Magazine article Tikkun

Medicine

Magazine article Tikkun

Medicine

Article excerpt

Medicine began to miss the boat a long time ago. It developed its "medical science" through the study of the anatomy of a corpse. Much important information was gathered, but deep philosophical mistakes accompanied the attainment of this knowledge. A human being is not a corpse; we are made of mind, body, and spirit and deeply influenced by our environment, so we need to rethink the philosophical frame in which the field of medicine arose.

For example, it's sometimes helpful in medicine to compare a human heart to a mechanical pump. But a heart is fundamentally different from a pump-and, indeed, unlike anything we know of in the rest of the universe. A computer or a mechanical pump doesn't experience compassion, and therefore doesn't experience the wondrous transformation in function that can occur as a result. But a human heart can change! There are numerous studies showing that compassion and tolerance improve cardiac functioning, whereas the experience of anger, intolerance, or hostility worsens heart functioning. Stress reduction groups that have a positive impact are those in which the experiences of compassion and inter-connectedness are generated.

In short, the ways our society thinks about the distribution of health services, the nature of and means of protecting health, and our relationship to the physical world are fundamentally flawed because our medical system fails to acknowledge that humans are spiritual/ physical/emotional beings and that their health is a product of the interaction between these dimensions of our lives.

HOLISTIC HEALTH CARE

The World Health Organization defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." That wellbeing can only be achieved by a health care system that pays attention to all the dimensions of human life.

Let's start with support for a worldwide system of universal health care. Only a society with deep moral distortions would allocate health care on the basis of how much money the ill person has. There is no moral reason why someone born into poverty should have less opportunity for their basic health needs to be met than someone born into wealth. The underlying principle of our health care system should be: everyone equally deserves first-class health care because everyone is equally valuable and deserving of respect. The central value behind this principle is that human beings participate in God's holiness, and those who work to deliver health care and to create medicines and medical technologies are engaged in sacred work. just as we do not ask individuals to pay when they need police or fire assistance, so society should provide first class health care for all, and also pay for the training and salaries of doctors, nurses, public health experts, as well as for the construction and provision of hospitals and community health care centers. Schools from grades one through twelve should provide health education, including a focus on diet, exercise, meditation, and other approaches to illness prevention and health maintenance.

Previous efforts at health care reform have failed not because they went too far, but because they did not go far enough. The large health care insurers and profiteers fight every attempt at minimal health care distribution reforms by buying television ads purporting to show ordinary citizens talking to each uthcr about how misguided these reforms arc-as though the companies are really trying to champion the interests of ordinary citizens. Even when the Clinton administration proposed reforms designed to ensure the well-being oi the health care profiteers and drug companies, it still faced crushing opposition from them. Since it takes enormous amounts of energy to fight for the most minimal reforms, we might as well use our precious resources to fight for the greater cause: a universal single-payer plan that places the sanctity of human beings at the center of the way we think about health care. …

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