by Dr. Larry Malerba
The system is badly broken and in need of repair: While universal health coverage for all Americans regardless of age, infirmity, or economic status would be a critical step in the right direction, it would still only provide access to the same flawed and dangerous practices that make medical care the third leading cause of death in the U.S. annually (1). Real health care reform must address the actual substance of medical practice and its approach to patients and their illnesses. True reform will not be possible until we begin to question all aspects of Western medicine including its erroneous philosophical beliefs concerning the nature of health and illness, in addition to the more obvious and less than altruistic economic and political motives that have made it such a powerful corporate enterprise.
As is typical of most long-entrenched societal institutions, the medical-industrial complex lags far behind the general consensus of alternative medical innovators and healers when it comes to an understanding of what methods actually lead to greater health and wellness. For reasons of institutional inertia, economic self interest, academic arrogance, and political expediency, it remains almost irretrievably locked into the notion that health can only be achieved by means of synthetic chemicals mass marketed by a handful of giant pharmaceutical corporations, and/or the extraordinarily inflated costs of the services of an elite professional caste of surgeons.
I have the greatest respect for my conventional medical colleagues most of whom are clearly dedicated to the best interests of their patients. But let’s face it; medical education and the delivery of care have become stale, outmoded, self-serving clubs that are virtually impervious to new ideas and innovation. It is time to remove the barriers that enable the continuance of medical apartheid (2) so that we can begin to institute effective reforms.
A limited medical perspective gives us limited medical choices: The first thing that must change is the severely limited worldview that informs the practice of Western medicine. The materialistic belief in the strict physicality of human illness is a serious error in judgment that leads to ineffective and oftentimes harmful therapeutic decisions. A medical perspective that leaves little room for emotional, mental, spiritual, energetic, and environmental factors in its approach to illness is not capable of facilitating genuine long-term healing. Furthermore, a shortsighted methodology that simply aims to eliminate physical symptoms without regard for its impact upon the greater whole tends to yield short-term results and long-term complications.
If I keep prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs to the angry lion with a thorn in his paw, it is not reasonable to expect a satisfactory outcome. Likewise, if I order a CAT scan and prescribe painkillers for the child with chronic headaches but fail to address the issues surrounding his parents’ pending divorce, it is likely that the child’s problems will persist. The tendency of medicine to value only that which can be measured and quantified with its instruments of technology, while ignoring the first-hand experiences of real people and the messages and meaning that commonly lie at the source of their suffering can no longer be tolerated. The disrespect conveyed by the medical practitioner who dismisses a patient’s subjective experience of his or her own illness as “anecdotal” is in no way conducive to healing.
We must educate ourselves about the true nature of health and illness: Individuals in search of help must continue to educate themselves in order to make wise choices regarding their own medical care. Educational self-empowerment is the only effective means to counteract the unrelenting medical propaganda that wishes us to be fearful of the consequences of choosing unconventional healing methods that are not sanctioned by medical authority. Like all other basic human rights, freedom of medical choice should be a bedrock principle embraced by any truly democratic society.
When we come to understand that most symptoms are a self-healing response generated by the complex and sophisticated bioenergetic human organism, we can no longer condone a medical approach that unthinkingly seeks to eradicate those symptoms without an awareness of the bigger picture. In fact, illness is often a call to self-examination that, if heeded, can lead to growth, maturation, and greater consciousness. The role of purpose and meaning behind illness, sadly, receives little attention in conventional medical thought.
Similarly, we should not consent to a fragmented, overly specialized form of care that fails to connect the dots from one medical event to the next. When the blinders of mechanistic medical science discourage us from linking, for example, a recent heart attack to the previous use of an anti-inflammatory drug for arthritis, we fail to see the larger perspective. When medical authorities deny that there is a link between the overuse of antibiotics and rising rates of childhood chronic illness because there is no “proof” to support that claim in the medical literature, we fail to exercise good judgment that comes from everyday common sense.
By acknowledging the unique mystery of illness we open the door to creative solutions: A holistic understanding of health and illness acknowledges the reality that one size does not fit all. One person’s migraines may be rooted in a lack of self confidence, and methods that empower that individual, such as meditation, yoga, and psychotherapy, will likely be the best therapeutic strategy. Another person’s migraines may be connected to dysfunctional digestion and may respond nicely to acupuncture treatment. A third person’s migraines may have originated with a head injury, thus making homeopathic treatment a good therapeutic choice. And conventional drug therapy may be a useful temporary measure for migraines that are just too difficult to bear—until a better solution can be found.
A truly green medical perspective entails an ecological awareness of the multiplicity of interrelationships between body, heart, mind, soul, family, community, and environment. We can continue to treat our bodies and the ecosystem like a pharmaceutical waste dump, or we can adopt less toxic methods of healing. We can seek to blot out or suppress our symptoms, thus running the risk of trouble further on down the road, or we can begin to address them in ways that attempt to work with the self-healing wisdom of the human organism rather than against it. A green medical system incorporates the best of all medical worlds and rejects the polarizing arguments that prevent conventional and alternative medical approaches from uniting in ways that can benefit all of humankind.
References and recommended reading:
(1) Interview With Dr. Starfield: Medically-Caused Deaths In America
(2) How Today’s Medical Apartheid Is Sinking the Health Care System, Larry Malerba, DO, Huffington Post, October 7, 2010
Malerba, DO, Larry, Green Medicine: Challenging the Assumptions of Conventional Health Care. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2010.
Larry Malerba, DO, DHt is a physician and educator whose mission is to build bridges between holistic healing, conventional medicine, and spirituality. He is the author of Metaphysics & Medicine: Restoring Freedom of Thought to the Art and Science of Healing and Green Medicine: Challenging the Assumptions of Conventional Health Care. He writes for Huffington Post, Natural News, and the American Holistic Medical Association. Dr. Malerba is board certified in Homeotherapeutics, is Clinical Assistant Professor at New York Medical College, and past president of the Homeopathic Medical Society of the State of New York. He is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Ireland. Website: SpiritScienceHealing.com