Modern Medicine is not a science
Dr Vernon Coleman
Doctors, medical researchers and drug companies like to persuade all
present and potential consumers of health care that medicine is a
science and has advanced far beyond the mystical incantations and witch
doctor remedies of the past. But modern medicine is not a science and
modern clinicians and medical researchers are not scientists. Modern
clinicians may use scientific techniques but in the way that they treat
their patients they are still quacks.
The foundation of modern, 20th century medical thinking is the Cartesian
principle that although the mind and the body are linked they are
essentially separate entities. Accordingly, doctors treat the lesion or
the organ that they believe to be failing to function properly rather
than the patient, his or her fears, and symptoms. They organise
laboratory tests and then believe that by treating abnormalities they
are acting scientifically.
But since doctors have very little idea of what 'normal' blood levels
are (since they ever measure the blood levels of people who are ill) the
success of treatment is usually measured by how successful the doctor is
at changing the laboratory results rather than at making the patient
better. When a patient complains of pain the doctor does tests to find
out why, but doesn't treat the pain because that would interfere with
the results of the tests. Meanwhile, the patient suffers so much from
the pain that s/he becomes even more severely ill. With that sort of
background it is hardly surprising that the reputation of allopathic
medicine as a healing branch of science is crumbling rapidly. Too many
modern doctors neither cure nor care.
The modern clinician and the medical researcher base their opinions and
conclusions almost exclusively on subjective observations and wishful
expectations which are likely to be based on inaccurate historical
perspectives and experimental experiences with members of another species.
Superstition and suspicion are the principal foundations of 20th century
medical science. Error is built upon error and unproven theories are
used as building blocks for new ideas. Assumptions, prejudices and
hearsay compete with subjective observations and personal
interpretations of symptoms and signs for the doctor's attention and
allegiance. To be truly scientific, doctors would have to subordinate
their personal opinions to impartial knowledge gained by analysis and
experimentation; but if they did this doctors would lose the mystique
and authority which has traditionally been a part of the medicine man's
armoury. By becoming scientists, doctors would become technicians and
lose their god-like powers.
In true science an idea is born and then tested before conclusions are
drawn. Without testing there can be no science and an idea can never be
more than an opinion or a hypothesis. True scientists will do everything
they can to disprove their hypotheses, excluding probability, chance,
coincidence and the placebo effect, and ignoring pride, vanity and all
commercial pressures in their search for the truth. Sadly such devotion
is rare indeed within the world of medicine. All too frequently doctors
use case reports as testimonials. They will admit that all patients are
different and then they will draw conclusions about the treatment of
thousands of patients from single case reports published in a medical
journal. Statistics are essential for determining probabilities, for
making predictions and for choosing the best possible remedy, but
doctors frequently use their own interpretations of statistics. A doctor
will say: "I have seen 300 patients with this disease over the last 5
years and this treatment or that remedy is best." He will forget that
(???)ably never considered and he will ignore the fact that some of his
patients may have died and many of them may have got no better. When
case histories are viewed subjectively the mind of the viewer can and
often will lie and distort in order to protect the viewer's pride and vanity.
Most patients probably assume that when a doctor proposes to use an
established treatment to conquer a disease he will be using a treatment
which has been tested, examined and proven. But this is not the case.
The savage truth is that most medical research is organised, paid for,
commissioned or subsidised by the drug industry (and the food, tobacco
and alcohol industries). This type of research is designed, quite
simply, to find evidence showing a new product is of commercial value.
The companies which commission such research are not terribly bothered
about evidence; what they are looking for are conclusions which will
enable them to sell their product. Drug company sponsored research is
done more to get good reviews than to find out the truth.
Today's medical training is based upon pronouncement and opinion rather
than on investigation and scientific experience. In medical schools
students are bombarded with information but denied the time or the
opportunity to question the ex-cathedra statements which are made from
an archaic medical culture. Time and again new treatments and new
techniques are introduced on a massive scale without there being any
scientific support for them and without doctors knowing what the long
term consequences are likely to be. Instead of experimenting and then
practising tried and trusted techniques, modern medical practitioners
use all their patients as guinea pigs and practice their black art as a
massive international experiment.
High dose contraceptive pills were prescribed for years for millions of
patients without anyone knowing exactly what was likely to happen. When
it became clear that such pills were killing hundreds of women lower
dose contraceptive pills were introduced. As I pointed out in the 1960s,
we still don't know what effect the contraceptive pill is likely to have
on the children of women who took it. Medicine doesn't anticipate
disasters - it simple reacts to them. This sort of approach can hardly
be described as 'scientific'.
Three specific examples illustrate how medical techniques are adopted on
a mass scale without doctors having any idea what is likely to happen to
the patients who are involved. The use of drugs to lower blood
cholesterol levels, for example. If you have a high level of cholesterol
in your blood should you try to do something about it - such as taking a
drug? Or van lowering your blood cholesterol level prove more dangerous
than leaving it alone?
For years now many doctors and patients have believed that a patient who
has a high blood cholesterol level will probably be more likely to
suffer from heart trouble, high blood pressure or a stroke. Millions of
pounds have been spent on screening patients for blood cholesterol
levels. And many patients have been frightened half to death by finding
out that their blood cholesterol levels were too high. As a result of
this belief the drug-industry has for some years planned to introduce
cholesterol lowering drugs on a large scale. The cholesterol lowering
drugs are everybody's dream. The drug companies love them because they
know that there is a massive, long term international market, and they
love massive long term international markets. And patients love the idea
of taking a pill to lower blood cholesterol because although they
believe that a high cholesterol level means a high heart attack risk
they don't want to stop eating the fatty food that cause a high blood cholesterol.
So I believe that the biggest growth area in the 90s for the drugs
industry is likely to be in the sale of drugs which lower blood
cholesterol levels and there is already some evidence that the explosion
has already started. Between 1986 and 1990 the number of prescriptions
for cholesterol lowering drugs trebled in the U.K. alone. For the health
service and for governments all around the world the prescribing of
cholesterol lowering drugs will be an expensive business. A huge
proportion of apparently healthy population will be turned into regular
pill takers. The profits for the international drug companies will run
Some trials seem to suggest that simply lowering the blood cholesterol
level may not always be wise. For example, a low cholesterol level may
be linked to death from injury or suicide. Some doctors have even argued
that a cholesterol level that is too low may lead to a high cancer risk.
But doctors, encouraged by drug companies, are nevertheless busy writing
out prescriptions for drugs to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Let us now look at 'surgical experiment' which involves male patients
vasectomy - and one which involves female patients - breast enlargement
- as two examples of widely used medical techniques of doubtful safety.
Both experiments are surgical procedures which are performed on healthy,
young adults. Vasectomies have been popular for several decades and
around the world many millions of men have already had the operation. It
is a fairly quick and simple surgical procedure and the number of men
having the operation is steadily increasing. The tubes which lead from
the testes (where the sperm are produced) to the penis are simply cut or
sealed and so sperm cannot get through. By the end of 1991 approximately
50 million young and healthy men around the world were believed to have
had the operation.
In recent years, however, some doctors have started to have fears about
the safety of the operation, as independent studies have indicated that
the operation may be linked to cancer of the testes or prostate, to
heart disease, to immunological disorders, to a lack of interest in sex
or to premature ageing. The possible links to cancer are particularly
worrying. For example, a study of 3,000 men in Scotland who had
undergone vasectomy showed that 8 developed testicular cancer within
four years of the operation.
Likewise the fact that there might be real dangers associated with
breast enlargement operations using silicone gel implants exploded into
public view in early 1992 although the operation to increase breast size
had, like vasectomy for men, been popular for several decades - and
worries about the operation had been voice many years before.
Right from the start surgeons had realised that the widespread fashion
for large breasts could become big business and they struggled hard to
justify what come cynics saw as little more than an opportunity to make money.
In the early 1980's, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive
Surgeons argued that there is a substantial and enlarging body of
medical information and opinion to the effect that these deformities
(small breast) are really a disease. Plastic surgeons gave the disease a
name - micromastia - and did their best to stamp it out. It is estimated
that in the last 30 years over 2 million victims of micromastia have
been identified and 'cured' by plastic surgeons in America alone.
To start with, surgeons injected silicone directly into the breast but
when it became clear that this might cause problems as the silicone
wandered around the recipient's body and started to trigger all sorts of
reactions and possible problems (not least the fact that the enhanced
breast quickly started to shrink as its silicone boost disappeared),
surgeons started to install their silicone breast enlargers in small
plastic bags which were thought to be safer.
At the end of 1991, however, a huge controversy blew up over the safety
of these implants. On January 6, 1992, the FDA asked doctors to stop
using silicone gel implants while they reviewed new evidence suggesting
that the gel might cause autoimmune reactions or connective tissue
disorders leading to weakness, immune system damage, poor memory,
fatigue, chronic flu-like illness and so on.
The absence of scientific evidence supporting medical practices is
apparent in all areas of medicine. With a very few exceptions there are
no certainties in medicine. What the patient gets will depend more on
chance and the doctor's personal prejudices than on science. This
problem isn't a new one, of course. In the preface to this play The
doctor's dilemma George Bernard Shaw points out that during the first
great epidemic of influenza which developed towards the end of the 19th
century, a London evening paper sent a journalist posing as a patient to
all the great consultants of the day. The newspaper then published
details of the advice and prescriptions offered by the consultants.
Despite the fact that the journalist had complained of exactly the same
symptoms to the many different physicians, the advice and the
prescriptions that were offered were all different. Nothing has changed.
Even in these days of apparently high technology medicine there are many
- almost endless - variations in the treatments preferred by differing
doctors. Doctors offer different prescriptions for exactly the same
symptoms; they keep patients in hospital for vastly different lengths of
time, with apparently identical problems.
In America, each year, 61 in every 100,000 people have a coronary bypass
operation. In Britain only 6 in every 100,000 have the same operation.
In Japan 1 in 100,000 patients will have a coronary bypass operation. In
America and Denmark 7 out of 10 women will have a hysterectomy at some
stage in their lives, but in Britain only 2 women in 10 will have the
same operation. Why? Are women in America having too many hysterectomies
or are women in Britain having too few? In America one in five babies
are born by Caesarean delivery. In England and Wales the figure is 9%.
In Japan it is 8%.
Even within individual hospitals one sees enormous variations between
the beliefs of different consultants. Some ear, nose and throat
consultants still believe that tonsils and adenoids should be removed at
the earliest possible opportunity while others believe that the
operations is useless or harmful and should hardly ever be done. Some
surgeons remove gall bladders through tiny incisions, others prefer
massive incisions. Some doctors still recommend that ulcer patients
follow a milky diet while others claim that such dietary advice should
have been abandoned as a piece of pre-history. Despite all these
variations in the type of treatment offered, most doctors in practice
seem to be convinced that their treatment methods are beyond question.
But, you may say, even if treatments are not selected with scientific
precision, surely diagnoses are made in a scientific fashion? Again, the
evidence does not support that contention. After one recent survey two
pathologists reported that after carrying out 400 post-mortem
examinations they had found that in more than half the patients the
wrong diagnosis had been made. This presumably also means that in more
than half the patients the wrong treatment had been given. And since so
many modern treatments are undeniably powerful it also presumably means
that a large proportion of those patients died because of their
treatment. The two pathologists reported that potentially treatable
disease was missed in one in seven patients. They found that 65 out of
134 cases of pneumonia had gone unrecognised while out of 51 patients
who had suffered heart attacks doctors had failed to diagnose the
problem in 18 cases. Ignorance has become commonplace in medical practice.
Doctors go to great lengths to disguise the fact that they are
practising a black art rather than a science. The medical profession has
created a 'pseudoscience' of mammoth proportions and today's doctors
rely on a vast variety of instruments and tests and pieces of equipment
with which to explain and dignify their interventions. This, of course,
is nothing new. The alchemists of the middle ages and the witch doctors
of Africa realised that words and spells reeked of gods and sorcery and
so they created a secret and impenetrable structure of herbs, songs,
dance, rattling of special bones, chants and ceremonial incantations.
Today's clinicians have much more sophisticated mumbo jumbo to offer.
They have laser surgery and psychotherapy, CAT scanners and serum
manganese assessments to substantiate their claims to be scientists. But
however good the impenetrable pseudoscience may sound or seem to be, and
however well based on scientific principles the equipments and the
techniques is still little more than mumbo jumbo. Doctors may use
scientific instruments but that doesn't make them scientists any more
than a witch doctor would become a scientist if he wore a stethoscope
and danced around a microscope!
Now, if doctors were aware that medicine was not a science and that they
were pulling what is undoubtedly the largest and most successful
confidence trick ever tried the damage would be fairly minimal. But the
problem is compounded by the fact that the vast majority of doctors
believe the lie that they are taught; they believe that they are
scientists, practising an applied science.
One result of this false faith is that doctors use the technology that
is available to them with little or no thought for their patients: they
have been taught to ally medieval authority and a godlike sense of
superiority with 20th century gadgetry. The result is therapeutic chaos.
Patients are wildly and dangerously over-investigated and treatment
programmes, which vary from one doctor to another, are planned and
defined by guesswork rather than a scientific analysis of possibilities
and consequences. In order to protect themselves from the anxieties
which would otherwise accompany their ignorance and their lack of
knowledge, doctors seek assurance and comfort by immersing themselves in
technology. Doctors are taught that investigation is an end in itself
rather than merely a signpost towards a therapeutic end. The needs of
the patient are forgotten as doctors glory in their knowledge. Too many
doctors obtain satisfaction not by making patients better or relieving
their discomfort but by playing a series of intellectual games in which
the collecting and analysis of test results is regarded as far more
important than the support and comfort of a patient. Too often patients
are over-investigated, over diagnosed , over treated and under cared
for. 'Curing' not 'caring' has become the sole criterion and success is
too often measured in the laboratory rather than the sickroom. What has
happened? Why has medicine failed to become an authentic science?
The answer is a simple one. In the last century the practice of medicine
has become no more than an adjunct to the pharmaceutical industry and
the other aspects of the huge, powerful and immensely profitable health
care industry. Medicine is no longer an independent profession. Doctors
have become nothing more than a link connecting the pharmaceutical
industry to the consumer.
Leo Rebello's note:
Doctors and Drug industry have jointly killed thousand times more
persons in peace than all the war-time casualties put together in the
last 500 years. There is a graphic book titled Doctors, Drugs and
Devils, which traces the grotesque history of modern medicine. There is
another equally damning evidence titled America the Poisoned, which
records the evil effects of deadly chemicals destroying our environment,
our wildlife and ourselves. And then there is that all-time famous
treatise by Dr. Ivan Illich called The Medical Nemesis (or Limits to
Medicine), which the drug companies bulk-purchased and burnt. The
intelligent readers of Amrit Manthan may read these scholarly books to
advantage and unite to protect their own health which is in great danger.
Dr. Vernon Coleman, M.D., D. Sc., has written 75 books which are sold in
more than 50 countries and translated into 22 languages. I met him at a
conference at the Royal London Hospital in June 1992, at which both of
us were main speakers.
By Dr. Vernon Coleman - Lynmouth, Devon EX35 6EE, England -
Source: Amrit-Manthan - International Journal devoted to Holistic
Healing Arts by Leo Rebello.