My doctor friends bemoan that medicine, like life, has become way too complicated. I join them in their venerable grumpiness as I confront, on my exhaustive days in ‘formal general practice’, throngs of individuals with multiple google-invoked problems, complex ever-changing bureaucratic forms from third parties who, despite profiting from them, basically are annoyed with folk that get sick, conditions with acronyms I have never heard of (CBDZ disease etc), demands for pills advertised on TV – ” ask (ie tell) your doctor if (ie that) this is right for you” – drugs that change their name every five minutes, and the common “I’ve just got five problems for you today” – all to be sorted in their entirety in fifteen minutes. Apologies, change that to six minutes, the quality time that has been deemed to really occur within that quarter of an hour.
Yes, the primary care medical system is sick. Those with a modicum of education are outgrowing it. Those who are dependent and uninformed are dependent on it. Pharmaceuticals – still the principal tools of primary care – are being shown to have only limited benefits in many conditions, with more and more dangers from their indiscriminate use coming to the public’s awareness. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, paracetamol, cholesterol lowers, antidepressants – all now receiving firm cautionary notices in the mainstream press.
In 2007, the international accounting firm PWC guided Big Pharma towards 2020 with a set of initiatives we see unfolding today. The move away from pills to vaccinations, direct to consumer advertising, and lobbying for laws to lengthen patents on drugs. The first two directives are already obvious, with the third brought to light within the wiki-leaked TPPA documents. And at the risk of stating (to quote Monty Python) the “bleeding obvious” – these initiatives are aimed primarily at the survival and profits of the drug companies, rather than at the survival of you and me. So called health plans directed from the boardrooms of corporations, their accountants and their lawyers.
Over the years, I have tried to simplify my practice of medicine. Sure I do the necessary tests, and still prescribe medicines I feel appropriate usually in the lowest dose possible. But most problems are sorted out by making the person seeing me become aware of what changes are necessary to improve their quality of life.
We need to examine the body physically of course – I am primarily a diagnostician. But having a diagnosis is only any use if it becomes the basic guide to our future wellbeing. So ultimately I am a prognostician -using the knowing of the day to predict the future. Or with a nod to the ancient Greek roots of these words – firstly to ‘distinguish’ then to ‘foreknow.’
It is becoming clear to me that underlying so many modern ills is a deep loneliness – a feeling of separation at the level of soul. If we can simply provide a friendly ear, we are doing much to right this situation. If we can encourage others to lend true compassionate and practical support, we are doing even more. If we can help the person find that place deep within where there is comfort and compassion for their-self, then we are doing still more. So often this is found in a state of stillness – and it is why I may be able to help with the meditative exercises and acupuncture I have used for over 30 years.
Although it risks becoming a 21st century cliche, we are all truly connected to ourselves, nature and our world. All our body parts are intimately connected – something that we are at risk of overlooking as doctors are attracted more and more into sub-specialties, where they seek to know more and more about less and less. This knowledge is often complicated – not only separating the status of the doctor from the patient, but also threatening the emerging inner-knowing within all of us, so important for our healing.
So maybe we should join Meryl and Alec by looking each other in the eye, and pledging (over a glass if we choose) to keep it really simple.
All together. Now.