How Western Medicine Fails

DoctorWestern medicine certainly has its benefits for major medical needs such as the repair of broken limbs, managing birth complications and performing open-heart surgery. Also for those suffering from an obvious problem like a stab wound, a dog bite or severe burns, western medicine comes to the aid. However for the day-to-day management and treatment of the majority of people’s ailments, western medicine fails miserably.

There no doubt was a time before the current era where health management was proactively focussed, when doctors built relationships with their patients and took the time to care. Currently though many doctors work at the other end of the spectrum, patients become part of a humanised cattle call with health care priced beyond reach and doctor’s attitudes leading to the lazy reactive management of patients.

Consultation fees are generally subject to a tiered pricing structure which seems to be geared more towards lining the wallets of medical practitioners rather than providing value for money for patients. The first bracket normally expires 5 minutes into the consultation and runs around the $40 mark, the next consultation bracket normally runs to about the 20-30 minute mark and this will set patients back around $55-60. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad if patients actually received some level of service for this fee. But the sad reality is that patients are often barely acknowledged and leave without any level of satisfaction that they have received an appropriate consultation and at least an attempt at finding a solution to what ails them.

This is especially the case when patients have no choice but to see a different doctor. The majority of the consultation time is spent in entering rudimentary personal history information which often has little bearing on the problem at hand. This seems to be in an effort to complete a surgery’s computer records rather than a genuine way to find out more about a patient. The first thing they do is to quickly run through issues like height, weight, knowledge of family history, question about allergies, and marital status. The doctor will then often move to a very basic examination regardless of the problem which will include checking ears, throat, breathing and sometimes circulation. For women, there are further delights to experience. Regardless of the ailment, the symptoms or the level of information provided by the patient, doctors ask the question that must be like a Holy Grail catch-all question for them – ‘Are you pregnant?’. At this point even if an answer is given in the negative the doctor never ever trusts the patient. They may nod and you may think you’ve won, but don’t be fooled, that would be too logical.

BlocksNormally further questions arise depending on how you answered the previous marital status question. ‘Is there any chance you could be pregnant?’ ‘What contraception are you using?’ ‘Are you trying for a baby?’ ‘Are you sure you’re not pregnant?’ Gee it really makes me trust a medical practitioner who had to study for many years to attain the title of doctor only then to end up not listening to their patients.

Once you survive this particular line of questioning, you are still unlikely to have convinced the doctor that you are indeed not with child. You’ll then be subjected to a basic physical examination which is used to confirm whether in fact you have been lying all along and you are actually pregnant. Honestly if a patient thought they were pregnant they are pretty likely to share that information up front.

After all this you may just be lucky enough to be asked what you are actually there to discuss, but often this brings little relief. Either they are not listening, don’t care or just prefer the sound of their own voice, it is difficult to determine. Even when presented with something that should pique their interest such as fainting spells or rapid heartbeat, this is often brushed aside unless the patient clutches at their chest in agony or collapses on the floor. Then I guess they can’t fail to notice the symptoms. Another difficulty can be encountered when presenting a mysterious or odd problem which cannot be readily linked to the medical profession’s pre-defined ideas about what can and what can’t be a disease or medical condition (in other words what can and can’t be readily searched on their computers).

Even trying to get a solution from different doctors based on the same symptoms, patients can be greeted with a scratching of the head, a shrug of the shoulders or a blank expression. Particularly impressive is when the response is, ‘Haven’t seen or heard of something like that before’, or something similarly useful in nature. Regardless of the sub-standard examination and assessment, the result is often that patients are hurried out the door, generally just after the first pricing bracket is passed. If the doctor is feeling particularly helpful they may just recommend some pathology tests, perhaps in an effort to make them feel they’ve added value in some way.

StethOn a special few occasions patients may be treated to the special GP pop psychology session. You may be blessed with pearls of wisdom like ‘There are plenty of people worse off then you’, ‘Don’t stress about things’, ‘Leave work at work’, ‘Don’t read magazines and books in bed’, ‘Don’t have conversations in bed’, ‘Leave bed for sleeping alone’ (which kind of works against the whole baby making epidemic which doctors seems convinced of), ‘Eat bananas and drink milk and eat cheese – very good for the brain’, ‘If you can mix the banana and milk together that’s even better’, ‘It’s the quality of the sleep not the quantity’, ‘Perhaps get an eye mask to block out light’, ‘Don’t worry about interest rates and associated things’, ‘Perhaps you’re just lonely’, ‘I’m not saying for sure just telling you generally’ …. ‘Let me see what else can I tell you?’ (Yes please tell me more doctor, enlighten my mind)… ‘Eat properly, don’t have cola, coffee and tea, and get plenty of exercise on a regular basis.’ Wow! All in all you can see that this is money well spent.

The outrageous expense of healthcare and lack of quality service received in return means that the money spent in visiting the doctor would no doubt be better applied to some other form of treatment, or simply to meet basic human needs like food, shelter or clothing. Wealthier brackets are no doubt better served by the profession but for those who may struggle to find money for food, rent or mortgage payments, transport or tuition fees, it seems that for the less obvious life-impacting or life-threatening problems there is little point in visiting the venerable GP.

So in the future I will not trust Western Scientific medicine to help me unless I have some readily identifiable problem that can be solved in a relatively short period of time. Instead I will seek alternative treatments as required. Until Western doctors prove they care once more, I won’t care about keeping food on their tables, paying their surgery rent or paying for their golf lessons. Until they are better able to apply their no doubt vastly superior intellect and intensive university training to treat my problems I will be better served in trusting myself.


  1. jan

    Everything you say is so depressingly true. Except you forgot to mention the wait of often up to an hour or more in the waiting room filled with sick people coughing at you. And the obligatory prescription they give you at the end of the visit.

  2. Lee

    It’s hard too becuase so many workplaces especially now here in Australia make it hard for you to use your sick leave unless you go and get a Doctors Certificate. So if I wake up with the flu even though the best thing for me is lots of bedrest and fluids I have to go out to the local Doc if I can get an appointment and like Jan says sit in a room full of other sick people. Only to be told that I should go home and get plenty of bedrest and fluids and here is my certificate that says that today I had an illness.

    An illness that probably won’t be gone now because I didn’t stay in bed!

    What’s worse is that I probably got that illness in the first place from some little trooper who came to work despite being sick like a good little employee.

    Oh and don’t get me started on the Doctor who suggested that I drink warm milk or consider having sex to fix my insomnia. Medical science?

  3. Tisha

    You deserve a BIG hug, ya know why I shant say more!

    I am an enigma to many doctors…now this is going to be difficult to believe but my body conducts electricity. YES wild but true and apparently it is not just static electricity but actual electricity that makes me burn all over. So traditional medicine has always failed me and the only solution I found was Reiki, thank goodness for it. Relaxed and helped me channel my energies.

    After all the MRIs, blood tests, sleep center adventures, blah blah blah the only thing that helped was alternative medicine and I think the Chinese are brilliant for using preventive medicine as well.

    Much love

  4. Dan

    Alot of parallels there with some stuff I’ve been reading about EastWest science and how eastern philosophical ideas can serve to investigate questions typical science can’t answer.

  5. Tracey

    Hi Jan – It’s terrible to see how far the medical industry has fallen with regard to its treatment of general patients needing respite from minor complaints. You are so right with the whole waiting room experience…there is nothing more depressing or with more potential to make you sicker than you already are than sitting and waiting forever amongst other sick people. Thanks for your comments.

    Hi Lee – I think the workplace has got its management of sick leave so wrong. They are more inclined to trust that no one could ever be legitimately sick and punish everyone rather than just accept that some people are always going to take sick days regardless of the rules put in place to cut down on them. I am lucky that my sick leave isn’t too restrictive, but I’ve seen what you’ve had to go through with your work and it’s just SO wrong!!! There needs to be a balance found between readily available sick leave and a complete sick leave intolerance…after all employees should be viewed as assets not liabilities.

    Hi Tisha – You are too kind for words…it’s always nice to see you back around these parts – I hope it happens more often from now on.

    As for conducting electricity….WOW, I haven’t heard of that before. I can only imagine how that would have been handled by Western doctors. I’m glad you found alternative ways to channel your energies.

    Hi Dan – So true. There are a lot of gaps in Western science that seem to have overlooked the Eastern contribution in many ways such as scientific and philosophical ideas. I think the time is long overdue for alternative thoughts and inputs should be considered and taken on board. Thanks for dropping by!!

  6. Virginia

    My mother is a medical professional and the practitioners of Western medicine are usually equally as frustrated by the ‘unnecessary’ steps required and all repetition, and redundancy…but it’s all part of standard CYA procedure-Covering Your Ass.

    It may seem absurd to repeatedly ask someone if they’re pregnant once the patient has already declared an answer, but I’m sure there is logic (albeit, defensive) behind it. I know people who’d rather lose an eye than get sued and in the medical world, asking just once is never enough on the off chance the patient felt uncomfortable at that particular time answering the question truthfully or wasn’t certain or…whatever…because then some great ominous Something could happen and then the practitioner is accountable and considered negligent. “Well, Patient A said when I asked…” is not considered a valid excuse or defense.

    In my mother’s specific area at the moment there’s an ongoing lawsuit because a young woman died from a blood clot while using a prescription birth control patch. You, I, and the general public know Smoking + Estrogen = No, Don’t Do That. The clinic that prescribed the patch to the woman is under fire because she was a smoker. One her initial forms she checked the box that said “No” next to “Do you smoke?” but her family and the attorney representing them in the wrongful death suit claim it was the responsibility of the medical staff who saw her at her initial visit to inquire more intently than a simple form question and they were negligent in giving her standard medical attention.

    They have to go in circles again and again to ward off the Legal Monster. What if you were asked if you were pregnant? You said no but you actually where, in fact, knocked up. You receive treatment for an unrelated something-or-other and then a few weeks down the line…something happens to your fetus. That is the free-for-all-gateway to suing the doctor who treated you earlier in your pregnancy because it’s clear he/she was not acting with specific emphasis on caring for both you and the baby. Sure, he/she asked you that one time, but isn’t he/she a doctor/nurse/X-ray technician isn’t it his/her JOB to KNOW almost magically?

    Human beings don’t acknowledge the burden of responsibility when there is a potential lump sum settlement involved.

  7. Tracey

    Hi Virginia – Thanks for your comprehensive comments. I can appreciate that doctors are in a difficult position at times – caught between the unpredictable nature of patients and the legal system.

    I’m not sure whether it’s a universal problem throughout the world, but I suppose my issues with the medical profession in Australia stem from personal experience. And it’s not so much about the endless monotony of it all, it’s more about the lack of doctors with a personable nature and with the ability to think beyond whatever information their computer spits out.

    I think we need to move more from the reactive to proactive where people are managed to keep healthy rather than managed to overcome illness. If patients were able to build more of a relationship with their doctors I’m sure it wouldn’t be such a painful process in paying them a visit. I don’t expect my doctor to know all things about me magically, but I do expect them to care and to listen, and they are two things that are not currently being done.

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