Gods of Heal­ing

Meet the doc­tors who are chang­ing the fu­ture of medicine.

India Today - - INSIDE - By Da­mayanti Datta

Have you heard the bat­tle cry? From red-brick hos­pi­tals in Lon­don to thatched cot­tages of Ban­ga­lore, from sun­drenched cam­puses of Syd­ney to tony clin­ics of New York, there’s a new buzz in the air: “Re­spect the pa­tient.”

Mod­ern medicine has achieved much. Un­beat­able dis­eases have be­come treat­able, ag­gres­sive in­ter­ven­tions are staving off death. Yet stud­ies show that 60 per cent of doc­tors don’t lis­ten to pa­tients. And with cost of treat­ment spi­ralling out of con­trol, health­care is in­creas­ingly un­af­ford­able. A global move­ment is build­ing up, fo­cused on qual­ity of life, bet­ter pa­tient-doc­tor re­la­tion­ship and gen­tler treat­ments, none of which can be pro­vided by to­day’s medicine.

The turf war is be­tween the old guard of al­lo­pathic medicine and the new wave of in­ter­est in nat­u­ral ther­a­pies, col­lec­tively known as com­ple­men­tary and al­ter­na­tive medicine ( CAM) or in its more con­tem­po­rary avatar as in­te­grated medicine. Most of these are tra­di­tional medicines and have been used for mil­len­nia to treat ill­nesses. With the largest sys­tems of heal­ing—Unani, Ayurveda, home­opa­thy, natur­opa­thy, Sid­dha and Bud­dhist medicines—the spot­light is on In­dia.

But the move­ment to in­te­grate dif­fer­ent sys­tems is re­jected by main­stream prac­ti­tion­ers of western medicine as ‘pseudo-sci­ence’. Med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ments refuse to recog­nise any­thing that can­not be ver­i­fied in ev­i­dence-based lab­o­ra­tory method­ol­ogy of dou­ble-blind and ran­domised clin­i­cal tri­als. Yet, as a World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( WHO) re­port shows, tra­di­tional medicine re­mains the most com­monly used form of med­i­cal care in many coun­tries: 80 per cent in Africa, 70 per cent in In­dia, 50 per cent in China. A 2011 study of over seven mil­lion people shows that the top 25 rea­sons for seek­ing med­i­cal care are for chronic con­di­tions: High blood pres­sure to choles­terol, di­a­betes to back pain, anx­i­ety to obe­sity. Mod­ern medicine doesn’t have a proper an­swer for such pa­tients.

“This is where ortho­dox prac­tice can learn from com­ple­men­tary medicine and the West can learn from the East,” said Bri­tain’s fu­ture king Prince Charles at the 2006 as­sem­bly of the WHO. He has just set in mo­tion an am­bi­tious project, an en­deav­our of the Col­lege of Medicine, UK, a char­ity he runs, in part­ner­ship with the Soukya In­ter­na­tional Holis­tic Heal­ing Cen­ter Foun­da­tion in Ban­ga­lore. The aim is to bring to­gether the best and the bright­est of well­ness gu­rus from the East and the West into a net­work, boost an­cient knowl­edge with mod­ern re­search and move away from cure to preven­tion.

The new heal­ers have enough ev­i­dence to back them up. They are cre­at­ing new ways to pre­vent, re­sist and even re­verse dis­eases. Coun­tries where western medicine has long been the stan­dard, are em­brac­ing the al­ter­na­tive tra­di­tions: 70 per cent in Canada, 75 per cent in France, 48 per cent in Aus­tralia and four out of 10 in the US. Cash-rich, cor­po­rate hos­pi­tals in In­dia, from Apollo to Fortis to Medanta, are com­ple­ment­ing “al­lo­pathic” treat­ments with well­ness pro­grammes based on CAM.

Here is our se­lec­tion of people who are set­ting new rules to help you make the most of your body and mind.

Herbal medicine Be­lieves in heal­ing prop­er­ties of plants. Old­est form of treat­ment to have been prac­tised in an­cient In­dia,

China and Ti­bet. Yoga An­cient In­dian tra­di­tion of men­tal and phys­i­cal

ex­er­cises.

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