Medicine in the New Millennium

Allopathic Medicine or modern medicine represents a human endeavor to conquer diseases and human suffering based on scientific principles and research. In this scientific approach there has always been a quest to understand disease processes and attempts are made to develop effective remedy and formulate suitable preventive measures. The medical breakthroughs of the past 50 years have truly been astounding, saving more lives than those of any era since the dawn of civilization. However, Medicine has also become a prisoner of its own success. Having conquered grave disease its goals have become fuzzy. What are its aims ? Is it's prime duty to keep people alive as long as possible, whatever be the circumstances ? Or is it to keep people healthy and provide better quality of life to the maximum number of people? 

Great Strides

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Penicillin was still in a laboratory stage and common infections were frequently fatal. Epidemics of Plague and Small Pox killed millions of people and no effective treatment was available for Tuberculosis, Typhoid and other common infections. The latter half of the last century saw a pharmacological revolution with the introduction of broad spectrum antibiotics for common infections, steroids for immunological and allergic diseases, control of deficiency diseases, effective medicines for mental illnesses and vaccines for disease prevention. A striking example was the use of Polio vaccine for prevention of Poliomyelitis with its complicating deformities and small pox vaccine to eradicate the dreaded scourge Simultaneously, surgery made great strides with the starting of open heart surgery for congenital and valvular heart defects and later, bypass surgery for vascular blocks. 

Organ transplants starting with renal transplants followed by heart and heart lung transplant, liver transplant and bone marrow transplant have also revolutionized modern medicine. Simultaneously, with better visualization of organs by Ultrasound, CA-T, PET, MRI and nuclear imaging and various Endoscopies, further surgical refinement was possible especially with the advent of micro-surgery and laparoscopic surgery. 

Joint replacement surgery is increasingly popular even in India. New techniques are laser-guided surgery and the use of robotics in surgery. Tele-medicine is yet another exciting field which has made the world a much smaller place with the availability of sophisticated care in remote corners of the world.

While research in basic sciences have transformed our understanding of diseases, genetics and molecular biology has developed rapidly after the cracking down of genetic code in 1953 by Watson & Crick. Genetic science and engineering has made much headway and research in the human genome project is proceeding at an astonishing speed, raising of course a few ethical questions. The last decade has witnessed awesome breakthrough in cancer research and control of AIDS. 

Disturbing Aspects

However, the disturbing aspects in the present scenario are population explosion, environmental degradation and pollution with its fallout in the form of increasing incidence of communicable diseases, allergic disorders and even cancer. With the increasing stress of industrialization and urbanization, the incidence of hypertension, coronary artery disease and diabetes with its complications have increased manifold. Unfortunately, the ethnic background of Indians makes them more susceptible to diabetes and ischemic heart disease compared to their western counterparts. With increasing stress, the incidence of stress related psychosomatic and psychiatric illnesses has increased tremendously.

Medical professionals and particularly the pharmaceutical industry are busy finding quick-fix for common problems, which are expensive and often unnecessary. The affluent sections of our society have benefited maximum by the technological revolution whereas for the vast majority even basic services are difficult to obtain. Medical research is largely funded and guided by large pharmaceutical companies whose interest does not match with the interest of consumers of healthcare. There is also an increasing commercialization of Medicine with the application of Hi-tech Medicine for people who could do well with simple traditional cures. Because of the media of mass communication even normal life events (like menopause) are medicated with expensive drugs and often risks are equated with diseases and treated. Even trivial complaints often lead to fancy and expensive procedures. Because of increasing reliance on laboratory medicine and investigative procedures and less accent on clinical acumen there has been a steady erosion of the traditional Doctor - Patient relationship which is vital for sound health care.

Materialism & Consumerism

Many of the ills of present day society stem from increasing stress on materialism and consumerism. The advent of fast foods and packaged, processed foodstuffs, faster modes of travel and automation coupled with physical inactivity and tobacco usage has added the burden of diseases of affluence viz. Hypertension, diabetes, ischemic heart disease and cardio-vascular strokes, to our society. In fact, the attention of Medical profession gets diverted in treating these problems while our society struggles with the existing problems of communicable diseases, malnutrition, water-burn infections, poor antenatal care and high infant mortality all compounded by the ills of over population, pollution and environmental degradation. The emerging new problems are the resurgence of malaria, especially of the Falciparum variety and the advent of M.D.R. tuberculosis and AIDS and a real increase in the incidence of various cancers.

Prioritizing Healthy Care

So, where do we go from here? Obviously, there cannot be a simple solution to the multifarious problems facing our society. The issue needs a dedicated multi pronged approach with the involvement of health professionals, Government agencies, NGO's, educational institutions, environmentalists and economists. Health sector should receive much more attention and should be considered a priority sector. A sustained campaign to improve life style by leading a life of moderation with stress on physical exercise, proper balanced diet with avoidance of junk foods, adequate mental relaxation and avoidance of tobacco and alcohol abuse will go a long way in reducing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. Simultaneously, there is a need to improve sanitation to prevent food and water borne diseases, improve vector control for prevention of malaria, early detection and treatment of Falciparum Malaria to prevent high mortality, early detection and treatment of Tuberculosis to prevent M.D.R., facilities for early detection and treatment of cancers and AIDS awareness campaigns. The computer revolution sweeping our country should be profitably utilized in spreading mass awareness to remote corners, of particularly in the rural areas.

Hope of the New Millennium

Despite striking medical advancement there is a growing perception about the limitation of medical science in treating chronic ailments. This has led to resurgence of interest on the alternative systems of medicine particularly Ayurveda and Yoga which are based on a holistic approach. There is a need for conducting research in these ancient systems and integrating them in the present day medical practice. After all, science and spirituality are not antagonistic to each other. Physics and Metaphysics are two sides of the same coin. One of the greatest scientist of all times, Albert Einstein had said "I want to know God's Thoughts'. The rest are details". The spirit of scientific enquiry applies equally to Science and Spirituality. Our wise ancestors of the East had amply proved the ascendancy of spirit over matter by a process of self-introspection. Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution envisaged only physical evolution whereas the wisdom of East has taught the world that evolution cannot be completed unless spirituality is fully awakened. With spiritual awakening comes the feeling of oneness in everything when the individual soul finds, itself in unison with the universal spirit of Timeless Awareness. The integration of Yogic science with modern medicine is the hope of the millennium.


More by :  Dr. T. K. Bose

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