A New Paradigm In Medicine

Health is more valuable than gold states an Ancient Chinese proverb. Blood is the most precious resource on earth states a tenet of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The reason is clear: without health and life all the tea in China cannot be enjoyed. Lose your health even for a short time and you will recognize what a great gift it is. Approach your last breath and you will know this for certain.

I was watching the Sopranos and Tony’s Mom and Uncle Junior tried to have him whacked in a scene reminiscent of the Godfather when Vito gets shot up trying to buy vegetables. He’s on death’s door for quite some time but good ratings as well as excellent trauma care save his life and he comes back a new man, vowing to treat each day as a miracle, stop and smell the roses, recognize the divinity in every breath and even stop cheating on his wife. And he means it. Then of course life comes along and the good vibes end all too soon. But he’s right and we all know it. Our health is a blessing and a miracle and the most valuable thing on earth. We might note that the Medical Industrial Complex accounts for almost 20% of GDP, more than even the War Machine. But more on that later.

Your health is your responsibility. Your body formed itself completely and perfectly (well more or less) from nothing but a sperm and ovum (yin and yang) and a healthy place to chill for 9 months. I submit that the perfect balance of yin and yang and a healthy stress free environment can restore health right now, but again more on this later.

Your health is your responsibility. Give your body proper exercise, nutrition, rest, stir in some good loving (not necessarily sexual) and tranquil thoughts (meditate) and I’ll straight up bet you that you will be way more healthy than your counter part who is chronically exhausted from overwork, under-appreciation, lack of exercise, processed foods, not enough sleep too much coffee booze and cigarettes and being so wound up all the damn time about keeping his job (never mind enjoying life) mostly so he can afford his insurance payments in case he gets sick, which frankly, given that lifestyle is a certainty. “Whaddaya gonna do,” he says throwing back coffee and aspartame and a sugar doughnut. Hasn’t it always been this way?” Well no, but more on that later.

The word Doctor means “teacher” (as by the way does “Dean”). The proper role of the doctor traditionally has been to keep you informed about the best measures by which to maintain the health of yourself and your loved ones. Then in times of crisis when home remedies do not work, and in the case of Traditional Chinese Medicine, on a regular basis for true preventative measures, you visit your doctor and get back in balance, back in the pink or back into homeostasis. Yin and Yang is balanced, all the meridians are working in harmony and all is right spiritually, mentally and physically.

And as Jesus said “go forth and sin no more.” That is if you leave an Acupuncture treatment and party till dawn and work till sunset (or worse) on coffee and other stimulants the treatment probably won’t hold as well as if you were to go home and chill. Your choice. Your responsibility.

Your doctor is here to help you remain in optimum health, not just provide emergency service when you are sick or injured. To approach our own health from this perspective will all but guarantee greater health on a personal basis and for all of society, thereby reducing the enormous costs of health care which do not threaten but flat out promise to bankrupt this nation in the very alarmingly near future. Obamacare, far from the solution, will only compound the problem and expedite the day of reckoning. The real question is not “how do we give everyone access to this failing system?” but instead “How do we change the system to provide for the whole population, not “health care,” but HEALTH.”

The system as it exists could more properly be termed a “disease management system”. By every measurable statistic (longevity, infant mortality, obesity, rates of chronic diseases) our health in this country is deteriorating and lagging unforgivably behind almost all other nations and we have a greater number of people without access to the system than any other nation on earth. By any rational measure other than the obscene profits of Big Pharma and the insurance conglomerates, ours is a failed system.

The problem of an uninsured populace only deepens as unemployment continues to rise. Patients, consumers of medicine are growing ever more frustrated and dissatisfied by what they regard as impersonal care, the often arrogant behavior of physicians which, in their defense is required if they are to see a patient every 7 minutes and write a script or two (Nurse is that Pfizer or Merck that is offering the free junket this week?) and the outrageous costs of prescriptions and hospital stays all of which are as likely to create more dangerous side effects than the symptoms they are designed to treat. Except marijuana of course, but oh yeah its illegal.

Then of course there is the adversarial attitude and obstructionist tactics of insurers who are driven only by profits, maximized by charging you through the nose on the front end and denying claims on the back end. This is no end of fun for doctors as well who spend the majority of their time (or a good portion of their earnings) worrying about ICD-9 Codes and practicing defensive medicine and all the other joys that come when profits and a third party stand between the physician and the patient. The effect on a patient who is, say, battling cancer when he or she is forced to continually fight for the life saving treatment and medication are indeed life threatening, cruel, heartless and I guess to the market, just good business.

Doctors are pretty pissed as well, as they, and rightly so, do not wish to see their treatment strategy dictated by some corporate insurance drone. In fact a large percentage of doctors, despite the high pay, now say that they regret the choice of medicine as a profession. According to Dr Weil “The emotional reward of the therapeutic relationship has dwindled because the system has limited the time of patient visits in order to save money. Selection of treatments is dictated by policies of reimbursement not by practitioner judgment and experience. Many good doctors are leaving the practice of clinical medicine.”

The problem, at its root, is the system which treats healthcare as a profitable enterprise. Huge, obscene profits which go to CEO’s, advertising (about $6.6 Billion in 2010) campaign contributions or as it is known in Chicago “greasing the weasel” lawsuits in the billions for prescription drugs foisted on an unsuspecting public (bad public! This is your responsibility!) when clinical tests showed that new drugs didn’t work as well as others already out there or worse contained unacceptable side effects only to have the studies squashed and an all too incestuous FDA go along. Look at aspartame, tobacco, Vioxx, the fact that millions of children are given Ritalin, a drug legally in the same class as cocaine to keep them from “fidgeting.”

This is straight up evil vile and it has everything to do with greed which does not seem to work very well when running a health care system.

Again, according to Dr Weil, “the average families premiums now exceed the gross annual wage of a full time minimum wage worker.” This says to me that if we work that many hours less and devote said time to rest, exercise, love and good nutrition we can dramatically decrease our need for doctors as well as dramatically increase our quality of life. This may not be for everyone. But it works for me. Medical costs by the way are a leading factor in the majority of all personal bankruptcies. And so we have the medical community saying literally “your money or your life”. I don’t know about you but as for me I am inclined to fight back.

As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine I believe, in fact I know, that the only way to eliminate a problem is to weed it out by the root. The root of the problems facing American Medicine is the outrageous greed of a medical system operated for profit as well as the narrow minded fundamentalism on the part of the medical establishment regarding any approach to health that does not rely entirely on drugs, surgery and really expensive machines that go beep-beep-beep and emit enough radiation to insure a cancer ridden population for many years to come. Sounds like American Foreign Policy doesn’t it? Cut, burn, irradiate and bankrupt the people with debt.

Are there any alternatives? Of course there are. Big Pharma and Big Insurance would prefer that you did not consider them as their profits would probably stop increasing at exponential level The amount we spend as a nation on health care is up 500% in the last two decades. How about your salary? That is if you’re not the CEO of a Pharmaceutical giant. In fact take home pay has pretty much flat lined since 1990 for the average worker. But not the amount they spend on health insurance. Some would say that tai chi, better sleep, and better diet along with a proper state of mind is all the body needs. But they are not the only ones “choosing” to go without health insurance. Close to ⅓ of all Americans are uninsured.

Again, to the system literally hell bent on profits this may be acceptable, even desirable. To a society with compassion, justice and dare I say “Christian” values it is an abomination. The solution however is abundantly clear. How or if we choose to implement it will decide the type of nation or world that we are, wish to live in, and shall endure, at least in the short run. For the system as it stands, and as it is moving, is unsustainable. It will crash by its own weight unless very radical (“to the root cause”) solutions are adopted and quickly.

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About Dean Scarpinato

As a guitarist, artist and poet, heavily inspired by the transcendentalists such as Jerry Garcia, I bring a sense of the dance into my acupuncture/massage treatments. The last thing a healing modality such as this should be is rigid and augmented. The key word is harmony and that is what we should be aiming for always. The treatment of an acupuncturist should, in my estimation, simply be pointing the way. In a drumming/healing seminar I attended in 2000 with Mickey Hart I remember him saying “Never let go of the groove. Always stay in the groove.” That is in essence what the Tao Te Ching means when it says “My greatest wealth is my connection to Tao. My greatest sorrow is in losing that connection.” I recognize that most folks may not understand this. And I am perfectly capable of working and relating right here on the material plane. Still, I am aware of a far greater reality where the transitory affairs of the material world are non-existent and mundane. From this perspective real healing truly takes place, or begins to. It depends on our own ability to drop the layers of ego and get to what’s real. It’s not the path for everyone. I rarely even mention it when I treat a cop for a sprained lumbar or a woman for infertility. It does not need to be said. There is an element of this treatment that is conscious altering in a way that philosophy cannot approach. See me enough and the hard edges start to wear thin on their own. But given the opportunity, I love to work with the artist, the dancer, the athlete, that seeks peak performance and knows what it means to be ”in the zone.” I can give that added edge of performance or creativity simply in terms of the clarity of mind and extended range of motion. Harmony of mind and body becomes reality and the more work you have done in that direction before you come to me, the greater the synergy that our work together can achieve. If this speaks to you in any way, contact me.
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