"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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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The History of Western Medicine: Goodbye to holistic medicine!

Just imagine being told that the cure for your “senile decrepitude” was to share your bed with a “vital young person”! 
This was one of the quainter remedies of a certain English physician Thomas Sydenham who, alongside the French philosopher, Rene Descartes, fuelled the massive advances in medical science from the early 17th century, advances which had been stirred by the work of William Harvey. Sydenham lived in the latter half of the seventeenth century. During his career he took it upon himself to revive the Hippocratic School by beginning to catalogue all known diseases of man in extreme and objective detail. Throughout this work he stressed the importance of observation rather than theory in clinical medicine. He was not however always respected for his views – perhaps not surprising really!
By the time that Thomas Sydenham had written his Observationes Medicae, the French Philosopher Rene Descartes, usually regarded as the father of Modern Philosophy, had set out his own philosophical theory on the duality of the mind and the body. In his Meditations Descartes developed the basic philosophy of Plato regarding the dual nature of the mind and body, into what has become known as Cartesian dualism. While Descartes saw the brain as the seat of intelligence, he regarded the body and brain together as simply a machine, quite separate from the soul or mind that Descartes saw as non- physical in nature. He did though believe that the body and soul in some way influence one another, in a way not yet understood.
This was just the excuse which Western medical scientists had waited for, to divorce themselves totally from the mystic element of the life forces.
It enabled them to pursue their medical researches in the context of the body alone, aided immeasurably by Harvey’s legacy.
pilgrims' lodgings at Lluc Monastery Mallorca
The mind and soul could now be left entirely to the cure of the church, which was also losing its grip on the healing nature of its ministry.
The scientific study of medicine was able to advance without having to worry about the possible influences of mind and soul that were intangible and not scientifically measurable. Thus in the excitement of scientific discovery, medicine lost sight of any causal links between mind and body, let alone soul or spirit and any essence of healing, as opposed to caring and curing.
The possible values of holistic medicine were all but lost sight of in the scientific gold rush.

to be contd...

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