Is It Time to Make Health Freedom
a Constitutional Right?
all deserve access to the best therapies available
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A core principle of what I call Health Medicine is a patient's right to freedom of choice and their right to know. Whom are we kidding when, because of monopolistic medical practices, patients are not informed of all the treatments known from evidence to benefit their condition--especially alternative-medicine and natural healing treatments? What's the point of extending insurance to all Americans if they're blocked from making choices outside today's allopathic "sick-care" paradigm?
America is "the land of the free," yet the public is largely unaware of the state of affairs relating to medical freedom issues. Most people are shocked when they learn, for example, that it is a felony in California for a medical doctor to prescribe a nutritional therapy as a treatment for cancer. The only legal therapies permitted for treatment of cancer in California are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. This flies in the face of all logic and voluminous scientific literature.
Under our current system, some therapies must be administered against people's will, despite religious or personal beliefs that may be different from mainstream thinking. Health authorities can and do take children from their parents when certain therapies are refused. They can be placed into the custody of the state, put in foster homes, and forcibly administered those therapies deemed to be essential for life. The case of HIV-positive children is a clear example of this.
Similar tactics occur with respect to certain types of cancer when they afflict children. Not only is treatment with chemotherapy mandated by law in these cases, but also alternative therapies are forbidden.
A case in point is medulloblastoma, a cancer of the brain that is poorly responsive to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. These unfortunate children almost uniformly die within a few months to a couple of years with or without treatment. Yet, parents usually have no option except to go along with often traumatic mainstream therapy. What makes this more tragic is that a well-evidenced and far less invasive alternative exists.
Now, all of us would agree that our medical authorities are well-intentioned individuals who are motivated to help us, not to hurt us. But what if, after you had researched an alternative or natural therapy intensively, you preferred to use this therapy instead of what was required by law? You and your child or loved one would be out of luck.
That's why freedom of choice is high on the agenda of radical health care reform and could even rise to the level of a constitutional right. We need insurance coverage not just for treatments supported within a disease-care paradigm marred by conflicts of interest and questionable science!
The entire population of this planet has survived over millennia through the use of traditional and indigenous medical remedies--and 80% of the world's people still do. These practitioners learned from generations of practical experience about how to treat whole persons. They developed natural treatments in the context of cosmological worldviews worked out over centuries by the leading minds of their races or nations. Yet the budget for researching this vast store of healing wisdom is a tiny sliver of the National Institute of Health's (NIH) overall annual budget.
While one can readily admit that the cross-cultural comparison of medical treatments requires considerable research, we do have the resources to carry out this work if the willingness is there. For the sake of our patients, we need to take advantage of the present opportunity to harvest this hard-won practical wisdom and blend it into diverse sets of treatment strategies that are far more encompassing.
On the other hand, caution and discretion are also wise in these matters. My long clinical experience shows that a blend of disciplines is certainly not always the best approach. The art of the practice of integrative medicine entails knowing when mainstream medicine alone is clearly the best approach, while also being able to identify those times when a single Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) approach is superior. Of course, in most cases, a blend of several approaches or a progression of treatments is optimal.
The optimal treatment methodology from the standpoint of cost containment requires that the least invasive therapy be undertaken first. For our current consideration, this hierarchy of treatment modalities bears repeating:
* Lifestyle strategies such as diet, exercise, adequate sleep, stress reduction, weight control, avoidance of toxic exposures, and securing emotional and spiritual balance in life are the first line of defense.
* Noninvasive complementary and alternative services such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, chiropractic, bodywork, homeopathy, and energy medicine are the next line of defense.
* Natural-medicine approaches based on the latest biomedical advances in orthomolecular medicine, functional medicine, and bioenergetic research (including advanced forms of testing) .
* Very careful and sparing use of pharmaceutical drugs, surgery, and other invasive strategies are the last line of defense.
Sometimes, the patient has progressed all the way to the point that the last line of defense is clearly indicated. A truly integrative methodology based on this hierarchy will ensure that this occurs.
Having access to a broad-based, carefully managed, integrative setting gives doctors and patients a larger repertoire of options and the freedom to choose what works. It is therefore time for us to take clear and powerful action.
It is time to come together as peaceful warriors whose mission is to rescue the soul of medicine, fighting for what we believe in, struggling in noble service to others--even our opponents.
We can fight with our votes to transform the legislation that regulates our health care industry, with our determination to find a solution to skyrocketing health care costs, with our compassion to find a better way to practice medicine, with our willingness to take back responsibility for living a healthy lifestyle, and with our commitment to bringing the CARE back to health care.
Adapted from A Return To Healing: Radical Health Care Reform and the Future of Medicine by Len Saputo, MD, with Byron Belitsos (Origin Press, September 2009). To find out more on this subject, you can download chapter nine from this book for free at this website: www.areturntohealing.com/excerpts.html.
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