You have heard insanity often defined as “doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result”. Scientists of all fields seek after the experiment which repeats success, not failure. They produce a theory and want to prove that their theory will stand the test of repeated trials. Then they can publish and make a difference in the world of science. Why are we in the medical profession choosing to repeat failed experiments?
Why are we starting over with the same inadequate theories hoping to solve the nation’s health crisis? We would question a scientist’s sanity were they to endlessly repeat the same failed experiment over and over. We would urge them to change at least one thing in their experiment or even change their theory to better match reality.
The emergency care system of our nation is expert at putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. Gun shots, overwhelming infections, heart attacks, and more are stabilized in that system stretching from the Emergency Room to various hospital departments. Lives that would otherwise be cut short are extended almost miraculously. This success intoxicates medical professionals and the public receiving their medical wonders. In the drunkenness of this acute success, no one recognizes the failures of recurring and chronic diseases. The repeat medical offenders return week after week, month after month requiring such emergent care, each time intoxicated by the short term success. Why won’t the medical professionals or their patients see the insanity of repetition?
This approach ultimately fails. First, the patient is viewed as a recipient in health care rather than a participant. Medical professionals hide behind the mystique of superior knowledge, imposing such wisdom upon the patient with little regard to the patient’s responsibility. Only when something does not work do the professionals turn and blame the patient for “not getting better”. Even less do the professionals involve the family unit or the community in the care of individual patients or groups of patients. In our belief that health is simply the absence of disease rather than wholeness, we easily overlook the spiritual, emotional, and social factors in health.
Our understanding falls short. In viewing health care as a right rather than a responsibility, we expect health care to be provided by someone. Even our new term, “Health Care Provider”, reflects this misconception. Despite the move towards patient centered care, paternalism still prevails underneath this noble terminology. We live by the dictum that health care is the responsibility of professional providers rather than how we live our lives as individuals and as communities. We have furthermore fallen prey to the idea that health is a matter only of the physical aspects of life. To most, healing only requires physical repair.
If we are to turn the tide in the battle against poor health in ourselves or our communities or our nation, we must reorient ourselves. Rather than wage a war on illness, we must strive for health. We must move beyond trying to answer all health problems with institutional responses, and make it a community affair instead. We as medical professionals must abandon paternalistic mystique, and engage patients as whole beings who live in families and communities. We must engage them as partners in health with whom we cooperate rather than as pawns whom we manipulate. This reorientation requires both professionals and their patients to reorient from inadequate, failing approaches to ones which have a hope of success. Let’s try a different experiment and avoid the insanity of repeated failure.
Theme taken from Dr. Daniel E Fountain’s “Health, Bible, and the Church”, Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College, 1989.