Health care consumers may ask the question, “whom should we trust for accurate information when it comes to matters of health?” In an interdependent and specialized society, modern man relies upon others to interpret scientific and medical data. But do the interpreters always tell the truth? Most physicians have been taught very limited methods of therapy, so they have little knowledge or experience outside high-tech treatments and patented medicines. If any cures exist outside their experience or training, particularly if those remedies do not require the continued need for doctors, they are likely to be rejected. Home remedies, vitamins and herbal cures are flatly dismissed as being unproven, despite reams of scientific evidence and thousands of years of use in some cases.
Far too many patients still rely totally on their doctor’s advice. For many, to question their doctor is as irreverent as questioning their priest. Yet, consumerism has begun in medicine. Insurance companies and government agencies have begun to require doctors and drug companies to prove their treatments are safe and effective. So there is a growing movement to question conventional medical care. The temples of medicine are crumbling.
Historically, anyone who has the knowledge of healing has been regarded as close to God. Healers have been said to have a special gift. Some are called saints. For most of mankind’s history, health and a godly life were fused. Religious leaders prescribed folk remedies to their flocks. Plagues cut short the human life span, so for a great part of human history man lived under the threat of his imminent demise. Nutritional deficiencies and lack of personal and public hygiene were the hidden causes behind most epidemics. But mankind interpreted sickness as evidence that the reigning gods were unhappy. Mankind pled for mercy and universally came up with the idea of offerings to appease the gods.
Secrets of health, particularly natural remedies placed on earth by our Creator, have often been concealed from the public by kings, politicians, physicians, pharmacists and even religious leaders. Better to be sick and have to rely upon a god, a physician, a king, than to be healthy and independent of the overseers. When royalty held possession of the many herbal compendiums that were published over the ages they were considered part of their inherent omniscience that was to be passed on down through family lines. Kings and queens commissioned explorers to return to their kingdoms with precious herbal remedies from afar.
The pharaohs in Egypt and the emperors in China were quick to mix their magic potions with a variety of herbs to obscure which one held the healing power so the laity would not have this knowledge. But when this knowledge was discovered by the common man and became a threat to the ruler and physicians, it was branded as witchcraft and sorcery and was condemned. Not much has changed over the centuries. In the modern world pharmacological prescriptions are obscured in Latin and any remedy that is not ordered by a physician and dispensed by a pharmacist, that is outside the approved compendium of 3200 drugs, is considered to be unproven and possibly dangerous.
And people are not completely satisfied with the technical advancements of modern medicine, of just prolonging life and postponing death. In the face of all the medical breakthroughs, all of a sudden there is a turn towards alternative medicine and a return to traditional health practices. The use of shamans and health gurus are on the rise and acupuncture, massage therapy, Chinese herbs and mind-body medicine techniques are in vogue. Why?
As spectacular as the advancements in medical technology have been over the past century, there may be limits to progress. Chronic diseases still plague mankind, and longevity has given rise to an array of age-related health problems such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and retinal disease, for which modern medicine has few remedies. The “magic bullet” drugs are falling into disfavor with the realization that it costs nearly as much to treat their side effects as it does to purchase them. Medical mistakes are now among the leading causes of death in the U.S. Germs are becoming resistant to antibiotics and health officials fear worldwide plagues. Mankind is still vulnerable to viral epidemics (AIDS comes to mind), which antibiotics are useless against. The Medicare system, which pays for the medical care of retirees, could not afford to provide a cure for cancer even if it were to be developed. Many retirees cannot afford the drugs they are prescribed, and many others do not have health insurance. Arrays of modern therapies are available yet they are not affordable, which adds to the frustration.
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