Even with our new drugs and machines, we have failed to conquer major degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's and diabetes. So doctors are often in the frustrating position of not having much to offer to their patients. At least we can make what we say to our patients weigh in on the side of healing instead of harm.
In his best selling book, Spontaneous Healing (Ballantine, 1995) Dr. Andrew Weil coined the term "medical pessimism." He says his patients are often told by their doctors: "There is nothing that we can do for you" and "It will only get worse."
"At its most extreme," Weil says, "this attitude constitutes a kind of medical hexing that I find unconscionable." Weil tries to reverse the impact of this hex by first exposing it, then using humour or hypnosis or whatever it takes to cancel out the hex. In addition, of course, he suggests practical alternative therapies that can alter the course of the disease.
Patients can even hex themselves. There are patients who are firmly convinced that no one can help them, or that they have a disease that no one can diagnose. They have been to a series of specialists to no avail.
On the other hand, the patient may have an undiagnosed psychological condition and/or be suffering from a condition that conventional medicine does not yet recognize. These conditions include chemical and environmental allergies, undiagnosed food allergies, subclinical nutritional deficiencies, low or absent stomach acid, underactive thyroid and adrenal function, candida and parasite infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Negative or derogatory statements said while a patient is under anaesthesia can also have a negative impact. Some patients ask their surgeons and anaesthetists to make positive affirmations for them during surgery in order to speed healing.
Positive prayer can have dramatic effect on medical outcome -whether the person knows they are being prayed for or not. Following the publication of his book, Healing Words, The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine , (Harper, 1993) Dr. Larry Dossey felt compelled to come back with a second book discussing the negative possibilities of prayer and the power of curses. His second book is called, Be Careful What You Pray for... You Just Might Get It (Harper, 1997).
Healing is a mysterious and complex affair and it is never possible to accurately predict the outcome of any disease for any particular patient. Weil recounts hopeful and inspiring stories of ordinary people who have cured themselves from incurable illnesses and chronic pain.
The placebo effect can be defined as the expectations and beliefs of the patient about a certain treatment, which then impacts how effective that treatment will be. The belief and enthusiasm of the doctor in his treatments will greatly influence the patient's expectations.
Weil recommends that, if possible, doctors only recommend treatments that they believe in. Oncologist and author Dr. Robert Buckman in his book, Magic or Medicine (Key Porter, 1993), advises doctors to use the placebo effect for the benefits of their patients.
When recommending treatments, the doctor should ideally make positive and emphatic statements about potential benefits. And when dealing with chronic or terminal illnesses, it is important to keep hope in the picture.
Dossey wants medical students taught courses about spirituality and the benefits of prayer. Weil has already established a postgraduate integrative medicine course for MD's where doctors are taught the power of words.
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