Not all “advancements” in commercialized medicine are improvements

A discussion on Facebook reminded me of how easy it is to smugly view previous generations as “ignorant” or even “stupid”, without realizing how little of their practical knowledge and skills we possess. We are often far more reliant on others to do for us what previous generations did for themselves.

The field of medicine has made enormous strides. But it has also become commercialized, and too many people have become overly reliant on pharmaceutical remedies.

I grew up before medical insurance in a family that had to consider every expenditure carefully. I was blessed with a Daddy who had been a medic in the Korean war, and I was thankful he was able to “fix” my broken nose, help me avoid stitches several times (except for one dramatic injury) and, along with my mother, nurse me through various illnesses and injuries. He also knew his limits and knew when a call to the doctor or an ER visit was necessary.

At age 18, I was diagnosed with a mild case of a serious, usually progressive, neuromuscular disease. (God later healed me during pregnancy, but that’s a story for another time.) While at UCLA, I read everything in the BioMed library related to my disease and watched/listened to every lecture, symposium, and presentation available in the library. I was so up on the latest research that, moments before I had my wisdom teeth extracted at the dental school, one of the professors asked me to explain my condition and its implications to a group of dental students.

It never dawned on me to consider investigating “alternative” treatments.

Then an interesting thing began happening. I’d get sick with something and go to a clinic or doctor — including the top specialists at UCLA — and we would end up having conversation after conversation along these lines:

Doctor: Normally I would prescribe x or y, but those are contra-indicated for you, and there is no safe or effective alternative.

Me: [alarmed, frightened face]

Doctor: Don’t worry. [recommends some home remedy or describes how this sickness was treated before current pharmaceuticals were developed]

Me: Seriously? Just go home and do that? Does it even work??!!

Doctor: The old remedies and treatments don’t lose their effectiveness simply because we have discovered new ones.

Me: Oh.

One doctor, offended at my youthful arrogance: Doctors knew what they were doing long before you were even born, and what I’m recommending has worked for centuries.

———————-

“Yeah, but we know better now!” people protest. They act as if everyone used to die of every childhood disease pre-vaccine. They can’t imagine a world before pharmacies in supermarkets and on multiple street corners, before medical insurance, before medical imaging and lab tests…

I’m thankful for many of the advancements in medicine. I have benefited greatly. But I’m not thankful for big corporate medicine, or for how many of us have been turned into helpless consumers of medical services. I’m not thankful for the opioid epidemic, the over-reliance on pharmaceuticals, the obesity epidemic, etc., etc.

Oh, and the “home remedies” those doctors suggested to me back in the day? They worked wonderfully… and without side effects.

[Previously posted on Facebook]

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