Monday, January 31

Challenge: Awakening Essay 2

In Awakenings, after the section of the book containing a long litany of medical case histories, Dr Sacks continues with some reflections putting it all in "Perspective" (which is how he coins the last sections). In this section he asks the philosophical questions so rarely asked by doctors today. Questions of sickness, health, and mental illnesses, are not simple. Mental illnesses
perversions of being ... are not simply measured by a "list of 'data' of measurements regarding one's vital signs, blood chemistry, urinanalysis, etc. A thousand such data don't begin to answer the essential question; they are irrelevent and, additionally, very crude in comparison with the delicacy of one's senses and intuitions.
Dr Sacks tells us that in the reams of articles about Parkinsonian patients produced in the 1960's, and there were hundreds, none of them discusses the human side of the disease.

North American aboriginal doctors (in non-PC elder days, called 'witch doctors'), we are told rarely treated the physical causes of the disease, instead concentrated on the spiritual and human side of the disease. Today's doctors take the diametrically opposite approach and, with the advances in modern chemistry and scientific lore have an impressive track record. However the do fail in large measure to hunt down root causes. Leaving Awakenings and the Parkinsonian world behind, patients flock to our doctors with a variety of disorders which can be treated by medical means, but which should not. When a patient arrives at a doctors office complaining of depression, obesity, or exhaustion all too often drugs are prescribed to "fix" the condition without pause to consider root causes. Our medical doctors have abstained wholly from the spiritual and emotional sides of health. Psychologists like Dr Sacks remain the sole bastions of this side of health in that industry. What doctor, when hearing his patient is depressed counsels them,
You are depressed because you are unhappy. Seek out your priest (or counselor) instead.
Witch Doctors healed with wisdom. Our medical doctors heal with their skill, craft, and tools.

Disclaimer: I am neither a medical professional nor pretend to be. I am making broad generalizations about an industry I have only had fleeting impressions of, but which in broad strokes I believe to be correct. I also do not mean to claim that none of the patients who complain of depression, obesity, or other malady have no organic causes. But, follow Dr Sacks call to not ignore the spiritual (he says human) causes of disease and its cure.