By Gerry Wolke, Pharmacist.

Dr. Joseph D. Beasley, M.D., a former Harvard University Administrator and Dean of the School of Public Health at Tulane University, exposed the current medical system as seriously flawed. According to Dr. Beasley, the wonder drugs of the last century haven’t worked as well as was thought. Medical science has undeservedly taken credit for the health improvements of the last 100 years, when in fact, it was improved quality of life that was responsible.

The general public has never been told by pharmaceutical companies about the actual inexpensive and common sources of their drugs. Pharmaceutical companies have obscured the background science behind the simple natural lifesaving microbial and herbal components common to both plants and soil. Researchers for drug companies are constantly discovering wonderful natural substances, but little does the general public know that the original plant and soil sources worked far better and more effectively than the isolated synthetic counterparts patented by pharmaceutical companies.

According to Dr. Beasley, money and greed have tainted medicine and kept consumers from being told the truth. In many cases, it is the medical establishment that is responsible for the betrayal of our health.

JD Beasley, MD; The Betrayal of Health; 1991; Times Books.

As a pharmacy student at the University of Michigan I had the rather unique task of dissecting a human corpse. Actually, it's the kind of job that is not quite unique, it's been done before mostly by people who will end up cutting into live bodies; but on the other hand it isn't usually found on most people's to-do list. Now the connection between cutting up a dead body and the eventual task of counting out Mrs. Wilson's tranquilizer pills seemed obscure at best. Actually, it has gone from obscure to an obvious waste of time over the years but it was, oddly enough, a required course. I guess there must have been a surplus of dead bodies in the refrigerator. I remember entering the anatomy lab for the first time and seeing bodies covered with translucent plastic lying around the room on tables. The bodies were conspicuously still.

We students huddled nervously taking glances at the corpses periodically as though we half expected one to get off the table and join us. Eventually, the instructor hurried in. Someone must have told him to shake a leg because he was holding one. It was a surreal moment for me to see this man of science holding a leg as a gardener might be holding a shovel. I guess it was a multipurpose tool because he began his introductory lecture gesturing with the leg as though it were a baton. Eventually he began to talk about the amputated appendage in his hands and began to peel the skin off like an orange.

I hadn't had much experience with dead bodies even though I had just been discharged from the army. Armies, of course, take pride in the production of corpses but I had skillfully avoided that experience while in what some people call "the service." In the Viet Nam war days so obsessed was the army at this index of productivity that it sent soldiers out to count bodies after a battle; sort of census takers for the grim reaper. So it was that I watched him mumble on about the leg while he dug into it with his fingers. It was a new experience and morbidly fascinating.

By the next week I was introduced to my very own corpse. When we were introduced I told him not to get up and, of course, he didn't. He was a well developed middle-aged man with a tattoo (not fashionable in those days and reserved for bikers, sailors, drunks and serial killers) and an enlarged heart that spoke of the source of his present predicament. I was fortunate since many students had little old ladies who had shriveled up from the ravages of cancer. Finding the appropriate organs and structures in such corpses was a lot harder than my robust stiff.

Our teacher did his best to denigrate the human status of these unfortunate specimens. He would often lecture, for example, with his elbow propped on my corpse's nose. I began to try to take the same approach of treating the human remains under my knife with the same cavalier attitude as a side of beef. It was just so much meat without, of course, the MSG and tenderizer.

Every so often, though, I found myself naturally speculating about the former life of this dead man. What kind of man was he? Was he kind and good or was he like most of my professors? Was he ever in the army creating corpses like himself? And what about that tatoo? How did that get on his arm? Was he a graffiti artist who couldn't stand the thought of all that wasted epidermis or just drunk?

Most importantly, did anyone love him and did he ever love anyone that his remains ended up here being treated so contemptuously? I wondered if we had any mutual acquaintances. If he was treated with dignity in his life he certainly lost it in death and yet here his body taught me and in doing so performed a service. Maybe he never gave of himself to anyone while he was alive and this was redemption of sorts. He and I got along well (easy since he never disagreed with me) and he became a person to me even in his grim repose. This nameless corpse taught me more than anatomy. I got to know him inside and out.

No one has ever been able to find the line between life and death. Somewhere between athletic vitality and smelly decay is a gray area. Some aspects of the anatomy might still function. The heart might beat even while the brain grows cold. Fingernails, I am told still grow for a period after death. Actually, skeptics say the fingernails stay the same but the fingers shrink. It has been said that from maturity on we are all in a sense dying. At some point that slow decline merges into the total lack of functionality that we like to call death. But what was life?

Science says that the body is a complex chemical reaction and this is the source of life. The chemicals are all there moments before death and are still there moments afterwards but something has changed. If you have ever watched someone die you know that there is a gradual release of control over bodily functions yet there is a difference between the live person no matter how debilitated and the dead corpse. It is subtle but you can see it and it looks like the difference between a live model's pose and a wax dummy in a museum.

Whoever my corpse was in life he left no record save the tattoo. His loves and hates had departed. His passions and worries were invisible. His possessions had vanished. His body began to look more akin to a vehicle (almost as beat up as my car), a sort of mobile meeting place that all these mental, emotional and physical events we call living revolved around. The meeting was over and all that was left was this abandoned wreck. I guess the whole scene moved uptown somewhere.

Chemicals, so they say, created and powered my corpse through life. The serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, MAO, histamine and all the other ingredients in the three pounds of jello in his head apparently formed his personality, determined his dreams and goals and sent him to the race track on Saturday and church on Sunday. The chemicals made him laugh at a good joke and cry at a funeral (someone else's presumably.)

When something went wrong with this chemical machine experts were hired to manipulate the chemicals with other chemicals. These experts, called medical doctors, were good scientists. They knew that what they were dealing with was a malfunctioning chemical machine and that somewhere in their black bag was the right chemical to make things right. This is called drug therapy. My corpse was apparently an exception. Had the right chemical been there my knife would not have been removing his vital organs for study. Well, no one is perfect, not even the chemists with the black bag.

Now the human chemistry set is amazingly complex. There are trillions of cells in each set and by all accounts each cell is more complex than New York city. The thousands of chemical reactions that take place each moment involving thousands of different chemicals have to be timed perfectly in an amazing demonstration of precise co-ordination. Think of a comedy skit with closely timed pratfalls and punch lines. Think of a fancy drill team or a college marching band with their intricate maneuvers. Now multiply this by millions and you get a small idea of the miracle of the human chemistry set. Now think of a ballet company tripping over each other’s feet, falling down into a disorganized heap. This is the dance of death. Life is evidently a choreographed chemical production number flawlessly executed.

All this miraculous chemical precision drove my specimen to drive to the beach to enjoy a sunset or to the bar to enjoy a beer. It performed equally well for the most exalted of purposes or the most humble. It even allowed itself to perform self-destructive behaviors like smoking. Chemical reactions have no desire to protect themselves. Its miracle was not in its purpose but that it simply was. Even more of a miracle was that all these simple chemical reactions had the idea to go enjoy something in the first place and then changed their reaction sequences and constituents to accomplish it. As channeler Jane Roberts once said, "These atoms speak and call themselves my name."

When the body, that amazing chemistry set, gets sick the medical doctor reaches into his black bag for the chemical that will restore the order and function of the entire chemical factory. The expectation that his can be accomplished is even more amazing than the miracle itself. Imagine all these finely coordinated New York cities not working quite right and then a small dose of a single chemical restoring perfection. If that seems unseemly to you then perhaps you will understand that it is equivalent to a single individual parachuting into New York City and then solving all its problems. Ok, maybe Rambo might be an even bet.

Of course, medical doctors don't always use sophisticated synthetic chemicals to try to fix the machine. Sometimes the body doesn't respond to the appropriate chemical. Sometimes the problem has progressed to parts failure. Sometimes it's just easier to use a knife to cut away part of the machine or maybe sew parts back together. This is crude but it can be effective. It's called surgery. The latest surgical advance is the transplant. Part replacement is an attractive idea but the body is picky about parts compatibility so that means using other chemicals called "immune system suppressants" to fool the machine into accepting the spare part. That's a little like getting a woman drunk to have sex with her. It might work but you can't keep her drunk forever. If she sobers up she'll probably reject you but if you keep her drunk her health will suffer a tad. Transplants might not die from organ failure but they usually die eventually from the suppressants. That, at least, allows the medical doctors a brief hurrah.

The way that the medical doctor knows that the machine needs fixing is by something called "signs and symptoms." Oddly enough not all malfunction indications are chemical or structural. Sure, a medical doctor prefers to see a body part malfunction and turn green, for example. It's even better when a test reveals a change in chemistry. An enzyme might be elevated, for example. This is using a small chemistry set to diagnose the large chemistry set with another chemistry set, the physician, ordering and interpreting the test. Improbable? Not to medical science.

Of course, chemicals ordering their own test is unusual except to a scientist who is sure that the right ingredients in the brain's chemical soup produces a thinking mind. Usually the sum total of these chemical reactions, usually called the patient because of what they have to put up with, experience things like pain, malaise, nausea or other unusual chemical properties. The medical doctor must then decide what the problem is. Now despite the almost infinitely complex nature of the human chemistry set and the almost infinite number of ways these reaction sequences can be screwed up, doctors are only comfortable if they can assign groups of these signs and symptoms to certain well labeled categories called diseases. Once the malfunction has been pigeonholed then the medical doctor can look in his book of recipes (Rx) to find the appropriate chemicals to use. If they can't pigeonhole you they delicately suggest that it's all in your head. Of course, now that we know that the head is nothing but chemicals too, psychiatry has been invited to the party.

So what do these therapeutic chemicals (formerly referred to as drugs and now to medications since drugs actually make you feel good and are therefore illegal substances) do and where do they come from? Do they restore the chemical machine to proper function and how does a medical doctor decide which chemical to use, anyway? All this is not as mysterious as it seems.

What medical doctors call research is the source of these chemical entities they call medications. Research is conducted in a variety of ways but what it comes down to is this: pharmaceutical companies invest a lot of money into testing the physiological responses of the chemicals they have synthesized, one after another. When the chemical does something that counteracts a symptom, e.g. lowers blood pressure or stops pain, and it doesn't kill too many people, then it becomes part of modern medicine's black bag of chemical therapeutics, a "magic bullet" targeting the offending symptom. If you think the part about not killing too many people is a joke then you haven't read enough drug literature which usually references fatalities incurred from taking the drug. Actually, drugs cause other effects than the ones for which they are marketed. These are called "side effects." Magic bullets actually are more akin to grape shot. They hit everything, sometimes painfully.

Underlying the chemical approach to disease control is the idea that the patient will either get well over time or decline and eventually die depending upon what is scientifically known as "fate." In other words, while controlling the symptoms the disease will take its course anyway. It just depends upon the patient. A certain percentage will succumb and join my friend the corpse, a certain percentage will get better and probably most others will remain chronically ill. Notice that the chemical approach rarely cures a disease. Apologists for medical science haven't. Antibiotics sometimes do with the help of the immune system, but most of the time what is aimed for is "management." Management means making the patient more comfortable and functional. It also aims to prolong life. A good example is diabetes mellitus. No one cures diabetes. Insulin prolongs life but despite insulin the patient often endures many other effects of the disease ranging from blindness to gangrene. Ask a doctor what causes diabetes and he or she will not know. Ask how to cure it and the answer will be the same. We are always, however, close to a cure.

This pattern of management and slow decline is typical of a great many diseases today. It used to be that people died relatively quickly from infectious diseases like pneumonia or tuberculosis, or epidemics like plague. Today they die from chronic degenerative diseases like cancer, AIDS, heart disease, kidney failure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, emphysema and many others.

The amazing thing is how much training, money and high-tech knowledge has gone into managing diseases. Never have so many resources been expended for so little result. For example, a person may present with chronic headaches. The highly educated medical doctor will order batteries of tests ranging from blood tests to MRI's. All these tests utilize incredibly expensive equipment and the talents of many skilled expensive professionals. At the end of it all a pigeonhole might have been found. It could be migraine, cluster headaches, eye strain, or a brain tumor. Except in the last case the result will be management, in other words pain relieving chemicals. The old joke is true. The patient says to his doctor, "Every time I move my head like this it hurts. What should I do?"

The doctor answers, "Don't move your head like that."

In the last case the patient might be lucky and have the tumor surgically removed, hopefully avoiding neurological damage. A less lucky patient might have brain cancer and be relegated back to the management category with the other sufferers until death arrives. In the vast majority of cases all this hi-tech diagnostic expense and trouble comes down to "take a couple of aspirins." The glory of modern medicine is really its ability to pigeonhole the patient with ever better accuracy. Actually curing the patient? That's a different story.

All this diagnostic effort usually reduces to a few chemicals from that black bag, chemicals that counteract symptoms. If the blood pressure is too high, lower it. If the stomach produces too much acid, lessen it. If the colon spasms, stop the spasm. If the lungs can't get enough air, open the airway. If the heart doesn't beat strongly enough, make it beat stronger, and so on. Disease management is really just symptom management, but to a medical doctor the symptoms are the disease. Symptoms are, however, by definition indicators of some underlying causes, causes that modern medicine has not usually acknowledged.

Medical doctors are just now starting to look at more general causes of these symptoms. Despite denying it for years medical doctors now acknowledge that things like diet, exercise, and stress have something to do with illness, but that is not really their concern. Medicine excels at crisis intervention. The emergency room is the one place modern medicine comes into its own. It is the temple and the hall of fame of the system. After the patient has had a heart attack, medicine can sometimes save the patients life. If a truck hits you, you want someone who's good with a needle and thread. Accidents happen but on the other hand treating a heart attack is a classic sign and symptom of the failure of the medical system as we know it. The patient should never have deteriorated to that extent in the first place.

The deterioration is allowed because not being sick is not the same as being healthy. The medical doctor cannot see it because for someone trained strictly in a biochemical and surgical approach to treatment nothing can be done until symptoms show up that those chemicals can counteract. Take the concept of vitality, for example. A person bursting with energy, radiating a glow from the skin, having a positive outlook, and looking forward to each day is the same as a low energy wretch dragging himself through the day, chronically tired, complaining of a host of minor complaints from allergies to constipation, seeing life as toil and trouble. Until recently even chronic fatigue syndrome was thought to be all mental and still is by most doctors.

Maybe this is why so few people love doctors these days. People go to doctors because they want to be healthy. Instead, they trade one set of symptoms for the side effects of their treatment. There are other problems too. Aside from the fact that one is not going to show up at your bedside at home any more with soothing words and potions, aside from the fact that most people don’t feel better and many actually feel worse from visiting a doctor, aside from the fact that many doctors seem uncaring, arrogant, abrupt and brief (“you’ve got five minutes, state your problem,”) aside from that fact that they and their treatments are far too expensive in proportion to the results they get, aside from all this, there is the lethality factor. Doctors kill people. In fact, they are the third leading cause of death according to their own Journal of the American Medical Association. The death toll is 250,000 annually from iatrogenic (doctor caused) problems. Not even the army in a good year racks up that kind of a count. That also doesn’t count the injury and suffering that didn’t result in death. See Dr. Mercola for more information about this.

I doubt that this is accurate, though. It’s actually worse. As a pharmacist I know that most fatal mistakes are covered up. If you work around a hospital you hear about them. An employee of a major research hospital told me that a doctor there pushed gauze down a 10-year-old boy’s windpipe undergoing a tonsillectomy. The closer didn’t notice and the child suffocated to death. They told the grieving parents that he died of a bad reaction to anesthesia. The worse part is that she told me he had done this twice before this one. No one still knows.

I also wonder about the actual recorded incidence of side effects from drugs. I have known of three people who died from angioedema (throat swelling) while taking ACE inhibitors for blood pressure and many more who almost did. This is supposed to be a very rare side effect.

I do know that if you counsel people on their drugs, more often than not, they are in fear of what they are about to take and with good reason. Many of them have had bad reactions to their drugs. I once had a patient who was given a “statin” drug to counter high cholesterol. The trouble with it was that the three previous “statin” drugs he took caused muscle pain, another allegedly rare side effect you run into a lot. I told him that this one would probably do the same thing and to try an alternative. It turns out that there are quite a few natural alternatives that don’t threaten the body. Naturally, I was scolded for ruining this gentleman’s faith in his medicine. After many such scoldings, when I now see questionable prescribing, I bite my tongue (but I don’t see a doctor for it.)

Is it any wonder that people are turning to alternative medicine in droves? Studies show that more people go to alternatives than to conventional physicians these days, despite the fact that their medical insurance usually won’t cover it. I recently manned the booth at a hospital sponsored community health fair. Almost all questions were about alternative medicine and how to get away from being treated by their doctor!

Of course, anyone purveying alternatives is in danger of having their life, liberty and property confiscated by the medical establishment or their creatures, the FDA, FTC, AMA, medical boards, and so on. Despite this, people still seek alternatives, callously caring more for their own health than the hurt feelings of the medical establishment.

It is true that this is often after the medical establishment has failed to restore their health, but then, what else is new?

I should mention that most doctors are caring individuals who do the best that they can with the education they have received. Most doctors are quite frustrated with the managed care, astronomical malpractice insurance, and the many restrictions upon what they can do. It is their political organizations that are the problem. Still, the vast majority of doctors aren't exactly lobbying their organizations for change. Although some alternative medicine is being taught in medical schools now, it is mostly so doctors will know what their patients are talking about, the few that admit to using alternatives to their doctors. As one doctor I know told me, "I don't need to know about your alternative medicine. I am satisfied with that they taught me." That's the problem. They don't know what they don't know.

Now consider the many problems associated with drugs. Many of them actually make their disease worse over time. NSAID's for arthritis, Levodopa for Parkinson's, etc. are examples. Or consider that many natural substances are much safer and more effective than those drugs. You would normally consider it malfeasance to use those drugs instead of the safer alternatives. You might even consider it malfeasance not to treat the dietary, toxicity, or lifestyle issues first instead of loading the unsuspecting patient full of toxic drugs. This issue never comes up because drugs have, ironically, legal protection but natural medicine does not. No doctor, unless he or she is a saint, a hero, or a fool, will stray from the AMA sanctioned procedures nor matter how bad they are. The law and insurance companies unnecessarily cost too much money and too many lives but it isn't malfeasance because the law mandates it. Is that crazy or what? Not to them.

To medical doctors, alternative medicine with its crude herbs, folk remedies, and “unproven” remedies, is what modern medicine was supposedly developed to get rid of. In their world of white smocks, test tubes, high tech electronics, double blind experiments, peer reviewed journal articles, and billion dollar facilities, alternative medicine looks like witch doctoring. One is a nuclear reactor and the other is a campfire. For them it is science versus superstition.

Here is the truth, though. No one cures anything. The body does that if you treat it properly and give it some help. Much of what is called medical treatment actually counters the body's attempt to heal itself. There is a certain amount of arrogance in slapping down the body's healing methods. It sneezes and runs the nose like a faucet to get rid of germs. We give drugs to stop it. It runs a fever to make the body inhospitable to germs and to stimulate the immune system. We give it aspirin or acetaminophen to stop the process. Multiply this many times over and that's medicine. Only the naturopaths and homeopaths seem to understand this, certainly not doctors. Doctors became so infatuated with the success of antibiotics that they use that model for everything. Hey, that infection could be cured with a drug. Why don't we use drugs on cancer and high blood pressure? Now you know why so little is cured. They are still sorting through their black bag looking for some way to defy the body and conquer nature. It isn't healing. It's a form of nostalgia. The irony is that antibiotics don't even work very well these days.

Now about that science... I developed a red spot on my forehead that peeled skin like a sunburn. Unlike a sunburn, it didn’t go away. I went to a doctor who said it was a fungus. He prescribed an antifungal cream and a steroid cream. I used them for some weeks with no effect. I went to a different doctor and he said it was an actinic keratosis, a form of sun damage. He zapped it with liquid nitrogen. After the pain and swelling finally went away the spot was still there. Getting another appointment with the same doctor took some weeks so when he saw me again he didn’t remember who I was. He told me I had a dermatitis and to prescribed a steroid cream for me. I finally started applying a natural glycoalkaloid cream to it and it is clearing up nicely. If you ask the doctors about this they will tell you medicine is an art, that's why they call it "practicing." So what happened to science?

Alternative practitioners, on the other hand, cite empirical evidence (often of thousands of years standing) for success. As for the unproven part, the fact is that according to the U.S. General Accounting Office, 85% of what conventional medicine does is unproven, and it doesn’t have centuries of evidence to back it up. To the alternative practitioner, all that expensive high tech has yielded little that actually heals. In fact, it ignores the most important aspects of healing such as diet, detoxification and so on. Besides, as a matter of fact, the witch doctor has a pretty good track record.

One of the things you find out if you hang out in both worlds as I do, is that the healings are found almost exclusively in the alternative medicine camp. In our business we hear remarkable stories almost every day. As a pharmacist I never do. Why is this?

The operative word here is “heals.” That means a restoration of health, not taking drugs to mask symptoms. It turns out that the body heals itself, or at least many times it can. Your job as a healer is to help it to do so. Anyone who claims to cure someone is probably not telling the truth. That's nature's job.

There are lots of reasons for health and lots of reasons for losing it. Those reasons go beyond a malfunctioning chemistry set. It turns out that one reason for the success of alternative medicine is the willingness to look beyond the material and to consider the other aspects of being alive, at other levels of existence. That's the witch doctor's secret.

So it's all about life and death and whatever comes in between, about the quality of that life and how to preserve it. It's really all about how to stop manufacturing corpses. By the way, my friend the corpse and all of his disconnected parts eventually oxidized, shriveled and turned black. Apparently, even corpses have better days.