Philosophy bomb on modern healthcare

I picked up a book at the library a week ago that I find equally inspiring, edifying and appalling.  If you haven’t read “The Art of the Commonplace” by Wendell Berry, I highly recommend it.

I’m finding it necessary to take it in small bites.  This is deep philosophy.  I find it rich and fertile ground for mental growth, and I’m having to stop often and mull over his thoughts.

I would describe Mr. Berry as a Christian agrarian conservative ecological philosopher.  Or something like.  If you like what Joel Salatin has to say, you’d probably like Wendell Berry, too.

Given my recent experiences in the hospital, I was particularly struck by what Mr. Berry had to say about modern healthcare.  Being a social type, I thought I’d share it with you.

The modern hospital, where most of us receive our strictest lessons in the nature of industrial medicine, undoubtedly does well at surgery and other procedures that permit the body and its parts to be treated as separate things.  But when you try to think of it as a place of healing – or reconnecting and making whole – then the hospital reveals the disarray of the medical industry’s thinking about health.

In healing, the body is restored to itself, it beings to live again by its own powers and instincts, to the extent that it can do so.”  [Mr. Berry speaks elsewhere about God’s creation and how we are fearfully and wonderfully made.]  “To the extent that it can do so, it goes free of drugs and mechanical helps.  Its appetites return. It relishes food and rest.  The patient is restored to family and friends, home and community and work.

This process has certain naturalness and inevitability, like that by which as child grows up, but industrial medicine seems to grasp it only tentatively and awkwardly.  For example, any person would assume that a place of healing would put a premium upon rest, but hospitals are notoriously difficult to sleep in.  They are noisy all night, and the routine interventions go on relentlessly.  The body is treated as a machine that does not need to rest.

You would think also that a place dedicated to healing and health would make much of food.  But here is where the disconnections of the industrial system and the displacement of industrial humanity are most radical… aside from our own mortal involvements; food is our most fundamental connection to [the cycle of birth, growth, maturity, death and decay].  But probably most of the complaints you hear about hospitals have to do with the food, which, according to the testimony I have heard, tends to range from unappetizing to sickening.  Food is treated as another unpleasant substance to inject.  And this is a shame.  For in addition to the obvious nutritional link between food and health, food can be a pleasure.  People who are sick are often troubled or depressed, and mealtimes offer three opportunities a day when patients could easily be offered something to look forward to.  Nothing is more pleasing or heartening than a plate of nourishing, tasty, beautiful food artfully and lovingly prepared.  Anything less is unhealthy, as well as a desecration.

Why should rest and food and ecological health not be the basic principles of our art and science of healing?  Is it because the basic principles already are technology and drugs?  Are we confronting some fundamental incompatibility between mechanical efficiency and organic health?  I don’t know.  I only know that sleeping in a hospital is like sleeping in a factory and that the medical industry makes only the most tenuous connection between health and food and no connection between health and the soil.  Industrial medicine is as little interested in ecological health as is industrial agriculture.

I’m very struck by this.  The only houses of healing that I am aware of, where patients may be admitted and tended are all solely for childbearing.  There are no holistic-care hospitals that follow the principles outlined above.  I and the children see a naturopath for most of our health needs, and that care is radically different – and better – than what we receive elsewhere.  If I’d had the option of going to a Christ-centered, holistic-care, naturopathically-minded house of healing for my medically-necessary c-sections, I’d have been there in a heartbeat.

I don’t have much in the way of answers.  But I thought I’d put it all out there for you to ponder as well.

Blessings and good health.

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About dep31

I am a farm-raised homeschooling mom. I take great joy in making nutritious food that inspires people to take seconds. Thirds, anyone? We are a God-fearing, Christ worshiping family that enjoys good friends and good eats. If the kitchen is clean and the living room carpet is visible, then that's a nice bonus.
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