Friday, September 3, 2010

Hippocrates - relevant today? Or, perhaps not......

Hippocrates who lived almost 2500 years ago is pretty much accepted as being some sort of a 'father of modern medicine'. At least the Western model of modern medicine. After all our Physician's Pledge is heavily modelled after the Hippocratic Oath. Among other things, Hippocrates, or at least the Hippocratic school has been credited with moving the practice of medicine away from superstition/dogma towards one more based on careful observation, and the positioning of the patient in a holistic context where he has an integrated relationship with his environment and the physician who is managing his disease. This line of thinking actually grew out of a medical philosophy that prevailed in the island of Kos where Hippocrates lived, and is collectively called the Koan philosophy.

Few people are aware that there was also a alternate line of thinking at that time which was developing on the peninsula of Knidos, just opposite to Kos. The Knidean philosophy emphasized the disease, and took great pains to dissect out, and diagnose the disease. The Knidean approach therefore focused on the specifics of the disease and specialized therapies.

The irony is that today, while we imagine we draw our heritage from the Hippocratic (and Koan) philosophies, the reality is that our prevailing medical practices are far more aligned with the Knidean school of thought in that we are far more concerned about diagnoses, categorizing and sub-categorizing disease, and aggressive highly specialized therapies.

The idea that the patient is a person who lives in an environment with family and friends, is often forgotten. So is the idea that there exists a relationship between the patient and his physician.

We desperately need to return to our roots.

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