Thursday, June 4, 2009

Modern medicine and its shortcomings

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.


L Fabjanska said...

I didn't know this until this week, but ten vaccines are made from the parts of aborted fetuses. There are three that have no pro-life alternative: chickenpox, hepatitis A, and rubella vaccines.

Heather said...

I agree with most of your points except for vaccinations. They are life saving and they help to prevent the spread of disease. Where I live there has been a large uprising of people who are refusing to vaccinate there children, and while they is there choice I don't believe that it is the correct one. Because of this many more children are getting sick and some have died. To me when a child dies of a disease that could be prevented it is a crime.

God Bless

Bethany Hudson said...

I know what you're saying, Anna, and have said it myself before. It puts me in mind of your post from the other day that I did not have the time to comment on. Sophia has been "off the charts" on the light side for a year now. At 22 months, she is the size of the average 12 month old. But very healthily and proportionately so. Our doctor is not an MD but a PhD in Child Development and and ARNP. After running a blood panel for liver or metabolic disorders when Sophia was 9 months old, she was satisfied that our little girl is merely small but perfectly healthy. Interestingly, I checked my baby book from the mid- 1980s, and Sophia is exactly the same size I was--and I measured in the 30th percentile then! I guess they just make 'em bigger these days.

Anonymous said...

I was discussing this very same issue with my mom just the other day. I go to a public university, and in my opinion, the doctors there vastly overprescribe ADD meds. In my dorm alone, many of the students I know would use either aderall XR or vyvanse to study for long periods of time. Did the drugs help get work done? Yes. Did they make it seem like fun to do the work? Yes. In my opinion though, while the drugs are surely needed by people with severe ADD symptoms, I don't think there's any way that all of student prescribed them actually have ADD. Just given the fact that the medicine is an amphetamine makes me think that it's very unhealthy, especially when I hear from students that vyvanse basically feels like time released cocaine. Sorry to go a little off topic, your post just got me thinking about how a growing number of students are using these medications for an easier way to better grades, and doctors are willing to prescribe them to almost anyone who complains of issues with focusing.


Mrs. Anna T said...


Please note that my post was not against vaccinations in general, I merely expressed my doubts about the necessity of vaccinations so early in life. No doubt it's convenient to vaccinate everyone in the hospital - less trouble. But I believe that for the individual child, it's better to wait a bit, especially if the child is at home like ours.


I'm shocked. This is simply outrageous.

Harper said...

Late American president Teddy Roosevelt is known for saying "speak softly and carry a big stick," and I think that phrase can be used to describe the premise of Western medicine. It works by clobbering problems with sledge hammers, rather than by working with natural processes and systems. Of course, I am grateful for the "big stick." Antibiotics can be lifesavers, as is chemo therapy and heart surgery. However, many more minor conditions require no such catastrophic intervention--just a little boost to what your body is already doing, or maybe just observation (as in the case of many births). The Chinese have a concept called wu wei, which roughly means "going with the flow." What you chose to do with Shira's birth was to chose wu wei over the establishment's big stick, and in your case that was a very good decision.

God created a marvelous thing when he made mankind, and man is very arrogant to assume that he is too frail to withstand the least discomfort without extensive medical intervention. God designed us to be fruitful and multiply, which means that we are sturdy enough to survive.

Harper said...

I would like to note about Rachel's comment that Adderal is a cocktail of amphetamines. In other words it is a street drug given a spiffy name. Most of the medications used for ADHD are habit forming and are not actually designed for ADHD. They were mostl originally intended as antipsychotics, and most can have very serious side effects. (You can look all this up on WebMD)

Of course they do well for many, many people, but they are strong enough that they should not be taken lightly.

Shannon said...

You are so right Anna. I have been the victim of conventional medicine, at one time taking over 10 different medications! Ridiculous! I am now seeking alternative health solutions and am taking charge of my health. Something we all need to do!

Kari said...

Modern medicine definitely has its limitations, but I'm thankful that we have access to health care whenever we need it, and that the cost does not directly come out of pocket (yes, we pay through our taxation system, but the hospital does not send us a bill). That being said, though, I deal with a chronic illness that is diagnosed by exclusion and therefore has no symptoms that a physician can "measure". This is very challenging, as the majority of the doctors I have come in contact with feel that if there is no test that can be taken, the illness does not exist. :) Also, I often like to know the "whys" behind what is recommended for treatment (especially during labour), and am often surprised that the explanations are either not very substantial or completely absent.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we know what REALLY causes endometriosis when so many women suffer from it? The standard treatment is to use lupron or hormonal birth control to "suppress" the spread of the disease. I dutifully followed all the standard treatments, but didn't feel any better. All the standard treatments do is sweep the problems under the rug.

Finally I found a doctor who is sneered at by some of his peers for being "unscientific," but who treats the disease by working with a woman's body instead of injecting hormones into his patients like they are dumb cows.

His treatment methods were very helpful for me. Thank God we found him.

Sometimes it is just a matter of doing some diligent shopping.

Mother By the River said...

First off, I enjoy reading your posts very much! Thank you for taking time out of your day to share your thoughts!

I completely agree with what you said - that we need to make educated decisions on what we do to ourselves and our children. In the end of the day you will be the one who has to live with whatever happens.

Good on you for running away from pitocin! It may have its place in certain situations but is definitely being used too often today! ..and is usually naturally followed by an epidural because of what it does to the labor pains.

Many government medical organizations agree with you that newborns are too young for immunizations. British Columbia, Canada only starts immunizations at two months.

Thank you again!

Michelle said...

We're experiencing this very thing with my 2 y.o. son - he has reactive airway (similar to asthma) so whenever he gets a cold, he always ends up in the hospital on steroids and neb. treatments every few hours. My husband and I feel like pawns; puppets on strings under the medical community and big pharma right now.
His meds alter his behavior and mess with his head - I'm finding it nearly impossible to discipline him biblically because the meds interfere with his absorption of the "lesson" - and then he gets upset, cries, and ends up in an asthmatic coughing fit.
Its my ultimate goal to get him OFF the meds, but all they seem to be doing is putting him on more which predicate the need for more meds to counteract the side-effects of the last one! Its ridiculous.
Thankfully a kind woman at our church is an acupuncturist as well as an expert in chinese herbs and she's working on him and with me to get him wholly better - he already seems better and less in need of the meds. BHS!

Thursday's Child said...

There are some truly wonderful doctors (and other medical personnel) out there I do not want to bash them in any way, but we do need to be highly cautious.

Case in point, we have some friends who were expecting their 2nd child. In her 4th month she was still having problems that she'd been going to the doctor with for a few months. They finally did an ultrasound and found the baby had died at 10 weeks.

It's incompetence like that that gives all the good ones out there such a hard reputation to overcome.

Rebekka said...

Sorry for the long comment, but as a nurse I agree with some of your points, only not the third. At all. Some alternative treatments like acupuncture have been shown to have effective but limited uses in a hospital setting (some anesthesiology and recovery-room nurses here use acupuncture instead of antiemetics to treat post-operative nausea, for example - in this case they are trained to place the acupuncture needles in the one spot to treat this, but are not acupuncturists as such).

The problem with embracing other methods of treatment that have not been scientifically verified is that doctors are legally and ethically responsible for treating their patients effectively and they need to be able to present a logical and reasoned argument for the treatment method they have chosen. They cannot do this if they do not have documentation for the treatment method. Unfortunately many forms of folk remedies and "alternative" treatments lack rigorous testing. In my experience doctors are not ignoring these forms of treatment so much as they consider them to be outside their area of expertise.

As a nurse we accept that patients may want to pursue nutritional therapy or acupressure or meditation and we recognise that these may have an effect on the patient's personal experience of wellness and health but because of the lack of documentation (not to mention that these forms of training are not an area of focus for medical or nursing training) it is not something we can provide as such. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is important to talk to patients about these things because they can have an effect on the conventional treatment, particularly nutritional supplements, and in my experience this is actually discussed during the admission process.

Also, I think that the emphasis and prestige placed on the medical profession can overshadow the work done by nurses, much of which actually can be seen as "alternative" - for example I would make sure that a patient with a tendency to nausea was sitting up, clean, had been helped to brush their teeth, and had the room aired before they eat instead of just giving them an antiemetic. This is standard nursing practice but there is little emphasis on these sorts of everyday activities and the temptation to think "they just give you a pill" is quite strong.

Even in the relatively short time I have been working in nursing I have experienced that they have changed guidelines for quite a few things because new research clarifies previously undocumented areas. Pharmaceutical research is often funded by pharmaceutical companies, but the controls on these projects are extremely rigorous, and in my experience that is a good thing (as history has shown). But a lot of other research has been initiated and completed by medical and other health professionals with a genuine interest in finding optimal solutions, for which they spend a lot of time applying for grants and other financial assistance which does not necessarily compromise their integrity. Whenever anyone is considering research findings it is important to take into account the methods used and that form of analysis should be part of any health professional's training. All research is not created equal. I think perhaps your perception of this is at least partly due to the fact that you are trained in nutrition, which is particularly changeable and controversial.

I agree with your comments about "routine" in the system, to the extent that this is a two-way street. The fact that the era when the doctor decides for the patient is on its way out puts an added burden of responsibility on both doctors and patients whereas before the responsibility was on doctors alone. Some patients are unwilling to take even partial responsibility for their treatment. It seems as if the practice of informed consent is not as strong in Israel as it is elsewhere.

motherofmany said...

I had always vaccinated my kids, but recently we have decided to stop altogether until more research is done. Too many kids are dying or are permanently damaged by vaccines, and you must sign a waiver when getting shots that says no one is at fault if it goes wrong. Even in light of numerous and independant studies that show not only a link between autism rates and vaccination, but also that the US is highest as far as developed countries and the death rates for children under 5. Coincidently, we have the highest vaccination requirements- double that of the majority of other countries.

I just finished a book by Jenny McCarthy who is I guess a celebrity here, as well as finding a link to the same study about death rates on her website. She had a son who went through this vaccination injury, and she has spent years trying to detox his body. Here's a link to the study:

Sorry- I will never believe the government is upfront about the risks vs. benefits in light of knowing the death and injury rates from vaccines have now SURPASSED the death rates from the actual diseases.

Anonymous said...

Love reading your blog. I agree with SO much of what you have just posted. As my late brother always said, "remember, doctors have a license to *practice* medicine, and they practice it on you".
Bless you and your family.


Alicia said...


I'm at a public university right now too, and what I think is equally sad is the extreme pressure and stress to obtain such good grades that make students seek out ADD medicine in the first place.

With regards to your post, Anna, I have a friend who will start studying for his PhD in health psychology next year, and he said one of the main problems with most doctors, primary care physicians in particular, is that once they start practicing, they are so busy seeing patients that they don't have time to keep up with the research on conditions or new drugs - and if they read anything at all, it's the pamphlets drug companies pass around, which of course are biased or just plain false.

My friend spends a lot of his time researching the way prescription drugs affect the body, and he's appalled at what manages to get government approval, and also at how many doctors just don't understand how different drugs affect the body, which is very detrimental to the patient, who is often misdiagnosed and mistreated and the cycle can continue for years.

Steph said...

I was addicted to adderall throughout high school and college. I didn't have ADD, nor was it prescribed to me; I just bought it off other people. I'd say 5% of the people I know that take adderall take it daily and moderately like you're supposed to do with a medicine - the rest keep a small stash and sell the excess.

CappuccinoLife said...

Good stuff, Anna.

We make some different choices. Full vaxes according to schedule, for instance. But that is a decision made for our particular family after weighing the risks and benefits carefully. IOW, thinking about it and not just "going with the flow". :)

We too have run into some strange stuff from supposed professionals. When a liscenced nutritionist told me my middle child was "borderline obese" according to the charts, I offered to lift his shirt and show the nutritionist the kid's ribs. You can count them all, front and back. He is sturdy and build like a football player. But fat, he is *not*. With the child in the room you'd think this professional person would have considered more than just numbers on a piece of paper. Quite honestly, I think the nutritionist was looking at *me* and projecting that onto my child. I am obese, therefore, I must be a bad mother and making my children fat.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

I think that sometimes doctors forget that patients know better than they do what their symptoms are. Doctors can sometimes be arrogant and forget that only the patient can describe the symptoms she has experienced at home or the pain or other feelings she is experiencing. Some doctors need to learn to listen to their patients better and respect what their patients are telling them. (There is a terrible hysteria of doctors dismissing women's complaints of pain as mere hysteria.)

On the other hand, I think patients should respect the fact that doctors usually know the medical science better. Not that the science is always perfect -- but I think there is a growing tendency to dismiss out of hand what the medical community has to say based on junk science. I think the anti-vaccine movement is part of that unfortunate tendency. I am not saying that patients should not exercise critical judgment, but we do need to accept that the doctors know more about the science than we do.

-- Pendragon

Chelsey said...

Anna, excellent thoughts! While modern medicine certainly has it's place, it is often overused and abused - especially when it comes to pregnant women, infants and children. With my first three pregnancies, I was induced with pitocin and had epidurals. With my fourth I ended up with a c-section, that looking back on now, most likely could have been avoided. I was told that although I was just fine to continue having children that they would all need to be taken by c-section from here on out. I was devastated, as my recovery and c-section experience was horrible. After MUCH research, our 5th child was born completely natural with the help of a midwife and was such an incredible experience. We are expecting number six any day now and this one too will, God willing, be a natural delivery as well.

While I am thankful for doctors, medical treatments and modern medicine, I wish there were more of a balance with alternative and natural methods and treatments!

flourishing olive branches said...

we chose not to vaccinate our children anymore after one was diagnosed with autism. while i can't prove without a doubt that the vaccination caused it, i find it very interesting that soon after the diagnosis, i couldn't get our pediatrician to return our calls, letters, and soon after the practice closed down, leaving us without a way to collect our own personal medical records. now, while i don't promote non-vaccinations, i do promote full awareness. and heather, its a fact that you can find anywhere if you look, that more kids die from vaccines than those that die of the particular diseases from which they could have been vaccinated against. call it a crime of you want, but i would never be able to live with myself if my child died from a poison that i chose to allow into their bodies, especially at such a young age. its also proven that vaccines do not necessarily prevent anything 100%. i had the chicken pox vaccine as a child. i also then got chicken pox. i then got shingles(adult form of chicken pox). yeah, AFTER the vaccine. and while i know that there are worse things than chicken pox(it wasn't that bad, at least for me) i have personally seen my happy vibrant sweet child, walk into the darkness of the aftermath of a dangerous poison put into her body--and when you have it happen to you, you'll know, without a doubt, what the real crime is.

flourishing olive branches said...

there's also a misconecption about kids not being vaccinated , more kids are not getting sick because of the fact that some choose not to vaccinate. those that are vaccinated supposedly cannot get the disease(supposedly), so the fact that my child isn't vaccinated, is not in any way posing a threat to someone's child who is, yet i know for example, schools ask you to sign a waiver(for the unvaccinated child) stating that if there is an outbreak amongst the school, that you are held responsible. in the hospital, after having children, they ask us to sign a waiver stating that we know and understand the risks of not vaccinating. i cross out their wording and re-write i understand the risks OF vaccinating and that's why i choose not to. if anyone can find me a dr., who is willing to put into writing that they can 100% guarantee that my child will not come to harm because of a vaccine, i would consider it. let's be real though, that will never happen, because it's impossible. every vaccine states that death is a possible result of the vaccine, among all of the other 'reactions'. no thanks!

Nancy Helen said...

"It's your right and responsibility and no one can take that away from you."

The government can.

Laree said...

My child is due any day now and we are having a home birth with a midwife. While I have received many interesting arguments for and against this, the loudest has been that our son will miss his vaccinations and thus I am putting him in danger. My opinion, which seems to agree with your post, is that since I am certain my son will not be picking up hepatitis, rubella or any of those other nasties in our home there is no reason to run right out and inject him full of chemicals to protect him. Some vaccinations may be necessary in life, but I don’t think in the moments after birth, while the immune system is still quite under developed, is the appropriate time.

Side note: Since when is chicken pox life threatening? It was annoying to itch for a week, but I know of no one who was harmed by it.

Anonymous said...

If it is the same as the US, the vaccine given at birth is Hep B. This is to protect a baby against Hep B if the mom is postive for it (so really a public health issue). We declined to get this vaccine for our daughter at birth and since it is for a blood-borne diease I talked with our pediatrician about it at a later office visit. The main reason it is given so young is the poor compliance for teenagers getting immunizations (again, this is US standards).

I would suggest, based on this and previous posts, that perhaps if you are able to find a doctor who is more supportive of your methods and beliefs it would be beneficial.

Nurse Bee

Laura said...

Mrs. Anna, my sister-in-law's attending OB at her delivery came right out and said that the ONLY reason they vaccinate in hospital is because it ensures that the vaccination WILL be done.

Your narrow-miss induction is why I'm looking into doula training. It is simply unthinkable that women would be treated the way they often are in labor and delivery.

Coffee Catholic said...

I find that the approach used by practitioners of modern medicine often get in the way of my healing. It is also oftentimes downright crule, cold, and merciless. Human beings are treated like specimens rather then living people with hearts and souls. While in the hands of modern medical care we're injured, harassed, tormented, abused, and mentally damaged without a second thought. We rarely have *healers* but more along the lines of cold, uncaring scientists that have some place else to be.

You were told you couldn't occupy a delivery room for too long. I was blamed for placing the lives of *other* laboring women in danger (when I begged for help) due to staffing shortages because there is not enough government money. It seems that these days modern medicine places too much of "the blame" on the patient's head from, "The only reason something's wrong is because you're fat" to "You're being an inconvenience and making everyone else unhappy!"

MarkyMark said...


I work with a couple of Indian guys, so they're familiar with both their traditional, natural healing techniques, and they also know of modern medicine and what it can & cannot do. Their approach is to try natural means first, then utilize modern means. IOW, the embrace both approaches, depending on the situation. I think that this holistic approach to health care is best, since each approach has its advantages.


J in VA said...

I agree with your post.

When my dd was born 10 yrs ago, our Ped told us that it is more effective to give the Hep B to young teens but makes better public health sense and saves dollars to vaccinate babies because they are already in the office getting other vaccines and it takes a smaller dose.

We decided to give our dd the vaccine much later as she was not at high risk for Hep B. He supported that decision. We moved and had to change MDs. The next Peds were much less supportive of that decision and were rude about it at each visit. Another move introduced yet another Ped group which were slightly supportive but still pushy. We did give the series when we were ready.

Jana said...

I very much appreciate your article in getting the information out to women and men who need to be informed about the medical community's disregard for individual norms. I had a great article sent to me about the disregard of scientific fact over efficiency in severing the umbilical cord:

And here is a great website that lets you know what vaccine lines are from aborted fetus':

I hope this is helpful. Thank-you again for your wonderful blog.

Nurse Bee said...

Regarding Laree's comment about chicken pox:

Chicken pox, while not usually life-threatening in children, is a much more serious illness if gotten as an adult. And if one has gotten chicken pox at any age, they are at risk for getting shingles, which can cause permanent nerve damage and/or blindness.

ROSIE said...

Although coming from Denmark, everything Rebekkah has said coming from a nurse's perspective applies to standards of nursing practice in the U.S. as well, and in the U.S., nurses and doctors unfortunately must jump through all kinds of hoops to protect themselves from malpractice litigation. Many of them respond by doing "bare minimums" and following "protocols" which are, alas, heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical companies.

Yet...before I became a nurse, I had been a master herbalist for fifteen years. I am also a practiced aromatherapist. I believe that there is a time and place for alternative treatments, and a time and place for allopathic (modern medical) treatments. I treat herbs with the same caution and respect as I do prescription pharmaceuticals. I know their chemical structures, active constituents, how they work in the body, and their drug interactions. Legally, I cannot recommend them to patients. However, it has helped me to intervene and rescue more than one patient from disastrous combinations.

Above all, I see each patient as a whole being who has a body, a mind, and a spirit. All of these components of one's being are in need of compassionate care to move from a state of dis-ease to one of health. Lifestyle changes are so important! Yet so many people have no idea which ones are appropirate to their condition. Practitioners have to whip patients through their offices in short amounts of time in order to break even financially, and people with conditions such as diabetes have no clue how to really take care of themselves, or why. Ten years later their kidneys shut down and their feet have ulcers, and the pharmaceutical companies make a lot more money off the patients.

It's frustrating because there are legally so many sticky wickets to negotiate in order to establish a holistic practice. Yet, there are so many practitioners whose hearts are for holistic (whole person) practice, and many of them are truly knowledgeable in alternative therapeutic modalities and patients would benefit greatly from their expertise.

My prayer is that they would not lose their vision, and will press forward to find ways to safely and legally have holistic practices that bless many lives with good health.


Marian said...

-former birth doula and mother of a child with autism and other disabilities that medicine doesn't really know what to do with (but pretends that it does)

Buffy said...

I agree with pretty much everything you've said. The bottom line is that we have to take responsibility for our own health. Sadly a lot of people would rather just take a pill.

These days (at least in the UK) doctors are not so quick to hand out pills and some patients get cross with them. The doctor will say "you need to lose weight/do some exercise/stop smoking/get a less stressful job" but the patient would rather carry on with their lifestyle and just take a pill. It must be frustrating for the doctors to see so many illnesses caused by a poor lifestyle.

One also needs to look at both conventional and alternative methods of healing. I have been treated by both for different problems, but I had to seek the alternative treatment myself. Of course one must view everything with a skeptic's eye but also remain open minded, which is a real challenge!