Gods of Healing
Meet the doctors who are changing the future of medicine.
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