Sunday, October 01, 2006
  Information vs. Emotion

I was nursing my toddler to sleep this afternoon, basking in the oxytocin glow, the writing buzz, and taking in some church stuff I'd listened to. These are the times when I begin to ponder. It's wierd, but feeling good about stuff always reminds me that I'm very, very lucky. So then I begin to think about what is wrong in the world. I usually go in two directions: the suffering born by the innocent, or the proliferation of falsehoods.

This afternoon it was the latter, and my recent adventures at the Health and Safety Fair. The problem is that a blog like this, or those who have a lot more time to devote to debunking doesn't do a lot. I've thought about writing a whole book, but it has been done by more knowledgable people than me. They are either ignored or recieve bad 'customer' reviews because they are percieved as pushing the evil profit seeking medico-pharma industry.

Maybe a softer voice would work? Maybe the lack of letters after my name, the "I'm just an ordinary housewife" schtick would work? What kind of research, what kind of words to get the point across? And then, who would publish it?

How can I reveal to the world that the alternative medicine industry is profit oriented and not people oriented as they would have you believe? How often even the practitioner is being duped out of money by the school/training/product line whatever. Sometimes the altie practitioner sees a quick road to helping others that goes against the evil corporate machine. It appeals to their feelings. Chiropractic learning isn't so quick though, and is expensive. Those guys have to believe in it from the beginning to put so much time, money, and effort into it.

I was disturbed not only by the blatant lie about Jackie Joyner Kersee being dead, but by what I found when researching other things they'd talked about. I found a chiropractic training website. I couldn't get there directly, but google had a cache of some literature about "The 15 secrets to Lifetime Patients". Here are some examples:

New Patient Advocate:
1. Prepares testimonials, chiropractic analogies,
metaphors, or stories
that correspond to the education of the day.
Inspires the patient by stirring the patient’s emotions. Remember
emotions motivate people to act not information

Using an inspirational case or an emotional testimonial is an
extremely effective method for communicating the chiropractic story.
Actual cases and testimonials build trust, security and confidence with your
current patients while at the same time one of the most effective strategies
for stimulating internal referrals in your practice.
Select a case that really impacted you emotionally and represents the
chiropractic wellness model. Communicate the story with passion to your patients.

They are messing around with people to "build practice". They aren't teaching medicine, but business. Scratch that. They are teaching religion.

But they do probably have a point: People are more motivated by emotion than information. This is why alternative medicine works better.

Maybe that is it: an expose on the alternative medicine big machine, not on the veracity of the practices themselves.

But I can't help but think that more than that is needed. A booth at those fairs, for instance. There are a lot of cool things that could be done at such a thing. Imagine an ideomotor demonstration, you know the one where you have the pariticipant hold both their hands out, instruct them that no matter what, they are to keep them at the same level, then have them close their eyes and talk about how there is a balloon tied to one making it light and a brick to the other making it heavy. Give them questions to ask the person who wants to be their chiropractor.
To compound matters, we are often feeling emotionally awry when we are not feeling well. We want a caring physician, someone we can believe has our best interests at heart. If the md is cold and indifferent or arrogant, he/she may offer us a cure, but not healing. Cures can be surgically quick, clean, efficiently scientific. Healing takes longer and includes body, mind, and spirit or heart...that place where we feel things.

Take for example, my oldest daughter, (yes, Granola, that would be you...although you didn't go by that name at the time) who had her adenoids removed at the age of 5. The cure was quick and she stopped having all those ear infections. She could hear better, but the surgery left her with a funny nasal twange. How long was it after the surgery? Two, three, maybe even four years, later she asked me, "Is it better now, Mom?" It broke my heart. No one had told her that she would be fine without her adenoids, that the cure would increase her quality of life. I was as guilty as the nurses and doctors. Her body had long since been cured, but it took years for the healing to take place.

Those practicing alternative medicine are typically more touchy feely. Many of their techniques are hands on. Studies show that gentle caring touch invites healing. Classic studies in pediatrics prove the importance of caring touch in infants. We don't outgrow that need for touch. We just learn to stuff it, to "cowboy up", or to find that touch in ways that do not benefit us. Perhaps one of those ways is in alternative medicine.

We also feel a need for active, caring listening. The old country doctors understood this, but corporate medicine has other ideas. I once visited a doctor's office where the staff knocked at the door after the md had been with the patient for 5 minutes. That should be enough time to listen closely, to draw out a patient who is shy, to do a physical exam, to diagnose any human disease, and to write a scrip. If it took longer, the rapping on the door became louder and more frequent. I don't know how it affected the doctor, but I do know that I do not go to that office now.

Maybe if md's as a whole learned something from alternative medicine... soft gentle touch, quiet nonjudgemental listening, taking time to really understand what the problem is... patients wouldn't feel the need to seek a different way to heal.
While this need for caring and emotional connection is true, Mom, I don't think it excuses many of the practices in alternative medicine. I've spoken of duped practitioners, but now I'll strip them of their nobility a bit.

First of all: not all alternative practitioners are duped. Some of them already began the game in the know, and some of them have figured out the game and like to play it. These people use your emotion to take your money while giving you very little in return. On their side, they aren't reaching out in compassion. They are pushing the buttons, making a deal with your emotions. You may feel good for a few days, a few weeks... perhaps even a few months. Many chronic conditions wax and wane naturally, so that what you thought was a cure was actually a natural remission, and never because of what the practitioner claimed.

The ones that are duped remain blind because they, too, are not really trying to heal you. They are being 'selfishly altruistic'. They give the touch, say the words that make you feel their caring, and it gives them warm fuzzies. They don't care about statistics or numbers, those are too far removed from the warm fuzzies they are addicted to. They may not do it for the money, so to speak, but you paying them reinforces the authority of what they believe, making it even less likely that they'll really look into what they are doing. So they do not engage in any research or study to see if what they do is really, truly effective.

Yes, I know, not everyone is a statistic. I know there can be very puzzling individual circumstances. But this does not excuse the lack of objective observation of the effectiveness of the cures those alternative practitioners offer.

There is a lot about the human body we don't understand, but scientific inquiry is really the only way to gain the useable knowledge it will take to solve those puzzles.

As for corporate medicine: That happens because of the same greed and manipulation that fuels alternative medicine industries, not because evidence based medicine is flawed.
I really believe that part of the answer lies in the education system. If the md's were required to take a few classes in bedside manner, in listening, maybe had to be on the receiving end of some of tests, just to see how it feels, they just might be more empathetic, more reachable, easier to trust. I have, over the years, had some truly amazing md's who were empathetic and caring, men and women I could trust completely. I have also had md's, and even a nurse or two, that were brusque to the point of rudeness, rough in their exams, dishonest, and so arrogant that I felt like a slab of meat on the examining table, a science experiment.

That arrogance gets in the way of good medicine. When doctors are not humble enough to listen to their patients' complaints, they cannot get the whole picture. The md I saw while I was pregnant with you commented as he prepared for my admission to the hospital at about 12 weeks "I haven't had a patient as sick as you for years." He seemed surprised that I had lost so much weight, that I really was sick, but I had been telling him both in the office and by phone calls for at least a month. This same doctor told the hospital over the phone, without asking the nurses to check me, to send me home less than an hour before you were born. He didn't make it in time to deliver you. He didn't deliver your sister, either. I went somewhere else.

This was not an isolated experience in my life. Over the years I have had eight really good doctors, two of them pediatricians I took my children to. The pediatrician I took you to when you were small, was amazing, but his partner in the practice was so thoughtless and arrogant, he was mean. I have been seen or have taken my children to at least 20 other doctors, more than that if you count the specialists. It is not easy to find a good doctor.
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A Mormon housewife who loves truth, science, rational thought, and reasonable action.

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Location: Utah

Granola is a mix of things: grains, nuts, bits of dried fruit, maybe some coconut. There's some fat in it, and it's a good source of fiber to keep those arteries and colons clean.

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