Following on from last night’s post about how it’s impossible for doctors to regulate lifestyles when they have little or no knowledge of anyone’s lifestyle, I’m reminded that our bodies (and perhaps also our minds) repair themselves.
We see examples of this all the time when we cut or burn ourselves in minor ways, and the wound soon heals over. Anyone who has broken a bone has the same experience, over a longer time span. And maybe the same is true of every single organ in the human body?
This is something that seems to be forgotten or ignored. Instead, we’ve taken to regarding the human body as being exactly like a car. And cars don’t repair themselves. If something goes wrong with a car it won’t ever (or hardly ever) get better of its own accord. We have to take the car to a garage where the damaged parts are replaced with new or reconditioned parts.
In fact, the last dentist I visited suggested that I “get an MOT” from my doctor. MOT stands for Ministry of Transport, and an MOT test is something all cars in the UK have to pass every year to remain on the road. Two problems with that suggestion: Firstly I don’t have a doctor, and secondly I’m not a car. And what if I failed my MOT test? Would I no longer be allowed out on the streets?
Doctors increasingly act like car mechanics these days. They measure people’s temperature and pressure just like they do. And then they find a new component to replace the old one, or apply some sort of brace or lubricant or spray. And if humans have now been reduced to just being cars in need of repair, then their humanity has got lost in the process. My car doesn’t repair itself, and it doesn’t have any dreams or secrets or memories either. So our new doctor-mechanics suppose that people no more have an ‘inner life’ than cars do. In fact behaviourists rule out the existence of any ‘inner life’ at all in anything.
It occurs to me that one reason why our doctor-mechanics don’t like people smoking is for the same reason that car mechanics don’t like engines smoking. After all, smoky exhausts in cars signify inefficient combustion or oil leakages. Car mechanics try very hard to stop engines from smoking. And our doctor-mechanics do the same. Properly working car engines don’t belch smoke everywhere, and so properly working people shouldn’t blow smoke either.
And just like car mechanics running MOT tests, doctor-mechanics now come back with a list of things that are wrong with people, and that need to be fixed. High blood pressure, low sugar levels, etc, etc.
A friend of mine told me a while back that he’d had some tests done on his lungs and was told that he only had 60% lung capacity. But did they know what his original lung capacity was? Almost certainly not. I bet that not everybody has the same lung capacity, just like they don’t have the same height or weight. But people who are being treated like cars which all have 12 volt batteries fitted as standard. There’s a tacit assumption that everybody is basically exactly the same, just like cars of the same model.
I’ve been getting a little bit unsteady on my feet recently, and it’s become a new ‘malady’ for me to study. The hesitant and jerky movements I sometimes make have reminded me that my father used to make the same sudden jerky movements in his later years. He’d get up from his chair, and take a step or two, and then jerk sideways or backwards as if he’d been about to fall over or something. And in fact, at about the same age as I am, my father actually did fall over and break a hip.
My father died about 20 years ago, after suffering a stroke at home. My mother found him lying on the floor of our living room. And when they got him to hospital and scanned his head, they found the internal bleeding in his brain that is characteristic of strokes.
But today it occurred to me that maybe my father never had a ‘stroke’ at all. Maybe he just got up from his chair, and took a few steps, and lost his balance, and fell over. And when he fell over, he banged his head against a wall or a door or a bookcase. And it was that which caused the internal bleeding in his brain. In short, rather than the onset of a stroke causing him to fall down, he fell down and banged his head, which started bleeding internally. Cause and effect reversed.
After he had his stroke, my father was never able to speak. But one day he did something very strange while on a home visit, which was to climb onto a large concrete plant pot outside the kitchen window, and examine something on the wall. I found it inexplicable at the time, but I now think he may have been simply trying to demonstrate that he could keep his balance. Which he actually did very well.
Oddly enough, a few years later, my mother also took to falling over fairly regularly. I used to have to pull her back up onto her feet. Fortunately she never broke any bones on the wooden floor at home. But while staying in a local hospice, she fell and broke her hip on its unyielding concrete floor. And that was the beginning of the end for her too.
There seem to be a lot of people falling over and breaking hips these days. Hip Replacement has become a veritable industry for our doctor-mechanics. But nobody seems to study how people get to lose their balance and fall over in the first place, and nobody seems to suggest taking measures to soften the impact of a fall. I’ve never seen a public health broadcast that suggested that elderly people should wear padded belts and woollen hats (which would be a simple measure), or do exercises in keeping their balance. They’ll only ever tell them to stop smoking.