Today’s guest post about changes in health and medicine is by Russ Gerber, Manager of Committees on Publication.
Looking out my window at home I still see several inches of snow lining the walkway. As is routine for New Englanders in mid-February I won’t take a step outside without my winter coat and gloves.
But this time there’s a hint of something unexpected. Change is in the air.
Look carefully and you see tiny buds coming through on some of the trees, and once in a while when you step into just the right sunny spot you feel a momentary warmth that tells you winter’s cold spell is loosening its grip.
Seasons are changing in the world of medicine as well.
I like how Dr. Larry Dossey characterizes the different eras of modern medicine and how the field has gradually but dramatically changed over many decades. Era 1 medicine began in the mid-1800′s, a period when physicians treated human bodies as mindless machines. Era 2 in the mid-1900′s saw physicians acknowledging that the human mind did have a bearing on one’s health. Research into the placebo effect and how stress and anxiety negatively impact one’s health paved the way for what we know today as mind-body medicine.
Era 3 is the future of medicine, as Dossey sees it, which is dawning on society. It’s an era in which a fuller understanding of consciousness is central to understanding our universe and realizing the mental nature of health care.
By the way, one more indicator of that made headlines this week when the BBC reported on a new study that shows how the effect of painkillers can either be boosted or completely wiped out by the expectation of the patient. An Oxford professor who saw the results suggested that physicians may need to change their focus from physiology to the mind.
Not everyone agrees. Some argue forcefully that the future of medicine resides in a greater understanding of matter, not of mind — Era 1 thinking.
But others, myself included, see a monumental shift taking place in society’s view of health. What’s emerging is the significance of consciousness in the context of spirituality, and how a transformed consciousness affects one’s health. People are experiencing the benefits every day.
Where will this take us in terms of health care? It’s conceivable that down the road medicine may need to be redefined as having mental and spiritual components, and users of this medicine — a new kind of health practitioner — will be qualified to fill that role because of their spirituality.
Of course that’s hardly how the world of health and medicine look today. We have a long way to go before we’ll have shed many of our long-held materialistic views.
But change is in the air. A small number of observers see the unmistakable signs of a transformation taking place. We’re going in the direction of mental and spiritual treatment being considered as legitimate an approach to health care as are drug-based treatments.
Like the change of seasons it isn’t happening dramatically, but it is happening. One day it will be as obvious and as natural to us as the arrival of Spring.