During my years in university, we were taught to idealize (and idolize) Western medicine as the ultimate, unfailing solution to any and all problems. But after observing different situations, both during the period when I worked in a hospital and in my own life and the life of my dear ones, I suffered a grave disappointment when I noticed the many shortcomings of modern medicine, such as:
* Unwillingness to recognize anything that isn't going strictly by the book as a possible variation of normal, even if life presents such situations again and again.
* Inability to provide real solutions to a variety of problems, yet looking with contempt at other, "alternative" methods of treatment.
* Ignoring everything – any tendency, remedy or treatment - that hasn't been tested and proven by extensive scientific research. This, while failing to notice that research findings seem to change every few years, and also that most researches are funded by someone, which is why many of them aren't exactly neutral in their leanings.
* Too little focus on the individual patient; too much on the symptoms – and system.
* Routine treatments which aren't carried out for the benefit of the patient, but rather for convenience, yet the patients don't know it to be so.
The last point is something I had to face while giving birth. I was progressing slowly but normally, and was in absolutely no distress or danger. Yet I was offered pitocin to induce a faster onset of labor, while being told I "cannot occupy a delivery room for too long". Yes, I was offered something potentially harmful for myself and my baby, out of pure convenience. It still makes me angry every time I think about it.
There is also a lot of scare-mongering done to patients to prevent them from thinking independently and reaching informed decisions. For example, when I refused the aforementioned induction, I was told I'm taking a risk because I'm "late" (according to the highly imprecise weeks count). When I pointed out that according to my first ultrasound, my due date is today, what I said was brushed aside. I was so happy I still had enough self-confidence to just grab my belongings and flee; I had a natural, uninterrupted birth 12 hours later.
Many of the current medical guidelines are based on epidemiological studies, and therefore are focusing on the system instead of the individual patient. I think routine child immunizations are a good example of this. Take the immunizations given to all newborns while still in the hospital. Why would it be good for our child to be vaccinated so early? As much as we tried to get a coherent reply from the medical staff, we didn't get any. Our suspicion was that vaccinating newborns is done simply to make sure everyone does it – which is much easier to do while babies are in the hospital. Might be good for the system, but for the individual child? I'm not so sure.
I'm writing all this not in order to start a doctors-bashing discussion. Thank God for doctors, for modern medicine, for hospitals and for medical treatments which save lives every day. However I still believe that there are many areas where the advice of health professionals is seriously lacking. I believe it isn't rude, or reckless, or arrogant to practice independent thinking and reach independent decisions. It's your right and responsibility and no one can take that away from you.