The Great Debate: Complementary Healing I
Over the past several decades, more and more people have become dissatisfied with traditional western medicine, particularly the way it is practiced is the U.S.A. There are many reasons for this. For one thing, while technologically marvelous, western medicine has become more and more cold, impersonal, and lacking in compassion. We demand of our physicians rigid standardized training, testing, certification, and continuing medical education. This is good but it does cause our medical care community to focus even more on technology and less on relationships. In other words, we tend to standardize care so much that we begin to standardize patients, too!
Another problem is that we as a society have come to believe (and to insist) that medical care is a right that should be provided to us by our employer, our government, or some other third party payer. In doing so, we have abrogated our responsibility to pay for our care and transferred it instead to these third parties. As the payers, these third parties have naturally insisted on becoming involved in deciding who gets what care and how much. This has been emphasized even more in the HMO system of managed care.
"Managed Care" is a euphemism for "Rationed Care." It is important to realize that medical care (and everything else) has always been rationed. In the past it was rationed based on one's ability to pay. The wealthy could afford the best care: the most noted physicians, the very latest technology, private hospital rooms (or suites), and every comfort that money could buy. The hard working middle class bought medical insurance that provided quality, experienced physicians, up-to-date technology, semi-private hospital rooms, and a modicum of comfort. The poor were served in city or county teaching hospitals and were cared for by physicians-in-training, who were supervised by volunteers from the pool of physicians who cared for the first two groups. The poor patients were housed in multi-bed wards, given barely adequate technology and no extra comforts whatsoever.
Under managed care, medical care is rationed in a new way, called capitation. Physicians are not paid for the work that they do but rather are allotted a fixed amount per month for each patient that they accept. This system is based on the assumption that we are all "entitled" to equal care. Therefore the resources are spread equally among all groups and the quality of care has in many cases settled out in the mediocre range. Often an adversarial system has been created between patients and physicians on one side and the HMO on the other. In some cases there is even conflict between patients who are trying to get the care they want and physicians who are being allowed only certain fixed funds per patient, regardless of the care they require.
Twenty-five years ago, when I practiced in Hawaii, there was time to chat with each patient, to inquire about their families, and to share a story or a laugh or two. Patients often brought small gifts and they paid their bills willingly. Now, I barely have time to discuss the key points of a patient's illness and treatment before moving on to the next patient. Many people feel that even their small insurance co-pay is too much. With all these changes in our health care system, it is little wonder that people on all sides are becoming disenchanted. More and more insurance companies are quitting the medical care field. More and more physicians are retiring early or changing careers. More and more patients are turning to other types of healing.
In the midst of this trend, I believe it is important to remember what incredible advances western medicine has given us. We take these so much for granted now that we forget that a scant hundred years ago people routinely died from diseases that incapacitate us only briefly today. My own grandfather died at the age of 21 from pneumonia because there were as yet no antibiotics. Every year as children my friends and I feared the onslaught of poliomyelitis ("polio") and knew that some of us would spend the rest of our lives paralyzed, lying in a long tube called an "iron lung" that would breathe for us until we died. It is only in this century that diabetics could live long enough to bear children. The list of worn out body parts that can be replaced with modern surgical techniques is astounding and growing every year. Surgery itself is now often done on an out-patient basis, long debilitating hospital stays being a thing of the past.
What can we do to restore medical care in America to the best in the world? As one trained (and experienced in teaching) both western medicine and Hawaiian spiritual healing techniques, perhaps I have a perspective that might be helpful. I believe there are two issues. First, as long as we choose to emphasize ever newer technology and medications, we shall have to find the money to pay for them. No one knows where this money is to be found. My own belief is that it can only be found if we each, as individuals, begin to once again accept responsibility for our own lives and choose to pay more for high quality medical insurance. In other words, we each need to perceive the value in medical care and be willing to pay for it.
Second, we need to understand that complementary healing methods can often reduce (and in some cases, eliminate) our need for the expensive technological medicine on which we have come to rely. We can all benefit greatly from exploring such methods. Many physicians are coming to realize this, as is society in general. In the January, 2001 issue of Honolulu Magazine there appeared an article entitled, "Putting a Price on Mana," which discussed preliminary attempts to include some traditional Hawaiian healing methods in a mainstream western medical clinic in Waimanalo. In the January Action Report of the California Medical Board, there was a notice stating that a new law in California mandates the board to investigate "alternative" healing methods and to incorporate those that are effective into its scope of operations.
A couple of months ago, I logged on to this Aloha International web site to see the update. I noticed a phrase on the home page that I hadn't seen before. It said, "Aloha International - the most alternative healing resource in the world." I asked Serge if this was new. He told me that it had been on the site for some time but in a less prominent place. I suggested that the word "alternative" might be replaced with the word "complementary" because to me the term "alternative healing" implies that one must choose one method over another while the term "complementary healing" suggests that various methods or systems can be used together. Serge replied by saying that to him "complementary" implied that one method was better than the other. To me, it doesn't say that at all. As I pointed out to Serge, good wine complements good food and good food complements good wine. There is nothing in that sentence that suggests the food is more important than the wine or vice versa. He must have considered what I said because the phrase now reads, "Aloha International - the most alternative and complementary healing resource in the world."
From the Huna point of view, this distinction is important. For any readers who may be new to the Aloha International web site and to the study of Huna in general, the wisdom is based on seven principles and four realities, which are explained on the "Info and Articles" page. For our current discussion, the Seventh Principle applies. "Effectiveness is the measure of truth." In other words, use what works!
Western medicine excels in physical reality, which is the realm of separation. It tends to ignore the other three realities, in which many complementary healing methods excel. Genuine healing can be achieved only when all four levels are addressed. Therefore, combining the physical technology of western medicine with the emotional, mental, and spiritual technologies of other systems makes for optimally effective healing. I'll give you some examples in my next article. Aloha ame malu.
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Copyright by Aloha International 2001