Marat Posted July 2, 2010 Share Posted July 2, 2010 I want to propose, provocatively, a conservation of disease theorem analogous to the conservation of energy principle, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can only be changed in form. The conservation of disease theorem states that disease can never be cured, but it can only be changed in form, and the altered forms of disease are now labelled 'the burden of therapy.' Thus in diabetes, the disease untreated would itself produce death from metabolic acidosis, or if the blood sugar were inadequately controlled, it would cause neurological and vascular complications. Medicine cannot cure, but can only treat the disease, and the treatment simply transforms the burden of disease into the burden of treatment, with the treatment being a cruel and punishing, ceaseless effort by the patient to count carbohydrates consumed, measure blood glucose many times a day, endure repeated insulin injections every day, and finally suffer damaging and potentially lethal hypoglycemic episodes. In renal failure, the disease untreated would result in death from uremia, but the treatment for the disease requires the patient to spend four hours hooked up to a dialysis machine by pencil-thick needles in the arm three times a week for the rest of his life. The dialysis process is exhausting, damaging to the body through its associated cytokine release, and can cause cramps from fluid loss, cancer from chemicals leached out of the tubing, and potentially lethal hypotension. The burden of treatment is so horrible that 25% of all patients eventually die by voluntarily withdrawing from dialysis. In cancer, the disease untreated could lead to death, but the treatment of the disease by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery leaves the patient profoundly anemic, disfigured, exhausted, cachexic, and often results in death from the severity of the treatment rather than from the disease. The examples could be multiplied, but the point is clear: What modern medicine has been able to do is merely transform the misery of the natural disease into a nearly equivalent or worse misery of the iatrogenic disease known as the 'treatment.' I say worse because aggressive cancer chemotherapy can kill people more uncomfortably than cancer itself can, and renal dialysis can be such a burdensome treatment that it forces patients to go through the stress of choosing suicide by withdrawing from treatment rather than accepting an inevitable and natural death from uremia as they would have had to do prior to the development of the 'miracle' of dialysis. Similarly, cancer patients who might have quietly wasted away a century ago are today brutally assaulted by toxic chemotherapy and radiotherapy or radical surgery, and the apparent gains in life expectancy from these interventions may in fact just be statistical artifacts resulting from our ability to diagnose cancers earlier so the natural time line to death appears longer. Now of course this theorem is deliberately overstated to be provocative, since medicine can achieve some cures or genuine ameliorations, such as in mending broken legs or overcoming infections. But still, in the growing field of chronic illness, medicine seems unable to accomplish much beyond transforming disease symptoms into equally bad treatment symptoms. Even worse, the recommended treatments in diabetes, renal failure, and cancer are becoming ever more harsh as the results of existing treatment regimens are found to be ever more disappointing. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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