How does Dr. Steven’s “The Healing Paradox” fit in the realm of cancer patients and oncology?
Before delving into the book review, I want to reiterate that patients with cancer are increasingly opting to be treated with CAM therapeutic regimens. Cancer patients’ use of “…herbs, minerals, vitamins, homeopathic remedies and other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is on the rise worldwide (Frenkel et al., 2009, p. 395). Patients with cancer need to be careful, because the safety and effectiveness of many CAM approaches have not been established in cancer care and cancer survivorship.
Consequently, learning as much as possible about homeopathy and Medicine, allows a patient with cancer to make informed decisions. Thus becoming an active participant in their own healthcare. I believe patients with cancer will discover much by examining “The Healing Paradox.
Book Review: The Healing Paradox
Goldsmith, Steven. (2013). The healing paradox: A revolutionary approach to treating and curing physical and mental illness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. $18.95 | Pp. 299+ xiv | ISBN-13: 978-1-58394-616-9
Over the past decade or so, while being immersed in quantitative research papers, qualitative studies and mixed methods research reports a main theme has emerged. The theme is the following: Acquainting oneself with the “literature” is a cold, faceless, data driven process during which it is easy to overlook that the “human research subjects” are real people with real lives and real healthcare problems. So it is quite stimulating to be able to learn about a real person, with real health care problems and how this person ventured to resolve these problems. Do I wish that Dr. Steven Goldsmith never had to weave his personal struggle to health and wellness into his book “The Healing Paradox?” Of course, I do! But reading his book, I cannot think of a more suitable author for a book on the topic of homeopathy.
Dr. Steven Goldsmith received his M.D. from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. He has held faculty positions at the Boston University, Tufts University, and New York School of Medicine, and has an active practice in Portland, Oregon.
Why is it important for the reader to have this information? Because Dr. Steven writes about a hotly debated topic that seems to have no middle ground. Homeopathy is either touted as a “miracle” to treat just about anything under the sun, or homeopathy is flat-out rejected by its challengers as a placebo. Nonetheless, Dr. Steven’s “The Healing Paradox” manages quite exceptionally, to balance scientific evidence, his personal struggle with debilitating vertigo, and Kim’s (a patient) story into a well-written chronicle of homeopathy, or as the subtitle appropriately suggests: “A revolutionary approach to treating and curing physical and mental illness.”
The book is divided into two parts and 19 chapters. In Part One (the first 14 chapters), Dr. Steven sets the stage and introduces the reader ever so prudently to homeopathy, citing many examples of modern Medicine’s anomalies. Invoking Thomas Kuhn, Dr. Steven writes, “Anomalies are nature’s way of telling us we are overlooking something” (p. 10).
In Chapter 6 “Modern Medicine: A Health Report” Dr. Steven writes very eloquently about the successes and shortcomings of modern Medicine. Conspiracy theorists be forewarned; you will not find any claims, or research for that matter how the medical system and its practitioners have conspired to make and keep American’s sick. What you will find, however, is a well researched chapter illuminating the reader on what Medicine does very well, and what Medicine is ill equipped to deal with. Based on this research, Dr. Steven writes that “…Medicine privately believes that the charter governing its practice mandates it to save lives, not eliminate disease” (p. 67), and that “… through technology, physicians forestall the deaths of many, but they make few well” (p. 73).
In Part One’s subsequent chapters, Dr. Steven develops his theory further, exploring the anomalies of modern Medicine and offering a slightly different viewpoint. For example, in Chapter 13 “A Little Poison is Good for You” he turns to the field of toxicology to find answers to the paradox that is very rarely reported in the scientific literature, but very often the subject of discussion among toxicologists. That is the glaring mystery and “…phenomenon of beneficial effects from trace exposures to foreign chemicals…” (p. 167).
In the last chapter of Part ONE, “The Strange Obsession of Dr. Hahnemann” Dr. Steven advances the reader to homeopathy and its founder, German physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). This chapter is a synthesis of all earlier chapters into a readily absorbable sketch of homeopathy. In this chapter Dr. Steven, with commanding skill, fills the gaps and highlights how anomalies in modern Medicine make sense when viewed from an unconventional medicinal system – Homeopathy. This chapter is not only the climax of Part One, but also works as a blueprint to refer to when reading Part Two “The Healing Paradox.”
Part Two is set up to clarify the question “Why We are Still Sick?” Part Two’s first chapter offers a historical overview of Medicine fittingly titled “From Gods to Genes.” In this chapter, Dr. Steven recounts the history of healing to show why Medicine conceivably failed to recognize that her hi-tech triumphs “…rendered Medicine unable to prevent and cure ills” (p. 199). Dr. Steven skillfully transports the reader through time to explore supernatural medicine, harmonic medicine, and structural medicine.
In Chapter 16, Dr. Steven takes issue with “therapeutic objectification,” whose purpose it is to “…completely isolate, for the purposes of investigation or treatment, a living organism or any part of it” (p. 220). The subject material of Chapter 17, “Such Stuff as Dreams” is best illustrated with a short quotation of a conversation between Dr. Steven and one of his colleagues (p. 236).
Colleague: “But, Goldsmith, why shouldn’t we analyze the problems of patients in the same way that we do machines?”
Goldsmith: “Because living beings are different.”
Dr. Steven, again, quite eloquently, succinctly and in conventional language defines “disease,” further strengthening the argument he is carrying in “the Healing Paradox.” Chapter 17 also anchors Chapter 18, “The Attack of the Evil Things” firmly into place.
Dr. Steven devotes Chapter 18 to the debate that “eradicating disease” is philosophically suspect, medically inadequate, and from the attitude of military strategy (the “war” on cancer, the “war” on diabetes, “fighting” heart disease, etc.), ill-advised and self-defeating.
In Chapter 19, Dr. Steven develops 4 Principles of “Becoming Well.” I will not present these principles here. I do not aspire to spoil your reading of “The Healing Paradox.” Suffice it to say, with Chapters 1-18, Dr. Steven has developed a sound case for each principle that is postulated in Chapter 19 “Becoming Well,” the last chapter of his book.
If the reader is looking for a definite direction on how to “treat” a particular sickness, this book is not it. Nor do I consider that Dr. Steven intended to pen a “How to treat…” book. Rather, Dr. Steven Goldsmith’s “The Healing Paradox: A revolutionary approach to treating and curing physical and mental illness” delivers a robust argument to approach Medicine from a different viewpoint. I think that “The Healing Paradox” is extremely well written, free of hyperbole that troubles countless other titles on this subject.
The curious reader, likely to burrow deeper into the subject, will find the book’s bibliography section a treasure begging to be unearthed. Since homeopathy is such a provocative topic in Medicine, I found Dr. Steven’s Chapter 13 “A Little Poison is Good for You,” and its bibliography, perhaps the most important chapter of the book. Solely for the fact that, in Chapter 13, Dr. Steven exemplifies “anomalies” in Medicine, attempting to understand them, and not writing medical anomalies off as “flukes” in research design.
Ultimately, Dr. Steven succeeded to present a very controversial subject in a clear voice that eloquently embeds the subject into the middle, between passionate advocates and even the most staunch opponents, encouraging collaboration, rather than division.
“The Healing Paradox: A revolutionary approach to treating and curing physical and mental illness” is a must read to learn about two medicinal systems. The reader will learn about homeopathy and Medicine, which at first glance seem strangely at odds with each other. Nevertheless, these two medicinal systems could benefit considerably from each other by filling each others’ gaps in knowledge, because…
…anomalies are nature’s way of telling us we are missing something. Click to Tweet
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Frenkel, M., Mishra, B. M., Sen, S., Yang, P., Pawlus, A., Vence, L., … Banjeri, P. (2009). Cytotoxic effects of ultra-diluted remedies on breast cancer cells. International Journal of Oncology, 36(2), 395–403. doi:10.3892/ijo_00000512
Goldsmith, Steven. (2013). The healing paradox: A revolutionary approach to treating and curing physical and mental illness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.