What’s in a Name?

What's in a Name?

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A blog post written by Rich Evans, the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona, focuses on the discovery that a medical diagnosis — being labeled with a name — can affect our thinking and in turn our health.

Names are powerful.  Lincoln, Mount Everest, the Yankees, bring forth strong associations for each of us, depending upon what we have learned and accepted from the opinions of others and from our own experiences.  On July 29th, in The New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope reported on a rather courageous research report by medical scientists recommending changes in the approach to detection and treatment of cancer, including “eliminating the word cancer entirely from some common diagnoses.”  A significant point in the report was that too often the “cancer” label led the patient to an assumptive conclusion: if the word cancer was mentioned in the patient’s diagnosis, then the probability of death was assumed.  As a result, often more drastic procedures were undergone than were necessary.

A telling statement in the article was, “The advent of highly sensitive screening technology in recent years has increased the likelihood of…findings detected during medical scans that most likely would never cause a problem.”  However, once doctors and patients find an early symptom they feel compelled to conduct a biopsy, and treat and remove it, “often at great physical and psychological pain and risk to the patient…The issue is often referred to as overdiagnosis, and the resulting unnecessary procedures to which patients are subjected are called overtreatment.”

While much of humanity would find there are useful medical interventions that save the health of patients or, at least, forestall more severe consequences, this report explains how a name of a disease, fraught with terminal overtones, can create exaggerated fear and lead to wrong actions and, perhaps, actually foster more severe illness and harmful procedures.

This doesn’t surprise me.  After college I served in the US Peace Corps in a rural part of the southwestern Philippines.  We volunteers had been told about the possibility of malaria in ways that made that “name” fairly alarming.  It was as if someone had planted a terminal seed.  Within a few months I became ill and was extremely dizzy and incoherent at times.

I had always relied on prayer for my well-being, prayer that is the conscious affirmation of man’s, my, divinely natural health, as Christ Jesus taught and proved.  Healing in this way soon came about and I was free of this condition in a couple of weeks.

The Peace Corps physician was required to conduct a physical examination of me and the diagnosis was blackwater fever, an acute and often fatal form of malaria, which had regressed and become non-threatening.  I don’t think knowing those names beforehand would have been helpful to my healing, as they would have implanted greater fear and more obstacles to overcome.  Patterns of consequences would have been predicted by my physician friend out of concern for my survival, inadvertently germinating and watering the seed of fear.  Instead, without the labeling, I was less burdened in my spiritual work and able to return to my normal life and move on.  There has never been a recurrence of any symptoms.  For me, that name holds no power.

The lesson here is that the name of a disease is not the truth about anyone.  It is a point of view, the accuracy and consequences of which can vary considerably.  It is bold for this report to break from historical labeling patterns.  The direction of the report is encouraging in the elimination of unnecessary fear and treatment and in its acknowledgement that perhaps mitigation of disease starts by avoiding names that alarm, for what we hold in for what we hold in consciousness about disease may play a large role in outcomes.

Link to Rich Evans blog

Whole-Body Healing…Good Step

Whole-Body Healing...Good Step

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A guest post written by Rich Evans, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona, and is the spokesperson for Christian Science to the media and to Arizona governmental entities including the state legislature.

The Arizona Republic recently ran an article (Thursday, January 3, 2013) titled, “Integrative medicine is growing in popularity” written by Ken Alltucker. The article focused on patient centered, integrative medicine.  Good news…the founder of the term “integrative medicine” is in our backyard.  While the field is growing, the term and concept have been developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who heads the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM). As the article indicates, integrative medicine, while viewed in various ways, can be defined as “the practice of combining conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medical techniques that are supported by medical literature or evidence”.  This is a breakthrough article for this column.

The article further described that the CIM has opened an office in Phoenix, the Arizona Integrative Health Center, which approaches health with the patient at the focus of the practice, rather than the disease. Then, there are several examples given of work being performed at the Mayo Clinic and by an individual psychiatrist in their respective practices using integrative medicine techniques successfully. I find all of this encouraging, as it begins to recognize healing as involving a more complete understanding of the whole person as patient. The examples given demonstrate that solutions emerged when either habits of thinking or acting were corrected, demonstrating the importance of thought on the body and its connection to healing.

One has to appreciate the courage, candor, and clarity shared by Drs. Bergstrom (Mayo), Hernandez (independent psychiatrist), and Rula (medical director of the CIM), as they push the frontiers of their professions into a more holistic frame.  In the article, among the varied healing strategies of patient centered, integrative medicine, there was a brief mention of spiritual well-being as part of the “whole.” Given that among the stated purposes of the CIM are evidence-based and lower cost methods, spiritual well-being may be key to achieving those goals.

The spiritual basis of healing is perhaps the longest running method in the spectrum of integrative healing, actively utilized well before that term existed. Not only can we find numerous accounts in Biblical history, especially after the establishment of Christianity, but there is ample evidence today of its efficacy. My own experience includes healing of pain, viruses, malaria, and many other disorders all through spiritual prayer…prayer that is not wishful thinking or a function of the human brain, but a recognition of divine, loving consciousness, divine Mind, if you will, reflected in our individual thought and lives. More than a remedy, the advantage of spiritual well-being is that it includes a fulfilling sense of identity and health for all, without economic barriers.

I like the direction of The Arizona Republic article and hope that the “whole-body” concept continues to expand the role of spiritual well-being. Perhaps we will learn that it is at the center of our health. It certainly is for me.

Link to Evans blog.

The Root of the Health Care Problem

The Root of the Health Care Problem

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Models used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Rich Evans, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona

Evans’ article was originally posted in the Arizona Capitol Times

Where are we on health care? We have made a political debate out of health care, which exceeds any federal or state government’s capacity to solve. Whatever evolution the remedies take, statutory and regulatory thrusts and parries will be insufficient. Yet, wisdom in the deliberation and passage of such efforts will be required.

Partisan banter must give way to real help. This year, especially, as the state Legislature and regulatory bodies cope with readying Arizona for the continuing implementation of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, there is no time for posturing or mere personal self- interest. Too much is at stake. Here’s why.

For perspective, “Escape Fire,” the sparsely released film (soon, more fully so and available now online) shown at the Sundance Film Festival, scopes the magnitude of the health care problem in the United States and promises to set forth some possible solutions. The tenor can be gleaned from the trailer and much information can be gathered from its website www.escapefiremovie.com.

A couple of salient and jarring points the film makes: First, American health care costs could be $4.2 trillion annually in six to 10 years, equaling 20 percent of GDP. Second, Americans spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs, nearly equal to the expenditure in the entire rest of the world.

One of the players in the film makes a sanguine comment that if she could shape the future of health care, there would be more emphasis on the “care” part. Another player in the film, our own Dr. Andrew Weil, head of the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM), asserts that “the root of the problem” is that “we have a disease-care system, not a health care system.”

The title of the film, “Escape Fire,” gives us a clue as to the ingenuity that will be required to extricate America from its self- created, monopolistic dependency on the current system. In brief, the title refers to smoke jumpers in a forest fire who were left with no escape until one member of the team started a fire in the remaining timber around them, subsequently burning his way out to a ridge. He survived. The others felt the risk was too high and didn’t follow.

They perished.

Addressing health care will require less familiar, broader solutions than what the majority has done for past decades. It will take courage to forfeit the popular, yet limiting, assumptions about our sources of health. We need to change habits of thought that tend to lead unwittingly to the same solutions that have led to the problem.

Fortunately, there are more means of health and care than we find in the mainstream.

Weil’s CIM teaches existing physicians about finding health care solutions through a focus on caring for the person as a whole, rather than just focusing on the malady. Solutions are not limited to surgery and chemistry, but found through the fuller spectrum of health sources, including natural and spiritual methods.

For me, spiritual means have been my main source of health. The primary benefit is that it requires that I take direct responsibility for my health and that I progress in my understanding of how I, and mankind, relate to the divine. It is a view of life — not a pill — that has provided prevention and cure. It is a sense of being loved and cared for as a matter of principle, consistently and completely.

This approach has met my needs, not only with respect to disease but, also, with respect to work, relationships and life direction. It settles fear. There is little or no cost. It is my own escape fire.

I trust that whatever efforts come forth from the Legislature and the agencies will not limit, but rather open up the possibilities for health and care. I trust that these efforts will not confine us to the old, worn, expensive paths to health. Such expansiveness would exemplify care for citizens and prompt creative, more effective solutions.

Link to Rich Evans blog