One Size Does Not Fit All:
The rising green revolution will not settle for the conventional medical status quo. Green medicine transcends the cookie-cutter model that erroneously believes that most, if not all, persons with the same medical condition should respond to the same treatment. It seeks to improve upon the pharmaceutical/surgical tunnel vision of corporate medicine in search of therapies that are safer and more effective. Green practitioners understand that human health and illness cannot be reduced to a simple set of rules and confined to a predetermined group of favored therapeutic options. The green medical perspective views conventional medical science as just one way to approach the complex mysteries of the symptomatic expressions of the body-heart-mind-soul.
A green medical system recognizes the reality of the uniqueness of each individual person and his or her ailments and tailors its treatments accordingly. Upon encountering a new or potentially useful method of treatment it does not respond in a knee jerk manner that seeks to discredit new ideas. That familiar disingenuous refrain, "Show me the proof. Where are the studies?" is replaced with an attitude that conveys the message, "That sounds interesting. Let's investigate its applications and benefits."
We Can Do More For Chronic Disease:
The green standard of care is not contented with the mere maintenance of chronic disease. It seeks to heal rather than accept the conventional standard of treatment for most chronic diseases. Healing is understood to be a process that, in addition to providing symptomatic relief, leads ultimately to greater well-being, vitality, and self-awareness. Truly effective treatments also lead to less dependency upon pharmaceuticals that are used to maintain the status quo. Most people do not have to settle for the finality of having to take a daily regimen of prescription drugs for their supposedly incurable ailment. There are a variety of alternative healing approaches that are capable of safely reducing the severity of many chronic diseases and, in some cases, eliminating them, thereby minimizing the need for pharmaceuticals and the dangers that come with them.
Most migraine sufferers, for example, do not have to resign themselves to the inevitability of headaches that periodically recur, or to strong doses of migraine medications that are sometimes taken for many years. When the medical system ceases to insist upon its one-size-fits-all treatment for such individuals, it will be ready to look to other methods of healing. Then it will discover what most alternative practitioners already know. While one migraine case may respond successfully to acupuncture, another may improve through meditation. One case may be significantly relieved with nutritional intervention, and another may resolve with homeopathic treatment. Psychotherapy may be the solution for some migraines, while bodywork or energy healing methods such as Reiki, craniosacral therapy, Therapeutic Touch, or massage may be the most effective approach for others.
Patient Safety and Well-Being is Paramount:
Green medicine recognizes the toxicity of many pharmaceuticals and resolves to use them as a last resort when alternative options have been found to be ineffective. Likewise, it acknowledges the dangers of suppression and seeks to minimize the use of suppressive measures (see GMR Part II). Green health care improves upon conventional medicine's efforts to eliminate the iatrogenic disease (medically-induced illness) that comes from medical error. Therefore, it also seeks to reduce the unacknowledged iatrogenesis that results from inappropriately over-utilized treatments such as immunosuppressive steroids, psychotropic drugs, antibiotics, and unnecessary surgeries. When medical care itself is estimated to be the third leading cause of death in the U.S., we know that something is seriously amiss. (1)
The real focus of a green medical system is upon the ongoing process of healing. Palliation and maintenance should be reserved for cases where all other options have been exhausted. When we embrace the multitude of healing modalities available to us all, medicine will no longer need to overprescribe dangerous drugs and overutilize high-tech diagnostics simply because it has nothing else to offer. As a result, overall costs will be reduced, redundancies will be eliminated, and potentially dangerous procedures will be used only when necessary.
Green Medicine Does Not Play Favorites:
A green medical system uses the best available option, orthodox or alternative, for each given unique medical scenario. While arthroscopic surgery may be the best approach for a torn meniscus of the knee, there are a number of alternative options that are superior to conventional painkillers, which can reduce pain and swelling, and speed healing and recovery. While rescue inhalers may be necessary for some in the acute phase of asthma, the chronic use of inhaled steroids can be avoided in many cases by using green therapies that have a positive track record for reducing the chronicity and severity of asthma. Fewer individuals with back pain will need to resort to surgery when they are offered safer, less invasive approaches such as chiropractic, yoga, and osteopathic manipulation. And although an antibiotic may help an individual recover from a bout of pneumonia, a more holistic form of constitutional treatment may also be required to eliminate the weakness that can develop as a consequence of that pneumonia. Without proper treatment this type of acquired susceptibility can lead to subsequent bouts of pneumonia and/or other illnesses.
The divided loyalties maintained by physicians, specialists, and practitioners of various healing modalities, and the schizophrenic split that it creates for patients in search of ways to heal their ills is no longer a tenable state of affairs. It frequently compels patients to make unnecessary either/or choices and to carry an undeserved sense of shame or guilt for having made such choices. And the problem can be compounded by the fact that these choices are often held in secret due to fear of reprimand by physicians or disapproval from family members.
Medical Choice and Responsibility:
The green revolution is already well under way. It is happening everywhere around the edges and, in some cases, even within the halls of the conventional medical establishment. A truly green medical revolution will ultimately integrate all approaches, orthodox and otherwise, for the benefit of both its patients and its healers. Green medical schools will train generalists who will be valued for their ability to see the big picture and to make unbiased decisions based upon the best interests of patients. Green medical students will someday graduate with a basic understanding of modalities such as acupuncture, homeopathy, dream analysis, herbal medicine, vibrational healing, energy medicine, Ayurveda, and spiritual healing, in addition to the traditional specialties of orthopedics, pediatrics, neurology, obstetrics, and so on. And physicians, practitioners, their patients, and the economics of medicine will all be the beneficiaries of this much-needed green change.
It is our inherent right as citizens of a democratic society to pursue health, happiness, and well-being in whatever shape or form we deem appropriate for ourselves. In the process, we accept the responsibility that the outcome may not necessarily be to our liking, whether we have chosen mainstream and/or unconventional forms of health care. After all, there are no guarantees in life and no one method of treatment can claim to truly understand the science and the mysteries of health and illness in all of their ramifications. We also have the right to say "no" and decline treatment as we see fit. Freedom of medical choice therefore is the bedrock principle upon which the foundation of the green medical revolution is being built.
Larry Malerba, DO, DHt is the author of GREEN MEDICINE: Challenging the Assumptions of Conventional Health Care, published by North Atlantic Books and distributed by Random House. He has been a practitioner, educator and leader in the field of holistic medicine for more than 20 years.
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