Zen and dementia
October 4th 2011, 11:04
This is the 22nd year that we've been producing a monthly issue of What Doctors Don't Tell You, and people always seem to ask: Don't you ever run out of things to write about? Thus far, we don't seem to have any problems, but thanks for asking.
It's never a question I ask myself. But here's one that I do ask myself: After writing about this stuff for 22 years, how come I still get angry about it every time? And it's true, I do. I get angry about the number of people who die while taking a drug they believed was safe; I get angry that nobody ever gets called to account; I get angry that nobody seems to care.
But anger's counterproductive. So I developed for myself a Zen-like mantra to soothe my raging heart: Medicine is a delivery mechanism for drugs.
Doesn't sound like much, but it works. Because when you get that, everything else falls into place. Why don't doctors take alternative treatments more seriously? Because medicine is a delivery mechanism for drugs. Why don't they take a more holistic view of the patient and his or her illness? Because medicine . . .
I had to repeat the mantra several times over while researching our latest Special Report on dementia, one of the diseases that most of us fear over anything else. Now, the drugs don't work for dementia. You might choose to point out that they don't work for most everything, but they really don't work for dementia and its main manifestation, Alzheimer's.
But that doesn't matter to medicine, because medicine is a delivery mechanism . . . And, because it is just that, it isn't very interested in other therapies. Tragically, when it comes to dementia, there are many alternatives that work so much better.
In the Special Report, we champion one in particular: SPECAL. It's had enormous success in helping patients and carers, so much so, in fact, that the disease usually doesn't worsen, even though medicine has codified it as progressive and incurable.
My Zen mantra explains why doctors have utterly ignored it, but it does not help us to understand the peculiar attitude of the Alzheimer's Society towards it. The society-which purports to exist for the benefit of the dementia patient and carer-has vilified the therapy on its website, successfully starving the SPECAL charity of cash.
Mantras for supposed 'patient groups' are welcome.
We also start a new column this month on pet health. As the veterinary profession in the UK is run along the lines of America's healthcare system-aggressively interventionist and funded by insurance companies-we will have a rich field of material to mine.