The medical establishment has become a major threat to health. The disabling impact of professional control over medicine has reached the proportions of an epidemic. Iatrogenesis, the name for this new epidemic, comes from iatros, the Greek word for “physician,” and genesis, meaning “origin.” Discussion of the disease of medical progress has moved up on the agendas of medical conferences, researchers concentrate on the sick-making powers of diagnosis and therapy, and reports on paradoxical damage caused by cures for sickness take-up increasing space in medical dope sheets.
Thus begins the introduction in Ivan Illich’s 1975 book Limits to Medicine – Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health. As with his 1971 book Deschooling Society, a critique of education, this book seemed to create a flurry in its time, generating translations and much public discussion in the pre-Internet age, and all to no effect. I’ve read not much further than that opening paragraph, but was stunned that Illich so accurately described in 1975 the current problems associated with medicine. Forty-five years after it was published, the problems have only gotten worse, and the public now seems less able to cope or comprehend.
The image to the left is of “Doc Martin,” a British TV series centered around a curmudgeon that has lasted nine seasons, and which will probably go longer if ever the entertainment industry is allowed to work again in our fascist medical state. I chose his image in addition to Illich (above) because Martin encompasses all that is wrong with our medical systems, be they private or public. Martin is a jerk, but his community, and (inexplicably) his beautiful wife, put up with all his gruff condescension and know-it-alling because he saves lives. I cringed all the way through the series as Martin invoked every misconception and malpractice now embedded in our medical systems, from vaccination to germ theory to drugs to slicing and dicing to more drugs.
Just one example that affected me personally, Martin is presented with a patient suffering Dupuytren’s Contracture, the slow process by which the fingers form clenched fists and become unusable. He quickly rattles off the cure, an injection that breaks up the cords that form in the hand, releasing tension on the fingers. She is of course cured, but in real life, the treatment is wildly expensive and achieves only temporary relief. I took the cure for one finger maybe five years ago, and indeed it worked, for maybe six months. Then it was just as before. More than that, I was shocked as the bills came through – $9,999 for that one treatment! Medicare allowed one-third, my share $666, and the remaining $6,666 went into the stratosphere of fake and padded medical bills. But the important point I took from the treatment was that it was ineffective. I’ve since suffered two more fingers going that way, but have avoided any treatment.
Doc Martin personifies modern medicine, smug, condescending, expensive and dangerous. Illich describes this in 1975, and in the ensuing 45 years, it has only gotten worse. I grew up in an intellectual environment, not that I was one, but it did rub off on me. My brothers discussed people who meant nothing to me, like Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche, “Bucky” Fuller, Teilhard de Chardin and Rienhold Niebuhr, so I at least knew the names as I entered my working years, no time for books. I think back, however, on the atmosphere of the pre-Internet era, where lively discussion abounded among thoughtful people. How did they ever pull that off without a smart phone?
This age that I see formed around me can be easily dismissed as Twittertopia, short attention spans, and mass-scale ignorance. In 2020 a fake pandemic is so easily sold, as people are generally extremely gullible and easily fooled. Just one example, a recent phone conversation with a former business associate (who does not know I write on a blog even as I have known her for 33 years) who told us that her 25-year-old nephew suffers from Covid-19, and then expressed contempt for people that do not wear masks. That is bone-crushing arrogance, and we only stood in silence on the other end of the phone. I raised my ring finger to the phone, as due to Dupuytren’s, I can no longer properly flip the bird. Otherwise, we stood in silence on our end, as ignorance rules in our age. People cling to their stupidity as a shield against ever having to think.
After having read Deschooling Society and only the opening words of Limits to Medicine, I read Wikipedia’s tract on Ivan Illich. Enough comes through to see that he was counter-cultural, anti-authoritarian, deeply intelligent and classically educated. And … Jewish, reminding me of Immanuel Velikovsky in so many ways. He was a Catholic priest who eschewed his priesthood, and who referred to himself as an “errant pilgrim,” a “wandering Jew and Christian pilgrim.” He knew how to think, and relied on his own resources in forming his views. I find all of that so refreshing as I look about at mass imbecility and, see in medical professions dangerous and aggressive stupidity.