Medicine or Magic

"Physicians pour drugs of which they know little,
to cure diseases of which they know less,
into humans of which they know nothing."

The French writer Voltaire wrote these words to satirize the medical profession in the mid-1700's. His sentiment may have been a bit exaggerated even then, but it still points to some simple truths to which the modern medical consumer might well pay heed.

Modern medicine relies heavily on the prescription of powerful drugs. The actions of most of these pharmaceuticals, even in this technological age, are not well understood. The Food and Drug Administration seeks to assure the safety and efficacy of drugs. It is hard put to validate the safety of most of them even when they are used alone. When drugs are taken in combination, the rate of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) rises dramatically. Up to 20% of hospital admissions have been attributed, in part, to ADRs. The efficacy of drugs - to perform as directed - is another question which is likewise not easily answered.

Physicians do their level best to cure the ills of 20th-century humans. But all too often in these times they are challenging ailments of many-sided causes which their armaments cannot penetrate. Pills or operations or combinations thereof cannot counter most conditions which afflict modern man. Diseases, such as smallpox, polio, and diphtheria, for which 'silver bullets' were developed in distant generations have passed into history.

The best perspective for the present times seems to be one espoused by the Father of American Medicine, Sir William Osler, who said, "It is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has." This idea very well leads one to the question of knowing the patient. Who knows you better than you? If you can share that knowledge with your physician, do it. It will help him or her practice better medicine. And if you do really know yourself, you should be able to prevent or short-circuit lots of ailments before they take firm hold on your body and being. Put your awareness to use and make more healthful life decisions. You'll be glad you did!

If you don't know yourself, start working on it.

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