Spontaneous Healing

Andrew Weil, MD once again has produced a thoughtful, useful and challenging book. That is what I like about his books, I always go away with something to chew upon and contemplate. Spontaneous Healing is chock full of testimonials about spontaneous healing and useful prescriptions for healing a variety of ailments. Dr. Weil, once again, demonstrates his wide knowledge of complementary methods and there are gems here to be mined.

However, the part of this book that generated the most interest and consequent commentary by me is the chapter: Afterword: Prescription for Society. In this chapter Dr. Weil discusses the need for society to move toward a healing orientation rather than a disease model. He lists the following obstacles that are standing in the way of movement.

  • Medical education is frozen in a disease-oriented mode. The clinical training of doctors remains a brutal initiation that makes it very difficult for students to maintain healthy lifestyles and develop the mental and spiritual qualities of healers.
  • An atmosphere of distrust has poisoned doctor/patient relationships, so that every patient coming through the door is now seen as a potential plaintiff in a lawsuit. Doctors are more afraid that ever to deviate from conventional standards of practice.
  • Insurance companies dictate how medicine is practiced by their policies of reimbursement. They will not pay for most of the interventions described in this book because they say they do not have research data to support the effectiveness of their cost-feffectiveness compared to conventional treatments.
  • Research on healing an on alternative medicine is primitive or non-existent because the people who set research priorities and disburse research funds are not interested in these fields.
  • The biomedical model from which medical scientists work stifles movement toward Hygeian medicine. From that model's materialistic perspective, doctors can easily dismiss most fo the ideas in this book as unscientific and unworthy of investigation.

Dr. Weil beleive that a radical overall of medical education and the creation of a National Institute of Health and Healing would help move us in the direction of a healing model. He also beleives that it is necessary for a powerful consumers movement to start demanding the preventive and treatment modalities they want.

What is not discussed by Dr. Weil is the need for looking at the same issues within the delivery of alternative services, and I do not consider this a criticism, because I was delighted to find him adding his voice to the growing numbers that are seeking change. My own distress with the delivery of alternative medicine services is that we are creating the same fragmented delivery system that is existent in conventional medicine. Although, you may find many alternative practitioners working together in the same group setting, it is very rare for those practitioners to apply the concept of holism to the methods of service delivery. There are a number of specialties within the complementary medicines and with the exceptions of chinese, ayurveda, and naturopathy, few of them look at the total picture, although many individual practitioners make outstanding efforts to do so.

What is needed is a concerted effort to create total enviroments for healing that recognize the need for wholism is all facets of alternative medicine. The Planetree hospital reform project for bringing home like atmospheres and family into the hospital is an example. Large group alternative practices are becoming very sucessful and although they are a long step in the right direction, most service delivery is still modeled on the medical model with specialization and with the MD's still controlling the resources and flow of the patient through the system.

A whole new profession of the healing advocate or facilitator is needed. Someone that is thoroughly schooled in the varieties of complementary healing practices and who can intelligently educate and guide the patient through the morass of alternative methods and spiritual traditions. MD's are seldom trained in this way although if Andrew Weil has any say, they will be in the future. The need for basic education is very critical since few persons seeking alternatives really understand the expectations and demands of the alternative therapies and life styles.

Thanks once again to Dr. Weil for creating the context within which these important questions can be asked.


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