World’s Greatest Medical Failures

World’s Greatest Medical Failures

World's Greatest Medical Failures

Jon Baron

I want to cover  some of medicine's greatest failings and to discuss some of the philosophical holes in the modern medical paradigm that lead to those failings. And of course, along the way, highlight some of those failings.

But first, let's get some perspective.

Sickness, disease, and injury abound. People need medical care. In America, we have grown up trusting our family doctor. There is peace of mind in knowing that someone cares, that someone knows your child by name and is moved by compassion when you, or someone you love, is hurting. In recent years we have turned to the more anonymous (but more complete) coverage, of prepaid medical plans. In Europe and Canada, it's the "health system" physicians who offer you cradle to grave protection in the name of the state. Understand, when you need a doctor, only a doctor will do. If you are severely injured in an automobile accident, you want a skilled surgeon — not an herbalist.

Modern medical science has made incredible advances and contributions which have alleviated pain and suffering. Surgical technique (the cutting apart and repairing of the human body) has made remarkable progress. Identification of germs that cause disease and improved sanitation, which aids in preventing that disease, have also seen vast achievements. Burn treatment, trauma, and emergency room care are nothing less than miraculous. When it comes to these areas of medical care, the value they bring to us is impossible to measure.

But…there is another side to this story. There is great failure in health care today — and, as a result of that failure, great pain and unnecessary suffering. And it is important that, as you discover how badly the modern medical paradigm is failing, you take great care not to assign blame wrongly. Yes, there are incompetent doctors whose practices we all abhor, and we wish they could never practice medicine again, but this newsletter is not about them. Neither is it directed at the thousands of faithful health care workers who go about their daily jobs. Specifically, my purpose in this newsletter is to confront the very foundational philosophy and system of the modern medical paradigm — a philosophy that costs trillions and a system that promises hope, but delivers misery. No one, including many inside the medical community, can help but acknowledge these great failings. Sadly, for all our education and massive expenditures, modern medicine has failed miserably. You may wonder why.

Modern medicine likes to trace its roots to Hippocrates, the patron saint of today's doctors. In truth, its roots rest more comfortably in the Newtonian views of the 17th century when philosophers and scientists defined the universe as a great machine. Physicians of that era were not immune to this influence and likewise began to define the human body as a machine. According to this "new" paradigm, the body could be analyzed, catalogued, adjusted, and repaired as required — just like any other machine.

This viewpoint became firmly established during the 19th century when the "body as machine" concept was taken to its ultimate, absurd extreme. The human body was no longer viewed as a holistic entity, but rather as a grouping of separate parts and pieces. Disease was no longer viewed as a body state, but as a set of symptoms. Ultimately, and so it is today, the province of medicine has become the observation, classification, and management of symptoms. According to this paradigm, disease or illness or injury manifests itself as symptoms entirely separate from the body as a whole (a decidedly non-holistic paradigm). The body is irrelevant. If the symptom can be eliminated (e.g., cholesterol numbers lowered through daily use of statin drugs), you are, by definition, now healthy.

In fact, there are some who would argue that today's medicine has even gone beyond treating the body as a machine — that today's doctors have taken things to a whole new level of absurdity. They treat the body as a mere set of "numbers." When you go to your doctor now, he or she orders up a series of very expensive tests (blood work, PSA, EEG, etc.), each of which produces a set of numbers. Then, based on where your numbers fall relative to a chart of "normal" numbers, your doctor prescribes a series of drugs to move your numbers up or down so that they fall within the "norm." In this model, even symptoms don't matter — only the numbers.

As it turns out, the body as machine paradigm works very well in surgical repair. If you break an arm, the doctor works with that part of the machine and repairs your arm. If you are wounded by a bullet, the doctor removes the bullet and repairs all of the separate parts of your body damaged by the bullet — again, problem solved!

Unfortunately, the paradigm's failures become most evident when we look at the major diseases of our time — cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc.

The failure of the medical paradigm

For now, let's just look at the big three diseases.

The failure of cancer treatments

The standard treatments for cancer are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Do any of these treatments do one single thing to address the actual causes of cancer? And the answer, of course, is no, they do not. All they do is "attempt" to remove the manifestation of the cancer that results from these causes. To believe they address the underlying causes of your cancer, you would have to believe that you got cancer in the first place because your body was suffering from a deficiency of radiation or chemotherapy. No one believes that, not even your doctor. Is it any wonder then that these treatments have had such a poor track record? And on top of everything else, we now know that radiation and chemotherapy are known carcinogens. They significantly compound the problem!

The failure of diabetes treatments

Standard medical treatment offers several flawed approaches:

  • Drugs like metformin seek to inhibit the absorption of high glycemic carbohydrates in the intestinal tract and enhance insulin sensitivity in the body, thereby reducing the need for extra insulin.
    • The major problem with metformin is its effect on the gastrointestinal system, ranging from a mild loss of appetite to nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, cramps, flatulence and diarrhea. Many patients find these symptoms impossible to cope with and discontinue the tablets within days.
    • Lactic acidosis is a rare but dangerous side effect of metformin. This is a serious condition where the cells of the body do not get enough oxygen to survive. It is caused by a build up of lactic acid in the blood. Most of the cases described have been in people whose kidneys were not working well — an inevitable problem with diabetes.
  • Drugs like glyburide work by stimulating the pancreas to release more insulin.
    • Glyburide is so effective that you need to carry glucose pills with you in case you produce so much insulin that your blood sugar drops too low and you fall into a diabetic coma. Although this rarely happens, it is indicative of the larger problems with glyburide:
      • It raises insulin levels so high that your body faces all of the problems of high insulin levels discussed above.
      • It doesn't repair beta cells; it just forces them to work harder — thus speeding up the day when they break down and become dysfunctional.
  • Extra insulin in the form of pills or injections cover you when the beta cells in your pancreas have burned out and can no longer produce sufficient insulin by themselves or even when stimulated by drugs such as glyburide — until, that is, your body's insulin resistance is so high that no amount of insulin is adequate for the task at hand. At that point, your body goes into rapid decay.

And when all is said and done, it should be noted that a huge study published earlier this year found that aggressively using these drugs to lower blood sugar levels actually resulted in an increased risk of death. The more they were used, the greater the risk.

The failure of heart disease treatments

Heart disease is the number one killer in the developed world, In most cases, it begins with atherosclerosis, which is the accumulation of plaque that hardens and narrows arteries. The progression is simple. You have clogged arteries. This eventually causes your blood pressure to rise so your doctor prescribes blood pressure medication to eliminate the symptom of high blood pressure — not the problem, clogged and hardened arteries. To reduce blood pressure, doctors have essentially four classes of medication in their arsenal.

  1. Diuretics, which reduce pressure by making you pee out water from your body. Reduce the volume of fluid in your blood, and you reduce the pressure. Unfortunately, side effects can include dizziness, weakness, an increased risk of strokes, and impotence. (Not to worry, there are medications to alleviate the side effects.)
  2. Calcium channel blockers, which work to relax and widen the arteries — thus reducing blood pressure. Then again, a major side effect of channel blockers is a 60% increased risk of heart attack. (1, 2)
  3. Beta blockers, which work by weakening the heart so it won't pump as strongly, thereby reducing blood pressure. One of the major problems with beta blockers, though, is the increased risk of congestive heart failure.  And more recently, its use has been associated with an increased risk of diabetes. Now catch this. Despite the increased risk of congestive heart failure, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine August 20, 1998, recommended putting "every single" heart attack survivor on beta blockers.
  4. ACE inhibitors (the new drugs of choice), which like the calcium channel blockers, also work to relax and widen the arteries. Unfortunately, ACE inhibitors can produce severe allergic reactions, can be deadly to fetuses and children who are breastfeeding, and can cause severe kidney damage.

But remember, these drugs only treat the symptom, not the cause — clogged arteries. So eventually, as your arteries continue to clog to the point where even the medication no longer helps, you start getting the inevitable chest pains and shortness of breath. At that point, your doctor is then forced to chase the next set of symptoms and perform a coronary bypass or angioplasty to relieve the symptoms.

And like the drugs before it, surgery merely addresses the symptoms, not the problem. Think about this for a moment: If all your doctor did was bypass or clear the arteries supplying blood to your heart, doesn't that mean that all of the other arteries in your body are still clogged — including the arteries that supply blood to your brain? The answer, of course, is yes. And, in fact, your odds of having a stroke after heart surgery are dramatically increased.
Not to worry. Your doctor has another drug to deal with this problem: Coumadin® (medicinal rat poison), which inhibits clotting and thins your blood so that it flows more easily through the narrowed arteries. But Coumadin has its own set of problems, and, of course, you are still on all of the previous blood-pressure drugs and symptom relieving drugs that your doctor previously prescribed.

The bottom line is that the average number of prescriptions per senior citizen has grown from 19.6 in 1992 to 28.5 in 2000, an increase of 45 percent. The average number of prescriptions per person 65 and older is projected to grow to 38.5 by 2010, an increase of 35 percent over 2000. From 1992 to 2010, then, the average number of prescriptions per senior citizen will grow by 96 percent. Stunningly, only the first 1 or 2 drugs actually deal with the symptoms presented by the original medical problem. The other 17-36 drugs are all required to deal with the negative side effects of the original 2, plus the interactions of all the other drugs being taken. And the really sad fact is that in over 95% of all cases, the original problem could have been resolved by merely changing diet and lifestyle — with no side effects.

Somehow, along the way, we have created a major industry centered around disease and manipulating the symptoms of those diseases, and everyone wants a piece of the action — from insurance companies to doctors, administrators to state legislatures, lobbyists to hospitals, drug companies to researchers, medical device companies to universities, and even all the non-profits that collect millions and millions of dollars to support this massive system of dysfunction. Make no mistake, this is not a wellness industry, but as Paul Pilzer states in The Wellness Revolution, it is a "Disease Industry" — designed not to eliminate disease, but to perpetuate the management of symptoms. And the really sad fact is that in over 95% of all cases, the original problem could have been resolved naturally — with no side effects.

Do you understand the implications of that statement?

Disease can be averted, treated, and in many, many cases even reversed — naturally, with no side effects…and at little cost!

The 10 things doctors must do to truly earn the respect they crave

Look, modern medicine and the doctors who practice it have much to be proud of. As we discussed earlier (and last issue), there are many areas in which they have made great progress — and areas in genetic and stem cell therapy and prosthetics that are likely to be transforming over the next 10-20 years.

But that said, there is much that modern medicine has to apologize for. And if doctors ever truly want to be the all around healers they claim to be, they will have to change some fundamental paradigms.

In the last newsletter, I listed the 10 greatest advances in medical history, according to doctors surveyed in the British Medical Journal. Let me wrap up this two part series by giving you my list of the 10 things doctors must do if they truly want to earn the respect they crave. Medical doctors must:

  1. Start thinking of the human body as an integrated whole, not a machine with separate parts that can be treated independently.
  2. Start treating underlying causes, rather than merely managing symptoms.
  3. Actually learn the real role that diet and lifestyle play in optimizing health. A total of 6-8 hours of study in medical school does not make one an expert.
  4. Accept the fact that the proper use of the right supplements can improve health.
  5. Accept the fact that exposure to over 100,000 untested toxins released into the environment is going to have an impact on health — and that it is indeed possible to detoxify many of those toxins even after they have entered the body.
  6. Stop accepting perks (essentially bribes) from the pharmaceutical companies, which then influence subsequent treatment decisions.
  7. Stop accepting simultaneous positions with drug companies and on FDA advisory boards. Quite simply, it is unethical to pass regulatory decisions on drugs in which you have a financial interest.
  8. Evaluate alternative therapy treatments on a level playing field. Stop insisting that alternative health treatments must undergo rigorous peer reviewed study before they can be used, and yet allow 85% of all medical treatments to be used untested.
  9. Stop being so arrogant as to think that if treatments don't come from within the medical fraternity, they have no value.
  10. And stop being so arrogant as to think that alternative health treatments and supplements can be evaluated without the active participation of alternative healers. Going to medical school grants no expertise in alternative health — none! (I once had a medical doctor announce to me with great pride that he had become an expert in alternative health the previous weekend under instructions from the head of his hospital. Considering that it's taken me over 40 years to develop a passing understanding of the field, with expertise in just one or two small areas, his achieving mastery of the entire field in just two days was truly impressive.)

When all is said and done, I have been fortunate to travel the world, to meet and spend time with dedicated men and women within the medical community whose work in the field of healing has distinguished them as miracle doctors. Not once or twice, but every day, over and over, they perform miracles.

But when it comes to the major diseases of our time, they can do better. And when you consider the alternative, we can only hope they do.

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