Category Archive: Medicine
Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society is, in many ways, a disappointing book. The problem is not just that it’s outdated. The problem is that the flashes of insight that impressed me at the beginning of the book were reduced to a trickle midway through and that, while I appreciated a lot of Illich’s critique of compulsory government schooling, his own suggestions for a “deschooled” society struck me as quixotic and utopian, bordering on ludicrous.
That said, there was stuff I appreciated, stuff that (even if you don’t agree with it) makes you say “Huh! I need to think about that some more,” beginning with the opening paragraph:
Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question (1).
Several years ago, I blogged about the myth that says that we ought to drink the equivalent of eight glasses of water a day.Â Now here is an article on that myth and a bunch more.Â (HT: Pete Scholtens)
While I drove from Grande Prairie to Medford, I listened to the first volume of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. The volume included an interview with Nigel M. DeS. Cameron about his (then) recent book, The New Medicine: Life and Death After Hippocrates.
I appreciate Cameron’s call for Christian doctors and nurses to form their own alternative subculture, that is, to maintain their own standards, grounded on God’s word, in spite of the trends in the medical culture around. I recall, though I haven’t read the book, that Jakob van Bruggen in Het leven is de moeite waard argues that, in a time when many opt for euthanasia and many in the medical community are starting to think that euthanasia is a good option, we need Christian nurses who are committed to providing paliative care for those who are dying slowly. Cameron’s point sounds similar.
But the jarring note in the interview was Cameron’s recommendation of the Hippocratic Oath. I grant that the content of the oath may be good, but surely Christians can do something better.
Cameron wants to have that oath, which was originally produced in a pagan society, used as common ground between modern pagans and Christians. “Look,” we Christians can say. “Here is a pagan oath with which we can agree and with which you pagans ought to agree.”
Never mind that modern day unbelievers, with a few exceptions, are hardly “pagans,” comparable in belief to guys like Hippocrates. If Christians doctors are going to form their own subculture and follow their own biblical standards, then why should they base what they’re doing on Hippocrates? Why should they even bother trying to make themselves sound acceptable by an appeal to an ancient pagan medical oath?
What about “marketing” a Christian approach to the rest of the world so that others follow suit? It seems to me that the early church did just fine at such “marketing” in the midst of ancient pagan culture when the early Christians doctored, nursed, and cared for the pagans, not according to pagan standards, but according to biblical ones.
John van Popta, my friend, colleague, and neighbour, has just informed me that he has a webpage. John is the minister of the Canadian Reformed Church in Coaldale, just a few miles east of Lethbridge. His page includes links to some of his articles and sermons (including an interesting series of four sermons on the parable of the prodigal son), but I’d especially encourage you to read his journal of his son’s battle with leukemia.