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This is inherently different from the effort to promote health by simply avoiding sickness. In this context, one may view the lack of health at five levels:
Death or dying (Rosch, n.d.).
While we would normally tend to view these as progressive and more severe stages of illness, they might be accorded equal weight on a holistic scale which measures total health. Another distinction that follows from the above is the difference between normal and average. Most of our recognition of disease is based upon an observation of an abnormal finding. There is little question that such a deviation suggests illness, but it is an error to assume automatically that a normal finding implies health. Normal values are generally determined from surveys of Americans presumed to be healthy. Many of them, however, are afflicted with hypertension, ulcers, arthritis, or obesity, or have habits that are anything but healthy. What is required is a concept of optimal health; that is, the best achievable state of total wellness for a given individual (Rosch, n.d.).
Even though our modern health care system is dominated by drug orientated orthodox medicine, there are an increasing number of people who are seeking safer and more holistic alternatives. There are many reasons for this increase in the popularity of the various forms of alternative or holistic medicine, but most if not all of these are rooted in the failings of orthodox medicine (Holistic Medicine or Reductionism, n.d.).
As holistic medicine is enjoying an increase in popularity, there is still considerable resistance to this form of medicine in many sections of the medical community. It is necessary, in order to establish the need for change to the current orthodox medicine-based healing system, to examine the weaknesses or failings of orthodox medicine and explore the reasons why these failings have happened. It is important to realize that this fault finding process is made necessary for two reasons. First, those members of our current health care system that are resistant to change should be made more aware of the shortcomings of orthodox medicine and the advantages of holistic medicine. Second, there is a perception within the medical community that orthodox medical practitioners may utilize holistic therapies within the context of their current reductionist, interventionist, and symptomatic approach to the treatment of disease. Some doctors seek to utilize holistic therapies while rejecting the underlying holistic philosophy. It is vitally important that the reasons why this is not feasible are clearly established (Holistic Medicine or Reductionism, n.d.).
In order to fully understand the reasons for the various strengths and weaknesses of those forms of healing which comprise our current health care system, both orthodox medicine and holistic medicine, it is necessary to consider the implications and limitations of the philosophies which form the basis of these two systems. Practitioners of holistic medicine, who base their practice on the philosophy of holism, strive to attain a condition of optimum health and believe that the cause of ill health begins with our environment and the fundamental nutritional building blocks of which we are comprised and upon which our every function depends. Practitioners of orthodox medicine, who base their practice on the philosophy of reductionism, aim not to attain a condition of optimum health, a concept in which they do not believe, but rather they aim merely to eliminate symptoms of specific diseases. This is done predominantly by the use of symptom suppressing drugs and by the surgical removal or replacement of diseased tissues or organs. Whereas holism is fundamentally supportive, cause based, and preventative, reductionism is primarily interventionist and symptomatic, and plays little or no role in prevention (Holistic Medicine or Reductionism, n.d.).
It has been said that a paradigm shift is occurring in our health care system as alternative medicine begins to compete with orthodox medicine to become the dominant paradigm. Although it has been suggested that nutritional therapy and environmental medicine is now part of orthodox medicine and in spite of the increasing grass roots support for alternative medicine, there is an enormous gap to bridge before orthodox medicine would be in fear of losing its dominance. Since those that practice orthodox medicine do not appear to be any closer to abandoning their reductionist interventionist approach than they were 2 or 3 decades ago, it would appear that there is more likely to be integration or takeover rather than a paradigm shift. This newly emerging medicine has been called integrative medicine. Integrative medicine can only be regarded as a desirable and positive change insofar as it establishes and consolidates a genuine respect for the principles of holism and an appreciation of the whole truth (Holistic Medicine or Reductionism, n.d.).
While this upsurge in the popularity of alternative medicine is consumer driven, largely as a result of the hazardous and ineffective nature of orthodox medicine there are those who claim that the alternative health movement is an ideological movement which is part of post modernism and globalization. Due to the fact that evidence-based medicine would normally be considered to be firmly based upon modern scientific concepts it seems there is little scientific basis for many practices which are utilized by orthodox medicine, while conversely, the practice of alternative medicine is not without some scientific support. If orthodox medicine is not based upon science, clearly, the move towards alternative medicine can hardly represent an abandonment of modern scientific methods (Holistic Medicine or Reductionism, n.d.).
Holistic medicine, being a grass roots movement which has long struggled to survive against continuing condemnation from academics and orthodox medicine is exactly the opposite of post modernism which was born in the halls of academia. The determination with which mainstream medicine and science has sought to persecute and discredit alternative medicine is such that resort has been given to the use of fraudulent studies and violent gun toting type raids of the premises of a qualified medical doctor who utilized nutritional therapy. This type of hounding and deregistration of nutritionally oriented doctors is still continuing in the United States, Canada, and the UK. Although globalism and interdependence are fundamental aspects of post modernism, this is exactly the opposite of holistic medicine which is rooted in self-empowerment and self sufficiency (Holistic Medicine or Reductionism, n.d.).
The importance of understanding the underlying philosophical concepts can be highlighted by the inability of modern medicine to explain the effectiveness of therapies such as acupuncture from a scientific viewpoint, a fact which is still a source of concern for orthodox medicine. When science does uncover proof of the existence of the mysterious meridians upon which acupuncture is based, publication of this research in medical journals is likely to be concealed. Orthodox medicine on the other hand remains determined not to accept the philosophy upon which acupuncture is based. The determination with which modern medicine seeks to preserve its current reductionist paradigm is undoubtedly the single greatest obstruction to positive change and any genuine integration with alternative medicine (Holistic Medicine or Reductionism, n.d.).
Many medical authorities still refuse to openly admit the shortcomings of modern medicine perhaps even claiming that orthodox medicine has proved to be effective in that most Americans are healthier than ever before. Any suggestion however, that the effectiveness of modern medicine is such that fundamental change is unnecessary is simply inconsistent with the facts (Holistic Medicine or Reductionism, n.d.).
Denial of the inadequacies of medicine is a very significant problem which permeates through all levels of our modern health care system. In one recent study it was determined that the refusal to publish negative results has caused up to 80,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. Since most research money comes from the chemical and drug companies, it is hardly surprising that medical literature is characterized by a scarcity of articles which report negative findings (Holistic Medicine or Reductionism, n.d.).
Although we are plagued with diseases and all the major Western diseases are becoming more prevalent, many medical practitioners remain puzzled by the popularity of alternative medicine. In any other field of human endeavor this would be described as denial and certainly not the way to move forward. With so much evidence available regarding the shortcomings of medicine, the first step, should simply be a matter of collective medical conscience. This being a undoubtedly an in depth soul searching enquiry into the reasons for this failure of modern medicine. Instead of this we have a situation where medical journals refuse to publish reports which may shed light on the shortcomings of medicine and many in the profession still pretend that change is unnecessary. It should be known that the movement towards alternative medicine within the medical profession has been initiated, not by the medical hierarchy, but rather by general practitioners. General practitioners have responded to their patient's awareness of the advantages of alternative medicine and have therefore begun to incorporate such treatments into their practices on the basis of their safety and clinical effectiveness. Medical…[continue]
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