Values In Health Care

By Dr. Shvetank Agarwal

The discovery of penicillin more than a century back ushered a new era in medicine, which changed the face of the planet. While it gave renewed power to the physicians to treat infectious diseases, I feel it was the beginning of the most distorted phase of medicine. I say this because it led to what I call as “arrogance of medicine”, better known as the “mechanistic” or “reductioninistic” view point. One antibiotic “discovery” led to the next and soon physicians had a whole slew of medicines to choose from which for a little while at least “fixed” infections. Interestingly, physicians began to believe that they have “supernatural powers”, while actually behaving like car mechanics! “If your kidney stops working, we will throw that out and put a new one, if your liver misbehaves, we will cut it away and replace it with a brand new one, if your heart is broken, believe it or not, we will get a new one for you” – has become a ubiquitous statement by our conceited medical practice across the world!

I see regularly in my practice, patients being referred to as “gall bladders”, “livers”, and “hearts” or heart failures, pneumonias and meningitis, and never cease to point out to my callous colleagues to make a sincere effort to see patients as human beings rather than just their pathologies!

No one would disagree that our lives have become virtual roller coasters - juggling never-ending errands, work, family and social obligations, which often leaves us worn out. Expectations, both internal and external, soar high in our modern day and age; so do stress levels. The “flight and fright response” which is a natural physiological response to a threat to life has become a constant state of our minds because we have begun to perceive virtually any change around us as a threat. Momentary high levels of cortisol and catecholamines which are necessary to survive a true danger to life, has now become a chronic state causing irreparable damage to the body. While the body is designed to repair itself naturally, the relentless damage can easily overwhelm even the most robust repair and healing mechanisms - leading to all sorts of illnesses.

We are now beginning to understand that practically all diseases known to mankind have a psychosomatic element (“psyche” means mind and “soma” means body), which refers to the effect of the mind on the body. In other words, chronic mental stress eventually manifests itself as structural and functional changes in the body, ranging from maybe a simple increased susceptibility to seasonal flu and allergies to premature aging, arthritis, heart diseases, cancers and other life-threatening diseases. Is there a way to save ourselves from this inevitable epidemic of stress…?

The health care industry today has become the single largest industry in the world, with zillions of dollars in direct and indirect costs pumped into research and never-ending quest for new medicines, yet, there does not seem to be a respite to human illness and disease. It takes only a moment to realize that modern medicine has moved quite-a-ways away from true healing to mere “quick-fixes”. Current medical practice with its “reductionistic / mechanistic viewpoint” almost boisterously forces us into narrow channels of thinking. Fixing a broken machine may be possible by tearing it apart and changing the problem component, but when we translate that to taking care of a person, it rarely works. A person is not simply an aggregate of different body parts, but much more! When we say “human being”, it is really two separate entities, the “human” and the “being”. The word, “human” comes from the Latin word, “humus”, which means the soil and it represents the body or the physical component. However, the often ignored, “being” is where the multiple dimensions of existence and all the answers lie!


We did spend a little time on the mental or psychological dimension of the “being” when we talked about stress at the beginning of this blog, but let us dive a little bit deeper. The mind is the non-physical component of the “being” where thoughts are created and is different from the brain, which is physical. The non-physical energy of our thoughts creates conformational changes in brain, which through various electric and chemical pathways brings about changes in the entire body. Angry, resentful, stressful thoughts trigger “unhappy” changes to the body, whereas compassionate, forgiving, loving thoughts leads to “happy” effects.

Next is the social dimension. We often hear people saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” or “Man is a social animal”, and rightfully so..! While social media and other forms of technology are ever-evolving, people are finding themselves increasingly socially isolated. Wrong beliefs, prejudices, general insecurity, have all played important parts in this disengagement process, leading to feelings of depression, hopelessness, mistrust and progressively more isolation.

The spiritual dimension of the “being” is yet another enigma. Not understanding how to relate with ourselves, in the general context of life, world, God, etc, can be quite disruptive as well. Unable to connect meaningfully at any or all of these levels appears to be the root cause of all “unwellness” at this time.

Let’s pause to take a look at the famous water experiments of Dr. Masaru Emoto, in which he proved that thought energy can bring about changes in the configuration of the water crystals, without any physical contact between the person creating the thoughts and the water. It is intriguing, yet quite concerning, because almost two-thirds of our body is water and if the non-physical energy of thoughts can travel through time and space and affect the physical energy of water, it can surely affect all the water that our body is comprised of.

This tells us the change needs to start from the way we think- a paradigm shift from our old, pitiful patterns of thinking and beliefs to new nourishing thought patterns. If we can think positive and healthy, we can allow healing energy to happen. It is time for us to take a few minutes to contemplate, to really understand the unrelenting implications of our actions and to make radical changes to our lives. Regular practice of Raja Yoga meditation gives us the opportunity as well as a platform to restructure our lives, and become healthy once again!