We are happy to present before the readers, this compilation of articles on the theme of health and medical science in the light of ethics, religion and spirituality, by Swami Brahmeshananda. The author is a trained physician who has personally faced the problem of declining ethical codes in the practice of medicine during his more than three decades of practice as a medical consultant. Though the compiled articles are independent in themselves, and were written during a span of more than fifteen years, they have a common theme: search for values in the field of health and medicine.
The book is primarily addressed to the medical professionals but we are sure, it will prove enlightening for lay readers too.
During the last few decades, the world of medicine has undergone a sea-change. No more has medicine remained a science and an art as it used to be some fifty years ago. With minimal technical assistance at hand, doctors, both physicians and surgeons, used to achieve miraculous results in diagnosis and treatment, merely with the help of their clinical acumen, insight, determination and pure human skill. That is why we have called medicine a science and an art. But now technicalization, commercialization and globalization have radically changed the scene.
Medical technology is probably the most advanced branch of technology today. Most of the work of diagnosis and treatment, especially surgical, is done today by machines. With the help of technology such miracles as transplantation of heart and kidney, microsurgery of eye and ear, laser treatment of eye diseases etc., have become possible But it has robbed doctors of human skill and clinical acumen. Now all the ingenuity finds expression in invention of newer and more sophisticated gadgets. Technicalization has stunted the growth of head and heart of doctors and made them medical technicians.
Technological advancements have strengthened the view of the medical materialists that man is a machine made of complex molecules which works bio-chemically and eletro-magnetically. A patient is looked upon as a disordered machine and his or her psycho-socio-economical dimensions are overlooked. This attitude has badly undermined the ethical and humanitarian aspects of the practice of medicine. There has been further deterioration due to an unprecedented commercialization of medicine in recent years. The magnitude of profit earning through the manufacture, sale and use of medical gadgets and medicines, and through diagnostic investigations, is staggering. No one ever imagined fifty years ago that such a noble and humanitarian branch of human endeavour as medicine would get degraded to such a base lucrative trade. In retrospect, one is amazed at the aptness of Sri Ramakrishna's derogatory remarks about doctors, made more than a century ago. No one feels greater agony and humiliation at this degradation of the medical profession that a conscientious, humanitarian doctor who loves his profession and takes pride in it.
One of the by-products of the commercialization of medicine is the inclusion of medical practice within the purview of the Consumer Protection Act in India. On the one hand it has made doctors more alert and careful, but on the other hand, it has seriously undermined the already endangered doctor-patient relationship. The patient is now a consumer who expects full returns for the amount he is paying. While this degradation of relationship is unfortunate and lamentable, the doctors are themselves to blame for it.
Spread of information through the expanding network of audio-visual and print-media, and greater facilities for travels and communication, have, like all others aspects of life, made medicine global. This has led, not only to the spread of medical knowledge, but also of diseases and evils like drug-addiction and AIDS. Malnutrition and return of malaria and multidrug resistant tuberculosis are some of the present day global medical problems. Social and preventive medicine has therefore gained great importance. Medicine has now become a global issue with far-reaching political, social and economical implications.
Of late, medical philosophers have come to the conclusion that modern medicine has reached its acme and that every further advancement will simply lead to a manifold escalation of cost, with comparatively negligible benefits. They have, therefore, turned towards alternative treatment modalities and the result is the evolution of the concept of holistic medicine. Yoga, Ayurveda, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Naturotherapy, Pranic-healing, etc. are becoming popular especially in the affluent societies.
Thus, medical profession is at a cross roads today. It is difficult to predict what direction it will take in the future. The onus is on the doctors.
The articles compiled in this book deal with sociological, ethical and spiritual aspects and the lay readers too would appreciate and enjoy them.
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