The Doctor Speaks: Anthroposophical Medicine

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By: Henry N. Williams, M.D.
Question: What would you say were the keys that changed the way you practice medicine?

Answer: The anthroposophical approach to health and illness give the physician a dif­ferent attitude to the patient and her/his problems. We recognize not only the uniqueness of each individual and situation (as do homeopathic practitioners) but see­ing in the illness an attempt on the part of the individuality of the patient to make a change. Of course fever stimulates the im­mune system and is therefore good but re­quires the oversight of the physician to be sure that it is not life endangering (one can have too much of a good thing). Thought­ful talks with patients may help them sense what changes in life style and attitudes are necessary. It is a rare physician who can or should tell a patient what to do---patients must come to it themselves. It reminds me of the old adage: 'anyone changed against their will is of the same opinion still.'

We, as anthroposophists, believe in the overseeing closeness of the spiritual world to each individual and see in what happens to us a divine guidance toward our indi­vidual betterment (the Law of Karma). We also believe in the reality of reincarnation (repeated earth lives as human beings). These beliefs form a backdrop against which we see the patient and their problem.

We tend to give far less medicine than other physicians who see every illness as an invasion from outside; alien forces that must be repulsed with strong measures. It is a phi­losophy of illness based on fear, and all ill­nesses are deemed adversarial, and not seen as an attempt on the part of the individual to find a more harmonious life and work towards a spiritual goal, albeit perhaps an unconscious one.

Epidemic illnesses are harder to see in this way. But here too the same principles apply. As physicians we have to see the sus­ceptibility to disease as an imbalance which is grasped by our physical-self to bring us along our spiritual path.

Immunizations are another trial for the anthroposophically oriented physician. If illnesses are attempts, or windows of oppor­tunity, for the self to bring a better balance or bring us further along our spiritual path, then preventing illness is gross interference with the karma of the patient (and our own). Each physician may have 'exceptions.' Mine is the tetanus toxoid. After seeing tetanus in contaminated wounds I see the toxoid, with a booster shot every ten years as preferable to having antitoxin in emergency situations. After having a young patient develop a myologinous leukemic picture after a `booster' shot of Diphtheria/ Pertussis/Teta­nus (DPT), I realize the negative aspect of immunization (even after we were able to bring his blood picture back to normal and the patient back to health).

We end up with more questions than answers in these litigious times. The phy­sician must decide each case on its own factors. Wide is the gate and broad the path for most physicians who do not ques­tion the current 'wisdom' of immuniza­tion. But Sophia's gate is small and her path narrow and circuitous.

Dr. Williams is a member of the Board of the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention of the United States. He also teaches medical doctors interested in expanding their practice to include an anthroposophical approach.

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