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Modern Medicine: Healing or Stealing?

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A story of commitment and cultural commentary: A long time ago there lived twin brothers, Cosmas and Damian, both of whom were doctors. Trained in Syria they practiced as physicians in the seaport Ã"gea, now Ayash, on the Gulf of Iskandrun in Cilica.

Through their work, they attained a great reputation for healing. At some point, though it is unclear how or why, each had a mystical awakening and came to a simultaneous and mutual decision that eventually led them to be known as Cosmas the Moneyless or Damian the Silverless. In the Greek, they were venerated as the "anargyroi," the Unmercenary physicians because they decided to stop charging for their services and to heal purely out of love for God.

They had determined that their abilities as healers were gifts and they would therefore give them freely and trust that God would provide them with what they needed in order to continue healing the infirm. They traveled throughout Asia Minor giving it away. They never starved or lacked for anything, although they were brutally tortured and beheaded by order of the Prefect of Cilicia, Lysias, during the persecution under Diocletian for not recanting their beliefs.

That was in the third century.

Now, let me tell you a true story from the 21st century, a more modern counterpoint in a minor key:

Someone I know who was injured on the job was sent by the Worker's Compensation insurance underwriter to one of their approved rehabilitation physicians. It was a big office, with a lot of staff, colorful walls, a full physical therapy program, a host of diagnostic machines, and one doctor.

The patient was examined and the exam (as well as all "approved" treatments) was covered by said insurance company. The exam, which involved a simple "look-see", an x-ray, and a few "walk, sit, bend, and stand" commands, at first revealed nothing. Drugs were strongly encouraged, particularly vicodin, which is a known hazard on a multitude of levels (tendency for addiction, narcotic bowel syndrome, irritability and mood disturbance, motor function disturbance and so on and so forth). They were all refused with the exception of ibuprofen.

Finally, after two months of increasing and relentless pain, the insurance company capitulated and allowed an MRI which found several bulging discs including an impinged S1. The patient was exhausted but relieved to know he wasn't crazy. At least the pain had a real etiology. They did other neurologic exams and found moderate to severe neuropathy along one leg, hip and buttock. They waited to do this MRI until the statute for a law suit had passed.

Although they continued to press the patient to take more drugs, they allowed brief physical rehab which entailed deep tissue release. After two months, the patient saw some signs of improvement. So what did they do?

They discontinued treatment, declared the patient MMI (at "maximum medical improvement") and sent him on his merry way with a prescription for whatever he wanted.

When the doctor told the patient that the physical therapy was being withdrawn, the patient sat stunned for a moment. Then he said, "But that was the only thing that worked. How can you take that away from me?"

"Yeah," the doctor said, "but it's been too long now and we have to make a determination for the insurance company."

"But you're a DOCTOR!" the patient leaned forward, raising his voice.

"I know. But that's the system," was all the doctor had to say and turned back to his very fashionable computer note pad.

Before the patient left, he looked back and pointed his finger, "No. YOU'RE the system."

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Judith Acosta is a licensed psychotherapist, author, and speaker. She is also a classical homeopath based in New Mexico. She is the author of The Next Osama (2010), co-author of The Worst is Over (2002), the newly released Verbal First Aid (more...)
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