Man-made health crisis makes headlines

At the WHO conference earlier this week, Margaret Chan warned of the impending man-made health crisis caused by an over-prescription of antibiotics:

“There is a global crisis in antibiotics caused by rapidly evolving resistance among microbes responsible for common infections that threaten to turn them into untreatable diseases, said Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO.

Addressing a meeting of infectious disease experts in Copenhagen, she said that every antibiotic ever developed was at risk of becoming useless.

“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill

For years women have been battling against the male medical fraternity’s inability to take a holistic approach to health and the human body, and the way it delights in interfering with the body’s natural processes (of birth in particuar) as well as its gung-ho approach to pills, vaccines and antibiotics. Western medicine tends towards regarding the body, in particular the female body, as an inherently pathological organism which requires regular checks and screenings to route out any imperfections, and which could not possibly survive and thrive without medical interference or the intervention of drugs. “Cure is better than prevention” is the overriding ethos.

While it’s true that the man-made chemicals present in food, as well as the processing of food, now creates illnesses such as E-coli, or even diseases such as cancer, which  must then be treated with medicine, in fact the body (especially the female body) is surprisingly resilient. Women who have breastfed their babies understand this, because they see first-hand the way that an exclusively breastfed infant can suddenly start picking up all sorts of bugs as soon as it is weaned. Despite the obvious superiority of nature when it comes to protecting infants, women are often discouraged by professionals from feeding their babies  “too long”; and so, via  their life experiences, they begin to instinctively learn that  often the advice given by doctors is simply wrong, and it follows logically from there that you don’t need to run to the clinic every time you’re ill.

It is perhaps this same instinct that spurs women to prepare the healthiest food they possibly can, if they have the time and the means. Healthy eating does seem to be a women’s domain, and I’m not altogether convinced it’s just because they are all obsessed with their weight. I think it’s because they know that food shouldn’t be messed with to the point where it doesn’t look or taste like anything you might see growing in a field. 

And when it comes to antibiotics, many women get the feeling that their children, and they themselves, would just be better off getting ill and fighting the infection naturally rather than relying on pills. Common sense dictates that meddling with nature too much is bound to lead to repercussions. To paraphrase Germaine Greer:  after the way their bodies have been mined by medicine men over the years, women know better than anyone that in nature there are no free lunches, especially when it comes to our health.

The Independent reports that:

The Department of Health published guidance aimed at curbing the overuse of antibiotics in hospitals, by avoiding long treatment and replacing broad-spectrum antibiotics with those targeted at the specific infection. Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, said: “Many antibiotics are prescribed… when they don’t need to be.”

Nature inevitably fights back against such arrogant meddling. Of course we should strive to tweak nature when or if necessary, but in the past couple of centuries man’s approach to health has been as harmonious as a flying brick.

It’s worth recalling that traditionally healers have always been women. This was before they were gotten rid of because men’s egos couldn’t stand it. Barbara Ehrenreich and Deidre English have written beautifully about women’s different approach to health:

Women have always been healers. They were the unlicensed doctors and anatomists of western history. They were abortionists, nurses and counsellors. They were pharmacists, cultivating healing herbs and exchanging the secrets of their uses. They were midwives, travelling from home to home and village to village. For centuries women were doctors without degrees, barred from books and lectures, learning from each other, and passing on experience from neighbor to neighbor and mother to daughter. They were called “wise women” by the people, witches or charlatans by the authorities. Medicine is part of our heritage as women, our history, our birthright.

Today, however, health care is the property of male professionals. Ninety-three percent of the doctors in the US are men; and almost all the top directors and administrators of health institutions. Women are still in the overall majority—70 percent of health workers are women—but we have been incorporated as workersinto an industry where the bosses are men. We are no longer independent practitioners, known by our own names, for our own work. We are, for the most part, institutional fixtures, filling faceless job slots: clerk, dietary aide, technician, maid.

When we are allowed to participate in the healing process, we can do so only [as] nurses. And nurses of every rank from aide up are just “ancillary workers” in relation to the doctors (from the Latin ancilla, maid servant). From the nurses’ aide, whose menial tasks are spelled out with industrial precision, to the “professional” nurse, who translates the doctors’ orders into the aide’s tasks, nurses share the status of a uniformed maid service to the dominant male professionals.

Our subservience is reinforced by our ignorance, and our ignorance is enforced. Nurses are taught not to question, not to challenge. “The doctor knows best.” He is the shaman, in touch with the forbidden, mystically complex world of Science which we have been taught is beyond our grasp. Women health workers are alienated from the scientific substance of their work, restricted to the “womanly” business of nurturing and housekeeping—a passive, silent majority.

We are told that our subservience is biologically ordained: women are inherently nurse-like and not doctor-like”

Their research revealed that it was the male professionals who clung to untested doctrines and ritualistic practices—and it was the women healers who represented a more humane, empirical approach to healing.

Our position in the health system today is not “natural.” It is a condition which has to be explained. In this pamphlet we have asked: How did we arrive at our present position of subservience from our former position of leadership?

It is actually possible that women aren’t doctor-like, when we consider that Mary Daly discovered the verb “to doctor” has roots in common with the word “to butcher”. Perhaps “doctoring” really isn’t for women after all, but healing is where our strengths lay. At any rate, it should not come as a great surprise that a prolonged lack of respect towards the body’s innate ability to rejuvinate and heal is going to have repercussions for future generations.