The Dilemma of the Physician
The physician today is in an unenviable position. His decisions have often to be based on factors beyond his prescribing limits. In an emergency, he has to often jot down antibiotics relying on his intuition even before laboratory reports have arrived. He has to prescribe medicines reluctantly just because the patient demands them. He gets into a dilemma if a patient who is not responding to his treatment opts for consultation from an alternate system of medicine like Ayurveda or Homeopathy.
The most surprising thing is that though the physician deals with life and death, he has never been taught to work with death. The doctor considers the death of a patient as a defeat either due to his own shortcomings or system failure. He has not been taught what to do if his conscience conflicts with the legal sanction of euthanasia. Would the withdrawing of hydration from a comatose subject to facilitate passive euthanasia affect the physician himself? After all, he has been brought up in a culture where administering water to the dying is a time-honoured custom. But now it is becoming increasingly difficult to have a dignified death as a plethora of medical gadgets has made it possible to artificially prolong a vegetative state. He is perplexed whether ‘cloning’ can replicate individuals like carbon copies or create original geniuses. He does not know the answer to boredom and meaninglessness in life. Not surprisingly, even against his own wishes, the physician has to jot down drugs to placate a hedonistic culture seeking a quick chemical solution to existential problems. Meanwhile, people who are scared of the side-effects of many a modern drug rush from one alternate system of therapy to the other and, in the process, often land into a greater confusion. Sometimes, the modern physician wants to seek help from his colleagues practising alternate systems of medicine. He feels that all systems represent partial truths but does not know how to extract the truth. He gets bewildered to see some of his patients opting for a ‘past-life therapy’. His mystic friend warns that such ventures must end in a hoax. Yet this does not desist the physician from speculating if it is wise to narrow one’s therapeutic view to one lifetime’s experience. After all, therapeutic paradigms are mental and hence necessarily limited. Should one look at life as a sequential and spiral growth through many lives? Will the physician be able one day to see and manipulate the hidden forces of life?
Health — another concept
There is an existential crisis that manifests today in a crumbling of traditional value systems without being replaced by newer or higher values. Even the spirit of internationalism is being seriously threatened by political compromises, financial imbalances, terrorist uprisings and ecological discrepancies. The health care delivery system cannot work in isolation and the crisis in civilization overawes the physician. He seeks an answer to this crisis but health practitioners, psychologists, sociologists, ecologists, new age therapists and religious activists come up with different explanations. Dissatisfied, our modern physician enlarges the repertoire of health from illness-repair to well-being models but finds it difficult to integrate the two perspectives. It is interesting that AAyurveda, the ancient source-book of medicine, has a holistic vision of health. This holistic vision is not derived from an eclectic combination of ideas but from a unique way of perceiving Truth.
The Āyurvedic term for health, ‘Swāsthya’, surpasses the simplistic notions of ‘freedom from illness’ or ‘a positive state of well-being’. Instead it denotes a state of being rooted in one’s self which means to be poised in one’s spiritual essence. And ‘self’ implies the consciousness of the soul-principle operating on various outer planes: physical, vital and mental and also in communion with the cosmic consciousness. Thus, this ancient and time-tested concept of health arose from a consciousness perspective. All other definitions of health were secondary to the notion of ‘Swāsthya’.
Our modern physician still remains sceptical. Can this ancient concept of health arising from a consciousness perspective be effective in the modern era of existential crisis? After all, the crisis itself needs an adequate explanation.
Health and the evolutionary crisis