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There is no fire like passion...

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By Dr. B. M. Hegde, India [ Published Date: February 7, 2011 ]

In an editorial of November, 2010, Fiona Godlee, the chief editor of the British Medical Journal, entitled who will deliver public health, was planning a campaign against the food and drug industries to help in that direction. This was the most philosophic editorial in the BMJ that I have seen in a long, long time. At this juncture, when the world as a whole is standing at the cross roads, the medical establishment has to take stock of its share in contributing to this sad state of affairs.

As the editor had pointed out in her editorial, hi-tech modern medicine had very little, if any, to do with the phenomenal increase in life expectancy during the end of 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. If one were to take a holistic view of the whole gamut of health and illnesses, one quickly realizes that the health of the public should have been the primary focus in graduate medical education and not disease care. Unfortunately, our system does not even let the student know that the health of the public, in the present reductionist set up, is totally out with the training, skills, power and even imagination of a well trained doctor. Civil engineers, politicians, the corporate honchos, the growers, and individual life styles, which are again influenced by various industrial misinformation campaigns, hold the key to good public health.

The said editorial made a point in dividing this world into the developed and developing worlds where the problems are different. While it looks logical do to do so in the present set up, if one were to pause for a little while to think as to how this division has come about in the first place, one quickly realizes that human greed, which Gautama Buddha called a torrent, was at its very root. I wonder if people have forgotten that the economy of Britain once depended solely on the slave trade when a young MP, William Wilberforce, started his movement for eradication of slavery with “the grand object of my parliamentary existence…” to be “the instrument of stopping such a course of wickedness and cruelty as…disgraced a Christian country.”  People advised him to go home as the whole economy would collapse if slavery were to be banned! “The fact that Britain had just lost their American colonies, that King George III was going insane, and that war with France was looming did not help matters at all” for William.

US government recently had similar logic not to shut down a drug industry giant for the fraud they had knowingly committed in releasing a dangerous drug to the market which killed thousands of innocent people. They were only slapped with a fine! The argument was to close down that industry would have resulted in American economy collapsing! Wilberforce went ahead notwithstanding the advice given at that time and eventually, after nearly half a century, his mission succeeded. Did not the great American continent live on slaves to do their jobs to become a rich country today- again thanks to human greed?

The colonial rule did impoverish almost all of the Asian and African continents which, at one point in time, were flourishing with wealth and happiness. The American continent was serendipitously discovered by Christopher Columbus on his way to find a sea route to India. The latter at that time was the world leader in spices. He went because of greed. There was the dire need to rejuvenate European economy with spice trade. Human greed again destroyed and impoverished the natives of the American continents. This kind of oppression and suppression goes on all around the globe even in the twenty first century.

It is human greed which started every single war in history. Poverty, which is the mother of all illnesses, is the first significant fall out of every war. A cursory look at Afghanistan and Iraq would make it clear to any one how this kind of misadventures for power and greed resulted in human misery. The poor pay for their poverty with their lives.

Now the editors own social conscience and consciousness, which many of us lack, tells you that in the future the health of the people is in the hands of food, drug and many other industries. Rightly so. But, as pointed out by Hillary Butler in the BMJ all these industries, like the medical care industry, have grown into a huge “corporate monstrosity” which would not stop at anything to make profit, thanks to man’s greed. (www.bmj.com/letters/?first-index=3966&hits=25)  Our preaching might do precious little to change their greedy torrent.

What we need is a change of heart for society as a whole to have better social obligations while making money to satisfy their greed for power, money and status in life. If the corporate world is treated with kid gloves like what happened to the corrupt drug lobby in the US, the former would never ever realise its social obligations. When governments are in cahoots with big business, human kind suffers. The editorial rightly points out that: “The government’s decision to drop the traffic light scheme about food labeling is “the clearest possible indication that the food industry is in the driving seat.” Only when all governments work for the good of society, can we hope to see the day when public health is taken care of and our dream of world without poverty, illness, ignorance and deceit will become a reality.

We should not look at it in a reductionist way just to change the industry alone for the good of public health. That effort could, at best, just only nibble at the problem in its outer periphery. Healthy mind, devoid of greed, jealousy, anger, pride and super ego could bring about a true change in the world. Do we have a quick fix (surgery or medicine) in modern medical armamentarium to transform man’s mind? We need one William Wilberforce in medicine who on Sunday, 28 October 1787, wrote in his diary: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the Reformation of society.” This writing came despite the fact that he was the target of scurrilous smear campaigns in the media. He was physically assaulted and even the target of attempted murder. Health of the public needs reformation of society.

This is one of the reasons why we started this journal JSHO, in the first place. We are very proud to announce that the Institute of Medicine in the USA (IOM), in their last meeting in February 2010, had accepted the definition of Whole Person Healing, originally coined by our founder, Late Professor Rustum Roy, who was a founder member of the IOM as well. It was providential that the February meeting of the IOM proved to be his last as he met his maker in heaven a few months after that at the ripe old age of 86. His life’s mission was thus accomplished. May his soul rest in peace. Whole Person Healing (WPH) will take into consideration the totality of public health in its development.

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Drona, India :
I request Prof B M Hegde to write some educational articles on famous Mangalorean doctors emphasising on their methodology in teaching medical students. Teaching is an art. A great teacher can identify and acknowledge others and I am sure Prof Hegde will have no difficulty in identifying those who have done yeomen service in this regard.

I particularly request him to write about the late Dr M Keshav Pai.
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