Our medical thinking has become totally militaristic. It is not just happenstance that doctors proudly assert that they seek to attack illness, combat disease, kill infective agents, and create a war on cancer or on any disease. Physicians seem so entrenched in militaristic thinking that it is not surprising that they have a long history of attacking other viable strategies that seem to be less medical or less militaristic.
In order to treat a patient, the doctor must provide a diagnosis that determines the existence of a “Western medical disease” (what might be called a WMD), even if this diagnosis is sometimes based on faulty medical intelligence or just selective intelligence.
Doctors usually choose to “shock and awe” the body. An elaborate attack ensues utilizing sophisticated technological armamentarium, including the newest painkilling drugs, antibiotics, and chemotherapeutic agents. This militaristic medical solution takes precedence over other strategies that strive to re-establish health through a coalition of forces in order to augment the body’s own defenses. Although a minority of doctors voice dissident opinions and propose less invasive treatment strategies, these voices are muted by the powerful medical industrial complex.
The military industrial complex is but a dwarf next to its medical counterpart. In 2002, for instance, the combined profits for the ten largest drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the combined profits for all of the remaining 490 companies ($33.7 billion).[i] Even though Big Pharma couldn’t maintain this same dominating margin in 2003, due to Big Oil getting a shot in the arm in profits from a significant increase in the cost of this commodity, the medical industrial complex is ready, willing, and able to declare a scientifically validated victory, even if this victory is temporary or simply provides symptomatic relief.
In fact, the shock and awe treatment “works” so that doctors proudly declare: “Mission Accomplished.”
However, much to our surprise, but obvious and predictable to many others, thousands of new “terrorist cells” are created. The shock and awe use of drugs create their own side effects:
* The painkilling drugs kill the pain but do not cure the underlying disease and create their own tolerance, addiction, and pathology.
* Antibiotics kill the bad germs but also destroy the good bacteria in our gut that are so important for digesting and assimilating our food.
* And the chemotherapeutic drugs poison and ravage the immune system, creating a perfect environment for new organisms to infect an increasingly weakened and susceptible body.
Side effects, however, are not really “side” effects at all. From a pharmacological point of view, determining which “effects” a drug has and which are its “side effects” are arbitrarily determined. Does a bomb that destroys buildings and kills people have one or the other as a “side effect?” Both are the direct effect of the bomb. Likewise, drugs may effectively suppress a symptom, but the cough we have is the way that the body was trying to clear its bronchial passageway so that you can breath, and our fever is a vital innate strategy that the body deploys to burn out infective organisms. Although the drugs provide helpful temporary relief (and bless them for that), they also tend to suppress the body’s own self-healing propensities and disrupt our inner ecology. Side effects and collateral damage are simply accepted as the price of our war on disease, even if varied strategies for creating the peace are inadequately explored.
Doctors may even be able to go the next step and surgically remove a symptom or an obstructive agent, but the assumption that removing a single symptom or pathological agent will create health is both simplistic and incorrect. Getting rid of a symptom, simply toppling a statue of the person, or capturing a political leader doesn’t create a cure or a revolution. As it turns out, conventional medicine often has no real tools with which to deal with the more complex problems at play…or simply has no plan to establish health once one symptom is removed.
The nursery rhyme about the fall of Humpty Dumpty may provide important insights. This old verse acknowledges, “All my King’s horses and all my King’s men cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” Despite this unsuccessful effort, no one recommends the requisition of more horses and more men to solve this problem.
Our medical generals, however, have not been as insightful, and instead a “surge” in military/medical efforts has been prescribed. Typically, solutions to health problems have been the call for more doctors (and more specialists), more drugs (newer and more expensive ones), and more surgery (after all, medical insurance and the increasing national debt will cover it). And if and when critics assert otherwise, they are branded as unpatriotic…or worse, as unscientific. It is as though we are living under a “doctatorship.”
And if the treatment of one disease is not adequately effective, doctors instead apply treatment to another disease so that perhaps at least they could claim victory some place else. The allergy drug may not get rid of the allergy symptoms, but at least they will make you feel so fatigued that insomnia is no longer a problem, even if the person feels asleep during waking hours. And if the surge in Iraq doesn’t get enough popular support, perhaps a surge in Afghanistan will, even though the very need for a surge (or yet more treatment) is backhanded admission that we are not winning the war or affecting a cure.
But now that the body is seriously ravaged, we are told that we cannot just leave the body on its own. Physicians assert that it is essential that we be there to defend it against new attacks, even if our very presence creates the new increasingly more dramatic terrorist actions, a situation is akin to the increased risk of exposure to virulent strains of infection from hospitals today.
Strategies that nourish or nurture the body’s wisdom, treatments that stimulate or augment our inner doctor, and therapeutic modalities that help to establish a dynamic balance between the body-mind-nature are simply called quackery. This name-calling and reference to “quackery” is a wonderfully clever way to trivialize something potentially useful and important. And ironically, physicians often attack these alternative healing systems even though they have an inadequate understanding of what they really are, what history of use and efficacy that they been shown to have, or the high satisfaction rate that exists for their use by the public. The fact that physicians maintain such an unscientific attitude towards these alternative, complementary, and integrative treatment modalities is part and parcel of our “my country right or wrong” and “our medical care right or wrong” thinking.
It is now time to acknowledge and understand how much military thinking has invaded and occupied our medical thinking. And more important, it is time to explore new thinking to medical and military problems so that we can create greater health and peace.
Dana Ullman, MPH, is America's leading spokesperson for homeopathy and is the founder of www.homeopathic.com . He is the author of 10 books, including his bestseller, Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. His most recent book is, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Dana lives, practices, and writes from Berkeley, California.
[i] Angell, Marcia. The Truth about Drug Companies. New York: Random House, 2004, p. 11. (Dr. Angell is the former editor of the famed New England Journal of Medicine and is presently a professor at Harvard Medical School.