If you Google “Medicine” the first listing will be this article in Wikipedia. For simplicity sake an excerpt is presented here:
“Medicine is the art and science of healing. It encompasses a range of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness.
Contemporary medicine applies health science, biomedical research, and medical technology to diagnose and treat injury and disease, typically through medication, surgery, or some other form of therapy. The word medicine is derived from the Latin ars medicina, meaning the art of healing.
Though medical technology and clinical expertise are pivotal to contemporary medicine, successful face-to-face relief of actual suffering continues to require the application of ordinary human feeling and compassion, known in English as bedside manner.”
Note the bold text (added by me) from the excerpt above. We’ll elaborate on those points in this article.
A Range of Health Care Practices
Right away we’ll discuss probably the most important aspect of “alternative” medicine. For the past 70+ years (more or less) “traditional” medicine has reigned supreme in this country. With HMOs, PPOs and primary care physicians, it’s hard to imagine that things were ever any different.
But it used to be different. Very different.
For example, my dad was born at his parent’s home. That was in 1939. Honestly, that’s not too long ago. Rarely did people go to the hospital. Births were handled by mid-wives. Being born at home was not so uncommon.
Today? Forget about it.
Medicine as we understand it today is largely a structure built by the insurance companies. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that THEY largely determine which range of health care practices “count” as medicine.
Meaning, which ones they are willing to pay for.
But nothing in the definition of medicine dictates which range of practices “count” as medicine. One could easily say that to be counted as a health care practice, it must deal with health and/or the reliving of human suffering.
That certainly sounds good enough for me.
Restore Health by Prevention and Treatment of Illness
Here’s the next critical part of the definition of medicine. And we’ve already hinted about it in the previous couple of sentences.
For a practice to count as “medicine” it must deal with the prevention and treatment of illness.
Ready for a shocker? Pretty much the bulk of “traditional” health care practiced in this country has little or nothing to do with prevention. The entire structure of the insurance company – health care facility relationship is predicated and built upon the treatment of illness.
And why is that?
Because once an illness has been diagnosed, a strategy for treatment can be outlined. And that means outlined, codified, and sent to an insurance company for payment/reimbursement.
But how do you deal with prevention? It’s a bit harder to pin down, at least from a “bean-counter’s” perspective. And that’s precisely the problem with “traditional” medicine and the rise of “alternative” therapies.
Today, more than ever, people are focusing on “wellness” and “quality of life” and less on treating a particular illness. And that, my friends, is the key to understanding so called alternative therapies.
We’ll continue this article in Part 2 of Understanding “Medicine” to discuss…
- the art of healing
- successful face to face relief of ACTUAL suffering
- and the role of compassion
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