Chapter III: The Attack on Medicine

By Fenigsen, Richard; Fenigsen, Ryszard | Issues in Law & Medicine, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Chapter III: The Attack on Medicine


Fenigsen, Richard, Fenigsen, Ryszard, Issues in Law & Medicine


The doctor, looking grave and solemn, began his examination. He took the patient's pulse rate and body temperature, and proceeded to the percussion and auscultation. With a certainty that left no room for doubt, Ivan Ilyich knew that all this was rubbish and fraud. (26) Leo Tolstoy

Ivan Illich. (27) The hero of this story is the near namesake of Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich, professor Ivan Illich of Cuernavaca, Mexico. Illich, the Vienna-born quadruple graduate of European universities, and one time parish priest ministering to Manhattan's poor, has become the theorist and ardent advocate of rebellion against Western industrialized civilization. The grave moral failures of our civilization certainly have fed this movement, but some of its ideas can be traced to earlier sources, to the anarchism of Proudhon and Kropotkin, early 19.h century's romanticism, the views of J. J. Rousseau, and to the even earlier myth of the Happy Savage. Illich's anti-industrialism writings often surprise by their vehemence, uncompromising thoroughness, and unexpected targets of assault.

In Illich's view, the expanding technology very soon reaches the point beyond which it inevitably turns against people.

In the 1970s, Illich was widely acclaimed in the intellectual and professional circles of Western Europe and North America as the prophet who told us the truth about ourselves. Illich's teachings on the sinister activities of the medical Mafia not only supplied arguments for the Western European and, in particular, Holland's anti-medical campaign of the 1970s and 1980s, but, surprisingly, met with an enthusiastic response from many doctors. At the assembly of the British Medical Association in Edinburgh, Illich was given a standing ovation. Prominent physicians declared that when they read Illich's works, scales fell from their eyes. Apparently, the disappointment of "modern" physicians with their role, and with medicine in general, made them receptive to Illich's ideas. His name may now be almost forgotten, but this man has substantially contributed to the present crisis of medicine.

Several features of Illich's writings contributed to the powerful impact these publications had at the time. Their subject matter was of vital importance: it was the heaW price mankind was paying for industrialization, man's entanglement in the complexities of societal structure, the abysmal contrast between the First and the Third World. Illich's onslaught on institutions people had considered friendly (e.g., formal educational institutions), attested to the originality of the author's thought and his intellectual courage. The solution he proposed--no less than a total destruction of our civilization--showed Illich as a thorough thinker who wouldn't content himself with half-measures.

Yet Illich's success among intellectuals of the 1970s is an astonishing story. His allegations were, to put it mildly, biased and unreasonable, and his propositions radical and absurd. In his view, the school, for instance, was not a teaching institution with some faults and negative aspects; it was a criminal conspiracy to create social inequalities, and nothing else. This is patently untrue. It is also worth pointing out that without formal education nobody would be able to raise or debate the issues of Illich's writings. Neither could prof. Illich's favorite bike be designed or produced by uneducated workers. The village blacksmith wouldn't be able to make the lightweight metal frame, the precision bearing or the rubber tires, all of which require formal education in the sciences and engineering principles.

In Illich's view, the only aim of professional groups is power, and enslavement of other people .... Medicine is the area of Illich's particular interest. The doctors, he asserts, do not provide any useful services, but only seek to enhance their own wealth and power over the people. This is not true. Any man who once experienced the excruciating pain and pressure of urinary retention, and the wonderful relief provided by inserting a catheter, will refute Illich's absurd statement.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Chapter III: The Attack on Medicine
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?