Jul 302012

The European financial crisis has hit the Greek health care system hard.  “Healthcare in Greece is already at crisis point with hospitals running out of vital supplies and drugs. Digital Journal reported cancer patients are having to source their own prescriptions as pharmacies fail to stock vital drugs due to the government not providing funds to pay for them.”

The question is: could this happen in the US? I’m sure that most people shake with fear at the idea that they couldn’t afford to see their doctor or get their meds. But, might we be better off without our vaunted health care system? Would our time and money be better spent paying attention to the quality of the food we eat, eliminating toxins from the environment and working to moderate our lifestyles? Should we be planning ahead for a time when medical services aren’t so readily available (e.g. the  Greek example) by learning how to take care of ourselves using natural remedies and food for what ails us?

Here’s something to study and really think about: The Nutrition Institute of America claims “that conventional medicine is America’s number-one killer…” To make this claim the Institute mandated that every “count” in this “indictment” of US medicine be validated by published, peer-reviewed scientific studies.” They’ve put it all together in a report titled, “Death By Medicine which is published on the Life Extension Institute website. You can read the whole thing here . The skeptical reader might want to skim through the references at the end of the article to view the sources of the information.

A theater shooting in Colorado gets wall to wall cable news coverage. However, it is unlikely that you will see this headline—”CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE CAUSES 783,936 DEATHS PER YEAR.”
It seems unbelievable. But when you look at the data it all adds up: adverse drug reactions, medical error, infection, unnecessary procedures, surgical error. It’s pretty scary and again raises the question: “Would less medical service be a good thing?

My own issues with conventional or hospital based or pharmaceutical medicine are well documented in a book I wrote called Diagnosis Unknown, published by Hampton Roads Publishing in 1997 (now out of print). Our experience with the medical system was a genuine epiphany which led me to question the conventional point of view in every area: economics, politics, gardening, etc. I discovered that your AMA doc was pretty much clueless when it came to diagnosing and treating chronic illness but that when you entered the system they would milk you like a cow with tests and prescriptions handing you around from one specialist to another.

I realize it takes some fortitude to forego regular medical attention and that our treatment choices are almost always a case of “follow the money.” That is, we will go only where insurance takes us. If insurance won’t pay for it we will be reluctant pay out of pocket for modalities that are constantly attacked as quackery. (Steve Hall, an alternative MD from the Eastside of Seattle explains the insurance problem here)

Considering medicine from the Transition viewpoint it makes sense to me to take active steps to take charge of your own health and not delegate it to some doctor. And I get it about the flesh eating bacteria and the knee surgery. There’s a time and a place. But it’s not every time and every place. (Full disclosure: since 1989 when I had to get an insurance physical I’ve been to an MD once (I psyched myself into believing I had leptosperosis from a walk in a Hawaiian river) for the only course of antibiotics I’ve had since sometime in the early eighties and recently to a PA at an orthopedic clinic to see in a shot in the knee of Syncvisc-one would help with a bone on bone problem (it didn’t help much).

So, what should you think when you read that conventional medicine kills 700,000+ per year and would it be any better if the number were only 200,000 or 400,000? One’s reaction might be the same as hearing that government is broke or that there’s hardly any substantive difference between Obama and Romney or Clinton and Bush, or that we face a real health threat from Fukishima radiation or that we are on the downside of our oil supply. It’s hard to process this kind of stuff when you are trying to get dinner on the table, weed the garden or get the kids to school. Nevertheless, it seems to me that we ought to spend some time thinking about “what ifs” and make some minimal preparation.

In the area of health we actually have a lot of control if we decide to exercise it. We are in charge of what we eat and drink and ingest. There are protocols, for example, in alternative medicine for mitigating the effects of radiation. But it requires some time and study.

In the meantime, I personally will continue to be fearful of conventional medical practice and try my best to stay out of the system.


  7 Responses to “Death By Medicine”

  1. It is always a good thing to try to stay healthy. Our environment makes it pretty impossible to limit our exposure to things that will make you sick though and that isn’t going to go away in our life time. Most of the time you don’t even know you are being exposed. I have found several things to do to help minimize threats to your health.

    1. This is a no brainier. Good healthy food and exercise.
    2. Learn to advocate for yourself. Don’t just accept point blank everything your Dr. tells you. Ask questions. Be insistent even if you feel you are being a pain in the butt.
    3. Do research.
    4. Question everything and insist on straight answers.
    5.Don’t ignore your body. I tells you when something is wrong.
    6. Advocate, advocate, advocate! This one is probably the MOST IMPORTANT. I lost my brother last October because he insisted the PA at his Dr’s office knew what she was doing when she sent him away with a stomach ache. He died of pancreatic cancer 2 1/2 months later.

    These things go a long way in helping you and your Dr. find answers. Remember they are just people making educated guesses.

  2. Thank you Randy for writing this. It isn’t an easy topic to write about or think about. Still it is part of why I do what I do, make flower essences and offer energy healings. http://www.treefrogfarm.com/ Keeping yourself energetically clear helps to keep you physically and emotionally strong. I’m going to post this on our Tree Frog Farm Facebook page because it is that important for people to see.

  3. When I see the rows of prescription bottles lined up on my parents kitchen counter, and they have the over-sized daily pill organizers to sort out when to take what, and I ask what blue one does or what the red one is for and they don’t really know or can’t remember, it is then I think that maybe we are putting too much blind faith in our doctors and the pharmaceutical companies. But just because modern medicine kills 700,000 people a year, we need to remember how many hundreds of millions they save, and how much suffering and lameness they have cured. I wonder if some of us discount modern medicine because our expectations were too high and we expected god-like divination from our doctors and magic cure-all pills from the pharmacy for every known and yet unknown disease and malady that could be-fall us. Most modern doctors and medical researchers are just humans like you and me out there trying to do good for their community and trying to save people and relieve suffering. If they don’t quite get it right a few times, I still praise them for trying. If it was not for them, I would be lame (back and shoulder surgery), half blind (lasik), and riddled with maladies caused by infection anti-biotics). But in general yes, our society gives them too much blind trust.
    As far as transitioning into, or being prepared for, a time when they are not around producing the products and having the knowledge that helps us and our loved ones to live another day, there are a few things that we can do. It would be good to have some basic modern family medicine books on hand to keep the medical knowledge that we have gained in the last 500 years and some basic knowledge of human biology. It would aslo be good to have some books on native medicinal plants and their uses and a variety of seeds of slightly stronger non-native medicinal plants in case we need to grow our own pharmacy.

  4. I’m with you, Randy. And for what it’s worth, the more research I read and the more facts I dig out, I’m starting to feel exactly the same way about the American food production system, too. The foods that make up the Standard American Diet (with the apt acronym of SAD) are so full of toxins, pharmaceuticals, and manmade chemicals (many of which are closely associated with health problems, to the point of being banned in other countries), the more I feel so grateful about the truly healthy food some of our local farmers (and gardeners) make available. When I think back over my life and the kind of food I was raised on and ate until recent years, it’s a tribute to the stamina of the human body that any of us experience any health at all. It is mindboggling, really, what Americans have been willing to tolerate in terms of health effects.

  5. Thanks Clayton. I may add more later.

    Some seem to disdain modern medicine and practitioners and see its loss as a basically good thing should collapse come. I don’t hold that view, though I too do my best to take care of myself with right food, exercise, etc.

    I thoroughly recognize that modern medicine isn’t perfect (sometimes not ever very good), is often misused, over-sold, has bad as well as good practitioners and is too often perceived as ‘magic bullets’ by those seeking healing or health. Precisely those same criticisms can absolutely be laid at the feet of much of alternative medicine, its practitioners, its marketers, and those who believe that alternative medicine (often self-administered in response to self-diagnosed problems) inevitably offers a Better magic bullet.

    My hope is that sound medical knowledge, good practice and honest practitioners don’t disappear from our world, regardless whether the particulars fall under the rubric of science-based or alternative medicine.

  6. correction, 3rd p, line 1:

    “sometimes not even very good”, not “sometimes not ever very good”

  7. Sooner or later all of us are going to die, with or without doctors and pills. Of course it makes good sense to eat the right foods (and absolutely stay away from processed foods). I think living here on Lummi avoids a lot of the pollutants that one finds in cities (even a small one like Bellingham). Still, we get the stuff that drifts down from Vancouver and up from Seattle, not to mention all the exhaust from fossil fuels being burned on I-5. Jerry and I have been reading the biography of John Adams by David McCollough, and in the late 18th century John wrote to his son John Quincy urging him to walk. He said, you have to keep exercising to keep alive. I really believe that, and John Adams lived to be 93. But, in the end, if you eat right and exercise you won’t live any longer than your genes have programed you to do. And if you get appendicitis or break a leg, or have a heart attack I think it’s quite a good idea to go to the doctor (not, by the way, a PA — most of them have less training than RN’s).

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>