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IAHF LIST: Thought you might enjoy this essay as much as I did. It was written by Kent Swanson of the New Jersey Natural Health Coalition, a group that is lobbying for a health freedom bill in the State of New Jersey similar to the one that passed recently in the state of Minnesota to insure consumer access to alternative treatment modes. I am originally from New Jersey, and really applaud the efforts of this group because the state is a major stronghold of the Pharma Cartel, and they are fighing a serious uphill battle. I encourage consumers world wide to form coalitions similar to theirs, and urge health freedom fighters world wide to establish reciprocal links with this well run organization.Although IAHF is primarily fighting the Pharma Cartel at the International level, we realize that any chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and while we strive to generate awareness at the International level, we all certainly must be just as vigilant at the local level within individual cities, counties, states, and provinces. The New Jersey Natural Health Coalition is doing a fine job, and IAHF salutes them.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF HEALTH FREEDOM
It is ironic that, in a society where "Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" are considered "unalienable rights," the freedom to choose alternatives to conventional medicine is not supported by our current political or healthcare systems.
There is the illusion of health freedom in so far as one may choose from a list of doctors within a managed care system; but this will never include any practitioner outside the bounds of the conventional model--or, in other words, an alternative practitioner. This is most unfortunate, since the freedom to choose only within the confines of a restrictive health paradigm is not real freedom at all. Individuals, for example, of a more spiritual orientation, who regard the body as a "temple", most worthily honored through the use of natural, non-invasive forms of therapy, have, historically, been denied access both to natural healthcare therapies and to accurate, unbiased information regarding them.
While one is constantly bombarded through conventional media channels by press releases from standard medical journals or pharmaceutical concerns, touting the latest ostensible advances in drug or surgical therapies, there is rarely an equal forum extended to qualified advocates and practitioners of natural medicines. The reason for this is obvious: there is far more money and power backing the orthodox medical model than the natural model. Since the orthodox medical model has always perceived the natural model as a threat to its domination of the healthcare industry and has never sought a fair and open dialogue with natural healthcare providers, it has persisted in waging a tireless campaign of suppression and disinformation regarding natural healthcare alternatives. Alternative healthcare providers have been attacked mercilessly, having their reputations destroyed and their right to practice taken away, not because they were guilty of inflicting harm or injury upon people, or even of deluding them with "false hopes," as is often alleged, but because they chose to practice outside the dominant medical model.
And what is the dominant medical model? It is a materialistic, bio-mechanical model, whereby the treatment of disease is restricted to the surgical or pharmaceutical manipulation of either structural or chemical abnormalities. Alternative treatment modalities, on the other hand, such as herbalism, naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, faith healing, and different forms of body work, which often invoke the concept of a vital force, or spiritual energy that is believed responsible for the self-healing of the individual, are demonized by the dominant model. This is not because they have been proven, empirically, to be invalid, but because their concept of healing doesn't 'square' with the accepted medical model. Since the concept of spirit, or vital force, is not accepted by the dominant medical model, natural healing modalities are therefore rejected out of hand as being "unscientific," when, in fact, they simply engage a different worldview.
The point we wish to make is not whether one paradigm is the correct one or not, since arguments can be made to support the efficacy and verity of either worldview. Nor should they be regarded as necessarily mutually exclusive, since many practitioners are now able to view the two paradigms as "complementary." Each paradigm, the orthodox and the alternative, has a proven sphere of efficacy, so that the complementary healthgiver is not forced to view the abundance of healthcare options in terms of a clash of opposing and exclusionary ideologies, but rather in terms of what works best for any given situation.
Yet even if most physicians are not able to accept the legitimacy of both paradigms, it is the belief of those in the health freedom movement that the choice of individual healthcare should least of all be left to government, which was never ordained to judge in such matters. Our government has been constitutionally-mandated to protect, and not restrict, the rights of individuals to make appropriate life choices. Therefore, instead of suppressing, marginalizing and criminalizing the practice of natural healthcare, the government should be stepping aside far enough to allow legitimate and proven forms of natural healthcare, which happen not to fall within the dominant medical model, to practice according to the consent and will of the people. For in a true democracy, the choice of individual healthcare should be left to the discretion of the individual, for whom the choice is most material and most proper.
When only the upholders of the dominant model are allowed to decide the worthiness of a particular worldview or lifestyle then all dissenters necessarily fall victim to suppression and persecution, as history has clearly shown over and over again. Thus, the cause of health freedom is the cause of democracy. Just as we have in the first amendment to the Constitution a provision for separation of Church and State--so that one state-mandated religion should not be allowed to exist, and to dominate and suppress other religions--so also should we not have one dominant medical model as the sole authority in judging what healthcare is appropriate for all citizens, at all times. Healthcare should and must be a personal right, just as surely as the freedoms of speech and worship are deemed "unalienable" personal rights.
One of the ways the dominant model tries to remove the rights of individuals to choose their own healthcare is by appealing to its own authority. Since the dominant model has been proclaimed as the correct one--the one 'true religion', as it were--it has become self-mandated to judge all other medical models simply according to its own constructs. This gives the dominant model a certain hermetic protection, such that it, alone, is ordained to judge in medical matters, while at the same time remaining immune from judgment itself. Thus, the rights of citizens to choose their own healthcare is supervened, on the grounds that the citizenry is simply not qualified (since they are not in possession of the proper initiatic training which bestows authority) to judge what is best for their own bodies. The personal experiences of individuals no longer matters. If one, for example, has overcome a long-standing complaint using a natural therapy, then that is regarded as purely anecdotal, and not scientifically credible. For, ultimately, one's personal experiences cannot overcome or disparage the fact that the natural therapy couldn't possibly work...according to the dominant medical model. Thus, the patient is disempowered, and his right to freely choose is superceded by the need of the dominant model to preserve its own dominance.
Without denying the specific expertise of medical specialists in their own field of endeavours, we must assert that this does not entitle them to be qualified judges of other modalities of which they often know little or nothing, and which exist outside of their conceptual framework. What makes, for example, a proctologist an expert in judging the value of homeopathy or herbology other than the fact that he/she has a medical degree and a medical license? A medical degree and a medical license to practice orthodox medicine are laudable, but if the practitioner has never studied a form of healthcare which he insists upon attacking, then how informed and objective will his criticisms be?
It is well-known to most people that many natural systems of medicine, such as herbalism and Chinese acupuncture, have been around for literally thousands of years. It would hardly be credible that such systems could have survived that long if they were totally without merit. So rather than denying and marginalizing such traditional forms of therapy, as the dominant model seeks to do, it would seem to better serve the public interest to explore the possible uses and benefits of such therapies--especially in the face of the vast abyss of ineffectiveness and ignorance that still challenges our current treatment of chronic diseases. The dominant medical model has not been successful enough to justify its arrogance. And thus to reject alternative points of view without first trying to understand them is simply intellectual bigotry, plain and simple; and society is the worse for having been deprived of an open dialogue of ideas.
"A free society," writes Paul Feyerabend, "is a society in which all traditions should be given equal rights no matter what other traditions think about them." In a similar vein, John Stuart Mill writes in his essay On Liberty: "The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual."
Shouldn't we, then, as aspirants to a free democracy, and as rightful legislators of our own bodies, demand the right to equal access for non-orthodox therapies? Shouldn't those of us who believe in the spiritual sanctity of the human being be allowed to receive the kind of medical treatment which honors the body in the manner we see fit? To deny people the right to treat their own bodies, in both sickness and in health, in a manner in accordance with their spiritual beliefs, can only be regarded as a form of religious intolerance, and opposed to our Constitutional rights. But even those who choose to obtain alternative medicine without any particular spiritual convictions should be accorded the same rights, so long as one's informed consent has been freely given to the practitioner. As always, any practitioner who inflicts harm upon a patient according to the unaccepted standards of his/her own sphere of practice, should be subject to the appropriate reprimands or punishments. In that way, the patient's right to a safe and effective form of treatment will be safeguarded. If a particular practice can then be shown to be either dangerous or ineffective, then it's unworthiness will have been proven in the marketplace of ideas, not according to the self-interest of the dominant authority.
If one of the essential features of a democracy is the right to know, then the current healthcare system, which suppresses the truth about available health options, must be changed. It is time that the consuming public stood up and declared, once and for all, their intention to reclaim the power over their own health and disease which had been handed over to the medical establishment. It is time to rally around the cause of health freedom!