Dr. Bob’s Book Reviews

Heroic Medicine

What Doctors Don't Tell You,
Confessions of a Medical Heretic,
The Youngest Science,
William Osler,
Medical Nemesis

follow below.

How We Do Harm:
A Doctor Breaks Ranks about Being Sick in America

by Otis Webb Brawley, MD, with Paul Goldberg,
St. Martin’s Press, NY, 2011.

Dr. Brawley is a highly-credentialed physician with many titles. The major one being chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society.

Making his way up through the ranks, this man of color has carried burdens of race and poverty which are frequently reflected in his estimable writing. In his book, Otis threads his life and training through a maze of cancer patients, medical studies, statistics and research. While the book is well done, the threads get tangled sometimes moving back and forth between patient struggles and medical malfunctions. It is sometimes a statistical jungle in which Brawley travels comfortably.

Brawley’s How We Do Harm book may just as well have been called How Money Runs Medicine. This doctor’s particular concern is with cancer patients and he gives ample examples of how financial incentives, commercial opportunities, conflicts of interests, etc. often “steal the show,” so to speak. Everybody seems to have his hands out trying to take in more and more while patients get lost in the jumble. “Too often, helping the patient isn’t the point. Economic incentives can dictate that the patient be ground up as expensively as possible with the goal of maximizing the cut of every practitioner who gets involved. When we, doctors, are at our best, we set aside our self-interest and put the patient’s interest first. When we aren’t at our best, the public pays more in fees, insurance premiums, taxes – poor outcomes.”

“Poor Americans consume too little health care, especially preventive health care. Other Americans – often rich Americans – consume too much health care, often unwisely, and sometimes to their detriment. The American health care system combines famine with gluttony.”

“Patients need to understand that more care is not better care, that doctors are not necessarily right, and that some doctors are not even truthful.”

Otis Brawley is a shrewd man, knows his business which includes cancer medicine, finances, politics, statistics and epidemiology [the study of how diseases appear and are distributed among populations]. He is obviously a bright scientifically-oriented man who believes science is the answer to medicine’s problems. Brawley is also a man with a heart. He talks to patients at home on the phone. If someone gets his number or attention, he will oblige with a conversation.

Otis started out with a scholarship to a Jesuit high school and reveres his mentors. But, Brawley neither invokes religion or God, nor the powers of spirit and community. Science is clearly his God. If only physicians knew more science, studied more, did more research, read more drug inserts. “Few doctors reading the entire label before prescribing the drug. I do.”

Brawley is convinced that humans and physicians in particular merely need to know more: More science and more science. But, then knowledge is ever changing and subject to all sorts of less than honest and factual influence. Father Polakawski at his Jesuit school in Detroit taught him, “Say what you know, what you don’t know, and what you believe––and label it accordingly.”
The good doctor Brawley might be served more so with the sage words of Mark Twain: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
Over the course of history and into modern times, medicine has “known” for sure what is best for human ills and injuries. The problem is that medics and surgeons and the science behind them have often been wrong. Tragically wrong. And they continue to be.

Such is hardly news, as Charles Sidney Burwell, Dean of the Harvard Medical School, made it a habit generations ago to speak with incoming classes on their first. Burwell gave a similar pep talk each year and always threw in a proviso about their medical education, “Half of what we teach you here will be outdated or simply shown to be untrue in twenty years. The problem is that we don’t know which half that is.”

Dr. Brawley admits quite the same as tells how he was brought up in the medical, then cancer system. Slowly realizing much of cancer treatment has been and continues to be mumbo-jumbo, witches brew, medical hubris. He tells how medical oncology was invented at NCI (National Cancer Institute) in the 50s and 60s. How he became part of “an ole boys’ club” from which all cancer programs in the USA were spawned. Brawley believed as “a conscript to the War on Cancer, that the cure was just around the corner.”

ONLY a core strategy needed to be executed. For many years, that amounted to the summation that “anyone who died of cancer died because he didn’t get enough chemo.” Everyone at NCI advocated “the no-guts, no-glory approach to medicine: hit the thing as hard as you can, nuke it, napalm it, and damn the consequence.”

“The power of cancer to kill is so fearsome that treating it naturally invites the metaphor of war. As oncologists, we crave big weapons and are eager to throw them into the field. This is our mind-set, our history, our culture. Sometimes it’s our folly, our madness.”

While Brawley still strives towards a clean system based on science, he recognizes that human factors influence medical trials, drug and procedure studies, screening efforts. And shares a number of horror stories on mistreatment and over-treatment of cancer patients. While even in daily situations, “Cancer patients and their doctors routinely accept horrific risks as they inject drugs intended to cure cancer or slow down its process.”

“Sometimes we treat one hundred people to benefit ten. All one hundred will be subjected to harm, and ninety people will pay the price for the lucky ten.”

“Cancer is hard to understand and doctors rush patients.” It is not patients only who do not understand cancer. Neither do physicians. The medical profession doesn’t know what causes cancer any more than they know the cause of the vast majority of medical conditions. Thus, almost all cancer therapy is experimental: “Shooting in the dark.”

Brawley remembers sadly that, “Folks I grew up with were worried that the doctors who treated them had no idea what they were doing, that they were experimenting, trying various drugs or treatment, hoping that something might finally work. My family members were afraid they would pay the price for exercises in trial and error. It was about trust.”

Physicians are still practicing on patients and no more powerfully and dangerously than in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Thankfully, people like Otis Brawley are still asking questions like, “How can we identify the cancers that are a threat to a man’s life and need to be treated from those that are not a threat and need to be watched?”

But, the War on Cancer has been running full bore for two generations. Science has not met the challenge. People still die regularly and horrifically from cancer and its treatments.

A friend once remarked to me his opinion that, “More people make money on cancer than benefit as patients from its treatment.” That is in so many words the foundations of the book How We Do Harm.

Dr. Brawley concludes his tome with the following pronouncements:

“The system is not failing. It’s functioning exactly as designed. It’s designed to run up health-care costs. It’s about the greedy serving the gluttonous.”

“We need a health-care transformation. Americans need to change how we view health care. We need to change how it is provided and how it is consumed.”

Comments may be sent to theportableschool at gmail dot com. They will receive response.

What Doctors Don’t Tell You:
The Truth About The Dangers of Modern Medicine

by Lynne McTaggart
Avon Books, NY, 1998.

There are vast numbers of things that doctors don’t tell you or anybody. That is partly because there is so much to know about human beings, their problems and their illnesses. Setting the enormity of human living and dying aside, the obvious need for physicians to know and understand HEALTH remains. “As sophisticated as it is in many regards, medical science utterly lacks any understanding whatsoever of the extraordinary dynamics of the human body.”

But, HEALTH is not part of the standard medical school curriculum. So, how could physicians know much about it to share with patients? Disease is their calling. But doesn’t understanding disease suggest the value of understanding HEALTH?

Often trained physicians don’t even know what they are supposed to know. Because “medical science” is a rapidly moving target. Then, there are gaping holes in the training of physicians as suggested above. And, questions are often not asked. Patients are often unprepared or simply afraid to ask. When they do, such questions may be taken as affronts to the education, reputation, and goodness of the practitioner.

So, Lynne McTaggart wrote this book twenty years ago to tackle some of the numerous questions worthy of asking. Her questions are largely related to specific diseases and treatments, drugs and operations. Much was left unaddressed. Nonetheless, she gave it a worthy try. And, her effort has much value, particularly as a resource when consumers have questions in the areas of diagnostic procedures, prenatal testing, screening, vaccination, as well as medications, operations, and technology. Medicine has changed more in expense than in practice since 1998. So, her book still retains much reference value.

To this physician viewer, what Ms. McTaggart did address was well handled although long in statistics and data. A modest number of personal and patient stories are included in her book intending to drive home certain points. But, these often don’t ring true because the vignettes are so brief and leave their own unanswered questions.

Like other writers, McTaggart quite bluntly takes on the medical system more than individual doctors. “The problem isn’t the carpenter, but his tools. The fact is that medicine is not a science, or even an art. Many of your doctor’s arsenal of treatments don’t work – indeed, have never been proven to work, let alone to be safe. It is a false science, built upon conjuring tricks, supposition, and blind preconceptions, whose so-called scientific method is a vast amount of stumbling in the dark.”

She repeatedly points out how so-called medical science has really studied little and often poorly the methods and practices it follows.

“a good deal of what we regard as standard medical practice today amounts to little more than twentieth-century voodoo.”

“Medical science is, in the main, a triumph of statistics over common sense.”

“Two-thirds of medical practices don’t have any proof at all. There is no such regulatory agency like the Food and Drug Administration to monitor surgery, screening, or diagnostic tests …”

“The greatest reason that medical research is tainted is that the majority of it is funded by the very companies who stand to gain by certain results…. It’s wise to keep in mind that this industry, in a sense, has a vested interest in ill health: If drug companies found cures, rather than lifelong ‘maintenance’ therapies, they’d soon be out of business.”

Many fundamental issues persist regardless of medicine’s long journey and McTaggart’s valuable effort. Some day, medicine will add health and consciousness, spirit and nature to their studies. Knowledge, real knowledge, will be approached in the curriculum and in practice. In the meantime, physicians and patients settle for so-called medical science.

But in practice and in fact, “Medicine is not based on science – it’s based on faith.” So said her early mentor, Robert Mendelsohn. McTaggart for some years helped him put out his newsletter, The People’s Doctor. For more on Mendelsohn, see the review on his Confessions of a Medical Heretic.

Lynne McTaggart concludes her book the questions and quandaries of medicine reminding the reader of its major shortcomings juxtaposed to the natural human form: “Medicine never takes into account the exquisite mechanism of the organism it is trying to fix or the body’s extraordinary potential to operate …”

More often than not, “your doctors often don’t know what they are doing – not because they aren’t good people with good intentions, but because the equipment inside their black bags doesn’t work particularly well. In fact, most of the time, your body can manage things better than any doctor can.

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Confessions of a Medical Heretic

by Robert Mendelsohn
Warner Books, NY, 1979.

Robert Mendelsohn (1926-1988) was a vocal pediatrician and medical school professor in Illinois. Author of several books and a newsletter called The People’s Doctor, Mendelsohn was also a medical heretic and a medical critic. Although his books go back forty years, their essentials are still valuable to readers in the current day. The books are compact, very readable and not overgrown with statistics and minutiae.

Medicine has changed in a generation, but largely in outer trappings, increased costs, fancier tests, expensive machines, and more jargon to confuse patients and physicians themselves.

Basically, Mendelsohn’s writings provide warnings to medical consumers who are generally “awed by doctor’s powers,” while be quite unaware of their ill-education and limitations, foibles and shortcomings. Many of these expose more the guilt of the system than of individual physicians. Here are some things of which every patient and consumer should be aware, according to Dr. Mendelsohn:

• “In the Church of Modern Medicine, the doctor who treats without drugs is regarded as a heretic because he or she appears to have rejected the sacrament of medication.”

• Physicians often work in their own self interest. “Doctors almost always get more reward and recognitions for intervening than for not intervening.” He told his students to always respond with the most interventionist answer on examinations.

• Annual exams and x-rays are more ritual than useful.

• Mammography itself may can cause more breast cancer than it will detect.

• Lab tests often do more harm than good. Mendelsohn’s favorite study was “one in which 197 out of 200 people were ‘cured’ of their abnormalities by repeating their lab tests.”

• Antibiotics are hugely over-prescribed. “They have a place in the practice of medicine – a severely limited place.”

• Mendelsohn opposed the immunizations of children, common in his time and in the present.

• A large percentage of patients in hospitals get there due to Adverse Drug Reactions.

• Surgery is a cash cow, much overdone. “My feeling is that somewhere around ninety percent of surgery is a waste of time, energy, money, and life.”

In Mendelsohn’s day, surgeons paid fee-for-service performed three times as many hysterectomies and tonsillectomies than surgeon who got regular salaries in prepaid group practices. The good doctor believed that at least half of American surgeons were superfluous.

“If doctors reduced their involvement with people by ninety percent and attended only emergencies, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’d be better off.”

• Mendelsohn called hospitals Temples of Doom … “virtual models of ineptitude. There are so many simple mistakes …” that can lead to no end of serious and expensive problems for which the patient has to pay physically, financially, and emotionally. “The psychological dangers of the hospital are very much as deadly as the physical dangers.”

“The Temple has nothing to do with health. There are no facilities in hospitals for health or for any of the things commonly recognized as contributing to health.”

Home births are safer than hospital births, according to Dr. Mendelsohn.

• Apropos of the current debate over Obamacare, Mendelsohn took a wider view: “There’s no way anybody can justify the billions of dollars we spend every year on ‘health care.’ We’re not getting healthier as the bill gets higher, we’re getting sicker. Whether or not we have national health insurance is, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, one of the most dangerous decisions facing us in the years ahead. Because even if all doctors’ services were free, disease and disability would not decrease.”

Mendelsohn closes his book quoting John McKnight saying, “Only the hands of citizens can cure medicine. Medicine cannot cure itself because its prescriptions come from its own system of values.”

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Lewis Thomas

The Youngest Science:
Notes of a Medicine-Watcher

by Lewis Thomas,
Viking, NY, 1983.

Dr. Lewis Thomas (1913 – 1993) was a physician and researcher, administrator and author. Several years after writing his award-winning The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher and The Medusa and the Snail, Thomas penned the present one which is his autobiography. It records his life in most of a century of medicine and the changes which occurred in it. 

When Dr. Thomas graduated from medical school in the 30s, the average income for physicians of in practice for ten years was a mere $3500. Over the years, he watched medicine turning into a science. Physicians then saw so many patients for whom little could be done. In retrospect, he pondered that practically all treatments were really placebos. “The prescriptions were always written in Latin, to heighten the mystery. The purpose of this kind of therapy was essentially reassurance.” But, has medicine really changed much from that angle?

“Faith in the gods or in the saints cures one,
faith in little pills another,
hypnotic suggestion a third,
faith in a plain common doctor a fourth.
In all ages the prayer of faith has healed the sick.”
 Sir William Osler

It seems to this viewer that medical practice and pills and operations continue on much the same now as then. “Prescriptions were an expected ritual, laid on as a kind of background music for the real work of the sixteen-hour day. First of all, the physician was expected to walk in and take over; he became responsible for the outcome whether he could affect it or not. Second, it was assumed that he would stand by, on call, until it was over. Third, and this was probably the most important of his duties, he would explain what had happened and what was likely to happen. All three duties required experience  to be done well. The first two needed a mixture of intense curiosity about people in general and an inborn capacity for affection, hard to come by but indispensable for a good doctor.”

Early in his career, hospital stays were long, and the facilities were places set aside to die. The wealthy stayed home when ill. Drugs were relatively few in number and the pharmacopeia was limited to 100 pages. The modern PDR has over 1000 drugs and more than 3000 pages. Is our health 30 times better?
“It gradually dawned on us that we didn’t know much that was really useful, that we could do nothing to change the course of the great majority of the diseases we were so busy analyzing, that medicine, for all its facade as a learned profession, was in real life a profoundly ignorant occupation.” How much do we even now KNOW about human health and ills, life and death in the 21st century?

Thomas recognizes how technology has taken over, with it dehumanization and lost of the old art of medicine.
“The touching was the real professional secret, never acknowledged as the central, essential skill, always obscured by the dancing and the chanting, but always busily there, the laying on of hands…. The doctor’s oldest skill in trade was to place his hands on the patient…. Medicine is no longer the laying on of hands, it is more like the reading of signals from machines….The doctor seems less like the close friend and confidant, less interested in him as a person, wholly concerned with treating the disease.”

These are only a few of the realizations that Thomas made over his long career. Even while he recognized many of medicine’s shortcomings, he was still a brave cheerleader and believed in the system in which he long worked. Thomas believed in the medical model, science coming to the rescue, cancer being overcome by the turn of the century, etc.

That even though, “The greatest difficulty in trying to reason your way scientifically through the problems of human disease is that there are so few solid facts to reason with. It is not a science like physics or even biology, where the data have been accumulating in great mounds and the problem is to sort through them and make the connections on which theory can be based.”

He also believed in the part women play in medicine and especially the hospital. “One thing the nurses do is to hold the place together. It is an astonishment, which every patient feels from time to time, observing the affairs of a large, complex hospital from the vantage point of his bed, that the whole institution doesn’t fly to pieces.” Thomas believed women to be better at many parts of life and thought they should be given charge of the government for a hundred years – without male interference.

There are a few vignettes in Thomas’s book which stand out. One about Hubert Humphrey as a patient while Thomas was administrator of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute makes the whole read worth while.

A final story comes from the doctor’s own experience with illness in later life. “Most people afflicted with grippe [flu] complain about it, and that is one of its virtues. It is a good thing for  people to have, from time to time, something real to complain about, a genuine demon. It is also a good thing to be laid up once in a while, compelled by nature to stop doing whatever else and to take to bed. It is an especially good thing to have a fever and the malaise that goes along with fever, when you know that it will be gone in three or four days but meanwhile entitles you to all the privileges of the sick: bed rest, ice water on the bed table, aspirin, maybe an ice bag on the head or behind the neck, and the attentions of one’s solicitous family.

“Sympathy: how many other opportunities turn up in a lifetime to engage the sympathy and concern of others for something that is not your fault and will surely be gone in a few days? Preserve the grippe, I say, and find some way to insert it into the practical curriculum of all medical students. Twice a year, say, the lecture hall in molecular biochemistry should be exposed to a silent aerosol of adenovirus, so that the whole class comes down at once. Schedules being what they are in medical school, this will assure that a good many students will be obliged to stay on their feet, working through the next days and nights with their muscle pains and fever, and learning what it is like not to be cared for. Good for them, and in a minor way good for their future as doctors.”

“Every young doctor should know exactly what it is like to have things go catastrophically wrong, and to be personally mortal. It makes for a better practice.”

Notes of a Medicine Watcher shines useful light on many aspects of The Youngest Science. It gives a broad overview of medical practice in the 20th century from a witness looking closely from the inside out. Recommended.

Comments may be sent to theportableschool at gmail dot com. They will receive response.

Wm Osler

William Osler:
A Life in Medicine

by Michael Bliss
University of Toronto, 2000.

This large volume (over 500 pages) is a tribute to the Father of American Medicine – Sir William Osler. Osler made his name in several medical institutions, in Canada, the USA, and Great Britain. The British made him a baronet in 1911 even though he was born in Canada and spent all but 15 years of his personal and professional life on the American continent. His reputation grew to huge proportions with patients, students, and fellow physicians. To this day – over 100 years after his death, Osler is quoted and idolized as much as any other physician throughout history and stands in the likes of Hippocrates – the Father of Medicine.

There were no notable medics in the Osler family. His father was a minister. But, “Willie” decided while in college to become a physician, practice the “physic” of the day, and follow “the art of healing through knowledge of nature.” Thus, he became a student of the natural history of disease, a teacher of the natural history of illness, as well a working doctor.

Beyond being a perennial student and scholar and writer, Osler was also a revolutionary and a reformer. Part of his major impact on medicine was to draw medical students out of the classroom to spend time “doctoring by working at the bedside.” Such was a relatively novel idea in his day. Still, Dr. Osler was much more successful at the endeavor than others who had tried.

Beyond that in Osler’s early career,  “The ignorance and incompetency of the average graduate of American Medical Schools, at that time when he receives the degree which turns him loose upon the community, is something horrible to contemplate.”

Regardless of times and training, William Osler was a unique, “almost saintly man” who followed his own lights. In the first years as a physician, he seemed to spend more time examining dead bodies than living patients. Inevitably, Dr. Osler turned to live humans and medical students as well as other doctors to display wonderful things.

It was said that he had an awesome capacity for intimacy with students. Beyond that, “When his students and colleagues were sick, Osler was usually their doctor. He had a charismatic [magnetic] personality, as a physician and as a friend. His friends and the tribute they paid him seemed endless, both during his lifetime and for generations after his death.”
He brought the “natural method” of teaching to the United States – that is, learning by doing. Students were “to learn to study patients,” not cases or diseases.

Although some considered Osler a “therapeutic nihilist,” he did use drugs. He was not prepared to throw them all away as his contemporary Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes suggested: “I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica as now used could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind and all the worse for the fishes.” Osler had a few standard drugs on which he relied. In general however, he eschewed medicating, bleeding, and purging. Dr. Osler worked in a transition period in medicine and was himself a major influence on the system of the day.

Osler is famously quoted as saying, “A desire to take medicine is, perhaps, the great feature which distinguishes man from other animals.”

At the same time, large drug companies were beginning to enslave physicians into “a plausible pseudo-science.”

Osler took to adding frictions (massage) and hydrotherapy in the treatment of typhoid fever. He believed 75 percent of cases would recover under any form of treatment. Good nursing, diet, and the abandonment of drugging would save the lives of another 15 percent. Hydrotherapy would save an extra few percent. Likewise, he had simple approaches to the treatment of pneumonia, which was a most frightening disease in his day.

Behind the scenes, Osler became s a powerful sanitarian. He believed in the dark, dirty 19th century, the stigma of poverty could be partially relieved through pure water, good drainage, proper isolation of the sick.

It seems that, “All of Osler’s life was a love affair with doctoring and doctors.” So, he was most concerned with how medical students and doctors tended their patients. They should be good-natured, infinitely patient, giving tender charity and sympathy as their most important prescriptions.
Ms. Cornelia Church decided, “Osler was probably a Christian Scientist at heart.”

Similarly, Osler was quite open to other ways to treat human illnesses. And he always praised the work and touted importance of good nursing. “The cures in the temples of Aesculapius, the miracles of the Saints, the remarkable cures of those noble men, the Jesuit missionaries, in this country, the modern miracles at Lourdes and at St. Anne de Beaupré in Quebec, and the wonder-workings of our latter day saints are often genuine, and must be considered in discussing the foundations of therapeutics. We physicians use the same power every day.”

Here follow, Osler’s principia in brief:

• The first is that there is an inherent tendency in many diseases to recovery quite irrespective of any treatment

• The second lesson is that nature, in the majority of cases, is quite competent to restore the patient to health.

• The third lesson is that the functions of the physician are to co-operate with Nature, to aid her where she fails, and, above all to combat certain tendencies to a fatal issue … 

Osler reminded students that the majority of cases do perfectly well when left to themselves, “and though for the sake of the patient, and still more for the sake of friends, you may have to give a ‘placebo,’ the treatment is outside of your own hands; it is in the hands of Nature.”
Neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing’s first biography of Osler in 1929 received a Pulitzer Price. Michael Bliss’s recent rendition of Osler’s life is no less praiseworthy. Although it is a long, detailed read, the book is light on medicalese and dotted with many anecdotes showing forth Sir William Osler as a good man as well as a great doctor.

Comments may be sent to theportableschool at gmail dot com. They will receive response.

Ivan Illich

Medical Nemesis:
The Expropriation of Health

by Ivan Illich
Random House, NY, NY, 1976.

While Medical Nemesis is decades old, this reviewer believes the book deserves to find its way back into libraries and common readership. That said, it is not an easy read. The author is widely read, very knowledgeable, and his writing is meant for thoughtful, attentive readers rather than the general public.

Ivan Illich’s basic premise is the modern medicine has become a Nemesis. It produces illness and disease (iatrogenesis) in three particular ways: clinical, social, and cultural. Nemesis (in ancient Greek thinking) was the inevitable punishment for attempts to be a hero rather than a human being.
“Iatrogenesis is clinical when pain, sickness, and death result from medical care; it is social when health policies reinforce an industrial organization that generates ill-health; it is cultural and symbolic when medically sponsored behavior and delusions restrict the vital autonomy of people by undermining their competence in growing up, caring for each other, and aging, or when medical intervention cripples personal responses to pain, disability, impairment, anguish, and death.”

Illich believed that “only modern malnutrition injures more people than iatrogenic disease in its various manifestations.”

At the same time, he pronounced that “there is in fact no evidence of any direct relationship between this mutation of sickness and the so-called progress of medicine.”

In fact, modern physicians can not be credited with eliminating old kinds of death and disease. Nor is it responsible for increasing life expectancy. It is our environment which is the main factor in determining the state of general health of any population.

At the same time, in the several years prior to the writing of this book (one might also imagine into the present) a growing percentage of  “new diseases” result from medical intervention. They are doctor-made, or iatrogenic.

Unfortunately, Medical Nemesis with the ills it produces is resistant to medical remedies. “It can be reversed only through a recovery of the will to self-care among the laity, and through the legal, political, and institutional recognition of the right to care, which imposes limits upon the professional monopoly of physicians.”

Illich suggested that the spread of medicine was malignant, like cancer when it turned mutual care and self-medication into misdemeanors or felonies. While pursued with good intentions, in general, it has created something of a nightmare. The nightmare has pronounced almost a police state of lifelong medical supervision. From cradle to the grave, the whole population is now seen “age of risk,” and has been deprived of the power to care and cure itself, live and die in natural ways.

Illich believed demedicalization or deprofessionalization of medicine is necessary in order to unmask “the myth according to which technical progress demands the solution of human problems by the application of scientific principles, the myth of benefit through an increase in the specialization of labor, through multiplication of arcane manipulations, and the myth that increasing dependence of people on the right of access to impersonal institutions is better than trust in one another.”

The Medical-Industrial Complex has taken its place along with Military-Industrial Complex in modern life. Day to day, the former may have greater power and influence than the latter. Demedicalization will only come through a political, societal solution. Thus, it may be a long time in the coming.

And, that seems the clear case as we see the Media and Politicians proclaiming The Right to Health and the need for Universal Health Care, etc. Someday however distant, the public may recognize Universal Health Care as the Medical Nemesis and ultimately the Expropriator of Health.

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