We strongly support the role of able, licensed physicians. Unfortunately, many of them are not well informed nutritionally and do not know how to prescribe the makings of a sound lifestyle. On the other hand, many worthy doctors are informed and vow that 90 percent of our ailments would go away if we simply did what we know we should do.
Yet somehow we do not do what we know we should do. We pass off this advice, preferring immediate solutions over those which require a lifestyle change. We hope that “a good night’s rest” helped along by a sleeping pill and a couple of aspirin will take care of the situation–now!
Many otherwise honest doctors are certain that in order for their practices to survive they must give most people a “quick fix.” They know that we don’t want to face the consequences of our actions. We will do it for our cars and our pets, but not for our bodies.
Most of us have better sense to challenge the law of gravity because if we jump from a cliff, we know that the results will be immediate disaster. But since there is in most cases a delay in the natural laws of our bodies, it is easy for us to think, Never mind, it won’t happen to me.
Then when we least expect it, and perhaps when we are living our lives to the fullest, our neglect catches up with us and demands payment in full! Cancer, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart failure take their toll. Nuisance illnesses–allergies, colds, indigestion, constipation–meanwhile have their day.
Prevention or Cure?
In a lecture to a medical audience in Doncaster in 1984, Dr. Denis Burkitt said something scary: “I used to labor under the delusion,” he admitted, “that doctors and medicine had a profound effect on the health of a community. This I now see as a total fallacy. They have a profound effect on sick people and sick people are very important. But you never reduce the frequency of a disease by improving its treatment. I’ve had to ask myself . . . Has any disease been reduced significantly because of improved treatment?’ With the possible exception of some highly contagious diseases, the answer is, ‘No.’
“I spent twenty happy years as a surgeon in Africa,” the famed physician soberly recalled. “I enjoyed it all. I helped some people, I hope. I helped to train some African surgeons. But let me be honest. I made no impact whatsoever on the health of the community I served. If I had spent my twenty years in charge of a team digging wells and latrines I would have done far more for the health of the community.”
So Dr. Burkitt made a change. He reminisces about what he did before and what he has done since:
“I’m not sorry I did what I did, but the point . . . is that it is of little use doing curative medicine unless we are also doing something to prevent disease.” He illustrates his point by telling of a cartoon that his daughter drew: Water is running at full force from a tap. The sink is overflowing. Water covers the floor. Some highly dedicated, well-trained, hard-working professionals have arrived in full regalia to take things in hand. Their goal, of course, is to keep the floor dry. Their solution is to mop the floor day and night. they don’t even have time for wives and children. It never occurs to them to turn off the faucet. Finally, another professional comes by and asks why they didn’t turn off the faucet. here, Dr. Burkitt suggests, we have the modern doctor, dentist or nurse who is becoming more and more oriented to prevention and less and less to cleaning up diseases. He is distressed that he spent thirty years mopping before he found the faucet.
Dr. Burkitt is still regretful that “about 99 percent” of health expenditure in England goes into “floor-mopping” and one percent into turning off taps. he would like to see the day when preventive-medical people will make as good a living as those whose focus is remedial.