Treating sick human beings as a whole person was the original concept even in the Western medicine system of olden days—even in the 1950s, when I was a student. Thanks to the hi-tech new Western medicine, of complete reductionism, whole person healing (WPH) has almost disappeared from medical students’ vocabulary!
As human beings, we have our worries and anxieties, social and environmental factors, our economic and social status and, above all, our religious beliefs which could collectively, and severally, affect our personality as a patient. The best doctor to know all these would be our family doctor. Again, thanks to the birth of sub-specialists who, in India, are called super-specialists making them God incarnates, WPH has been fully buried.
The super specialists know more and more about less and less until they come to a stage where they know more and more about nothing. This tendency to diagnose and treat patients with the tinted glass of reductionism has become the bane of Western medicine today.
In such set-ups, the patient is hardly listened to, or examined, physically. They are subjected to a huge list of investigations and, from then on, the specialist treats only the reports and NOT the sick human being. This leads to much misery and economic loss to the patient and gains to the medical and pharmaceutical establishments.
It is usually outsiders who spot the lacunae in any system and think outside the box. Both, Albert Einstein and David Bohm, declared themselves outsiders for physics and so were able to think outside the box during their times.
My good friend, a great scientist, Professor Rustum Roy, who could think outside the box even in his own specialisation of chemistry and metallurgy, was appointed a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona with no conventional medical qualifications, based purely on his original research in human healing and his out-of-the-box thinking.
It was he who coined the term Whole Person Healing, while I used to write and think about it as bedside medicine. Professor Roy approached me at one meeting where both of us were lecturing and convinced me to join him in this journey of what he called WPH. Thus started our long journey which ended only when he died a few years ago.
Late professor Roy was a remarkable human being and one of the best scientists I have known in my life. He was the first to think of nano particles way back in 1954 when he was a junior member of Linus Pauling’s chemistry department at Berkeley University. His original paper on So-Gel
technique is still being used by nano scientists. The paper has had more than 75,000 citations till date! Although he was the Fellow of all science academies of the world with a Golden Ray Award from the Emperor of Japan, he was denied the Nobel Prize, despite being nominated 21 times!
I think this was because of his pro-Indian bias and, moreover, his original works did not interest the industry so much. Being the founder-fellow of the IOM (Institute of Medicine), he was able to get the word WPH officially accepted into the medical vocabulary in 2009. Since then, I have adopted that word in place of bedside medicine which is patient-centred and not disease-centred. We started the World Academy of Authentic Healing Sciences in 2005 with our own journal, The Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes (thejsho.com), of which I became the editor-in-chief and professor Roy became the co-editor-in-chief, till his death. He was followed by Hans Peter Duerr, the emeritus director of the Max Planck Institute in Munich. Now, we have Evan Pugh professor of obstetrics and paediatrics at Penn State University, Joanna Floros, as the co-editor-in-chief. She is a great researcher too.
I happened to see a very fit young man last week. He was 46 years young and was a good specimen of physical fitness in every respect. The only mistake he made to jog nearly five kilometres daily. One day, while jogging, he thought he had some vague chest pain. He went for a check-up. To cut the long story short, he landed with angioplasty, two stents and lifetime of blood-thinners with some other medicines.
He was devastated as he is as fit as he used to be with an ejection fraction of 59% coming down to 54% or so after the procedure. His family and he are now worried stiff and he was even contemplating becoming a recluse! Our reductionist intervention has had such an impact on his whole family that, I am sure, he will not be a useful citizen for the country.
Now, Coronary artery blocks are not coronary artery disease. Even young boys in the US army in Korea and Vietnam, with an average age of 20 years, angiographed post-mortem after they were shot dead (a total of 205 soldiers) had three vessel blocks (72%). Some of them had even left main equivalent blocks but they were in the pink of their health, to be in the US army. Reductionist science equated coronary block with coronary disease, a good business proposition.
I have a very dear friend who, in his 80s, had bad knee joints, but was still active. I used to dissuade him from having his knee replaced. He also had aches and pains everywhere. Our friends convinced him to have it done and one of his knees was operated upon. He never fully recovered from his post-operative sickness and had pneumonia first, thanks to nosocomial infections and, as he was getting out of those episodes, his aches and pains increased to a great degree.
After so much of investigations, they have come up with a diagnosis of multiple-myeloma now. His knee pains have increased and so have his aches elsewhere. I wonder if the diagnosis was missed pre-operatively or was it that multiple-myeloma was triggered by the surgery. God only knows. He is in bed at his age and is suffering. What is the quality of life we have been able to offer him? When is the whole man considered as our primary interest?
Professor Mary Tinnetti of Yale University in her article in the American Medical Journal, entitled “The End of the Disease Era”, convincingly argues that the organ-based disease diagnosis has almost come to an end and she wants that be replaced by a new holistic approach. Sick human beings need our compassionate understanding and a useful management and not heroic things done to set the anatomy right and physiology corrected without fully understanding the patient.
Western medicine is not a true science. It is just a statistical science where averages of all measurements are converted into normal. When one converts averages into normal, one generates 5% to 25% false positives. Today, the diagnosis has becomes a disease in itself.
We can create epidemics where none exists and we convert the hapless human beings, who come to us with their anxiety for help, into patients for the rest of their lives! Let us try to re-introduce WPH into the medical curriculum for the common good of mankind. We should also teach medical students to understand the human mind to get to know their patients better. In the quantum world view, the human body is an illusion of the human body. This needs to be stressed, as today, in reductionism, we think that the mind is in the brain!
The future sickness-care has to incorporate all good treatment methods in all systems authenticated by hard scientific yardstick, not just the quick-fixes of modern Western medicine but from all scientifically validated treatment methods in other systems also. Western quick-fixes are a must for emergency-care only but the latter is just 2% of the sick population.
The earlier this is done the better. Benjamin Rush had predicted this kind of unscientific monopoly of Western medicine over all other systems. He did try his best to avoid caste system in healing process, but the 1910 Abraham Flexner report buried this hope for ever.