Friday, February 20, 2009

Mavericks of Medicine

This might be an interesting read:

Mavericks of Medicine

Just read this excerpt from the Introduction:

What's Wrong With Modern Medicine


How Can We Improve It?

Almost everyone agrees that something is wrong with modern medicine. I recently attended a talk given by Andrew Weil, and when he announced his prediction that the healthcare system in America would soon collapse, everyone in the room vigorously applauded. However, although most people agree that something is wrong with modern medicine, not everyone agrees as to what it is and what to do about it.

On a most basic level, many patients simply feel that their physicians can't relate to what they're going through and that they're treated like a statistic. As a way to help remedy this situation, mind-body physician Bernie Siegel told me, "One simple suggestion would be to put every doctor into a hospital bed for a week as a patient. Put them in a hospital where they are not known, and have them admitted with a life-threatening illness as their diagnosis. Then let them stay there."

Another big problem with modern medicine is expense. The skyrocketing costs of healthcare, and the lack of healthcare insurance by many, is a serious problem. According to Larry Dossey, the author of Space, Time, and Medicine, "We're nearing fifty million people in this country who don't have health insurance." So what does Dr. Dossey suggest? "We need government-financed, centralized healthcare for everybody," he said.

However, not everyone that I spoke with agrees that socialized healthcare is such a good idea. When I spoke with life extension researcher Durk Pearson he said, "The most dangerous possible thing I can think of—other than having a complete police state like Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia—is to have a national medical program. Because, believe me, they are not going to be acting in your interest—they're going to be acting in their interest. There's no such thing as a free lunch. When you have a government health system, you have a bunch of bureaucrats telling you when it's time to die. The reason is very simple. They'll never collect back from you as much tax money as they spend taking care of you, so it's time for you to die.
Read up on Nobel prize-winning economist James Buchanan's Public Choice Theory."

Ironically, many people also seriously question the safety of modern medicine—and for good reason. Dr. Dossey also told me that, "The death rate in American hospitals from medical mistakes, errors, and the side-effects of drugs now ranks as the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer." Although some people who have studied the statistics that Dr. Dossey is referring to disagree with this figures, they don't disagree by much, as even the most hard-nosed skeptics rank medical errors and drug side-effects as the fifth or sixth leading cause of death in American hospitals. Not a very comforting thought.

So the lack of trust that many people have toward modern medicine is understandable. However, an even greater cause for concern is that many people think that the medical establishment and the federal government are deliberately impeding medical advances that might divert profits away from pharmaceutical companies. For example, Durk Pearson—who won a landmark lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), charging the government agency with unconstitutionally restricting manufacturers from distributing truthful health information that could save people's lives--told me that he thought that the FDA was "the biggest barrier between life extension and people."

Pearson told me that this is simply because many people in the FDA are financially intertwined with the pharmaceutical companies. According to Pearson's partner, life extension researcher Sandy Shaw "... right now the FDA favors drug companies. There's no doubt about it. The drug companies are in bed with the FDA. The FDA is in bed with the drug companies." What this means is that the FDA generally supports patented drugs over natural dietary supplements—regardless of the scientific evidence—because the drug companies can't profit off them.

Pharmaceutical companies are seen by many as being motivated primarily by profit, and a lot of people are concerned that this motivation adversely effects their research agendas and marketing strategies. To help solve this problem, retrovirus researcher Peter Duesberg suggested that we "Generate a free market for scientific ideas in which funding depends on logic, scientific principles, and useful results, rather than on the approval ... of "peer-review." Since the "peers" represent the established scientific monopolies their self-interest demands "science" that confirms and extends the status quo—rather than innovation, which threatens their considerable scientific and commercial investments."

When I spoke with natural medicine advocate Jonathan Wright he offered some insight into why the research agendas of the pharmaceutical companies might be off track to begin with. He said, "So far as medicine in general goes, our very biggest mistake ... started in the early part of the twentieth century, and it continues to this day—and that is, relying on patent medicines to heal the body. This has been an enormous mistake, because the condition necessary to patent anything says that it can not occur in nature. But our bodies are made of materials that are entirely natural ... The best it's going to do is suppress symptoms, and yet the medical profession has gone along with this for over a century."

However, Dr. Wright told me that he thought that the solution to this problem was very simple. He said, "Everything we need to do can be summed up in these two words: copy nature." For example, research has shown that when engaging in hormone replacement therapy it is essential that one use hormones that are biologically identical to those found in the human body, if one wishes to avoid the potentially deadly side-effects from taking patented synthetic hormones. The scientific evidence certainly suggests that we should avoid that which is unnatural to the body, and that an important secret to health and longevity is simply to mimic what nature does. Others point out that this is a good place to start, but that we can also significantly improve upon nature.

Our conventional medical system is entirely oriented toward the treatment of disease, illness, and injury. Little attention is given to making healthy people healthier and for improving physical, sexual, and cognitive performance. However, there are now many drugs, herbs, and nutrients available that have been shown to improve physical endurance, cognitive abilities, memory, and sexual performance. In the pages that follow, I discuss these drugs and dietary supplements with Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, Jonathan Wright, Ray Kurzweil, and others.

These performance-enhancing supplements appear to compensate for some of the decline in performance caused by aging. If cognitive and sexual performance can be enhanced in the elderly then perhaps other consequences of aging can also be reversed. Understanding and reversing the aging process is another important theme in this book.

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