In the light of our last blogpost, there are some important points that need to be clarified. Certainly, this short post is not intended to be either the full or the last word on this matter. However, I think three important points need to be made, as incentives to further discussion.
Principles and Practice
Firstly, there is a big difference between principles and practice. A principle tells you what and why you may or may not do something. A practice, on the other hand, tells you how it is done.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a principle that applies with particular aptness to medicine in general. It’s the difference between treating a person with a broken arm rather than a broken arm that ‘happens’ to be attached to a person.
Acute and Chronic
Another important point to consider is the difference between acute conditions and chronic ones. While it’s generally more important to look for the causes of symptoms in all their living complexity, sometimes symptoms themselves urgently demand attention.
You’re at the dinner table and one of your fellow diners suddenly reaches for his or her throat, desperately gasping for breath. Now, that’s hardly the time to run field diagnostic tests on the epiglottis (i.e., that generally handy flap that neatly closes over the trachea when you swallow food or drink). No, the symptom (i.e., suffocation) must be treated immediately.
In the same way, if I get hit by a car and need surgery to stop the internal bleeding and reset my broken bones, I need more than a homeopathic remedy if I want to arrest the bleeding and mend my fractures, though the right remedy certainly would help me heal.
So, provided the guiding principle is that medicine exists to assist the body in its own work of healing, with treatment of symptoms as a subordinate principle in service of the first, then I see no difficulty achieving harmony.
Technology: A Great Tool in the Right Hands
Finally, it’s impossible to deny that technology is a great tool in the right hands. In my clinic today, I have access to sophisticated techniques that were not even dreamt of when I was a dental student: things like ozone therapy, 3-D xrays, and laser beams. These are phenomenal assets to any medical practice. It all depends on why and how they’re used. After all, a tool is like an extension of the hand, and every tool is ultimately only as good as the hand that wields it. The same hammer used to build a house can knock it down, board-by-board.
I could go on and on. We haven’t even mentioned the principle of prevention. We’ll save that for a post of its own!
Meanwhile, all the best,
Dr. Blanche Grube