Articles by JCS

Is God Dead in Medicine?

                                                                                                  

 

Word count: 3207

Is God Dead in Medicine?

Despite the high-tech image and expense of medical care, surprisingly, Americans are not getting much bang for their dollars with the medical methods of healthcare based primarily on drugs and surgery. After a century of touting the American brand of “scientific medicine” as the “best healthcare system on earth,” this notion is now seen as a hoax.

This house of cards is ready to fall from within even if Congress ignores the wobbling medical pedestal as it did during the past Obamacare debate.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, health adviser to President Obama, also addressed the question whether or not America has the best health care in the world, a mistaken belief held by many people:

“Let’s bury this one once and for all. The United States is No. 1 in only one sense: the amount we shell out for health care. We have the most expensive system in the world per capita, but we lag behind many developed countries on virtually every health statistic you can name.” [1]

America may have the most ‘high-tech’ gadgets, but apparently that has not translated into the best results in healthcare. In 2000, the World Health Organization revealed our national health stats were shocking: America ranked 37th out of 191 countries of the world in overall health care delivery systems, 72nd in overall population health, but number one in overall costs.[2]

Americans take more drugs than any society in the history of the world, yet the U.S. has the worst statistics among the advanced nations of the world in every category of chronic degenerative disease according to the Commonwealth Fund Scorecard, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally.”[3]

According to its Scorecard, the U.S. ranks last of 11 nations overall while being the most expensive. Among the 11 nations studied in this report—Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the U.S. ranks last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity. The United Kingdom ranks first, followed closely by Switzerland.[4]

Although last in terms of the quality of medical care, the U.S. was first in cost, spending $8,233 on health per person in 2010. Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland are the next highest spenders, but in the same year, they all spent at least $3,000 less per person. The average spending on health care among the other 33 developed countries was $3,268 per person.[5]

To give you a personal perspective of this huge amount spent on healthcare in America, the lifetime expenditure for healthcare per person in 2015 dollars in America now averages $419,929; for men specifically is $356,396 and for women alone is $479,085.[6] Now you understand why your health insurance costs so much considering this lifetime cost is equivalent to every American buying an up-scale home.

Obviously that’s not much bang for our medical buck, but that’s the train wreck we have experienced with the AMA control of healthcare. Combined with its complicit newsmen telling viewers that “we have the best healthcare system in the world,” Americans have become numb to expect there may be better way to manage healthcare, such as in many European and Scandinavian countries.

Just as Americans learned there were better ways to build automobiles than the gas-guzzling cars from Detroit, today many Americans are taking health holidays to foreign countries or, for that matter, to chiropractic offices for spine-related disorders. Unfortunately, too many Americans are strapped into the medical drug/surgical model of healthcare by their pricy insurance policies.

The lack of actual scientific proof in mainstream medical care is not a new issue considering many experts have mentioned this issue, including the father of evidence-based healthcare, David Eddy, MD. In a 2006 article, “Medical Guesswork,” published in Business Week,[7] Eddy stated only 15 percent of medicine is based on evidence while more optimistic ethicists claim no more than 25 percent of medical care is based on actual science, suggesting as much as 75 percent of medical care is baseless.

Considering the editors of the British Medical Journal, in their commentary, “Nuts, Bolts, and Tiny Little Screws: How Clinical Evidence Works,”[8] insist two-thirds of medicine is either ineffective, unproven, or too dangerous to use, that doesn’t leave much to brag about for the medical professionals.

The Washington Post also reported on the startling BMJ review, “Surprise! We don’t know if half our medical treatments work,” by Sarah Kliff.[9] Although this exposé was shocking and should have gone viral, no other lay publication picked up on this medical malfeasance.

This shocking revelation is particularly true for medical spine care treatments. When disgruntled patients leave the medical professionals and come to chiropractors as the proverbial ‘last resort,’ like a religious conversion this is a ‘leap of faith’ for them and a unique situation for chiropractors to observe.

This is a slippery slope for the medical profession that cannot justify or sustain its boycott of chiropractic care in light of the growing evidence supporting the paradigm shift in spine care. Just as the public and media have pushed back against other forms of prejudice, the next major push back will be against the medical discrimination against chiropractors and all CAM providers.

In the pursuit of better health, chiropractic has made a huge and important impact upon healthcare in this country, yet this revelation has remained off the radar in the public media since chiropractors cannot buy ink by the barrel to tell their story.

School of Hard Knocks

Recent news articles now reveal that it may actually be tougher being an MD than people realize. To the average working class American, it’s hard to imagine being a member of the “most terrifying trade association on earth” with the highest average salary is a bummer, but there’s more to a job than money!

Just consider the dues these MDs must pay to become a member of their exclusive monopoly—four years of arduous undergraduate work, the competition to be accepted to and surviving medical school, and then the long hours (80 hours/week) as a hospital resident before allowed into private practice, if they can afford the overhead and student loan payments, that is.

Their problems don’t end there since private practices are shrinking as hospitals buy up these practices to enlarge their local monopoly. Plus, these dedicated and overworked MDs then face their patients—the sickly, the dying, and the infirmed cases with only ‘wonder drugs’ that haven’t proven to be so wonderful.

Without question, there is a ‘reality shock’ for many naïve medical students when they finally enter their profession. The downside of medical practice was revealed in a jobs comparison study that ranked “general physician” at #45 and “surgeon” at #51. To the surprise of many, chiropractors ranked #11.[10] I can only imagine how high DCs would rank if the medical defamation and boycott had never occurred considering back pain is the #1 disabling condition in the nation.

Perhaps even more alarming is that suicide is the most common cause of death among medical students after accidents. A shocking article appeared in Op-Ed section of The New York Times, “Why Do Doctors Commit Suicide?”[11]

Dr. Pranay Sinha revealed:

“The statistics on physician suicide are frightening: Physicians are more than twice as likely to kill themselves as non-physicians (and female physicians three times more likely than their male counterparts). Some 400 doctors commit suicide every year. Young physicians at the beginning of their training are particularly vulnerable: In a recent study, 9.4 percent of fourth-year medical students and interns—as first-year residents are called—reported having suicidal thoughts in the previous two weeks.”

The stress from working in the guesswork of an inefficient medical profession may explain why 69 percent of the physicians had misused prescription drugs sometime in the past” according to an article in Medscape, “Why MDs Abuse Prescription Drugs.”[12]

Another article in Medscape, “Physician Earnings: Income Is Up, Morale Is Split,[13] revealed a 2013 survey that found despite an increase in earnings, there has been a steady decline in overall satisfaction with the field of medicine with a bare majority (51 percent) of physicians who would still choose medicine as a career. Only 42 percent of doctors would choose the same specialty again, down from 61 percent two years ago.

Inexplicably, a Medscape survey found only one-third (32%) of orthopedists who are self-employed feel they were fairly compensated, which means two-thirds of them are not satisfied. Whether their income falls anywhere in the average range of $421,000 to $806,000, depending upon who’s counting, most people would be very satisfied making $35,000 to $67,000 a month.[14]

It is difficult to understand how life on top of the medical pedestal is so shaky for so many orthopedic physicians and spine surgeons. Perhaps their motivation is the problem. Instead of ‘serving for the sake of serving,’ the notion many chiropractors have embraced, apparently orthopedists find little comfort in money alone.

Dr. Verghese is absolutely correct that American medical care cannot continue to “do it this way”—whether burnout, drug abuse, dissatisfaction, or using ‘guesswork’ treatments. Not only do MDs see the poor outcomes of their inefficient spine care methods, it must be demoralizing for them to know they have misled patients about spine care when they witness the wake of disability they’ve left behind with spine fusions and opioid addictions.

Is God Dead in Medicine?

Obviously there is a lot of stress in medical school and practice, so where do these troubled medical souls turn for help to stay positive, keep the faith, and remain healthy themselves? Apparently even a lot of money and access to plenty of drugs is not enough to keep the majority of MDs fulfilled, and another rude awakening occurs when medical students learn they are entering a profession where most of their colleagues are atheists.

While this accusation may come as a shock, as many as 60 percent of doctors and scientists are atheists according to the unnerving admission by undoubtedly the most powerful voice in medicine, Francis R. Collins, MD, presently the Director of the National Institutes of Health, author of the New York Times bestseller "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," and the former head of the Human Genome Project. Indeed, when Dr. Collins speaks, people listen.

In his essay, “We Need Two Kinds of Truth: Why I Don't Want Science or Religion to Win,”[15] Dr. Collins admits only 40 percent of MDs are believers in God:

“Surveys I have seen indicate about 40 percent of scientists believe in a God to whom one may pray in expectation of an answer.  That’s not a god who went off after creating a universe and did something else.  That’s a god who is interested in human beings.  Forty percent would adhere to that statement. 

“The numbers are smaller when you ask members of the National Academy of Sciences and there are various reasons people have proposed why so-called, ‘elite’ scientists have an even lower proportion of believers…based on the fact that the pronouncements that they hear coming from scientists are usually more in the skeptical or even the atheistic perspective.”

He is definitely treading in troubling waters to call out the elite atheists in his profession, and it must be terribly disconcerting for those MDs who believe in God to work in a medical environment dominated by atheists. Imagine the spiritual conflict of someone in medicine who is chided by his own clan members for simply believing in religion. Apparently freedom of religion exists everywhere except in medicine.  

Dr. Collins spoke of his experience in medical school when the prevailing academic dogma to be strictly scientific ridiculed any supernatural belief in the God factor in the healing process. Indeed, if you were really smart, students were told, “you cannot believe in God.”

He addressed this conflict between vitalism and medical science when he said for many in medicine “faith can be seen as an enemy”:

Scientists believe in that they are very troubled by a suggestion that other kinds of approaches can be taken to derive truth about nature.  And some I think have seen faith as therefore a threat to the scientific method and therefore it to be resisted.  

“I think for many scientists, particularly for those who have seen the shrill pronouncements from extreme views that threaten what they’re doing scientifically and feel therefore they can’t really include those thoughts into their own worldview, faith can be seen as an enemy.  

“And similarly, on the other side, some of my scientific colleagues who are of an atheist persuasion are sometimes using science as a club over the head of believers basically suggesting that anything that can’t be reduced to a scientific question isn’t important and just represents superstition that should be gotten rid of.  

“Part of the problem is, I think, the extremists have occupied the stage.  Those voices are the ones we hear.  I think most people are actually kind of comfortable with the idea that science is a reliable way to learn about nature, but it’s not the whole story and there’s a place also for religion, for faith, for theology, for philosophy.  But that harmony perspective does not get as much attention, nobody’s as interested in harmony as they are in conflict, I’m afraid.” [16] 

It is disturbing to think the majority of medical doctors are atheists who scoff at the God factor in health. Surprisingly, the original Medical Mussolini himself, Morris Fishbein, reportedly spoke of the God factor in the healing process.

“Never must the physician say, ‘the disease is incurable.’ By that admission he denies God, our Creator; he doubts Nature with her profuseness of hidden powers and mysteries.”[17]

Trust Me, I’m an Atheist

While being a professed atheist may be commonplace among medical scientists, academicians, and in the profession, that may not play well on Main Street in the ‘trust factor’ between patients and doctors. How many God-fearing patients would trust their MDs if they knew they were atheists? Ironically, their denial of an innate bio-energy in the body appears to be their own folly as healers.

Certainly the medical situation is in dire straits with ineffective, dangerous treatments; a roomful of sick and terminally ill patients living on a litany of meds and painkillers; a medical profession headed mostly by atheists; a dwindling monopoly due to Obamacare regulations; and now a dream job that has become a personal nightmare with suicide, drug addiction, and job frustration among spine doctors who make $35,000 to $67,000 each month.

This may also not play well among many MDs, too.

This atheistic attitude in the medical profession is a relatively new position considering the vitality within the body to heal was coined by the early medical profession as the Vis Medicatrix Naturae—the healing power of nature.[18]

Hippocrates considered a doctor’s chief aim was to help this natural tendency of the body by observing its action, removing obstacles to its action, and thus allow an organism to recover its own health. From this follows his belief that “nature is the best physician.”[19]

The medical atheists today believe they are replacing the superstitions of the past with scientific beliefs and treatments. In an attempt to appear scientific, modern medical practitioners cloak themselves in scientism dogma with a total disdain for vitalism or the emotional aspects of faith, love, and hope in the healing process. Ironically, modern medicine has lost its soul by embracing an atheistic attitude.

The reliance exclusively upon so-called ‘scientific medicine’ (which by now must be considered an oxymoron considering America’s pitiful health statistics[20] and ineffective treatments[21]) rejects Dr. Collins’ premise that both science and religion matter.

Numerous studies suggest prayer, the ‘placebo effect’, and autosuggestion do help in the healing process for some patients.[22] Even in chiropractic, Mike Schneider, DC, PhD, has shown the placebo effect in his comparative study between classic chiropractic adjustments, Activator, and standard medical care. Yet how many instrument practitioners will admit their method may prove nothing more than the placebo effect as Dr. Schneider found?

Is God Unnecessary?

This medical atheism was undoubtedly encouraged by Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, who once wrote, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.”[23]

Outwardly it’s hard to disagree with arguably the smartest man in the world, but I daresay atheists in healthcare are just in the wrong science. They need to find another niche in non-vital sciences such as physics or engineering where there are no life and health issues at stake. Inexplicably, atheists in medicine have taken the “bio” out of biology!

If we are to follow Hawking’s belief in almighty science, medical advocates must admit according to his definition that their profession, rather ironically, more closely resembles religion than science:

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

Robert Mendelsohn, MD, illustrated in his book, “Confessions of a Medical Heretic,” how science often takes a back seat to medical dogma in the Church of Modern Medicine. Certainly we see how medical dogma in spine care has stopped progress.

For example, research has shown it takes 15 years for a new treatment to be incorporated into mainstream medical practice and, more shocking, it takes 44 years for a method proven to be ineffective, dangerous, or outmoded to be removed from practices.[24] Obviously it appears dogma supersedes scientific advancement in medicine, especially if it makes a lot of money as we see in spine care.

Richard Deyo, MD, MPH, put this problem in proper profit perspective when he wrote, “More people are interested in getting on the gravy train than on stopping the gravy train.” [25]

Certainly the observations of numerous spine experts—Nachemson, Haldeman, Bigos, Deyo, Chou, Wiesel, Schoene, Manga, to name but a few notables—agree the emerging science points to a paradigm shift to conservative care that has occurred over the past twenty-five years, but has yet to materialize in mainstream medical spine care.

If medical scientists follow the wisdom of Stephen Hawking, they cannot ignore that he also wrote, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Indeed, the “illusion of knowledge” in spine care is best exemplified by opioid painkillers, epidural steroid injections, and disc fusions that have been debunked as placebo, disproven, and mostly ineffective, yet this medical dogma stays very much alive.

The bottleneck to progress to spine care today is not the lack of emerging evidence based on “observation and reason”, but the biggest illusion to overcome now is the cultural authority in the medical spine care based on outdated methods, the profit motive, and a profession built on cynicism and greed rather than hope, love, and charity.

Indeed, a positive attitude helps to maintain hope no matter what circumstance, a lesson embraced by positive thinkers around the world. To exclude such metaphysical power is to ignore the innate ability of the body to ultimately heal itself as well as to maintain a happy and healthy personal life among practitioners, but I’ll let Hippocrates and Dr. Collins argue that issue with curmudgeons who wish to quarrel.

 



[1] Ezekiel Emanuel and Shannon Brownlee, “Myths About Our Ailing Health-Care System,” Washington Post, (November 23, 2008): B03.

[2] WHO: The World Health Report 2000—Health systems: Improving performance. June 21, 2000. 

[3] http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2014/jun/mirror-mirror

[4] Jason Kane, Health Costs: How the U.S. Compares With Other Countries, PBS NEWHOUR, October 22, 2012

[5] Jason Kane, Health Costs: How the U.S. Compares With Other Countries, PBS NEWHOUR, October 22, 2012

[6] Berhanu Alemayehu and Kenneth E Warner, The Lifetime Distribution of Health Care Costs, Health Serv Res. 2004 Jun; 39(3): 627–642.

[7] John Carey, “Medical Guesswork,” BusinessWeek online, MAY 29, 2006

[8] http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/set/static/cms/nuts-and-bolts.html

[9] “Surprise! We don’t know if half our medical treatments work” by Sarah Kliff, The Washington Post, January 24, 2013

[10] Joe Light, “The Best and Worst Jobs,” The Wall Street Journal, (January 4, 2011)

[11] Pranay Sinha, Why Do Doctors Commit Suicide? The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor, New York Times, Sept. 4, 2014

[12] Deborah Brauser, Why MDs Abuse Prescription Drugs, Medscape Medical News, December 09, 2013

[13] Mark Crane, Physician Earnings: Income Is Up, Morale Is Split, Medscape News, April 25, 2013

[14] Carol Peckham, Medscape Orthopedist Compensation Report 2015, Medscape.com, April 21, 2015

[15] Francis Collins, We Need Two Kinds of Truth: Why I Don't Want Science or Religion to Win, http://bigthink.com/in-their-own-words/we-need-two-kinds-of-truth-why-i-dont-want-science-or-religion-to-win

[16] Interviewed by David Hirschman, Recorded September 13, 2010, BigThink.com

[17] http://thinkexist.com/quotes/morris_fishbein/

[18] Ibid. p. 493.

[19] Neuburger, M. (1944) "An Historical Survey of the Concept of Nature from a Medical Viewpoint" Isis 35 (1): 16–28

[20] http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2014/jun/mirror-mirror

[21] http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/set/static/cms/nuts-and-bolts.html

[22] Mark Herringshaw, For Prayer Skeptics: Studies that Show the Health Benefits of Prayer,  http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/prayerplainandsimple/2009/10/for-prayer-skeptics-studies-that-show-the-health-benefits-of-prayer.html#MPjUzQeoQ5RjY0Me.99

[23] Stephen W. Hawking, Der Spiegel, 1989

[24] Refuting Ineffective Treatments Takes Years, The BACKLetter® 101  23/9 (2008)

[25] Reed Abelson, Financial Ties Are Cited as Issue in Spine Study, NY Times, January 30, 2008


Website Builder