Often Ostracized, Their Innovations
Have Saved Millions
It's an old story the world over, as those who comprise orthodox medical establishments at given moments in gives countries conspire to discredit innovators and other competitors. A decade ago, for example, the London Observer reported from Zimbabwe that "witchdoctors here are up in arms over a clinic that offers patients the choice of consulting either a Western-trained doctor in white coat and stethoscope or a traditional healer in animal skins and feathers. The Zimbabwe Traditional and Medical Clinic in Bulawayo was ordered closed ... by the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha), the nation's union of 'ngangas' (witchdoctors)."
At about the same time here in the U.S., a federal district court judge ruled that the American Medical Association had led an effort to destroy the chiropractic profession by depriving its practitioners of association with medical doctors and calling them "unscientific cultists." In 1973, an AMA official described chiropractors as "rabid dogs" and "killers." The AMA's vendetta was described by the judge as a "systematic, long-term wronging and the long-term intent to destroy a licensed profession."
But then, as chiropractors themselves became increasingly accepted as respectable practitioners, some of their groups began operating and attempting to undermine other unorthodox schools of medical thought (homeopathy, naturopathy, etc.) in much the same way the AMA had trashed them and witchdoctors had trashed Western medicine.
From Ridicule to Respect
In World Without Cancer, author G. Edward Griffin notes some of the problems faced by earlier medical innovators while striving to breach the walls of orthodoxy. "In 130 A.D.," for instance, "the physician Galen announced certain anatomic theories that later proved to be correct, but at the time he was bitterly opposed and actually forced to flee from Rome to escape the frenzy of the mob. In the 16th Century the physician Andreas Vesalius was denounced as an imposter and heretic because of his discoveries in the field of human anatomy. His theories were accepted after his death, but at the time, his career was ruined and he was forced to flee from Italy. William Harvey was disgraced as a physician for believing that blood was pumped by the heart and actually moved around the body through arteries. William Roentgen, the discoverer of X-rays, at first was called a quack and then condemned out of fear that his 'ray' would invade the privacy of the bedroom. William Jenner, when he first developed a vaccine against smallpox, also was called a quack and was strongly criticized as a physician for his supposedly cruel and inhuman experiments on children."
In Medical Heroes and Heretics, Wayne Martin further notes that "in 1673, Anton Van Leeuwenhoek in Holland built one of the first microscopes and began reporting on living microorganisms which he saw with it. Over 170 years later, Ignaz Semmelweis ... interested himself in puerperal infection (childbed fever) which was killing one out of four mothers in the lying-in hospitals of Vienna .... Semmelweis organized one ward where all the doctors were required to wash their hands with soap and water and later, with chlorinated lime, before they touched a woman in labor. Two things happened. Death from childbed fever dropped dramatically, and Johann Klein, his superior ... drove Semmelweis from Vienna."
Thirty years later, Louis Pasteur developed a vaccine for anthrax and claimed that Semmelweis was right. "Microorganisms indeed cause disease," Pasteur declared, "and now it has been proven." Wayne Martin recalls: "The anti-infectionist orthodoxy then made itself vulnerable ... it challenged him [Pasteur] to a test before the public's searching eyes.
Pasteur promptly and utterly devastated the orthodox medical establishment, and, as a result, we then had the pro-infectionist orthodoxy."
Some diseases, we now know, are caused by nutritional deficiencies rather than microbes. But those who initially claimed such were also forced to bear the brunt of ridicule and disbelief.
In 1535, when scurvy began to ravage the crew of French explorer Jacques Cartier, a friendly Indian provided the remedy: tree bark and needles from the white pine (both rich in Vitamin C) stirred into a drink. Cartier reported the incident to medical authorities after returning to Europe. They were amused by such "witchdoctor cures of ignorant savages" and did nothing to follow up. G. Edward Griffin notes that "it took over two hundred years and cost hundreds of thousands of lives before the medical experts began to accept and apply this knowledge."
Similarly, as far back as 1914 Dr. Joseph Goldberger had demonstrated that pellagra was caused by a nutritional deficiency and later showed that it could be prevented by eating liver or yeast.
But not until the 1940s was it fully conceded by the medical establishment that pellagra was indeed a Vitamin B deficiency.
Attempts to maintain medical monopolies by discrediting and stifling "unorthodox" competition have resulted in suffering and death for countless millions of persons over the centuries. A free market for practitioners, and freedom of choice for patients, would be good medicine indeed.
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