Authentic vs Authoritative Medicine Pt 1

1 Jul

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I keep landing myself in trouble with the authorities. Let me explain.

I have always believed that the person seeking my help is the important one. So it is important and much simpler for me to devote my time and energy in helping that person achieve better health in the quickest and most economical way possible. Sometimes pills do this – for instance antibiotics for a bladder infection – and sometimes it is just listening. Sometimes something else.

In the early 80s, I started to use acupuncture for this very reason – what could I do in 20 minutes that would achieve this goal, and at the very least not make matters worse? After over thirty years I am still doing acupuncture – often with the same points and techniques I used at the start. In contrast, I have seen many many drugs come and go, as they have either proved unsafe for human consumption, or have been superseded by their latest model as their patents ran out.

Besides, I just love doing acupuncture – it seems to work for those coming to see me, and sustains me mind, body and soul.

But what I don’t love doing much is filling in forms. I do tolerate this activity more if it is directly beneficial for the person’s healing – sick notes, work and income forms etc. And I do accept there isn’t a job in the world that doesn’t include tasks that are a complete drag to perform. In fact, I have been able to take some selfish comfort in the fact that my working life is perhaps 1000% more fulfilling than the people devising such forms, or the people having to decipher the mess I make filling the things in.

But here (at last) is my point…..I am asked to write these forms because somehow along my life’s journey, without ever being asked, I have been perceived as an authority figure useful in confirming the story of someone with less authority and standing in society as myself. The reason behind the forms is almost always money. Somehow I am deemed responsible for saving government agencies, insurance companies, corporations, employers and last but not least individuals and employees, money.

Mind you, if I don’t quite use my authority properly, and seem to support the individual rather than the funding authority, my status is fairly and squarely reassessed. I can quickly become known as a lousy authority figure, and appropriate punishment and humiliation invariably ensues.

And this – initially at least- causes me to become a bit grumpy. I have even been known to swear. But then, after these fleeting dark times, a light begins to shine, and stars begin to twinkle. Stars that rapidly transform into the lucky variety – which of course I duly thank. For it is times such as these that are the inspiration behind this blog.

Examples please, you ask. Well I’ll give you two most recent – although I’ll do my best to disguise the individuals involved for confidentiality and ethical reasons (although you’ll know who you are.).

Firstly, we have in New Zealand an authority who funds accidents known as the ACC. They like people who have had accidents to get better quickly. If they don’t, and for instance suffer from pain for years, the ACC become unhappy and often go to great lengths to suggest ways to stop their funding. If someone in this sorry state comes to me, I firstly see if there is anything causing their pain to continue that I can help eliminate so they can feel better for good.

If this proves difficult or impossible, the next thing I do is find ways to minimise their pain and suffering – which is precisely what I had been doing with the divine Miss T for years. For her, the thing that worked best was acupuncture – for others it may have been Tai Chi, singing lessons, medications or seeing someone else. But for Miss T it was a monthly session of acupuncture.

But the funding authority in question was not happy with this. They banned funding Miss T’s acupuncture treatment, allowing funding only if the reason she consulted me was to fill in their forms, or to prescribe drugs (which don’t work, and have in the past caused dangerous side effects.) ie to behave like a proper doctor.

On discussing this with the young ACC case manager, I was quizzed: “So what is a doctor doing acupuncture for anyway?”

“Well,” I replied,” It is the only thing that seems to work for her, and to give her relief.”

“Does that mean it isn’t real pain then?” she countered. Obviously a student of existential philosophy, I pondered

After this things quickly got a lot worse. You know the scene, “Can I speak to you superior? “No she will say the same as me” (clairvoyant too, I pondered further). “Can we have a meeting here?” “No, we don’t visit doctors’ rooms anymore for health and safety reasons.”

Let’s be honest – I am a very disappointing authority figure. Oddly and frustratingly, very difficult to control, with a vastly inferior understanding of existential philosophy, and a piss-poor clairvoyant to boot.

Well this sorry exchange happened well over a year ago – and yes I could challenge the decision with more forms, and more phone calls. But the fact remains, the divine Miss T will only be funded if her doctor does his principal duty of filling in forms, or prescribe dangerous drugs that don’t work.

And example two?

Well, that will now have to wait for the next blog, because, as Trish always reminds me: “You don’t half go on….”

One Response to “Authentic vs Authoritative Medicine Pt 1”

  1. Judith July 1, 2014 at 7:13 am #

    Well said, Robin. Yes – things are truly ridiculous aren’t they.
    Thinking of an (prize-winning) architect friend whose push bike slipped on a manhole cover. He fell off the bike and received extensive head injuries as the helmet smashed.
    Having difficulty managing a full days work even after a number years the (young) ACC case manager suggested he went back to Uni to retrain in another field… DOH?

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