It should be obvious the best way to avoid the dangers of hospitals is to avoid ever needing to enter one. One approach worth considering is to take a closer look at what originally was called natural medicine. Later names were holistic, then alternative or complimentary. As this type of medicine became more popular, it was termed integrative to foster an integration with conventional medicine. Integrative medicine is also called functional medicine.
Natural medicine was dominant throughout centuries and in some cases, such as Ayurvedic and Chinese, for millennia. These medical practices were saving lives and treating chronic conditions quite well until the late 19th and early 20th century. After the discovery that germs caused many diseases and inventions like x-rays and antibiotics offered new ways to diagnose and treat conditions, natural medicine fell from favor. Courses in it were dropped from medical colleges; new schools of medicine focused on defeating these external causes of illness by drugs, surgery, or even radiation.
Natural medicine practitioners were relegated to the ranks of quacks and their many cures called outdated. With the development of a cozy alliance between large pharmaceutical companies and the Food and Drug Administration, financial support for research into and use of inexpensive natural cures dried up. No self-respecting M.D. would think of prescribing something that not approved by the FDA after lengthy drug trials undertaken by companies with a stake in expanding the use of expensive prescription drugs.
Despite all the “modern” advances, evidence continued to mount, particularly by the 1940s and 1950s, that the “pure scientific” approach taken by allopathic (traditional) practitioners was not working so well. People kept getting sick, chronic conditions continued to plague patients, and the cost of being ill continued to rise. Some pioneers in re-popularizing natural medicine started writing books—a number of which became best sellers. By the 1990s, enough confidence in natural approaches to health had developed that even caused the U.S. Congress to take a hand. In 1994 the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was passed opening the door for research into the value of natural supplements and therapies.
As evidence of the continued problems with a purely allopathic approach to health grows, you might want to consider the following:
• “Health Spending Will Climb to Nearly One-Fifth of GDP.” By 2021 according to estimates from the federal government (actuaries from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), “health spending will account for 19.6 percent of the gross domestic product in 2021.” The percentage of gross domestic product allocated to health expenditures in 1960 was 5.2 percent.
• “US Health System Ranks Last Among Eleven Countries on Measures of Access, Equity, Quality, Efficiency and Healthy Lives.” Although the U.S. devotes twice as much money to health care as other industrialized countries, it ranks last among Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
• The primary focus of allopathic medicine as well as health care dollars is on treatment. Generally, 95 cents of every healthcare dollar goes to treat disease after it has already occurred. “At least 75 percent of these costs were spent on treating chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes that are preventable or even reversible” according to a report by Dean Ornish, MD, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. In the same article, Dr. Ornish went on to note, “When I lecture, I often begin by showing a slide of doctors busily mopping up the floor around an overflowing sink, but no one is turning off the faucet. Similarly, Dr. Denis Burkitt (who discovered Burkitt’s lymphoma) once said that raising money to pay for ambulances and a hospital at the base of a cliff is not as smart as building a fence at the top to keep cars from falling off.
• A study based on 1984 data estimated that up to 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. In 2013, an updated report titled “A new evidence-based estimate of patient harms association with hospital care,” by John T. James was published in the Journal of Patient Safety (2013 Sep; 9(3):122-8.). James reported, “A lower limit of 210,000 deaths per year was associated with preventable harm in hospitals.” Because of limitations including the incompleteness of medical records, “the true number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm to patients was estimated at more than 400,000 per year.”
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train. In the words of Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
Major medical centers such as the Cleveland Clinic have established several important operations in natural medicine, especially the Center for Functional Medicine. At the clinic in addition to allopathic care there are treatments and services offered in the following areas: Acupuncture, Brain Health & Wellness, Chinese Herbal Therapy, Disease Reversal Programs, Guided Imagery, Holistic Psychotherapy, Lifestyle Management Programs, Massage Therapy and Reiki Therapy.
Seattle and San Diego residents are fortunate to have accredited universities in science-based natural medicine. See Bastyr University (Kenmore, WA) and the Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of the university in Seattle, WA.