Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The sanctity of medicine

I feel as though I'm slowly waking up to the world around me. (I know this is supposed to be the role of education, especially post-secondary education, but, well, you all know how I feel about that.) I'm realizing that I do not have to be a little lemming, running around in my little life while others seemingly more powerful, more educated and more wealthy dictate how my world should be created and lived. I am realizing there are not as many laws of society as I thought there were - there are simply a lot of codes. Codes that are passed off as laws to us "little guys".

I believe the only way to "fix" the education system is a complete dismantling. I also believe the only way that will happen is if our society is plunged into something so destructive life as we know it is altered permanently. And yet there is the expectation of enrollment, as though that were the only viable option to produce an adult of any societal worth.

But that isn't what's bugging me today. Today, it's medicine. I was engaged in a conversation today that began about vaccination and ended in a consideration of the unquestioned authority the medical world holds. Likely this is a result of a subject so vast and detailed, which requires so many years of in depth study. The conclusion is that since the average person likely has no further knowledge than grade eleven biology, that we must simply yield to the important and definite answers of medicine.

Then I consider the history of medicine - the terrible gaffes, the horrific experiments, the evolving understanding. Remember when doctors recommended brands of cigarettes? I can just imagine 200 years down the road, students in a medical class joking about the "gall of those doctors, treating x with y. What ignorance!"

I always feel as though I'm reaching beyond my knowledge when it comes to medicine. But I'm also discovering that in fact I do know a fair amount. That which I lack, I can often discover through the various (credible) portals of information available to me. One of the best gifts I ever received is the CMA Home Medical guide. From the forward: "Using clearly written text and abundant illustration, the guide explains how the body works, provides tools for interpreting symptoms, describes how and why diseases occur, and outlines the details of modern diagnostic tests and treatments." The "assessing your symptoms" charts are my favourite part of the book - a flow chart of questions that helps diagnose your symptoms.

I am not suggesting that the medical profession is obsolete - far from it. My own knowledge is fine for the small stuff - but it's nice to have a professional standing by when needed. But I think North American medicine lags far behind where we really need help: promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing people from needing doctors and medication.

I try to take medicine as little as possible. I so rarely take it that I always check the expiration date before I even open a bottle. Everything we have, which includes Tylenol to vitamins to Tums, fits in a little box 8" x 8" x 6". I took a strict personal policy while pregnant and breastfeeding not to take any kind of medication. What I have discovered is that I have not only survived, but also thrived, these past 4 years. Yes, I think it's actually been that long since I've taken any type of medication.

I heard a radio interview today with Dr. David Sackett, who believes in evidence-based medicine. His lecture is called "helping smart doctors stop prescribing dumb treatments". If you get a chance, listen to the CBC interview called "Stop dumb treatments" on Metro Morning, or follow his links on Wikipedia - he perfectly articulates my feelings about current medicine.

I am an intelligent person. I have been given my own brain that is capable of unbelievable things, should I choose to use it to its maximum capacity. I am enjoying stretching myself lately, realizing all that I am truly capable of.


heather80 said...

I used to immediately jump for the cold medicine at the first sign of a stuffy nose. I haven't taken cold medicine since getting pregnant - so coming up on 2 years - and know what? My colds don't last nearly as long. I'm wondering if it's related.

Emily Tayman said...

I agree with you mostly. I'm not a fan of things that mask symptoms rather than healing the problem. As much as I hate doctors, the fact is that I may not be alive if not for modern medication and if I were, I certainly would have lost at least my health, and my father is a miracle to be living even with the intervention of medicine. There's really no getting around that. I was even told to seek medical help in a blessing before, much to my personal irritation.

I believe in antibiotics and I frankly believe in vaccinations. Smallbox was devastating. Polio was the fear of every parent. We're too far removed from the crippling effects of polio to understand how grateful we should be for this vaccination.

I don't approve of everything or even many of the things done by the medical field in general, but I would agree that it's our responsibility to be the informed ones. I think it's our powerful ally if we take the trouble to learn and our ride on the wave of someone's opinion if we don't.

Emily Tayman said...

Ever notice how many amazing medical and technological advances started after the restoration and have been on a crazy roll since? I'm convinced that the "light of the world" opens men's understanding in all ways, whether or not they realize it.

Sorry, that was way off topic. For another post. Got it.