Intended for healthcare professionals


Western medicine: a confidence trick driven by the drug industry?

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 03 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:h

I have been saying this for a long time!

Dear Sir,

Congratulations! You have hit the nail on its head in your editorial.
Jonathan Swift was dead right.
"Knowledge" wrote Karl Popper "advances not by repeating known facts, but
by refuting false dogmas". One of the greatest dogmas in modern medicine
is that drugs and surgical procedures only cure illnesses. It is the
immune system that really heals. The latter needs to be assisted.

I teach my students that if any one wants to preserve his/her health
intact he/she should avoid hospitals and doctors to the extent possible,
but when one is ill, one needs to see a doctor without delay and be a
partner in the management.
Most of what we do today in modern medicine reminds me of what our
ancestors did by branding for every major illness and blood letting to
cure, swearing by their efficacy. We are able to comfort most of the time,
which our forefathers in medicine could not achieve. That is the progress
we have achieved in the last century, though.
Hippocrates could well be right when he said: "cure rarely, comfort
mostly, but console always."

Modern medical claptrap, assisted by the drug industry and instrument
manufacturers, has made doctors forget their greatest role in consoling
every patient.

The false sense of faith in our scanners, scopes, and the powerful
chemicals and the heroic surgical techniques (poor patient playing the
hero's role, though), has made us forget our primary role of consoling the
suffering patients who still have confidence in us.
Most drugs harm the system in the long run; there are hardly any
exceptions, although they do help when given for symptom relief for a
short period of time. There are exceptions to every rule and it is the
exceptions that prove the rule.
While there is no pill for every ill, every pill has some ill following
its use.

Time really is ripe for more openness in our work. We need very bold
editors, indeed!



Competing interests: No competing interests

04 August 2002
BM Hegde
Vice Chancellor
Manipal-576 119. India