How Western medicine lost its soul

How Western medicine lost its soul – free full-text /PMC5102204/ – by Michel Accad – May 2016

Today, someone who needs attention for a health matter can seek conventional “Western” medicine or opt to receive a “holistic” treatment from the realm of so-called alternative medicine.

For most people, there is a clear distinction between the two. Why does conventional medicine seem so unable to attend to the complete welfare of the patient?

I think this is largely due to the “medicine by guideline” model of conventional medicine. 

Why, despite the manifest efficacy of scientific treatments, do growing numbers of patients consider their medical care altogether unhealthy?

At the dawn of the modern era, however, thinkers such as Francis Bacon and René Descartes rejected Aristotle’s notions of substantial form and chose to emphasize instead the material aspect of things.

In the Baconian paradigm,

  • nothing matters that cannot be measured or quantified, and
  • nothing should be accepted that cannot be verified empirically.

And this means we with invisible pain that “cannot be verified empirically” don’t fit into the modern paradigm of healthcare. No wonder doctors are trying to avoid having to deal with us.

when medical science rests on a basis of material reductionism, the human mind—the intellectual and willful aspects of the soul—has a hard time finding its proper place.

deprived of spirit, the human body assumed for the scientist the status of a mere, albeit complex, machine.

And as the material successes of biomedical science multiplied, the mechanistic metaphor was adopted by the practicing physician as well.

Over the last one hundred years, the medical profession, with the help of government, academia, and big business, has turned Western medicine into a “healthcare delivery system” in which biological material is the input, and health the hoped-for output.

Standardization has become its prime mode of operation.

And this is notoriously ineffective for chronic pain when each pain and each patient is different.

Not only do opioids not provide “standard” relief for every kind of pain, but many people cannot metabolize opioids well and never get the relief promised by the doctors prescribing them. Sometimes, a higher dose can remedy this (even up to 100-fold), but doctors have been bullied into prescribing much less.

The only wrinkle, of course, is that the raw material under process is a person: individual, substantial, rational, and—as Karol Wojtyla emphasized—self-determining and “incommunicable.”

the massive delivery system, wobbling on a foundation of faulty mechanistic assumptions, threatens to collapse at any time.

Yet the remedy seems so simple. But will Western medicine ever bring the soul back to the patient’s body?

Other thoughts?

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