July 13, 2001 (Ira Pilgrim)

Alternative Medicine

God heals and the doctor takes the fee.

Benjamin Franklin

An article in Newsweek, called Doctoring Without Drugs, had a sidebar that said "Alternative medicine is based on the theory that the body has a natural healing ability". It went on to tell the story about some kid who had chronic ear infections that the doctors were unable to cure. They took the kid to a naturopath and he hasn't had an ear infection since. His "cure" was also pure chance. If he had gone to a faith healer he would also have also been cured. If he has gone to no one, the effect would have been the same.

My kids once had what is called round-robin strep throat. One would recover, then another would come down with it, and so on until the first one got it again. The penicillin didn't prevent the return of the disease. Our pediatrician and I decided to let the kids fight the infection themselves. They were sick for a longer time than with the penicillin, but it ended the cycle. Doing this with some kids could mean rheumatic fever, so it's not a good idea to try it if you don't know what to watch out for. However, most children got over strep infections before penicillin, as they did with ear and throat infections. Most young people with pneumonia recovered before antibiotics. Now almost all do. Recovering nature's way can also be excruciatingly painful in contrast to the modern way which reduces the pain considerably by curing the infection.

It is not a theory that the body has natural healing ability, it is a fact. People got over diseases long before physicians existed. Until the advent of modern medicine and antibiotics, you were probably better off if you left it to nature, since the doctor would do either nothing, or might help you to die sooner. Except for immunization, modern medicine isn't much help against virus infections. There are some drugs like AZT for AIDS that will prolong life, but no cures.

The question is: if you are going to let the body heal itself, why do you need the doctor at all? The answer is that you don't. If you know enough to be able to rule out the serious stuff that you really need a physician for, save your time and money. Stay home, rest and give your body a chance to heal itself. That's what I do with colds, influenza and a variety of virus infections. If I or a member of my family seems really sick, we use as competent a physician as we can find.

One important role of doctors for children is immunization. Most young parents have never seen how terribly sick a child can be with measles. Many died of that disease that almost all children got; but not any more, thanks to the vaccine. The same goes for a number of diseases including the deadly smallpox.

Many people use the argument that "even if naturopaths and other faith healers don't do any good, they don't do any harm." That seems to satisfy some people. Not me! I figure that if someone is taking my money and doing nothing in return, that I am being cheated. Once you know that you have a condition that medicine cannot help, it is foolish to take treatments based on magic.

So, if I have a potentially fatal disease that modern medicine can't cure, I figure that I am going to die, just like my parents did, and their parents, and so on back to the origin of life. I'll be damned if I'll let someone in a white lab coat feed me a line of baloney about how he had an incurable patient that he gave rhubarb tea to, and who miraculously recovered.

I intend to die without the benefit of the supernatural. And when there is no longer any reason to hope, I will stop hoping, say good-bye to my loved ones if I can, and die.

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