Sunday, April 28, 2013

What’s going on with psychiatrists?

I was recently shocked to hear of one woman’s battle with a gambling addiction. She had originally approached Vancouver Hypnotherapy for some help, but instead went to her doctor. She was short of money, and felt that working with a solution covered by her government health insurance was the better bet (pardon the pun).
Her doctor referred her to a psychiatrist. She had a four month wait before seeing a psychiatrist, during which her addiction cost her a further $16,000, and the psychiatrist then prescribed antidepressants. Asked how long she would have to take them she was told “We’ll see”.
After two months, with no benefit she returned to the psychiatrist. She was concerned that she felt she was becoming addicted to the antidepressant, but that it was not having any effect on her gambling. His response was to  raise the dosage level.
After a further three months she found she had no benefit whatsoever from her prescription, and now had no money whatsoever. Stilla ddicted to gambling she was now also addicted to pharmacy she could barely afford.
Unable to pay for her gambling debts, and already maxed out on all her credit cards, she was banned from the local casinos. Her life began to fall into complete disarray.
In this particular case she overcame the issue herself, through her own fortitude and desperation. She described it as the most degrading experience of her life, and one that was made worse by the complete abdication of any responsibility on the part of the psychiatrist for worsening her position. She subsequently weaned herself off the antidepressants over a period of several months, against her psychiatrists advice.
Her reasoning was simple.
“I went on the antidepressants on the advice of my psychiatrist, because I was addicted to gambling. I now no longer have that addiction. Why would I remain on the antidepressants?”
I would love to be saying we contributed to her recovery from the gambling as we have with many others, but that was not the case. However, the story illustrates the problem many people feel when they reach out to the orthodox medical profession. The facts in this specific case, like many others, are that the proposed solution didn’t help; they claimed it would, and there is no accountability when they failed.
So, what exactly are we paying these people from public funds for?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Whatever you do - DON'T LOOK ON THE INTERNET! - Part 2

So, if you read to the last blog I wrote, you'll see I am in the midst of talking about healthcare, the need for reformation of the system, and how alternative healthcare has a very important role to play in the future of our health delivery systems.

Six hundred years ago, when people began to question their priests about what was in the bible that they heard read every Sunday, they were often told not to be concerned about it, the safety of their immortal souls was safe in the hands of the church. These smiling and helpful priests that read the mystical words were there to look after them, after all. Oh, And don't forget to pay your tithe on your way out of the vestry door.

Being largely illiterate, unable to read or write in Latin  and essentially without education, one had to defer to the wisdom of the priest. Sound familiar?

The reformation in the 16th century led to wars throughout Europe, and the great ecclesiastical schism that later resulted in thriving churches reflecting the national character of the countries in which they developed. The Anglican Church, the Church of England, became so good at this that we have long enjoyed having more Anglicans in Nigeria than we do in England - something even the most pragmatic of theologians has to find extraordinary. We've been praying to our English god, in an English heaven, for years - in English.

Now, I am not suggesting we are going to see armies of homeopaths, allied with naturapaths and chiropractors going into battle against dermatologists and pharmacists  on battlefields across Europe, however there is something of a conflict coming. The winds of war are blowing through the aisles of the health food store.

And what's really driving this? Well, it would appear that one of the most powerful forces is the undeniably powerful influence - the market. People prefer having a choice. Give people allopathic healthcare for free, and they still look for alternative healthcare solutions. It simply won't go away, even if it is effectively outlawed. The market demands choice.

The market also demands information. Patients can read. In some cases they really are better informed than their doctors. Doctors would be the first to claim they are too busy to read everything on the internet, but actually a patient who is taking an active interest in his health may well read some very important research.

It's realistically possible that a patient knows more about his condition than many GPs and some specialists.
Open discussion of healthcare issues online often helps patients, and any doctor foolish enough to treat a patient dismissively needs to consider what their profile looks like on Rate Your or other such websites. If it is not too great, while they may not be concerned, their future employers will be. The reality is that a dismissive doctor will probably not be taken as seriously by a patient as an alternative healthcare provider that has the time to listen, is motivated by producing results that serve the patient, and treats them with respect. Failing grades in these areas for MDs is not only common, but is part of the systemic failure of modern healthcare.

So, given that there's choice out there, and that the world of alternative medicine is growing in stature, where does this take us? Where ever it is, it's going to get interesting. Alternative healthcare providers of all colours and shapes - from hypnotherapists to nutritionist - are being trained in ever greater numbers, at a time where orthodox healthcare is finding training increasingly expensive and difficult. Alternative healthcare providers are being taken increasingly seriously by patients, who are often disaffected with orthodox healthcare. There are more and better schools for alternative healthcare systems than ever before. Standards are getting better, and while alternative healthcare is often opposed to regulation, the industry has one over riding factor that cannot be overlooked. Practitioners that are good at what they do tend to stay in business. Those that are not, don't. The market sorts it all out. That can't be said of orthodox healthcare providers. It's virtually impossible to fire a doctor, regardless of how massively incompetent they may be.

The culture of arrogance among doctors was once quaint and excusable. It's not anymore. Healthcare spending - and make no mistake, that means orthodox healthcare spending - accounts for 24% of the US Federal Budget for 2013. That's one percent more than defense.

Now, one has to start to question that spending. The questions are simple ones. Are we getting value for our money? Is the system working?

There will inevitably be a backlash. How or when it will come is anyone's guess, but it will happen. When it does alternative health systems will probably have to pick up the pieces. How will this look, I can't begin to say. However, I would suggest that this is part of the answer. As alternative healthcare providers we do need to learn from the mistakes of allopathic healthcare. We can't afford to be arrogant. We need to focus on the idea of listening to a patient, or client, or whatever you chose to call the person you are helping. And above all, we need to retain an open mind, or we will become exactly the thing we are set to replace.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Whatever you do - DON'T LOOK ON THE INTERNET! - Part 1

I find myself increasingly having to say, 'I'm not a zealot with a crusade against orthodox healthcare, but...', however I find myself once more writing about the problems of our healthcare system. When I say 'our', I really mean everyone's.

The concept of a bricks and mortar hospital is relatively new. Only on the last two hundred and fifty years have any but the largest of cities had their own hospitals. Prior to that capital cities, and some university towns had hospitals, but it was by no means typical of medieval cities. In fact, even having access to a doctor of rudimentary training was likely quite rare. Instead traditional healers, priest and witches were pretty much it. If you had a severe wound, although many survived the experience, more than likely you would make do with what help was immediately at hand. Obviously this was far from ideal. And so, in the place of this ragtag collection of mixed ability, people began to look for a better solution. And that's where our hospitals came from. And 250 years ago that wasn't a bad solution. Life has however moved forward.

I'm not the first to express this idea, I know that. One of the most eloquent calls for change came in TED talk, which goes some way down the road of instigation and encouraging change.

I think things will go very much further in future years. No one can predict how that will look, but you can be sure the changes will be extensive.

In the distant past, in some cases the church stepped up. It would be very interesting to see how many of their patients were 'the faithful'. I can't help wondering what was their a policy relating to sick pagans? I doubt we'll ever really know the answer to that, however in a small city with limited money I am not sure anyone would be very happy if the majority of health care dollars were spent on people from outside of the immediate community. The idea of the altruistic well meaning self sacrificing healer is delightfully innocent, but probably as unrealistic as it was Utopian.  Everyone had to eat. And that includes people working in the hospitals. Somewhere there's a profit motive, to a greater or lesser degree.

Today we find ourselves in a somewhat different position. Whereas before there was the option to go to a healer of some description  or to find a priest or witch, or find ones way to a bigger city and find a hospital, nowadays the orthodox healthcare system has done a pretty thorough job of destroying all options but the one they perceive as best for us.   I am not saying that all those healers were wonderful - far from it. I'm sure that getting sick in medieval times was a terrible experience. However, there was an element of choice which has systematically been removed from our modern world. Modern pharmacy based medicine has proactively gone out and removed as many options from the people it serves, as possible. This has happened through the concerted efforts to coerce organisations such as the FDA, Health Canada, and various other health overseeing bodies. And they've done a masterful job of it.

Generally speaking, unless someone really makes a study of it, the alternative healthcare provider is often considered a kook, charlatan or quack. No mention is made of the fact that some pharmacy is not tested properly, some doctors really are appalling at the work they do, and that incidents such as the Thalidomide disaster of the 1960's are all firmly the fault of modern medicine. Instead the easy target of 'alternative healthcare' is adopted, and attention focused upon the well meaning but bumbling practitioners of a system that is slightly outside of 'ours'.

By equating medical training with modern pharmacy based healthcare, the medical profession has created a powerful ally. Has anyone thought in recent years that studying to become a medical doctor could involve the remote possibility of embracing natural approaches to healthcare? Apparently not. These approaches appear to be absolutely at odds with one another. In universities which receive funding from pharmaceutical companies this is a situation that is unlikely to change. However, the provision of quality health care need not necessarily equate to the provision of pharmacy. There are perfectly healthy populations in Africa that cannot afford pharmacy that are thriving. This may come as a surprise to some, but it's true.

While elevating themselves to a venerated position in society, medical practitioners have created a culture of fear and ignorance around alternative healthcare.

'Don't take that, you don't know what it might do to you!'  The words are easily spoken by a doctor, regardless of the fact that he has never read the fine print on the inserted material that comes with the antidepressant he's just prescribed. The reality is becoming clear now that SSRI anti depressants are addictive despite pharmaceutical companies lobbying to have the word 'dependency forming' used instead, and in many instances actually make the situation substantially worse than before they were prescribed.

'You could end up making your condition worse," the doctor might say.

'Hang on a moment,' you might reply. 'You might make my condition worse!' And yet, how many of us actually say that? Why do we hesitate? Because that doctor is a trained professional. Well, yes, but he was trained in a university that received substantial funding from the company that makes the pharmacy he's prescribing. That cannot be entirely coincidental, and might fairly be described as a conflict of interest.

So many people, when talking about their doctor, say 'He's the best! He graduated top of his class!'

Is that hammering sound the last nail being beaten into the coffin lid of alternative healthcare?

Well, no. One has to ask, what about the other forty people in that class of medical students? Somewhere the person who scraped through is also in practice. He's someone's doctor, too. And he's probably out there screwing up right this minute.

These days doctors are often heard to disparagingly say 'Everyone with an internet connection is a doctor nowadays!' This propagation of fear and of ignorance is not something that is new in society. There's actually a rather unusual parallel with something that happened about six  hundred years ago. And that led to one of the largest social upheavals in the modern world.

It was called "The Reformation".

Part 2 will be online tomorrow. RH