Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Has "modern" society lost the plot?


In Mohan Dutta's "The Unheard Voices of Santalis: Communicating about Health from the Margins of India", he raises the observation of how the Santalis believe that disruption of the natural order by supernatural forces leads to disease and the cause of the illness needs to be addressed in more severe cases instead of simply superficially treating the illness with modern medicine.

He also makes mention of a participant Shyamda who spoke of stomach ache and blood in his stool and how Shyamda's wife had told him to go get some modern tests done. However, Shyamda speaks about how he does not have the money to get these tests done.

And instead of being crippled by this structural constraint, he says he will save up money to get the tests done and that meanwhile, he will take homeopathic medicine that is very much within his financial reach.

This reading brought to my mind an occurrence that happened in my life not too long ago. A schoolmate succumbed last year to breast cancer, leaving behind a very devoted and distraught husband and two teenage children. She had battled the illness for at least five years, undergoing surgery and round after round of aggressive chemotherapy. Even in the final stages of her illness, she fiercely clung on to life and subjected herself to expensive western cancer treatment, holding on to the desperate belief that it would at least prolong her life, if not cure her.

According to friends who were close to her, she was very fearful of leaving her children. At her wake, all of us, her friends, gave more than the usual amount of money to her family as we could imagine that they would be financially stretched, if not already in debt.

The issues brought up by this event are many. Medicalisation, over treatment, pursuit of profits by hospitals. Could it also be the case that "modern" society has lost all sight of its cultural, traditional forms of treatment, and fully replaced it with very aggressive and expensive western forms of treatment - and in many cases resulting in pushing patients and their families into financial trouble?

Do doctors have a moral responsibility to consider the overall well-being of patients and their families beyond pushing out treatment - and in this case, aggressive and maybe even unhelpful treatment? Here, the Santalis appear to straddle what they know to be a trusty, traditional way of approaching illness and using western forms of treatment, if they can afford it. 

At this juncture, it is interesting to note how in recent years, there is a growing call for people to stop and take stock.

What is the point of very aggressive treatment in the final stages of a terminal illness, when doctors themselves are doubtful of a cure? What is worthy of note too is the suffering that over treatment brings especially in the end stages of a terminal illness when the time can be spent on end-of-life matters.

Here I include a link: 

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/when-treating-cancer-is-not-an-option/?_r=0







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