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Is Medicine A Fundamentalist Religion?

Is Medicine A Fundamentalist Religion?

For the first 36 years of my life, I was raised in a fundamentalist religion, where I was indoctrinated by zealots, frequently abused by the leaders of my religion, and oppressed when I expressed dissenting beliefs.

My religion was medicine, and I’ve now learned that much of what I was taught was patently untrue.

The Medical Religion Of My Childhood

My father was a physician, so I grew up in hospitals and scrubbed in on my first surgery when I was twelve. I then spent 12 years training to be a physician in medicine’s ivory towers and ten more years practicing my religion.

Physicians were our priests, the war on disease replaced the fight against sin, and pills were my communion.  Those who questioned the dogma of my religion were persecuted as “quacks” the way the church persecuted heretics.

I was religiously trained to worship the dogma of medicine like the Bible, and it was made very clear to me that I would be excommunicated should I ever turn my back on what I’d been taught.

Until my mid-thirties, I was a devoted practitioner of my faith.  I bowed to evidence-based medicine, technology, pharmaceuticals, and the idea that physicians are gods with superhuman powers, who never make mistakes and should always be trusted. I believed that patients couldn’t be trusted with their own bodies, that only physicians trained in Gross Anatomy in prestigious universities had the knowledge and experience required to heal a body, and that a treatment is only effective if randomized, controlled clinical trials prove that the treatment is more effective than a placebo.

Losing My Religion

Then events happened that shook the bedrock of my faith. One of the gods I worshipped threw a bloody scalpel at me. Another sexually harassed me. A third forced me to scrub into surgery when I was vomiting and had diarrhea, after injecting me with anti-nausea drugs and fitting me with a Depends diaper.

In the process of shedding my feelings of victimhood, accepting responsibility for my own choices, and taking charge of my life, I realized that it was my job to sift through all the dogma I was taught and decide for myself – what was true? What wasn’t?  The inquiry that followed led to my search for what is true about medicine – what I hold dear, what is worthy of worship, and what I must release as outdated doctrine.

The Burning Questions

A series of burning questions arose in my mind, questions of a heretic, questions like “Who knows a body better – the patient or her doctor?”

I had been raised to believe alternative medicine was a bunch of bunk, but if those in charge could be wrong, was it possible that treatments like acupuncture and herbal medicine might actually cure people?

And, if so, is it possible that it’s not the needles or herbs, but that perhaps, practicing love could be the most healing potion we give our patients?

Of all the questions popping up in my curious mind, the one that wouldn’t leave was this: “Is it possible patients have more power to heal themselves than we understand?”

My Self-Healing Journey

As I spoke about in my TEDx talk, this inquiry began my own physical, emotional, and spiritual self-healing journey. What transpired in my personal life – and what I witnessed in the lives of my patients – threw everything I learned into question.

Once I realized that I had healed myself in spite of Western medicine, it threw a monkey wrench into everything I held as gospel. What had happened? And what did it mean for me as a doctor? I was a zealot on a mission to find out whether I was flat out crazy or whether there was any scientific proof that others had done the same.

What ensued was a deep dive into the Bible of my religion – the peer-reviewed medical literature, journals like The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

What I discovered is that the mind has immeasurable and inexplicable power to cure the body and that we may have at least some control over this.

Keep An Open Mind

I’m not dissing religion here.  But I am critical of fundamentalist beliefs that keep us from opening our minds – even in the face of bold-faced truth, as is the case for the mind/body connection. Medicine needs to shift from closed-minded dogma to open-minded curiosity about how the body heals, even if what we discover shifts some of the power from doctors to patients.

Share Your Thoughts

Have you personally experienced the power your mind has over your body? Have you witnessed it in others? Tell us your stories!

In awe of the mind,

Lissa

Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.


 

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities - HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

40 comments

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10:06PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Of course sometimes we can heal ourselves; BUT BIG CHEM DON,T LIKE IT!

3:48PM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

Paul T I had an intelligent father who talked to me as a child about many interesting things. He said that we were not solid bodies - we were energy fields. He said that if you looked through a high powered microscope you would see all the cells in the body surrounded by air. Held together by the Universal Life Force of the Creator who made the Cosmos. All my life I have put myself at one with the Energy, when I have been hurt - and it removes the pain. It also helps heal, I do say I love you and also say Thank You to theOne who created every living thing..

3:48PM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

Paul T I had an intelligent father who talked to me as a child about many interesting things. He said that we were not solid bodies - we were energy fields. He said that if you looked through a high powered microscope you would see all the cells in the body surrounded by air. Held together by the Universal Life Force of the Creator who made the Cosmos. All my life I have put myself at one with the Energy, when I have been hurt - and it removes the pain. It also helps heal, I do say I love you and also say Thank You to theOne who created every living thing..

2:58PM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

I discovered as a teenager that I could make a wart on my body go away by simply willing it to go away, then forgetting about it. The catch is that you have to believe that it's possible and will happen. I've been using the technique ever since, on warts, or even on those little skin extrusions that can pop up.

9:24PM PDT on Aug 20, 2012

A motorcycle accident in 1991 prolapsed the bottom 5 discs in my spine, penetrating and damaging 2 sections of the spinal cord. My specialist at the time told me to get used to the fact that I wouldn't walk again. OK - it took a lot of time, pain, support and pig-headedness, but I re-learned to walk and, following my emigration to Australia in 2000 and the start of a daily 'habit' I was able to complete a varying-incline, road circuit of 7.95 km in 55 minutes by the end of 2004. I'd love to go back to that specialist some time and see if he remembers me and is surprised that he got it wrong!

4:40AM PDT on Aug 20, 2012

As Hansrat Ali said, a long time ago:
Your illnesses come from within you and you do not realize it.
Your medicine is within you and you do not use it!

4:39AM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

fundamentalist anything is a problem, but I hope you can keep space for both (western and alternative)!

3:34PM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

So glad you opened your mind and heart to wisdom, Lisa.

4:05AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

This article also reminds me of an old "What is the difference between ... "

... a Doctor and God ? - God doesn't think He is a Doctor.

1:30AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

@ Barbara C. - "I was thrown from a galloping horse...landed head-first on a massive boulder...there is nothing wrong with me...I am going to get back up on the horse.!" -

I can understand that.

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