Dinner With A Homeopath

My friend Dr. Barbara Brennan invited us for dinner this weekend. I had not heard from her in quite a while. She had called me two years ago, after I wrote about her decision to give up her practice when she became ill.

This time her call was prompted by a couple of things I wrote recently. I had used Hippocrates’ word “miasmic” in “A Walking Time-Bomb” and I quoted Hippocrates’ words about “love of humanity” in “Bitter Medicine”.

After the usual greetings, Barbara took us into her home office, which still looked like a physician’s study, but along one wall was a new set of bookcases, filled with less familiar titles.

“I’ve been studying”, Barbara explained, as her hand moved along books with homeopathic titles.

Samuel Hahnemann, physician and the founder of homeopathy, used Hippocrates’ word “miasm” for chronic diseases and inherited states of dis-ease. I was aware of that, but Barbara quickly brought my wife and me up to date on how this concept applies to modern homeopathy and modern diseases.

Barbara has been studying homeopathy online, at her own pace because of her condition, and is quite far along because of her foundation as a brilliant allopathic physician. Barbara also swears that the homeopathic remedies have helped her regain her health and her stamina.

Ironically, Hahnemann is the one who coined the term “allopathic”, and it was not intended to be a term of flattery. The mainstream medicine of Hahnemann’s time relied on bloodletting, purges and many other barbaric treatments, which didn’t stand the test of time. Hahnemann was a well read linguist, who supported his growing family by translating scientific texts because he couldn’t bring himself to embrace the medical practice of his era. He was, however, quick to adopt the germ theory and many of the emerging concepts of disease.

Over an exquisite dinner with Italian haddock with risotto and a nice Chianti, Barbara told us that not only is she now a student of homeopathy, she had also been helped by it. She is getting her energy back, and she is starting to feel well again.

One of Barbara’s mentors, Dr. Luc De Schepper, is, like Samuel Hahnemann, a European physician, who turned toward homeopathy when he didn’t find traditional medicine to address all the needs of his patients. In the concluding chapter of his book “Hahnemann Revisited” he quotes the same Hippocratic passage I quoted in my recent blog post:

“if an opportunity arises for helping a poor man, one should do so as best as one can, for he who loves men must also love the art of healing.”                                                                Hippocrates

Dr. De Schepper continues:

“Allopathic medicine is in a devastating financial crisis, with hospitals going bankrupt all around us and nearly 50 million Americans lacking health insurance; homeopathy can offer health care which is both effective and extremely cost-effective. Many allopathic medicines and procedures cause painful or harmful side effects, to the point that allopathic practitioners come to my school in despair, declaring that they cannot in good conscience continue to practice what they know…

…Let us look beyond the obvious, however, and consider our role as healers, our relationship with our patients, and our purpose in healing… 

…In homeopathy the dynamic between practitioner and patient is more balanced, which provides greater empowerment and involvement to the patient and greater fulfillment to the practitioner.”

I listened to Barbara, to the passion and conviction in her voice; I watched her new vitality and felt her energy. She has more of it now than in her prime as an allopath. I looked at some of the modern texts she was reading and I thought to myself: Did we, the allopathic physicians, simply drop our Olympic torch? Have other kinds of practitioners stolen our fire, or did our negligence inspire them to step in where we used to be?

As I read in a Wall Street Journal article this weekend that the diabetes drug Avandia can now only be prescribed as a last resort due to its links to cardiac deaths, I remembered how, not very long ago, there was pressure on my profession to prescribe it routinely and early in the course of diabetic treatment because it was supposed to decrease death rates in diabetics.

Are today’s allopathic physicians becoming the bloodletters and purgers of a new dark era of uncaring brutality in medicine, leaving the torch of compassion for humanity and passion for healing to be carried by practitioners of what we disdainfully call alternative medicine?

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.



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