"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Thursday, 19 December 2013

How Western Medicine lost its soul...

I showed in the last post how the possible values of holistic medicine had been all but lost sight of in the scientific gold rush following the work of men such as Sydenham and Harvey, and the dualism idea of Rene Descartes. 
There were many great medical scientists in the following centuries in Western Europe, for example Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister (the fathers of bacteriology and antiseptics respectively), Simpson (anesthetics) and Robert Koch who discovered the Tubercle and Cholera bacilli.
The physiology of medicine was being enthusiastically pursued but alas this was largely at the expense of any attention to the health of the mind or soul of patients. 
At Lluc Monastery
Their bodies came to be regarded simply as a mechanism to be cured, much as a mechanic might fix the engine of a faulty car. This attitude was made even worse by the development of cellular biology by the German pathologist Rudolf Virchow, who showed that disease was something that invaded the healthy cell. The physiology of the disease was triumphing over the care of the whole person. Throughout this period the health of the Western European population was improving dramatically. This however was in spite of rather than because of the dramatic increase of medical knowledge. The reasons were more attributable to the prevention of the main diseases of the day, for which no cures were yet known. Thus for example, smallpox, cholera and tuberculosis were actually eliminated or drastically reduced by the improvements in social conditions such as sanitation, housing and water supplies in the late nineteenth century. The mid 1800s up to the mid 1950s saw the significant development of clinical medicine, when doctors wanted nothing but the predictability and precision provided by scientific advances. Medicine became wholly science based and drugs, surgical procedures, radiation and other technical treatments were dominant. It was not until the discovery of the sulphonamides in the 1930s that real advances were made in the ability of a physician to cure disease. Ironically the improved health of the British population during the 1939-45 Second World War has been attributed more to the better nutrition of the nation, as a result of shortages of unhealthy sweet products, than to medical advances.
What was happening in the more recent history of North American medicine?
Here spirituality and healthcare had a strong connection from the mid eighteenth century until the late nineteenth century, when the medical profession began to be more formalized. Then in 1910 the Flexner Report was published, requiring the complete overhaul of the profession and suggesting that its medical schools needed organizing on a strictly scientific basis.
With these changes any link between medicine and spirituality was largely abandoned, at least for the time being. The soul had been disregarded.

to be contd...

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