Monday, August 2, 2010

A Matter of Health

I just finished Why Our Health Matters by Andrew Weil, MD, another treatise on the failure of the American health care system and what we, as a nation, can do about it.

Unlike the authors of What If Medicine Disappeared, Weil is in fact a trained physician. In contrast to so many of his colleagues, Weil explains at length, he rejected the normal medical school curriculum which emphasized treating the symptoms of disease with drugs and went looking for a way to treat the cause of disease instead, something his medical school instructors frowned upon.

Much of what Weil says echoes all the other books I’ve read about what’s wrong with our profit driven system. The pharmaceutical companies rule the roost, providing poorly constructed studies as proof their drugs work miracles. They spend more money on advertising to both doctors and patients than they do on research and development. The idea of the industry is to make people sick, keep them sick and continue to profit from them.

Preaching to the choir here. Overall I agree with Weil’s assessment that change has to come from the people and we have to take a more active role in managing our own health, at the same time the government makes sweeping changes into how health care is managed and provided.

My only disagreement with Weil is his occasional lapse in heavy handed measures such as ‘forcing’ citizens to pay more attention to their health by imposing ‘sin’ taxes or penalties for non-compliance. This is where he veers off his otherwise straight and narrow track and dips into ludicrous by forgetting that as Americans we fought for our freedom not to have our every move regulated by the government. He also fails to realize that by imposing penalties for not being healthy, he will in fact be punishing the most law abiding of us. Those who truly abuse the health care system and those who cost the most money will still do as they please regardless of what penalties are imposed on them, while those who, like today, struggle to play by the rules, will be the ones facing the full impact of the penalties. Tsk tsk, Dr. Weil. He seems to be a margin too full of his own shiny dream of perfect health care to see the forest for the trees.

Once again, all this information is interesting and oftentimes shocking, but my question is, has anyone sent a copy of this book to the President? The people who really need to understand how to effect change are the ones who are least likely to do it, because they remain the ones with the most profit to lose if we become a nation of truly healthy people.

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