"It seems as if we have confused science with restoration, knowledge with healing.”
I’ve written that sentiment here. But this iteration wasn’t from me, and it’s not about healthcare, at least healthcare for humans. It's by Marybeth Holleman, author of a highly regarded book on the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, The Heart of the Sound.
Holleman feels that science, with its considerable expense, has been overused and undereffective in the still-ongoing cleanup. She writes,
“The massive $400 million spill-research boom in the [Prince William] Sound brought its own unanticipated injury, through intrusive sampling methods and the swarms of scientists, tent camps, boats and planes now in the Sound much of the year.
“About $500 million (half of the entire natural resource damage settlement) has been allocated for research; some say we could have spent ten percent of this amount and learned as much. Then we could have used more of the settlement funds for habitat protection.”
Holleman insists that relentless scientific investigation amounts only to
“…proof that oil hurts animals. While it’s new information, it doesn’t do any good, isn’t restoration, unless some protective measures come from it.”
So what does this have to do with healthcare as though people matter? Maybe I’m deluded, but I see a compelling parallel in our cultural healthcare strategy, the favoring of science over healing. We don’t lean that way because we’re logic nerds, but because science’s reps—thinktanks and developers and manufacturers—knock persistently on our door and natural healing processes don’t. Thus we physicians get paid oodles for performing invasive, expensive diagnostic and treatment procedures, but zilch for just sitting and listening to patients in order to help relieve their suffering.
I’m beginning to think that the healthcare issues I interminably rant about are just one profile of the way our culture faces every challenge—as a problem to be addressed—no, “attacked”—with a high-tech physical toolkit. Certainly imagination would reveal other responses that are at least as effective, and cheaper and gentler to boot.