IC Contributing Editor Vicki Robin recently attended the American Holistic Medical Association’s annual conference. While there, she spoke with three leaders in the alternative health care movement – AHMA President Christiane Northrup, Bernie Siegel (author of Love, Medicine & Miracles), and Vicki’s New Road Map Foundation colleague Evy McDonald – about what changes need to occur to produce a "humane and sustainable health care system." The following are highlights from their comments.
Christiane Northrup: We live in a culture where people don’t know anything about their bodies. One of the first things that has to happen is some withdrawal from dependence on the insurance companies as they exist. When [health care] starts to cost people something personally, they’re apt to learn about their bodies, and they’re apt to learn ways to seek attention other than a forty dollar office visit.
I remember one of those golden moments in medical school, when I was on rotation at a family practice in Vermont. I remember thinking, "Ninety percent of the people in this waiting room could be adequately treated by my mother." Why did I need all this fancy education to tell them that the cure for the common cold is rest and fluids?
Evy McDonald: If you look hard enough in the body, you’re always going to find something wrong, because the body is healing and repairing itself all the time. We just don’t give the body a chance to do what it does naturally. Current research has shown that 85% of all illnesses are self-limiting – they run their course, and then they’re over.
I see health care providers of the future as more like "whole-systems managers." If I go to see Chris, for example, I’m going for help in managing my whole system of life, which has somehow gotten out of balance. I need somebody to listen to me, and to help me evaluate my family, my work, my mental-emotional system, and my spiritual life, as well as my physical body. She may not be the one that actually helps me put things back into balance, but she’ll help me discover what I need to do. That would empower me – not somebody just testing me for what’s wrong.
Bernie Siegel: The doctor and patient will become a team. Both will have options, they won’t judge each other, they’ll be able to agree or disagree. The patient will become responsible for his or her life, and the medical system will be an option for the person to utilize.
I don’t like the word "patient" because it means "submissive sufferer," so I hope the medical system will use my term "respant" – or responsible participant. Disease can be a gift in a person’s life if it’s used appropriately, and if doctors are trained to heal lives. Teaching people how to live, and helping them die when they’re ready, is what health care is really about.
If we teach love – and this is always the underlying message – we won’t have to pass laws to improve public health. Individuals who are loved don’t become drug addicts. They wear seat belts. They’re less likely to be alcoholics, smokers, or indulge in self-destructive behavior. That [awareness] has to become part of the health care professions.