Hippocrates – the father of our modern medicine lived about 2400 years ago. Born in the Greek island of Cos and he lived to the age of 104. He was one of the first to conduct experiments and collect data to show and prove that disease was not caused by magic or demons but was in fact a natural process, caused by the natural reactions of the body to the disease process. He recognised that the human body functioned as one unified organism, and must be treated, in health and disease, as one coherent, integrated whole. He felt that not only the patient’s subjective symptoms, but the objective signs of the disease must also be considered to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. According to Hippocrates disease resulted from disharmony and imbalance and good health could only be restored by correcting this disparity and restoring harmony (Grammaticos & Diamantis, 2008). For these reasons historians generally look to Hippocrates as the founder of medicine as a rational science. It was Hippocrates who finally freed medicine from the shackles of magic, superstition, and the supernatural.
Hippocrates believed in vis medicatrix naturae – which translates as “The Force of Nature Heals”. He held the opinion that the healthcare provider is a mere servant and facilitator of nature. All medical treatment is aimed at allowing the innate resistance of the body to overcome disease, and bring about recovery. Any healing process, whether recovery from infection, physical trauma, or psychological distress must involve the body’s own restorative functions. Our culture assumes that medical and healthcare professionals know everything and patients can’t possibly add anything useful. Some patients are not ready to accept more accountability for their own care. What’s needed is fundamental reform in the patient’s role — from that of a passive recipient of care to an active contributor assigned defined tasks, and accountability for results. In other words, we need to view the patient’s role as a job and assign a job description to them that supports the best health outcomes possible. Because healing, by the process of restoring health, means making whole. But in our healthcare system the roles and responsibilities of patients are rarely clearly defined or fully supported. Patients routinely take on frustrating tasks, such as the transfer of vital information from one healthcare provider to another. They struggle to get access to the information they need to tend to their own care. They spend anxious days and weeks waiting for results and chasing onward referrals. For patients to be content with care, encouraged to play their part, attend required appointments, and to be compliant with care they need the support of a system designed to help them do their jobs effectively, because their job is the most important within our healthcare system. Doctors, nurse’s physiotherapists and other health care professionals are not required for healing to happen. They educate, empower and motivate, they manage the process and advise on strategy…. But they don’t heal; medical and health practitioners are not healers or fixers. Healing can be facilitated and supported but only the body can heal itself – it just has to be suitably supported to do the job.
Grammaticos PC & Diamantis A. (2008). Useful known and unknown views of the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates and his teacher Democritus. Hell J Nucl Med 11, 2-4.