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Orthodox Medicine Should Separate From Pharmaceutical Industry

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In a poignant comment titled "The Bigger Picture", published in The Irish Times, Shalini Sinha discusses the reasons why our so-called "orthodox" medicine has ceased to be functional and why it should take the bold step of separating from the profit-centered pharmaceutical industry to find its own pride and standing.

Health cannot be effectively preserved or re-gained when profit is a major motive since healthy people actually diminish that profit ... the conflict of interest is built-in.

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Shalini Sinha

Published in The Irish Times

This is the second of two articles on the antagonism between orthodox and complementary healing.

While there are distinct philosophical, indeed religious, differences between allopathy (the practice of our GPs and doctors in hospital) and "complementary" practices, they do not explain the intensity with which allopathic medicine can attack other healing perspectives.

However, money does. The greatest profits in industry are made by pharmaceutical companies. Prescription drugs are big business. Protecting these profit margins is motive enough to undermine the effectiveness of healing traditions that might pre-empt the use of drugs.

Allopathic medicine is dominant in society, not because it is more successful, but because it is supported by the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.

Strong, often toxic, drugs weaken our bodies. They take control, nurturing a sense of inadequacy and overpowering our defences. Nearly all drugs include painkilling and relaxation elements. They are designed to "eliminate" symptoms rather than strengthen the body, and make us need them more.

This is not to say that drugs have no place, but that the use of drugs is extremely serious with widespread consequences. The consistent use of such a variety of drugs must be challenged.

Our healthcare system costs so much because a profit-making agenda dominates. Doctors earn so much because they are made more "responsible" - and so more powerful - than the individuals whose health is in question. They make the decisions, not us.

Furthermore, allopathy lacks belief that the body, through lifestyle, nutrition and natural means, could address many difficulties (even serious ones) and so is particularly dependent on drugs. None of this encourages empowerment or better health. Rather, it makes it most susceptible to being co-opted by the pharmaceutical agenda.

With so much money being pumped into the orthodox tradition, it is not surprising it has the largest body of research. Even so, and despite charges to the contrary, there has been some significant clinical documentation of naturopathic treatments and successes, going back decades.

Yet, we are told that allopathy is the most reliable approach, and that evidence proving the others are effective does not exist. But there is evidence that natural therapies work.

Another common charge is that the "complementary" therapy sector lacks regulation. This is often true. It is a leap, however, to conclude that this means the practices lack integrity. In fact, there have never been more reports of malpractice or more clinical failures in this sector than in allopathy. On the contrary, insurance companies will cover holistic therapists for infinitely less money - not because they deal with less difficult cases (most people do not engage with naturopathy until the other has abandoned them) but because their methods are less dangerous.

Still, we are never told of the rate of clinical failures within the orthodox tradition. In fact, their difficulties are considered normal in practice and not a fault of the healing approach itself. They even have a word (iatrogenic) to categorise those sets of adverse conditions that arise as a result of their treatment. Yet, it is the "complementary" sector that must defend itself from attack.

We are lucky to have a society with several different healing approaches. Allopathy has resources, structures and detailed information about specific body parts, drugs and pathogens. Natural therapies offer more time, empowerment, a holistic view of the body and detailed information about how nature can cure.

If these traditions were co-operating, healthcare would cost significantly less and the health of our population would be much greater. For this to happen, we need the orthodox tradition to separate from the pharmaceutical industry and make a shift in power and pride - a frightening thing to do, but rewarding nonetheless.

Allopathic medicine offers neither more insight into the human body nor better solutions for health than other traditions. Its institutional domination of healthcare is not accidental, but possibly because it lacks belief in the body's healing abilities, lacks commitment to the evidence of nature, lacks time for prevention and lacks general empowerment.

Thus, we find ourselves dependent on drugs and under the influence of a profiteering industry. Its dominance is by design, with the health of its workers and patients suffering alike.

It is ironic that we struggle to keep up with the payments demanded by this healthcare system while failing to maintain basic standards of good health.

What we have is not a battle between two differing philosophies to be heard as "right" nor a fight for "better health." It is a war for control and the accumulation of profits.

Shalini Sinha works as a life coach and counsellor and presents the intercultural programme, Mono, on RTÉ Television.

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