Prior to the protestant reformation, the Catholic church held much power and persuasion over the western world. As the exclusive keepers of knowledge, they preached the one path to salvation. Poor and illiterate, the common folk accepted, on faith, not only the principles of their religion but the stewards of its tenants, the hierarchy of clergy.
The materialistic culture of the modern world has founded a new religion. It is not theologically based as a streak of atheism runs deep through many of the scientific and academic elite. They may think themselves to live without the trappings of ritual and faith but I assure you they are adherents of a great religious movement. The medical-industrial complex has become the new and all-powerful church. Wearing the white lab coats that mark their pure and prominent status, the modern medical doctor has become the high priest of the techno-medical church. Their proclamations of prognoses deem many a patient to a fate that is meekly accepted without question. They speak in terms only those within their order can understand, seldom grounding their knowledge in a language that their parishioners (otherwise known as patients) can understand. In place of a consecrated host imparting salvation, they offer any number of small pills to extend one’s life – chemically pure substances that defy nature; a modern miracle some would argue.
This extended analogy should not shroud the fact that there are many brilliant and caring physicians who can console us through some of life’s most difficult challenges; nurses that care for the infirm with the spirit of compassion that would make Mother Theresa proud. There was, are, and always will be many great leaders and healers within the church and in the medical field. What has come to corrupt medicine, reminiscent of the Catholic church prior to its ideological schism, is an abuse of power and greed.
Humility is not a trait typically selected for in the field of medicine. Granted, there is a certain amount of emotional armoring that develops in response to a scary profession; mistakes can cost your patients their lives. The ego tends to inflate in compensation. Taken to a pathological end, the bolstering of the ego can create a divide between doctor and patient. Where there once was trust and compassion, a superiority complex can emerge where the cavalier physician disregards a patient’s observations and feelings. These maladapted behavioral mechanisms are bad enough – mix in a good chunk of wealth and prestige and you have a recipe for a corruption of principles.
Financial incentive further mars the field of medicine. Practicing medicine that is in the best interests of the patient can and is readily compromised when a doctor is able to profit by suggesting some procedures over others or certain drugs over others. Historically, the move towards the pharmaceutical model of business was financially backed by the Carnegie Foundation in the 1910 Flexner Report which shifted financial support to the allopathic model of care and drug therapy, not because of efficacy, but because of the potential for patents and profits. The continued financial interests of pharmaceutical companies of the present day maintain power and authority of the medical-industrial complex, further heightening its control over traditional forms of grassroots medicine.
In the acquisition of control, the church of allopathy has also spent considerable time and money in an evangelical-like effort to rid the world of the “false prophets” of medicine. One of the most blatant historical examples of this is the attempt of the American Medical Association to suppress the medical reformation known as chiropractic care. In the 1970’s and 80’s Wilk v. AMA trials, the AMA was found to be engaged in an unlawful conspiracy to “contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession” who then and now are viewed as a threat to their hegemony. In response to this verdict, the judge placed a permanent injunction on the AMA under Section 16 of the Clayton Antitrust Act.
When our bodies and minds fail, we place our faith in the hands of the medical profession, hoping that salvation is only one pill or procedure away. What we must realize is true healing requires self-empowerment, not just the removal or obscuring of symptoms. You can not go to your doctor confessing your sins of lifestyle and hope for lasting absolution through pills any more than a priest with prayers. Change must come from within – the path to physical, mental, and spiritual wellness lies in your choices and actions, one day at a time, creating a better future through will and perseverance.