Written by: Rick Staggenborg, MD on May 25, 2009 9:07 AM PDT
The Internet has been a powerful tool in this regard. It can serve to isolate those who do not recognize that the only real purpose worth valuing is to work for the benefit of mankind, but overall its effect has been positive. Our attitude is not altruism, but the simple recognition that since we are all connected, our actions ultimately benefit ourselves and those who we love.
If we take the time to care for each other, it is not only satisfying but multiplies our own pleasure as we see the effects of our efforts making the lives of both ourselves and others easier and less painful. Our intent is to do the same for those who do not see the caring for of others as their duty and even if they do not appreciate that it is our intent to make their lives better. It is important that we keep this in mind and respect those who disagree with us as we strive to open their minds to new possibilities.
We must listen to those who see the world differently as well. It is important to emphasize our common goals as we discuss how to move forward together into a more just and secure future for our children. We must respect the ideas and values of others even if we disagree if we want them to be more receptive to our own ideas. It is critical to remember that we are all more alike than otherwise and it is these commonalities that make us human.
By approaching the task of healing America with respect and civility, we accelerate the process. We cannot afford to continue to use a conflict model to resolve what has become a very uncivil war if we want to solve the problems while there is still time to save the United States from economic and moral destruction. While our Congress excuses its every failure to put the interests of the People of the United States over those of their corporate patrons, other problems threaten the survival of human civilization as we know it.
Effective doctors have many essential qualities. They must have empathy, analytic ability, willingness to listen, good communication skills and above all, a single minded dedication to the patient. To apply these skills, doctors must be willing to dedicate themselves to the task of becoming familiar with the scientific evidence for the causes and treatments of the ills to which humans are subject.
It takes all of the energy of the effective doctor to help our increasingly ill and undertreated patients. When the problem outstrips our knowledge of proper treatment, the doctor must apply skillful listening and active observation, then apply deductive skills to use their knowledge base to solve the problems of the individual patient.
Fortunately, this is easy when the doctor enjoys the work. When this happens it does not seem like work at all, but becomes pure pleasure. This does not mean that we are indifferent to the pain and suffering of our charges. The doctor must learn early on that at this stage in the history of medicine, we cannot save every individual patient. The heartache of our failures spurs us on to ever greater efforts to improve the effectiveness of our methods.
The first step is to develop a problem list. The doctor then attempts to narrow this list to a set of likely diagnoses. This requires deciding which problems are manifestations of the same underlying cause, and formulating a treatment plan to address each of the derangements of the body’s systems. The treatment approach needs to be carefully considered so that its elements complement each other, rather than causing so many side effects that the treatment is worse than the illness.
In those days, birth was a very dangerous experience. The life expectancy of nascent democracies was limited, most previous attempts having died young. While our Republic has survived to adolescence, it is like the cystic fibrosis patient who is not expected to live beyond young adulthood despite our best efforts, due to a genetic defect which we have not learned to cure.
Eventually, cystic fibrosis patients must be maintained on oxygen as their lungs succumb to the ravages of the disease. It is tragic, and one of modern medicine's greatest challenges. What a breakthrough it would be if these patients could be made to breathe life-giving fresh air and live healthy, full lives for the allotted fourscore and ten or more that most of us take for granted.
Once the patient that is America is stabilized by a transfusion of democracy we can turn our attention to the critical problem of maintaining thermoregulatory homeostasis. In layman’s terms, this means that we have to address global climate instability. In doing so, we must intervene on a global level that some fear may require shock treatment to restore the healthy pulse of the global economy. However, more holistic thinkers realize that transforming our energy economy to a more stable system of sustainable, nonpolluting and decentralized production and distribution is the optimal course of treatment for this problem.
Like the patient who has survived viral cardiomyopathy, the only cure is transplant. This is futile however, if the virus cannot be held in check. There does not seem to be a cure in sight for viral infections, but we have learned to control them. The senseless suffering and premature deaths of early AIDS patients was not entirely in vain, for we began to address our societal homophobia and developed treatment to address this scourge, which was initially thought to only affect gays.
As we carry out our treatment, we must not neglect to assure that it is available to everyone, through a system of truly universal health care which is the only treatment for our ailing health care system that the weakened heart of the global economy can tolerate. The prescription is single payer health care. This treatment must be made available to all nations. As in the case of the decompressing airplane on which we all travel, the US must assume the role of the adult and put its own oxygen mask on before it can help others.
The surgical treatment is brutal, cutting out large parts of the body to save the rest, while leaving a scarred and functionally damaged patient. The scalpel used would be war, famine, pestilence and disease. If this is the only treatment that we have to offer, then the patient should be informed of his right to euthanasia. The only alternative is to find an effective medical treatment. This is a problem whose solution merits intensive research to find an early cure, before millions more succumb to the disease of unrestrained greed.
Shalom, salaam, peace.
Rick Staggenborg, MD
Physicians for a National Health Plan
Soldiers For Peace International