Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is Mainstream Medicine Losing Its Mojo ?

Is Mainstream Medicine Losing Its MOJO?
The “Placebo-Effect” May Prove Unconscious Buy-in To Be a Vital Part of Healing

by Earon S. Davis, JD, MPH, NCTMB

We have been told by mainstream scientists for decades that alternative medicine's chief successes may be due to mind-body connections.  Indeed, the “placebo-effect” has been credited with all manner of rational and irrational powers – from the WWII beaches of Anzio where soldiers given a saline placebo when supplies of morphine ran out were kept from going into shock – to the bizarre explanations of voodoo curses and healings.  But, what if unconscious buy-in is also a significant part of the successes of mainstream medicine?  
Healing, in all modalities, may be directly proportional to the unconscious buy-in of the patient.   Note: I am referring to the Unconscious buy-in and not the conscious buy-in.  It’s not so much what people believe intellectually as what they feel in their gut.  And what are they feeling in their gut today about big pharma?  About the compassion and humanity of health care providers?  About the hospital systems they increasingly turn to for joint replacements?  About the silent residence that MRSA and other organisms have taken up inside of our medical institutions?

If you talk to today’s average medical patients, they are not so enamored, so adoring of their doctors or their hospitals as they were in the 1950’s.  I wonder whether "scientific medicine" may be losing its MOJO, its effectiveness with our unconscious buy-in, partly because cold, hard science just does not have as good a "healing story" as complementary and integrative medicines?  Add to that the growing scariness of idiopathic illnesses, anti-biotic-resistant bacteria, big pharma side-effects and other risks of collateral damage. Did patients ask to become "customers" rather than patients?  To be a “patient” means you are taken care of.  To be a “customer” means “caveat emptor” – buyer beware.

This is my hypothesis - that with all of its scientific advances, biochemical medicine is not in touch with us, with our uniqueness, our humanity. There are many exceptions, of course, wonderful, human doctors who are still loved and respected by their patients. But there are powerful factors that may be leading to diminished effectiveness for many doctors, including:

1.      a general de-personalization of the practice of medicine,
2.      less time allowed with one’s doctor,
3.      increasing rates of chronic illness,
4.      high incidences of cancer and little focus on prevention
5.      inability to cure chronic illnesses, resulting in life-long drug regimens,
6.      physician burn-out and depression,
7.      excessive specialization and complexity,
8.      increasing toxicity of patented medicines, and
9.      intrusion of insurance decisons into the practice of medicine.

Factors such as these may have caused us to unconsciously stop believing in our doctors, in our medical care, in spite of the fact that “science” continues to advance so dramatically.   After all, do we feel better?  This could be a trick question, given that we are all aging, so that a comparison of how we are “feeling” today, compared to 10 years ago, may inevitably reflect some dissatisfaction.  Again, it is the UNconscious buy-in that holds the most power in the healing process - not our conscious buy-in. We just can't force ourselves to believe. And compliance depends upon either unconscious buy-in or mindless obedience.

Compliance with medication regimens that don't solve our problems, but require us to be on multiple medications (with side-effects) for the rest of our lives, just don't give us a sense of being healed.  Hence, the rise in complementary and alternative medicine. In the 1950's, we really adored our doctors, who were healers rather than technicians, shamans as well as braniacs. Many made house calls and were considered family and community heroes.  Today, while technology rules our worlds and intellects, our unconscious minds are still looking for magic, for a story in which the patient is something more than a biological machine with increasingly replaceable, parts.

It is no wonder that growing numbers of physicians and hospitals are turning towards Integrative Medicine and Complementary Medicine practitioners (e.g., massage and acupuncture) to help bring back some of the MOJO that our high-tech, de-personalized, increasingly complex medical world has lost.

Earon Davis is an adjunct professor in the Health and Wellness program at the Kaplan University School of Health Sciences.  He is also an Integrative Bodywork practitioner at the NorthShore University HealthSystem's Intgetrative Medicine Program in Glenview, IL.  This program is under the medical direction of Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, a family practice physician, who completed an Integrative Medicine fellowship with Andrew Weil, MD.


Melissa McDonley said...

Mr.Davis, your article is right on. Patients for the most part just go along with whatever their doctor says because its a doctor and with older generations you don't question your doctor you just do. People are now becoming more aware that they can question their doctor and offer their opinion on their own care. Great Article! Melissa McDonley

Earon S. Davis, JD, MPH, LCMT said...

Thanks, Melissa. I forgot to even mention all of the people who are uninsured or under-insured and can't afford to go to their doctor in the first place !!!

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