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Sunday, April 15, 2012
Health / Nutrition ...

To follow up on my blog from a few days ago about cancer and MD hubris, I suggested that the American medical establishment needs to supplement its great scientific and technological prowess with some greater understanding of “the way of things”. I say this in a broad sense; on the technological level, the medical establishment needs to learn more about how the body works, especially its immune system and the many other mechanisms that carry out self-repair and maintenance.

On the metaphysical level, doctors need to work on improving their personal interactions with patients, which can have just as powerful an effect on health as any knife, laser or potent drug. Overall, doctors need to adapt a “martial arts” philosophy in fighting disease, the same philosophy having its roots in ancient Eastern thought. I.e., that you understand your enemy’s intentions and movements, and use them to your own advantage. You don’t always fight your enemies head-on; try to lever their momentum as to protect yourself (in this instance, your patient).

OK, this is much easier said than done. But when you look underneath the hood on how modern medicine selects drugs and techniques to fight disease, you may be appalled at how little these are based on a deep understanding of the body’s many complicated processes, and how much they focus on “the fact that it seems to work for most people”. Medical researches and practitioners need to learn more about chaos theory and complexity / emergence doctrine, as to get a better, more organic feel for what the body does. Sure, they know plenty now about proteins and enzymes and cycles and gland structures; much to their credit. But how these things all operate and interact . . .

Admittedly, this level of understanding may be beyond all but the most brilliant minds, given just how complex the body is. Here is where computers may help us; At some point, it may take a very complex computer program, one that integrates neural networking and massive parallelism to apply “fuzzy logic”, i.e. probabilistic views of most likely outcomes (with variance / sensitivity studies to ferret out the side effects resulting from tiny changes from person to person; recall that with chaos theory, tiny changes cause huge differences, such as the butterfly over Beijing causing the hurricane over Barbados). At some point, doctors may need to defer to what a computer thinks about a patient, given his or her actual DNA patterns and other “body state” inputs / symptoms.

But doctors must also learn to do what no computer can do: convey a sense of humanity and common ground with those whom they serve (i.e., “the patients”). Here is where the Tao really comes in. Let’s take a look at Tao verse 13, as translated by Jane English and Gia-Fu Feng:

Misfortune comes from having a body. Without a body, how could there be misfortune? Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things. Love the world as your own life; then you can truly care for all things.

So there it is. My Taoist prescription to MD’s everywhere. Take twice a day, morning and evening, preferably after a comforting, reflective meal. LEARN TO BE HUMAN BEINGS AGAIN!!!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:16 pm      

  1. Jim, I am not sure exactly what it is you are saying here. And let me emphasize that I realize I may be wrong; so feel free to say I just don’t know what I’m talking about.

    First, it seems to me that you want doctors to be so very good at taking care of people that, if they have to, they use computers to diagnose (and possibly treat?) people. Second, you want them to have such good “bedside manners” as to learn to be human beings again.

    And here it just may be me, but I tend to think that you can’t have both these things in one person. You will either have a person who tends to be “computerized” or you have a person who lacks the expertise one may get from a computer but who is loving, caring, filled with concern for his/her patients yet fall short of keeping an individual alive.

    I tend to think that one has to make a choice—-either/or, not both/and. But I may be wrong.

    Then too, I also find myself wondering if underneath all this what so many people generally want is to live forever (or at least so many years they get tired of living and who knows when that will come) AND to have their doctors fix them up in such a way as to relieve all the unpleasantness of actually staying well. And staying well tends to become unpleasant the longer one lives because it involves more and more of “fixing” the old body so that it stays working well.

    I tend to think that a little less anxiety about getting old, a little less anxiety about dying may better “do the trick.” At some point, on this earth, everyone is simply going to have to die. There’s so much today all over the place—-the news, the Internet, all the various forms of media communication—-that no one really wants to die. This will keep you alive longer; no that will keep you alive longer. Doing this will extend life; not doing this same thing will also extend life. It’s getting to the point where one begins to wonder if anybody knows what they are talking about when it comes to staying alive.

    Since I’m getting to the point where I find dying may actually, one of these days, happen to me, I’ve tho’t about dying. What should be my approach to it? How should I deal with the anticipation of it? One thing I definitely don’t want is to be filled with a lot of anxiety about it. I’d much rather live a pleasant, as peaceful a life as possible than spend what last days or years I may have worrying about “if” I’m going to die, when I know for sure I AM going to die.

    So, I’ve decided to try this: Looking at death the way I looked at various other times/things in my life–when I had to start new things in my life. I remember often looking at new things with a sense of wonder. This new thing soon to come into my life—-either a new job, a whole new aspect to my life, a new place to live, a new situation of some kind—-I asked myself how will I deal with it? How will I manage it? I had a sense of wonder that was not scary but a sense of wonder that was filled with all the new possibilities in life.

    So I’ve decided to try looking at death that way. Since absolutely everyone has to die, it seems to me that it cannot be all that terrible. OK, there’s always the possibility of pain in the getting to the “other side” part of it all. But pain is something that we have all dealt with, can all deal with one way or the other. After that, I think, comes the interesting part. Since death is a part of life, there must be a new kind of life waiting for us. Or. . . maybe it’s an old kind of life we have known before. Perhaps we will be glad to get back to it.

    See what I mean: There are so many good possibilities about it all that, rather than being filled with anxiety about the whole thing, I hope that I manage to have an approach to dying that will not extend life here beyond what seems reasonable for a human being. I also hope to manage to have an approach that looks forward to the new life that lies beyond this one.

    I really don’t expect doctors to extend my life much beyond what seems reasonable to me. I certainly do not want to have to deal with a computer in any way, shape, or form when it comes to the “last things” in my life. I’d just hope that I can find some way to make it a peaceful, anticipatory, happy in some way, “good” approach to something we will all have to deal with sooner or later. I DO hope I’m not being too “goofy” about it all; I just want whatever the new thing will be to be something I look forward to. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — April 16, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

  2. JIM G COMMENT: Mary, sorry that you are not exactly sure what I am saying here. The opening of the Tao sums it up:

    The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao
    The name that can be named is not the eternal name
    The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth
    The named is the mother of the many impermanent things in our world

    Hope that helps.

    Or, to put it another way:

    Doctors have become walking computers, high-capacity processors of objective data (i.e., test results and case notes). Why not let real computers do this instead? They do it better than humans. That would let doctors go back to being HEALERS.

    Let computers do what they do well . . . and let humans do what they do well. I believe that we would all be healthier and happier under that arrangement. Especially the doctors! My own doctor does NOT seem very happy when I see him at his office. I have seen him at a bar, and he seemed much happier then.

    Comment by Jim G — April 17, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

  3. Jim, I agree about doctors and being happy–or not being happy. I’ve often tho’t that the problem for doctors is that they MUST *always* be concerned with someone else–even when their own world may be falling down around them. Nobody who comes to see a doctor ever asks, “And how did your day go today, doc?” Nor does anyone ever ask, “And how is your family today, doc?” Well, at least I never really have–except one time, which was an exceptional time; and I was massively surprised at how the doctor so happily and, yes, lovingly responded.

    I’ve often wondered what answer the doctor would give if his/her patients showed some interest in him/her and his/her lifre. I read one time that psychology workers/doctors are those most prone to suicide–for the very reason that no one asks him/her about themselves. The doctor must always be concerned about someone else, no matter what is going on in his/her own life. That’s enormously difficult to do, and almost inhuman, it seems to me.

    I know I don’t say to a doctor, how are you doing today? All I want to do is escape from the doctor. Maybe I should take another approach and ask her how she’s doing when I see her next time.

    Maybe if people treated the doctor more humanly, the doctor would treat the people she/he meets more humanly. Just a tho’t. I may try it next Monday when I have to see the doctor. (Notice I found myself saying HAVE to see the doc; it’s a chore and unpleasant.) Maybe an approach of “how are YOU doing today, Doctor?” will change the whole feeling of the meeting. I’ll see what I can do about that on Monday. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — April 18, 2012 @ 10:49 am

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