Deepak Chopra’s essay does a nice job at framing the conflict between western medicine and alternative methods of healing that are beginning to come out from under the covers. Western medicine, he says, has come down to surgery and drugs and that there are many other ways to look at people’s’ maladies and different ways to approach their healing. For western medicine to “get it”, though, it will mean a whole different way of thinking. It’s not one that excludes scientific medicine and what we have learned about the body—and still are learning. It’s a way of thinking that incorporates western medicine into a wider spectrum of healing modalities.
Medicine’s Great Divide—The View from the Alternative Side
Deepak Chopra, MD
I might as well begin by being blunt. There is no love lost between the medicine I was taught in medical school and the kind I practice now, which used to travel under the name of mind-body medicine. It acquired ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India) along the way and now incorporates influences from many other strains of healing. The relationship between conventional and alternative medicine is like a bad marriage, only in reverse. It began with a divorce, has moved to the stage of wary mediation, and holds some prospects of reaching a shy courtship some day in the future.
The grounds for the divorce are bitter. Conventional medicine is offended that alternative medicine even exists. For the average physician, to hear that an allergy patient is taking extract of nettle to treat his symptoms or that a breast cancer patient is being treated with coffee enemas and a macrobiotic diet arouses scorn. Over a decade ago, when the New England Journal of Medicine reported that Americans pay more visits annually to alternative practitioners than to MDs , the attitude of the editorial writer was barely disguised dismay and disbelief. It was as if the whole country had turned its back on jet travel to return to the horse and buggy.