What Will 21st Century Medicine Be Like?
I just came back from my favorite java whole inspired by a discussion several friends of mine and I had. It was about medicine and what the medicine of the future will look like. What a great afternoon to hang out, chill and shoot the breeze about healthcare and listen to different visions of how medicine for the 21st century will take shape. Let me start by saying that the best way to understand your own culture is to visit another culture.
This way, the habits and cultural forces with live with every day, which we think of to be true to everyone on this planet, are shaken just a tad. Of course with our medical system it is such, that people very often assume that the way conventional physicians think of health, healing, and disease is the only befitting one. However, this “medical chauvinism” dwindles rapidly when one is able to compare it with different, coherent models of health, disease and healing. I am originally from Austria. A country where CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) is widely accepted. Homeopathy, a modality of CAM, provides a model of medicine that is very distinctive from conventional medicine and with a certain understanding of homeopathy one is able to understand “Western” medicine just a bit more.
By comparing these two systems of health and understanding both of them, hence gaining a new, bigger view of health, the “medical chauvinism” prevailing in this country will inevitably lose it’s luster and make way for principles of the 21st century medicine. They are: (1)
1. Despite all the knowledge modern “Western” medicine has to offer, there is so much more that is NOT known.
2. The practice of medicine needs to be considerably more scientific than it is now. Doctors must start to make use of all that is known from other cultures and from different schools of thought within medicine.
3. Western physicians are compassionate and downright heroic in their efforts to alleviate pain and suffering, but very rarely do present day medical treatments actually cure disease. With some exemptions, Western medicine generally relieves symptoms temporarily, but does not deal with the underlying causes from which symptoms arise.
4. Side effects from drugs are not really side effects, but are an often predictable direct effect of the drug on the human organism. People falsely make the assumption that the beneficial effects from the drug are its actions, and the negative effects are commonly known as “side” effects. Drugs simply have effects, and we randomly distinguish those we like and the ones we don’t.
5. What was conventional medicine just 30 years ago, is considered primitive today, medical care one hundred years ago would be considered barbaric today. In comparison, what we call conventional medicine today, will be considered relatively primitive in the not so distant future, and most likely will be considered barbaric in the more distant future. Once this evolution of medicine is consciously pondered, physicians and scientist will most likely not be so omissible and dogmatic in their view of unconventional modalities that do not seem to fit in current theories of health and disease. (2)
6. 21st century medicine will focus on methods that trigger immune and defense responses, rather than on treatments that are foremost symptomatic.
7. Control and suppression of symptoms by pharmaceuticals will still be used in the 21st century, but not as treatment of first choice.
8. The treatment of symptoms with conventional drugs and surgery will be considered “radical therapy,” while safer means aiding the body in its own healing will be considered “conservative treatment.”
9. Homeopathic medicine will probably be the primary pharmacological manner to trigger immune and defense responses.
10. What we call now “alternative” medicine, will no longer be considered as “alternative” but will be an integral part of a comprehensive healthcare system.
11. And in the end, a collaborative model of medicine will prevail in which physicians and healers of various disciplines collaborate together and in which patients will have to take a more active role as an integral part of the healthcare team.
Don’t think for one moment that I am living in utopia. These events are happening faster than the AMA can rev up the propaganda machine and publish reports of charlatanry, quackery and otherwise continue to monopolize the American health care system. For facts and figures backing up this claim see my post, The New Holistic Medicine. Ultimately, the best way to predict the future of medicine is to practice it. CAM modalities are practiced with ever increasing popularity because you, the healthcare consumer, demands more humane, less “barbaric” treatment from your primary healthcare provider. The American healthcare consumer will ultimately change the face of healthcare by taking their hard earned greenbacks where they get the most bang for their buck.
1. Adapted from: Ullman D. Discovering Homeopathy. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA. (1991) Introduction:xxxii-xxxiii
2. Baum M. a British professor of surgery, has made a similar statement: “What is non-science today may indeed become science of tomorrow, and with these thoughts in mind the complacencies of both schools of thought must be shaken.” Science vs. Non-Science in Medicine: Fact or Fiction.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 80 (June 1987):336-337