Term Paper: Benefits of Allopathic Medicine Outweigh the Risks

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¶ … allopathic medicine outweigh the risks?

The risks and benefits of allopathic medicine

Introduction definition of allopathic medicine is: "The system of medical practice which treats disease by the use of remedies which produce effects different from those produced by the disease under treatment." (Definition of Allopathic medicine) Allopathic medicine is also known as formal or conventional medicine and refers to accepted Western health and medical practices. The term "allopathic" originated in 1842 and is ascribed to C.F.S. Hahnemann who used the terms to differentiate conventional medicine from homeopathy, which is a system of medicine based on producing the same symptoms as the disease or disorder. (Definition of Allopathic medicine)

The term allopathic is used in one sense therefore simply to differentiate conventional medicine and medical praxis from other philosophies and systems. On the other hand the term is also used in a derogatory sense. (allopathic medicine) This refers to the fact that conventional medicine has been shown to have many areas that can be criticized.

There are numerous medical experts and commentators, especially in recent years, who point out the flaws and failings in this system of medicine. While allopathic medicine and practices are accepted by many at face value as being " scientific" and the only acceptable way of fighting disease and maintaining health, yet there are many detractors who refer to various aspects of this medical system that are questionable and even aspects that put the patient and the society at risk.

The negative aspects of allopathic medicine

While not generally accepted, some health experts see allopathic medical practices as potentially life - threatening. As one commentator points out,

Paradoxically, the downfall of Western medicine may prove to be its inattention to basic human physiology. For all its scientific rigor, allopathic medicine cannot hide the glaring inconsistencies that characterize it. Toxic medications, inattention to basic nutritional facts, out-of-hand rejection of new research and time proven traditional medical techniques and especially the prevalence of side effects from its own treatments have made modern western medicine one of the major causes of unnecessary death and suffering.

Hasslberger S.)

It should be noted that this view is contrary to popular perceptions and sees allopathic medicine as source of "death and suffering" and not healing.

This view is one that has become increasingly common to differing degrees in many societies and cultures and has spawned a resurgence of traditional healing and alternative medical practices.

On the other hand it is assumed by many and generally believed, at least in most of the Western developed world, that increases and developments in medical drugs and medical technologies have resulted in a general reduction of disease and healthier and safer environment. This is true to a great extent. However many studies attest to the fact that this is not always the case. For instance, there is proof that the increase in medical technologies and sophisticated drugs has in fact led to a surge in what are referred to as Iatrogenic diseases.

Iatrogenic disease is described as health problems that are "...induced in a patient by a physician's activity, manner, or therapy, especially as a complication of treatment." (iatrogenic disease)

Furthermore,."..Iatrogenic disease is responsible for 250,000 deaths per year making it the third leading cause of death in the United States. " (iatrogenic disease)

In other words, there is a verifiable and extensive category or disease which is ascribed solely to diseases or negative results which are caused by the physician or the health system itself. Examples that are given of this phenomenon are, "....Thalidomide and the resulting birth defects in the 1950s are just one terrible example of which there are many more..." (Hunt, 1988) Another example that is often cited is the 1976 swine flu inoculations which succeeded in killing more people than the flu itself. (Hunt, 1988) Even more alarming is that this also refers to the extremely high rate of death as a direct result of the hospital environment and hospital accident rates. As will be discussed, hospitals can also produce what are known as "super infections." They are also known as breeding grounds for disease. As Hunt (1998) states: "The side effects of many medications seem as bad if not worse than the disease for which the drug is a cure. " (Hunt, 1988)

The reality of Iatrogenic disease therefore paints a very different picture to the popular notions and belief that modern allopathic medicine as an infallible system of health maintenance and the fight against disease. The following sections will outline some of these critiques of allopathic methods and medicine in an attempt to answer the central question of this paper: do the benefits of allopathic medicine outweigh the risks?

Western medical views, philosophy and value systems

One of the central aspects that influence all considerations and critiques of Western allopathic medicine, and the main reason for the search for alternatives to the western medical models, is the underlying and determining philosophy of medicine and Western views that support the allopathic viewpoint. Allopathic medicine is firmly based in what could be termed a dualistic and oppositional view of the human body and human being. These terms, which refer basically to the differentiation between mind and body, can be traced back to Aristotle and Descartes in Western European thought.

This trajectory in Western thinking has led to the dominance of objective scientific reasoning in the world; which has had the effect of dividing the subject from the object. In medical terms the dualistic frame of reference has in turn led to the view of disease and health as two states in direct opposition.

Disease is therefore dealt with in terms of methods and procedures that conform to this fundamental dualism. In allopathic medicine disease is seen as being limited to the area of the ailment and not related to all the other parts of the body or to the mental consciousness.

Eastern thought on the other had is based on a more holistic view of realty and has led to a very different system of medicine; which has been seen to be increasingly important and has been adopted in Western countries over the past few decades. The Eastern medical praxis emphasizes the interdependence and the coordination between mind and body. There is also an ongoing and complex debate about the holistic as opposed to the allotropic reductionist view of the human health and functioning

One of the central critiques of modern allopathic medicine is that it is not holistic. In other words it focuses only on selected areas and aspects of the total organism and does not see their relationship to other aspects and areas. This fact, according to many alternative medical practitioners, is a fault line in Western medical theory and practice that has very real and potentially destructive consequence for health care and disease control.

The emphasis on holistic health care is something that is being accepted with the framework of allopathic medicine to greater extent than in the past. Holistic health care incorporates and takes into account all the aspect of the individual, including the physical, emotional and spiritual interaction. However in allopathic medicine, the focus tends to be reductionist in that there is a "...emphasis on the pathology or disease of a specific body part." (HOLISTIC HEALTH CARE)

Therefore many of the most important critiques of allopathic medicine originate in this separation and division of the body components and the body and mind; or more correctly, in the refusal to see the interconnectedness and interdependence of the various aspect in human health. From this central critique stem numerous other aspects that are related to the allopathic reductionism as opposed to a more integrative and holistic approach. As commentators state, while there are many aspects of allopathic medicine that are to be lauded and which have led to dramatic success in the heath care, such as penicillin and antibiotics, yet the dualistic reductionism of the body and health care in general has resulted in a plethora of very real risks in the use of modern medicines and methods. This view is concisely summed up in the following quotation.

Some of the greatest successes of allopathic medicine are heroic in nature, that is in the emergency room, with antibiotics or surgically after a serious disease process has been established. When we are in need of these treatments, we applaud modern medicine. However, our society tends to be overly reliant on these heroic and often very expensive methods. We have overused treatments such as antibiotics to the point that we have endangered their efficacy.

In addition, allopathic treatments often have negative side effects, as in the area of prescription drugs.

HOLISTIC HEALTH CARE)

2.2. Drugs and antibiotics

The area of prescription drugs has been on the receiving end of intense criticism in recent years. A basic and central concern in this regard is that, in light of the views about reductionism expressed in the previous section, many experts see some prescription drugs as only treating the symptoms of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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