Getting Old Isn’t a Disease

Dear Readers, enjoy this thoughtful piece by my colleague in North Carolina. It’s refreshing to see many in the health field beginning to “re-think” their approach to disease, aging, health and well-being.

This guest blog was written by Cynthia P. Barnett 
Doctor and Patient by andyde (Andy De)

I am not making this up. Apparently, as the above title of an article in my newspaper indicates, there are growing numbers who categorize old age as a disease. So much so that Dr. Nortin Hadler, UNC Chapel Hill professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology, had to write a book about it. Rethinking Aging is his latest in a string of publications protesting the overmedicalized approach to illness. His other titles are: Stabbed in the Back: Confronting Back Pain in an Overtreated Society and Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America.

You see the pattern here. Dr. Hadler is concerned that the almost automatic default to drugs and medical interventions should be questioned if we truly want to maintain or improve our health. According to writer Judith Graham, he believes we have the right to ask: first, will these interventions or treatments reduce mortality or substantially lessen the burden of illness; second, do potential benefits significantly outweigh potential harms? As people age, they should also ask their providers about the likelihood of the same, or almost same, outcome if there is no intervention at all. Unless research proves satisfying outcomes to interventions, patients should avoid them, argues Dr. Hadler.

It’s heartening to read about medical practitioners who care so deeply and ethically about their patients that they will go to the extreme of questioning the basic assumptions of their profession. They take their Hippocratic Oath super seriously: First, Do no harm. Then they exceed that oath by promising to do only good.

For students of Christian Science, restoration and recovery of health are more likely to include a completely spiritual, rather than material or medical approach. Prayer-based healing of physical as well as other challenges is common to many Christian Scientists who follow Biblical teachings that God, Infinite Love, Good and Mind, is the Great Physician. Healing reports in my church recently included those of headaches, joint pain, broken bones and chronic illness, all without any medical interventions, drugs or harmful aftereffects. All were brought about by prayer alone. People of other faiths report similar outcomes.

Like others, Christian Scientists are free to choose the health care approach they prefer. How wonderful to know that physicians like Dr. Nortin Hadler are among the choices.