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Dr. Leon Hammer, M.D. - The Energy of Medicine - COM FoundationIn Western medicine, it is anathema for the physician’s subjective being to be critical to the practice of his medicine. The validity of his practice is now defined by his intellectual ability to choose the correct drug and procedure, which consequently also gives him personal satisfaction and respect among his colleagues. Should the patient recover in a way that does not afford the physician with reproducible, documentable evidence, the profession and the doctor question whether the patient was sick to begin with. This creates a natural authoritarian gulf between healer and those in need of healing. It creates conflict, rather than harmony, in the therapeutic environment. It also raises the question of how we define disease.

To a large extent today, the physician is a robot, operated by a pharmaceutical company. There is no way he could avoid the acknowledgment that he could be easily replaced, and his job performed more efficiently, by a computer. However, if we require a form of medicine that through its very practice encourages and allows the physician to maintain his own humanity, this medicine would impel a physician to exercise all his sense in his contact with patients. This would inevitably benefit not only patients, but doctors as well: when physicians constantly use their eyes, ears, taste, smell, and touch as their principal tools of communication, they do not have the high incidence of suicide and early death from disease that many physicians now suffer.

Therefore, the humanity and health of the physician, as well as of the patient, depend very much on a more human, personal contact between the two. The laying on of hands has important overtones in terms of healing, as the transmission of a sense of caring from one person to another. This is a form of love, and love is ultimately the great healer. In a more compassionate model of medicine, therefore, the elements of what is popularly referred to as suggestion - ineffable power that passes from one human being to another - gains a new level of respect. Osteopathic physicians have demonstrated that rotation and side-bending of vertebrae can be due entirely to emotional stress. If emotion can rotate vertebrae, then surely so can a loving relationship. In such a relationship, all are enhanced. Physician and patients are mutually nourished. We denigrate this enriching process as ‘suggestion’, yet it was said of Jesus, “And he did not do many miracles there, because of their lack of faith.”

In this new medicine, the diagnostic system is composed of the senses, mind, heart, and spirit of the physician. There are no machines. The key to this system is the personal awareness of the physician, and his faith in that awareness and himself, rather than in a machine. In the West, reality must be captured by shape and form. It is real only if it is reducible to a material object or a statistically-significant number. In subscribing to and perpetuating this model, we are eliminating only the element of chance, for that is the true meaning of statistical significance. It does not mean, however, that whatever is not statistically significant is not true, but only that it could have happened by chance.

The pursuit of knowledge solely in this fashion would have eliminated most of the important medical discoveries of the past fifty years, which have been primarily the result of serendipity. The Amine-Oxidase Inhibitors were originally a treatment for tuberculosis. Thorazine was developed as a treatment for nausea. The fortuitous discovery of Penicillin in the West had nothing to do with statistical significance or double-blind studies. Nevertheless, we are increasingly ruled by machines, and with the advent of the computer, we will become less respectful of innate human worth as a reliable source of important information.

In the beginning, science was the art of observation, as opposed to the art of speculation. Chinese medicine is scientific by that original standard. The trained Chinese doctor, like the trained Western physician of yesteryear, is a keen observer of phenomena. Whereas, in Western medicine, we are now alienated from the power and value of our senses, in Chinese medicine the training and value of these senses is retained. By its original definition, Chinese medicine is far more faithful to the basic tenets of science than modern Western medicine.

In Chinese medicine, the physician is objective but not alienated. His energy is an accepted part of the healing process. It does not mean this his herbs and his needles are not meaningful; it means only that he, also, is meaningful. Some years ago, there was a physician in the Long Island Jewish Hospital who was the only one anywhere in the metropolitan area able to use streptomycin without any side effects: not even hearing loss, for which this medicine is so infamous. In his hands, the medication had no side effects.

The model of medicine congruent with a modern, humanistic psychology would embrace a philosophy beyond the concept of a double-blind study and statistical significance. Oriental medicine takes a positive, rather than negative, approach to human processes. It examines symptoms as restorative rather than destructive, sees them as educators rather than adversaries, and understands them as a hopeful indication that the body still has the strength to attempt to heal itself. The restoration of balance and respect for natural rhythms are its fundamental guides. Philosophically, the thrust of Oriental medicine is to replace conflict with homoeostasis, and return physiology to normal. This model embraces opposites, and seeks the mean. It values gentleness and moderation. Assuming that it is practiced correctly and with the utmost care, if does not help, it will do no harm.

Oriental medicine exists in harmony with a universal model of existence: a cosmology that unifies man with his universe and all its phenomena. It is prepared to include the spiritual, as well as the material, aspects of life as factors in health and the aetiology of dysfunction. Within this framework, spiritual life is not dissociated from the physical, mental, and emotional. This model is capable, therefore, of assessing the spirit as readily as it can evaluate any other basic function of life. It is committed to helping people search for their own free and independent spiritual growth, when they signal their readiness.

I have observed that acupuncture is a medicine-philosophy. The laws that govern its concepts of sickness and health, diagnosis and treatment, are the laws that govern all Daoist life. Medicine, diet, art, government, family life, education, agriculture, and astronomy are all guided by the same principles inherent in the laws of the Five Phases. Medicine and science are in a consonance with life as a whole, and contribute to its stability. Highest and lowest levels of functioning cohere. It is taken as fact that no one part of the total picture can be ignored without the remainder being compromised. Likewise, it is implicitly understood that actions cannot be taken on any part with a thorough consideration of the whole. Sadly however, a medicine that enhances a unified concept of existence is a countervailing force in the profound and deadly alienation and fragmentation that characterize the 21st century. If we wish to unify our medicine and our healing, we must seek to unify our minds and our lives.


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Originally appeared 24 October, 2015

The Energy of Medicine
Dr. Leon Hammer, M.D.