicine practitioner. I’m so happy acupuncture is being taken more seriously in the west now and even covered by (many? most?) insurances. This is clearly what we need – more choices – dare I say competition?! Competition in any arena strengthens the whole. It is nothing to be afraid of or intimidated by. What’s broken either gets fixed or falls by the wayside. What remains is a better system. And hallelujah to that.

      My personal preference in the cooperation department? Utilizing alternative medicine for health maintenance and chronic illness, including various life changes such as menopause, along with western medicine for its various tests and acute care expertise. That would be a marriage made in heaven 😉

  5. Bela, my motto is better living through chemistry so I take all the drugs I can get my hands on. And, except for my freakishly large head, my diminutive hairy tongue and the few extra toes, I’m perfectly normal. In fact, when I went through menopause, I was taking experimental drugs that made the whole thing pretty easy. I do have frequent headaches and double vision, but more drugs should take care of that. I wonder what my wife has in her medicine cabinet. Anyway, thanks for the post. If you’re drug free–it’s more for me!

    1. You’re a nut 😉

      Hey, if people want their drugs, far from me to say they shouldn’t have ’em. If they want to maximize their health and longevity, well, we need our livers and kidneys and hearts to work as optimally as possible. Harder with chemicals. I guess the main issue for me and so many of my friends and clients over the years is the intimidation factor around the whole western medical experiment (whoops, I mean experience!) – then when one drug doesn’t work, instead of taking a more careful look at the patient, it’s very often the polypharmaceutical approach. More drugs. More reactions. More toxicity. Then again it’s a two-way street: patients often do dictate their own treatment, even by default. Even when doctors may suggest lifestyle changes, with the stressors that currently exist in our everyday living, do most of us really want to make those changes? Especially in the face of critically elevated blood pressure or harmful cholesterol? In the face of something worse?

      You raise a good point, albeit with humor, that it’s your life and you have a right to choose what you wish. I have many good friends who think just as you do, and I love them no matter what. I just hate seeing people like my sweet 50 year old brother die in horrible pain and abject terror – having subjected himself to an experimental treatment for stage IV cancer. After his first few treatments, and he went downhill rapidly after that, he was begging me to take him to my Chinese doctor. But none of us ever pushed any of our personal beliefs and choices onto him. It was his life to do with what he chose. If we could only have a crystal ball to glimpse our future, what different choices might we make, free of the degradation of fear and self loathing? Second guesses? To me, it’s just sad.

      But hey, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m just one voice in the wilderness. Thanks for checking in!

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