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Quantum View of Medicine and its Implications

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The term "quantum" refers to the smallest amount of a physical quantity that can be counted or measured. The name "quantum mechanics" is derived from the observation that some physical quantities can change only in discrete amounts (Latin quanta) and not in a "continuum" way. The theory and practice of medicine needs to be understood in a similar "quantum" rather than the "continuum" way if the observed phenomena in the world of medicine are to be fully accounted for. For example, when a disease is understood to be nearly incurable by conventional medicine and is cured by an unexplained alternative medicine, this cure is usually overlooked or disregarded as an "exception." The quantum view of medicine can explain such apparent variations or exceptions.

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We understand the theory of a disease (its causation and treatment) based on some scientific principles. There is a flow of logic from one aspect to the other in a continuous way as in the case of Era 1 or "body" medicine (structure-based), which constitutes most of conventional medicine. The recently understood Era 2 or "mind-body" (thought-based) and Era 3 or "mind-body-spirit" (feeling-based) medicine have their own way of understanding disease causation and treatment. [1] In practice, all these three "Eras" of medicine operate simultaneously (involving structure, thought, and feeling) in varying proportions in different individuals, with both conventional and alternative medicine having components of all three "Eras" within them.

If such a phenomenon of simultaneous working of different "Eras" is to be explained, we need to visualize medicine as consisting of "quanta" of these different "Eras." While conventional medicine is currently having Era 1 (body) as its main component with the nursing profession mainly providing the Era 2 (mind-body) and Era 3 (mind-body-spirit) components, the various streams of alternative medicine apparently have Era 2 (e.g., hypnotherapy) or Era 3 (e.g., faith healing) as their main operative component. The outcome of a disease process would be decided by the relative "quanta" of Era 1, 2, or 3 components in operation for the disease in question at the causative and therapeutic levels. The physician would use one of these "Eras" preferentially, depending on his own training and temperament.

While we see quanta of different "Eras" in operation in the same patient, each quantum will have its effect independent of what precedes, follows, or accompanies it. Medicine in real time operates in such a quantum way. This is supported by the fact that a high proportion of all patients who are treated by conventional medicine are apparently benefited by concomitant use of some form of alternative medicine. [2] The Era 2 and Era 3 components in the different forms of alternative medicine apparently contribute substantially to their unexplained effectiveness.

There is need for a common coherent model to understand and assimilate the different philosophical approaches of conventional and alternative medicine. [3] The quantum view of medicine, by understanding conventional and alternative medicine in terms of the three "Eras," gives a meaningful basis to comprehend all three. It paves the way for a system that values the individual doctor's subjective experience in treating patients on par with acquisition of scientific knowledge in the concerned field. It provides a common platform for teaching and learning all three "Eras" -- the body, mind-body, and mind-body-spirit components of medicine. It allows the inclusion of positive thoughts and an empathetic attitude toward the patient as integral parts of therapy.



Padmanabhan V. Becoming Aware of Mind-Body-Spirit Medicine; 2014. Available from: http://www.futurehealth.org/articles/Becoming-Aware-of-Mind-Bod-by-Vijayaraghavan-Pad-Attitude_Body_Compassion_Comprehensive-140426-607.html.


The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. Available from: https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/2007/camsurvey_fs1.htm.


FDA and the Challenge of Alternative Medicine: Realistic Assessments and Regulatory Flexibility. Available from: https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/8852106/Tricia_M_Hwang.pdf?sequence=1.

[Article first published in IJAM July-Dec 2017]

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Vijayaraghavan Padmanabhan is former Professor of Medicine, Madras Medical College. Based in Chennai, India. His interests include Spirituality, Politics, Economics and Medicine.

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