Len Saputo, MD 2016
Introduction: The New Terrain of American Health Care – Part 1
Over the past 25 years the practice of medicine has become a business, physicians have become employees, and patients have become commodities. Healthcare has become more standardized, and doctors have been taught to treat “sets of symptoms” with “bags of tools.” They are now minimally trained to “be with” their patients because they are too busy learning about new technologies and doing more treatments. The sacred space that once characterized the doctor-patient relationship is all but gone. Put simply, the heart and soul of medicine has been gutted.
The whole point of ideal healthcare is to maintain a population of healthy, happy people. Preventing disease through living a healthy lifestyle should be the most important job of healthcare. However, when people do get sick the responsibility of their doctor is far more than just getting them back on their feet and back to work. The best doctors are also charged with the responsibility of being healers, which means they must strive to understand why their patients become ill and then guide them back to optimal health in every way: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Unfortunately, today’s doctors are taught that getting sick is simply bad luck or like the throw of dice or, perhaps, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The goal of medicine has become centered on eliminating symptoms rather than treating the underlying reasons for getting them. In many ways, modern medicine looks at the human body much like a watchmaker looks at the parts of a watch. That is one of the reasons why we have so many specialists. The heart doctor knows the heart. The lung doctor knows the lungs. The kidney doctor knows the kidneys. And the list goes on…
So, who knows about the whole person? Not even our psychiatrists know the whole person today. Sadly, they have transitioned from practicing psychotherapy to practicing psychopharmacology. Not only do they receive zero spiritual training, but the profession doesn’t believe or even acknowledge spirituality.
This is mindboggling because most physicians do have a personal spiritual belief. They go to church on Sunday and pray to God, but when they go back to work on Monday morning, they take off their spiritual hat, put on their scientific hat, and all but ignore anything that has to do with the role of spirit in their work. Doctors are taught one perspective in their medical training and another in their personal religious or spiritual training. They have managed to support two opposing views at the same time.
Hospitals are just as contradictory. Most hospitals, especially religious hospitals, have a chapel or at least a space where people can pray. They allow ministers, priests, Rabbis etc. to come to the hospital in behalf of patients and their families to pray, offer pastoral care, give last rites, etc. So, on the one-hand hospitals, like doctors, do not support spiritual healing when it comes to medical treatment, but on the other hand they provide facilities where anyone can connect with spirit through prayer. Is this simply a matter of patronizing patients to attract more business, or are hospitals and doctors getting and giving mixed messages because they have a double standard?
A couple of hundred years ago, when doctors became “scientists,” they agreed to throw out the role of spirit in healing because they did not understand how it worked and had no idea about how to apply it. They chose to simply relegate the role of spirit back to the church and at the same time convince themselves that this was good science.
Good scientists do not throw out what they don’t understand. Closing our eyes does not make reality disappear unless you are a child! It is ironic because it is a lack of understanding that drives good scientists to make new and revolutionary discoveries.
In actuality, science and spirituality can be viewed as merely different ends of a single spectrum that describes how the universe works. Of course, they are always 100% of the time, completely congruent. They cannot exist in any other way. The challenge for today’s MDs is to begin thinking for themselves and taking a serious look at how spirit affects everything in both their personal and professional lives whether they understand it or not. We know far more than we understand.
It is quite a stretch to think of physical disease as the body’s way of manifesting psychospiritual dis-ease when spirituality is off limits. Yet this is not a new concept. It is what the shamans throughout history believed and how they practiced medicine for thousands of years. They believe illness has spiritual meaning and purpose, and that it is how the cosmos teaches us lessons about how well we are living our lives at a spiritual level. There is no more powerful teacher than the pain and disability of an illness to help get us back on a more meaningful spiritual path. Through illness we have the opportunity to learn important truths that we could not otherwise know.
If you have trust and faith that everything that happens in life has a reason and purpose, it is a huge game changer.