Medical error is just one of many causes of pain, suffering, and even death in the medical system, and medical error in turn is caused by many forces that are unaddressed in the medical system – patient gaslighting, injury shaming, professional laziness, profit motivation, and more. And yet, we operate as if doctors are always, without fail, the good men in white coats, here to save us, and as if the most sane, rational, and ultimately healing choice is to put our lives in the hands of medical care. We also act as if every doctor is trustworthy and has the purest of intentions and motivations.
We are, on the whole, distinctly uncomfortable calling out the dark side of medical care – as if speaking frankly about it is outright denying or lacking recognition or appreciation of the light side. Kind of like the way that we are still, in 2022, distinctly uncomfotable calling out the dark side of family life, despite the obscene levels of domestic violence and the traumatic impact of that violence – which destroys not only individual lives, but generations of lives.
To call out family violence is not to deny family love. To call out medical negligence is not to deny medical care. It is to say they exist side by side. Denying the dark side, however, in the interest of protecting the light side, only blocks the light from permeating and transforming the darkness. Denial allows the darkness to fester. And that in itself is a form of negligence.
I call for a more comprehensive, inclusive, compassionate, and ultimately, intelligent approach to medicine, with the following imperatives:
- Recognize the value of both conventional and holistic medicine, and draw from the best of both worlds.
- Honor the diversity of individual lives and bodies, and create highly customized wellness plans – drawing from a blend of medical science and personal need.
- Rethink scientific models so that they effectively study lifestyle medicine – among other things, actively harnessing and researching the power of the placebo effect and synergistic effect, instead of isolating those out.
- Additionally recognize the limitations of science – namely, that it plays catch-up to the human experience, and that people therefore can be living laboratories, making intuitive discoveries that only years later are researched and validated by scientific studies.
- Invest as much funding into researching lifestyle medicine as is invested in researching pharmaceutical and surgical medicine.
- Teach lifestyle medicine as an essential part of medical school curricula.
- Routinely provide medical collaboration within and between the gamut of conventional and holistic health practitioners.
- Eliminate the model of profit-driven healthcare – which leads to cookie-cutter, formulaic medicine that can be anywhere from ineffective to fatal.
- Additionally revamp the healthcare model so that doctors have as much time as necessary to truly get to know, respond to the needs of, and work effectively with each patient, and so that doctors can return to their intended role as a docere – a teacher and wise guide.
- Cultivate doctor-patient relationships that are collaborative and compassionate partnerships, honoring the intelligence and wisdom that each person brings to the table.
- Train medical practitioners to cope with human suffering not through detachment, but through engagement – with a spiritual model of heart-centered listening, compassion, and support for patients, as well as self-care practices and instituitonal support for medical practitioners.
- Make all forms of quality healthcare accessible to people of all strata of society – to the extent of ensuring that an organic, whole-foods, plant-based diet is geographically and financially accessible to people in inner cities.
In addition, for a particular health challenge, I call for the following steps:
- Gather all the information and resources about possible responses to a particular health challenge.
- Be intellectually rigorous and honest about what we do and do not know, and what the pros and cons are, for each of those options.
- Based on that information, do a risk-benefit analysis for each option.
- Take responsibility for our lives and health, dial into our intuition, and make a highly personal decision from there.
Find out more about my approach to healing at ImAKitchenPirate.com and at CancerIsMyEngine.com.
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Photo, meme, and article © by Loolwa Khazzoom. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be copied without author’s permission.