Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dave Pollard: Treating Disease and War

Self-Experimentation: This Time it's Serious
by Dave Pollard
How to Save the World

Severe Ulcerative Colitis, the condition I have just been diagnosed as having, has no known cause and no known cure. Apparently, stress causes it to flare up, and once that's happened, you're stuck with it for the rest of your life. All the doctors know is that for some unknown reason the body's immune system suddenly goes hyperactive. They think this happens after it's successfully combated some harmful bacterial infection in the intestine, and the white cells begin relentlessly attacking the good bacteria in the intestine as well, damaging and inflaming (and sometimes rupturing) the intestinal wall in the process.

The medical profession's utter cluelessness about this disease does not surprise me, because they are equally clueless about most of the diseases that, today, seriously incapacitate and kill most people. The job of the doctor today is to push the medicines hawked by Big Pharma, and if those pills don't work, to perform surgery, taking out the disease and frequently the essential organs it is preying on at the same time, or to prescribe massive doses of toxic chemicals or radiation that indifferently kill everything they get near, good and bad. I don't blame doctors for acting this way. This is the best they can do with the medieval tools and knowledge at their disposal. They do what they must.

For most diagnoses and treatments, this is the best that medicine can offer, that science can offer, that simplistic solutions in business, politics and every other complex domain can ever really hope to accomplish in the face of complex problems. Like the Israelis in Lebanon and the Americans in Iraq and soon Iran, the strategy is do something spectacular, so the (im)patient/customer/voter thinks that something dramatic and active is being done. No matter that it is nearly as likely to make the situation worse as better. Just try something, anything.

It is causing considerable consternation already among the specialists in my case that I'm not prepared to authorize Shock and Awe missions in my body. I indicated that I am prepared to treat the condition with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and pro/microbiotics, in combination with other natural treatments. That's all. NSAIDs don't cure the condition, of course, they just relieve the swelling and discomfort. Pro/microbiotics attempt to restore the inappropriately-destroyed bacteria in the intestine, but it's problematic -- the digestive system is so hostile to most bacteria at different points that getting the 'good' bacteria to the right place is a little like trying to replace a dictator with an altruist in a country at war, without the combatants noticing. The purpose of both is to make the patient feel better, relieve some of the stress of pain and discomfort, and give the body time to try to figure out how to heal itself.

Doctors generally know this is a hit-and-miss proposition, so they'd rather go in, guns a'blazing, and kill, overwhelm, or remove something instead. This approach, thanks to learnings from previous victims (er.. I mean patients), actually statistically improves your chances of living longer and better, at the risk of masses of unpredictable side effects that, for some, are worse than the disease. But the point remains: there is no cure, and there is no known cause. Without either, it's a mission of desperation. I'd rather give peace a chance, even if that chance is not great.

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