1.13 To Treat or not to Treat

This also brings another dimension to the treatment issue, at least when we look at things from the spiritual perspective. It is the dilemma of ‘to treat or not to treat’ and if so, how much and how far and by what methods. These dilemmas are not only spiritual but also involve ethical, existential, psychological and even scientific considerations. Frankly this is a question to which there can be no definite answer in our present level of ignorance, much like we have no definite answer to questions relating to organ transplant and euthanasia. Perhaps they are best left alone and for each person to decide for himself. But a few broad hints may be discussed.

One thing we all can easily agree with is that there is no fundamental objection to treatment per se. An illness is an error of response or an inability of the organism to respond to the challenge and therefore one must correct it just as one sets out to correct any aberration. But it is equally true that we must look at the larger picture as much as the smaller or more apparent one. There are many factors involved in this seemingly simple decision. There is the patient to consider, the age of the client, whether he can endure the treatment process, whether the benefits of the treatment are going to be very short lived, whether it is adding to the quality of life in any way, given the age, and whether the risk is worth taking. All these dilemmas come in when the treatment involved is especially going to be a rather violent one and also expensive. Certain surgeries, life-support systems, chemotherapy for malignancy fall into this category. Its milder versions apply to patients needing treatment for chronic illnesses with a known progressive downhill course, such as end-stage chronic renal failure. Perhaps of one thing we can be sure, that there is no harm in using gentler remedies for almost anything and on any patient, even on the death-bed. The problem comes when one has to make a choice about taking strong remedies that either stun the system or shake it up too violently. Several issues are to be considered here. First of all, these remedies may forcefully suppress the illness and when it erupts again or resurfaces it may be far worse, especially if there have not been any accompanying changes in the attitudes and lifestyle. Such patients are often known to escape the treatment after a while and require more and more powerful remedies. This happens for the following reasons:

–     The malady is only contained, not cured. The root cause, of which one is mostly unaware, is still there lying in the shadows.

–     An illness is an information as much about the patient as about the organ and its pathology. Most physicians concentrate upon the latter and neglect the former. The result is that while one is working upon the organ, the patient factors (lifestyle, diet, exercise, attitudes) and the environment factors (the physical, psychological and social milieu) remain as they are. Therefore, the illness returns to the vulnerable organ.

–     Even from the karmic and energy point of view, the karma, under normal ordinary circumstances (not taking into account the extraordinary factor of Grace that alone can completely annul the law, or even the bringing into operation a higher determinism to mitigate the effects) must be worked out. If we stop its working out on one spot it will emerge at another spot. The pent up energies must find expression and create other routes for it. That is why death finds its way even if all medical doors through known diseases are shut and tightly bolted! It will still enter, through the roof, the cellar or the attic or even the floor and the basement of our physical structure that houses life and mind and a conscious soul in it.

–     Strong violent remedies have another problem. They stun the body and often the force of life and the mind itself along with it. They help us temporarily but by putting us in a helpless condition. The long term result of all this may well be that the body’s own healing capacities go to sleep and the mind itself, shocked by the suddenness of the change, loses faith in its own capacity to heal.

Indeed we can see this already happening. The number of diseases and the number of sick persons are increasing with the number of hospitals and drugs flooding the cities and the markets. One can almost say without much exaggeration that a physician often puts the fear (unwittingly at times) into the patient’s head and the body, and then treats it through a long and complicated process! One has to only look at the average number of times a patient has to visit a hospital or a clinic where he often goes for one problem and comes out with three others. Of course not all physicians are the same. There are some excellent and experienced clinicians who instill faith instead of fear, whose words not only comfort but also reassure, giving the patient new hope and courage, even exacting his active participation as the largest stake-holder to his own life and in which he has the maximum say. This however is rare. More often than not, the patient is made to feel as if he is some kind of a helpless victim tied to the stake of life as a sacrificial object. Medical science comes there to give him relief but cannot free him from the knots and bonds of fear and anxiety that often tie him in a way worse than the illness.

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