We discover truth by building on previous discoveries. This deceptively simple statement is profound. When we become mired in hardened squabbles with various personal and professional contemporaries, and despair that we have gone astray, all is not lost. We can return to the wisdom of our ancestors, the great ones who have come before us, whose teachings have stood the test of time.
Speaking of losing our way…
Can we talk about pediatrics today?
Pediatrics has become a battleground. Most doctors give lots of drugs and vaccines. When it doesn’t sit right with parents and we refuse, pediatricians are increasingly kicking children out of their practices. I hear from moms who are stressed out of their minds. They don’t have confidence in the doctors and don’t know where to turn. Some are terrified and tell me, in tears, that they literally need to take a sedative to make it through the appointment.
This is no run of the mill power struggle. Our children’s lives are on the line. If this sounds like hyperbole, I’m guessing that you don’t spend much time with youngsters today. It’s shocking the extent to which things have changed in the past several decades, when many of us were kids. Children are chronically ill, developmentally delayed, neurologically damaged, learning disabled, and obese at rates that exceed 1 in 2. It’s America’s New Normal and for all the attempts to convince parents that this is nothing new, we know. School nurses know, too. It hasn’t always been like this. Not even close.
Where did all the good doctors go?
I am reminded of the reverence that pediatrician Larry Palevsky, MD holds for his teachers. They were, he says, among the last great pediatricians who practiced in New York during the 1940s all the way up to the 1980s, when thorough histories and clinical exams revealed more than 90% of the information that doctors needed in order to make a diagnosis and treatment plan for the children.
It was a time, I am told, when no one would dare tell doctors how to treat their patients. There was no managed care capitation, no 10-minute appointments so docs can shoehorn in 30 patients per day, no one-size-fits-all medicine, no recommended-cum-mandated 70 doses of 16 vaccines on a “you’re outta here if you don’t jab” schedule.
Pediatrics was different.
Had there been an internet back then, I doubt parents would’ve gravitated to blogs like Fearless Parent or the Thinking Moms Revolution, let alone publicly bemoan that they can’t find a good pediatrician or rant on Reddit that “My pediatrician makes me feel like shit nearly every time we visit her.”
Doctors aren’t happy either. This Dallas-based pediatrician’s blog is called Pediatrics in Crisis. No truer words spoken. The knives are out and everyone is quick to point fingers… at insurers, politicians, government agencies, corporations, journalists, and each other. The system is broken.
But what about the kids?
Who’s carrying the torch for Truth?
In a word, parents. It’s no surprise to see that burgeoning numbers are opting out — turning instead to family practice docs, osteopaths, and chiropractors, or abandoning their insurance-directed options altogether and choosing NDs, homeopaths, acunpuncturists, and other alternatively trained clinicians, therapists, and healers.
Faced with what has become today’s quotidian health crises — peanut anaphylaxis, severe asthma, arthritis, apraxia, tics, autism, fine and gross motor delays, ADHD, etc. — parents are also reaching out to other parents as a primary source of information:
Should we medicate?
My kid only eats white food. How can I ease into the GAPS diet?
I need a doctor who won’t pressure me to vaccinate.
Can you help me write an exemption letter?
Who’s the best speech therapist?
How do you lower a fever without Tylenol?
Parents are holding space for cherished ideals like vaccination choice, following new health pioneers, and accessing networked communities powered by social media and the Wisdom of Crowds. We work hard to love the truth every day, as Nick Gonzalez, MD exhorted.
It works better than the alternative but we still feel wobbly sometimes. During this awkward interim period between the Old and New Story of the People that Charles Eisenstein so eloquently exposits, we are hungry for the proverbial broad shoulders of giants we can believe in.
I love this quote, that we see further by standing on the shoulders of giants. Physicist Stephen Hawking likes it, too — it’s the title of his 2003 book in which he juxtaposes landmark writings of some of our greatest scientific thinkers, to show how each built on the genius of his precedessors. The phrase is attributed to Isaac Newton, but it can actually be traced back to Thomas Becket in 1159 and to even earlier scholars.
What is the scientific method anyway but an ongoing process in which we observe, measure, record, test, and integrate previous knowledge with new information?
Medical leaders of yore on drugs and disease
They had a lot to say. There’s ample previous knowledge that seems to have been… forgotten. Parents looking for a bit of encouragement as we venture off the pharmaceutical beaten path will find solace here.
The person who takes medicine must recover twice, once from the disease and once from the medicine… One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine. – William Osler, M.D. (1849-1919), one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital
Drugs never cure disease. They merely hush the voice of nature’s protest, and pull down the danger signals she erects along the pathway of transgression. Any poison taken into the system has to be reckoned with later on even though it palliates present symptoms. Pain may disappear, but the patient is left in a worse condition, though unconscious of it at the time. – Daniel H. Kress, M.D. (1862-1956), author, The Cigarette as a Physician Sees It (1931) and one of the first physicians to recognize the health dangers of tobacco
The greatest part of all chronic disease is created by the suppression of acute disease by drug poisoning. – Henry Lindlahr, M.D. (1862-1924), author of one of the cornerstone texts of naturopathic medicine, Nature Cure, originally published in 1914
Why would a patient swallow a poison because he is ill, or take that which would make a well man sick? – Lyman Frederick Kebler, M.D. (1863-1955), Chief of the Drug Division, U.S. Department of Agriculture
What hope is there for medical science to ever become a true science when the entire structure of medical knowledge is built around the idea that there is an entity called disease which can be expelled when the right drug is found? – John H. Tilden, M.D. (1851-1940), who began early in his career to question the role of medicine to cure illness. Through his extensive research, especially from European medical schools, he concluded that there must be a way to live in order to keep disease at bay
If all the medicine in the world were thrown into the sea, it would be bad for the fish and good for humanity – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., M.D. (1809-1894), poet, medical reformer, professor of anatomy and physiology, Harvard University
Drug medications consists in employing, as remedies for disease, those things which produce disease in well persons. Its materia medica is simply a lot of drugs or chemicals or dye-stuffs in a word poisons. All are incompatible with vital matter; all produce disease when brought in contact in any manner with the living; all are poisons. – Russell Thacker TraIl, M.D. (1812-1877), in a 2.5 hour lecture to members of Congress and the medical profession, delivered at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. in 1862
Medicine is only palliative, for back of disease lies the cause, and this cause no drug can reach. – Silas Wier Mitchel, M.D. (1829-1914), father of neurology, pioneer in scientific medicine, psychiatrist, toxicologist, author, poet
Medical practice has neither philosophy nor common sense to recommend it. In sickness the body is already loaded with impurities. By taking drug-medicines more impurities are added, thereby the case is further embarrassed and harder to cure. – Elmer Lee, M.D., A.M., Ph.B, Past Vice President, Academy of Medicine.
That [pneumonia] does terminate favorably under diversity of treatment would seem to prove that it is not so much the treatment as it is the recuperative forces of nature that produce the favorable conclusion. – Elmer Lee, M.D., A.M., Ph.B, Journal of Practical Medicine, Volume 8, Issue 6, January 1898
Thousands of tons of false estimates by medical men… advocating the supposed merits of 25,000 remedies falsely used in the hopes of curing disease… to the disparagement of the best welfare of the physicians and their patients. In some instances the people look upon the physician as but little different from the druggist in whose store the doctor is accustomed to past much of his leisure… notwithstanding ever recurring failures of their cases to recover from sickness under the popular plan of treatment in vogue. – Elmer Lee, M.D., A.M., Ph.B, Journal of Sociologic Medicine, Volume 3, Issue 2, August 1897
Every educated physician knows that most diseases are not appreciably helped by medicine. – Richard C. Cabot, M.D. (1868-1939), lawyer, philosopher, Harvard University professor who declined the role of the first bacteriologist at Massachusetts General Hospital to work in the less prestigious outpatient wards helping the indigent and those with incurable diseases, such as TB and diabetes
We are prone to thinking of drug abuse in terms of the male population and illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. It may surprise you to learn that a greater problem exists with millions of women dependent on legal prescription drugs. – Robert Mendelsohn, M.D. (1926-1988), pediatrician, medical reformer, professor, selected by President Johnson as National Director of Project Head Start
[T]he longer I consider the subject, the more thoroughly am I convinced of the practical accuracy of the position that in every instance of disease or, rather, I should say of sickness (which should always be regarded as Nature’s way of curing disease), the so-called germ is actually the product or result, and not the cause, and that the germ theory as at present held is another instance, in medicine, of cart before the horse. – Charles E. Page, M.D., Journal of Social Science, Volume 38, Are bacilli the cause of disease or a natural aid to its cure?
For every drug that benefits a patient, there is a natural substance that can achieve the same effect. – Carl C. Pfeiffer, M.D., Ph.D (1908-1988), physician and biochemist, prolific author, Chair of Pharmacology at Emory University, and a founder of Orthomolecular Psychiatry
Our figures show approximately four and one half million hospital admissions annually due to the adverse reactions to drugs. Further, the average hospital patient has as much as thirty percent chance, depending how long he is in, of doubling his stay due to adverse drug reactions.” – Milton Silverman, Ph.D. (1911-1997), Professor of Pharmacology, University of California, author of numerous books including Pills, Profits, and Politics and The Drugging of the Americas: How Multinational Drug Companies Say One Thing About Their Products to Physicians in the United States, and Another Thing to Physicians in Latin America
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There’s a great distance that can be traversed when Medicine and its practitioners demonstrate the courage of self-reflexivity to understand, and the humility to share, its limitations. Fear — in this case, fear of punishment, lawsuits, loss of status — keeps the system stuck. I was struck by an article in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled: Hospitals Learn to Say ‘I’m Sorry’ to Patients, which discusses, among its many other benefits, how learning from adverse events can be part of the process.
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Louise Kuo Habakus is the founding director of Fearless Parent™, lead host and producer of Fearless Parent Radio™, and mom of two. She is a published author and runs the non-profits Center for Personal Rights and Health Freedom Action. Louise was a Bain consultant and a C-level executive in the financial services industry. She holds two degrees from Stanford University. She is an advisory board member of GreenMedInfo and The Documenting Hope Project.