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trishran
Skeptic Friend

USA
196 Posts

Posted - 07/05/2005 :  13:10:28  Show Profile Send trishran a Private Message
I went to a funeral on July 3, 2005. The service was mercifully short, and the people I met there were very nice, and yet, it was disturbing.

The guy who died was a former co-worker, a kind person who cared about everybody who crossed his path and was always ready and willing to offer help - often in the form of crystal healing and other forms of "alternative" "medicine". At work, however, I found him helpful and thoughtful, and he didn't push the "medicine" on me. I saw him only two weeks ago, and he said he was fine. He was only 62 years old.

Turns out that the guy had emphysema, which he'd known for a while, but either dismissed or treated with crystals, herbs, chants or whatever. In the process of trying to obtain a medical marijuana card he was required to see an actual medical doctor, where he was told that his heart had grown dangerously weak. He didn't last long enough to receive his card. [I don't remember what ailment had cased him to seek the card, but it wasn't his lungs.]

The family this guy had lived with for the past 10-12 years [in exchange for house and yard work] offered to take him to the E.R. the night he died, but he refused. The lady of the house told me that he said to her, "I'm just gonna fall down here and die someday." She replied, "But I'm the one who will probably find you." He shrugged. She did find him. When she told me this, I replied that she must be a really good friend to let him have the death he chose in her house. She replied, "It woulda been nice if he'd just taken the oxygen." I could only nod.

Anyway, at the service, his 93 year old father spoke very movingly about the sadness of losing a son so young. He said any healing his son had accomplished "was probably psychological". Many of the very young folk talked about what a great healer the departed was. One person claimed that the departed had cured more than one person of epilepsy by making them wear amethyst crystals on their heads.

I sat there in shock - even the *death* of this guy, his premature death, which wasn't genes [considering his 93 year old dad] and he is still referred to as a shaman and healer? And the treatment for the diesease that was terminal in him? Oxygen - could anything on earth be more natural?


trish

Giltwist
Skeptic Friend

USA
69 Posts

Posted - 07/05/2005 :  15:49:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Giltwist's Homepage  Send Giltwist an AOL message  Send Giltwist an ICQ Message  Send Giltwist a Yahoo! Message Send Giltwist a Private Message
I dunno. I have very bad allergies. So bad, that my allergist said I was on his top ten worst sufferers list. For those of you who know/care, I have an IGE of roughly 350. To put this in perspective, a normal person runs about a 20 and a person with hayfever/other seasonal allergies has about a 90. On the bright side, I'm told this puts me at an exceptionally low risk of cancer. On the dim side, it means I've been on a daily medicinal regimen for a good long while, I even tried those shots. The problem is, I've built up a tolerance to the medicines. In order for me to get relief, I need to take stuff strong enough to knock me out as cold as it does the allergies or to take well in excess of the recommended dosage. Personally, I don't like the former as it's rather dehabilitating and the latter can't be good for me (I'm thinking liver failure or something).

That said, medicinal solutions just aren't that viable for me. I've had far better success with mind-over-matter sorts of therapies that I could perform on myself. I'm at the point where I only get bad enough to even merit taking the medicine at the peak of pollen season or when I contract a cold, which is rare. I actually tend to be healthier than my friends, and I've been blessed enough to totally dodge illnesses that have otherwise ravaged my university on occasion. Placebo effect? Probably, but it works.

Now, in this guy's case, yeah, I don't think it would have been all that bad, but maybe he didn't want to be tethered to a tank the rest of his life. I think for many that alternative medicine is more an evasion of what they consider to be a cure worse than the disease than a true belief in the practice. I definately can side with, say, cancer patients who would rather not get an extra year or two at the cost of chemotherapy. It's something we talked about in my intercultural counseling class. The American medical system's ideal of health is quantity over quality. To make a needless tie-in, look at Schiavo. That was about quantity of life over quality of life.

G.

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13474 Posts

Posted - 07/05/2005 :  18:58:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
Giltwist:
The American medical system's ideal of health is quantity over quality. To make a needless tie-in, look at Schiavo. That was about quantity of life over quality of life.


The above sentences are at odds with each other. In the first sentence you cynically suggest that it is systemic to the “American medical system's ideal of health” to just throw anything at the patient to keep him/her alive. That quality of life takes a back seat to all other concerns. (As though those allergy meds that you have been prescribed have nothing to do with making you more comfortable by relieving your symptoms, which would have the effect of improving the quality of your life.)

In the next sentence you try to tie-in the Schiavo case, which was really an example of our American medical system pretty much agreeing that, due her being in a “persitant vegetative state” further medical intervention would not improve the quality of Ms. Shiavo's life. No concern for quality? Where is the push for quantity here aside from her family insisting that the doctors were wrong?

Am I completely misunderstanding you?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26020 Posts

Posted - 07/05/2005 :  19:10:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
Right up the same alley, trish, is the article, "A Prayer before Dying," about the work and death of Elizabeth Targ. It's six pages long, don't miss any.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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Giltwist
Skeptic Friend

USA
69 Posts

Posted - 07/05/2005 :  19:23:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Giltwist's Homepage  Send Giltwist an AOL message  Send Giltwist an ICQ Message  Send Giltwist a Yahoo! Message Send Giltwist a Private Message
quote:
(As though those allergy meds that you have been prescribed have nothing to do with making you more comfortable by relieving your symptoms, which would have the effect of improving the quality of your life.)


Granted, it does often help quality too, but my case is a mild one at best. I'm talking about cases like my grandfather who, at this point, has maybe a year under the best circumstances. He's on this meager little diet in order to extend his life. Half the reason he loves to see me visit is that he has an excuse to break his diet that day. Otherwise its a few ounces of cottage cheese here, a few ounces of fruit there. Sure, it's extending his life a little, but at this point shouldn't he be more concerned with enjoying the time he has left? Either way, he's probably going to take an agaonizing month or so dying from the cancer in a hospital bed.

quote:
Where is the push for quantity here aside from her family insisting that the doctors were wrong?


Perhaps I was misinformed, but didn't the parents have some doctors backing them up? If they didn't, I'm very confused as to why the legal battle lasted so long.

Anyway, my statement was admittedly too broad; doctors ARE concerned with the quality of life, but I think they are more apt to focus on quantity when its a mutually exclusive situation.

G

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26020 Posts

Posted - 07/05/2005 :  19:57:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Giltwist

Perhaps I was misinformed, but didn't the parents have some doctors backing them up? If they didn't, I'm very confused as to why the legal battle lasted so long.
You could call one of them a doctor, but he is really a quack.

Old joke: what do you call the person who graduated last in his class from medical school? Answer: "doctor."

Seriously, the real reason the legal battle lasted so long was that it was a legal battle, and so not determined strictly on best medical practice. When the governor gets involved, medical science suddenly takes a back seat to politics.
quote:
Anyway, my statement was admittedly too broad; doctors ARE concerned with the quality of life, but I think they are more apt to focus on quantity when its a mutually exclusive situation.
Doctors have standards of care which they must adhere to or face malpractice lawsuits. The standards of care are partially based upon sound science, and partially by you and me, ordinary citizens who voted some schmuck into office who suddenly thought that he was an expert in all areas, just because he's in the state legislature. And because "quality of life" is highly subjective, many of those decisions have been taken out of the individual doctor's hands by state boards of medicine who set the standards based upon the law.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Giltwist
Skeptic Friend

USA
69 Posts

Posted - 07/05/2005 :  20:00:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Giltwist's Homepage  Send Giltwist an AOL message  Send Giltwist an ICQ Message  Send Giltwist a Yahoo! Message Send Giltwist a Private Message
sorry to double post, didn't see Dave's post.

quote:
Right up the same alley, trish, is the article, "A Prayer before Dying,"


Wow. Good read. It gets back to what I said about people who want...no NEED to believe getting in the way. I'm thinking the distinction between complimentary and alternative medicine is important. I just got finished reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. It's about the Hmong refugees in Merced, CA. In particular, its about a little girl with epilepsy and how the culture shock / communication barrier got in the way of her treatment. By the end, the parents blamed their child's deterioration on too much medicine, and would have preferred a mixed approach of "a little medicine and a little neeb." Neeb is their word for spiritual healing, incidentally. I think that it's important to believe you will get better, you need to fight. My mother had a stroke about five years ago and now you would never know unless you lived with her. The most important part of her recovery was that she WANTED and BELIEVED she would get better despite her doctors suggesting that she'd never recover to full speech or even beyond shambling along with limp limbs.

Ritual helps make things more believable, that's why everything is so ritualized, be it with drums, incense, or waving hands. In many respects, it's the placebo effect, just like I was saying. It would be great to do a study comparing the effect of a sugar pill vs. healing therapies.

G.

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26020 Posts

Posted - 07/05/2005 :  20:23:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Giltwist

I'm thinking the distinction between complimentary and alternative medicine is important.
There's actually only one distinction that's truly important: medicine that works, and medicine that doesn't work. "Alternative" and/or "complementary medicine" which really does work has been and is incorporated into the medical mainstream.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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trishran
Skeptic Friend

USA
196 Posts

Posted - 07/06/2005 :  12:03:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send trishran a Private Message
I agree with Dave - either medicine works, or it's an imitation of medicine.

It's not that hard to convince a person that they "feel" improvement in some, if not all the symptoms they notice. But that doesn't mean that the course of the disease has been altered, or that the objective measures of the severity or existance of the disease have been changed just because a person who has been taught relaxation exercizes can temporarily reduce heart rate or respiration, or ignore their pain for a while. Also, for pain that is constant, not episodic, distraction can work for a while, but eventually the person's concentration tires, and distraction is no longer effective. And the ever-popular placebo effect wears off eventually, too. Yet CAM promoters seem to think the placebo effect is their friend, like, "Hurray! We gave our patients a placebo effect! We're as good as modern medicine."

The question of whether CAM medicine works is separate from whether someone has te right to refuse to be tethered to oxygen. Of course, but on the other hand this guy spent a lot of time performing rituals, and "spent every dollar he had on crystals", which undercuts somewhat the argument that 'western medicine" is more disruptive to one's life that "natural" medicine.

Another separate question is how could the [mostly] younger people at the memorial still be so sure that this guy was a healer or had some sort of magical powers when his western-medicine-consuming dad outlived him by 31 years and counting?

trish
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trishran
Skeptic Friend

USA
196 Posts

Posted - 07/06/2005 :  12:05:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send trishran a Private Message
Oh, Dave - I read "A Prayer Before Dying" sometime back. Good read.

trish
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