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Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra, M.D., recently appeared on a TV show, and caught my wife's attention by what she reported as sensible-sounding advice on how to reduce stress via a simple form of mindfulness-meditation. In hopes of learning more about Chopra's work — apparently I'm the last survivor on the planet who knows nothing of him? — at the used-book sale I picked up Ageless Body, Timeless Mind (1993). Alas, a semi-random probe landed in Part Three ("Defeating Entropy"), where the bogosity meter pegged on Chopra's discussion of how when "...cells scraped from the inside of someone's mouth are connected to a polygraph in one room while he sits in another, their electrical discharge will remain even and flat while he is sitting still and spike wildly when he looks at erotic pictures ...". Equally distracting is pseudo-scientific babble about the health implications of quantum mechanics (e.g., "In the quantum world, change is inevitable, aging isn't. ... You can control the informational content of the quantum field. ..."). Maybe the subtitle of the book should have clued me in: "The Quantum Alternative To Growing Old". Ugh!

And yet there's a lot to be said — rationally — for some "alternative" approaches. The July/August 2011 issue of The Atlantic magazine has a thoughtful article by David H. Freedman, "The Triumph of New-Age Medicine" [1]. He discusses how "... diet, exercise, and stress reduction can do a better job of preventing, slowing, and even reversing heart disease than most drugs and surgical procedures ...". Undeniably (to a reasoning person) modern evidence-based medicine is best in cases of infection, trauma, cancer, etc. But in murkier areas? Freedman continues:

Medicine has long known what gets patients to make the lifestyle changes that appear to be so crucial for lowering the risk of serious disease: lavishing attention on them. That means longer, more frequent visits; more focus on what's going on in their lives; more effort spent easing anxieties, instilling healthy attitudes, and getting patients to take responsibility for their well-being; and concerted attempts to provide hope. ...

But since "Doctors are paid for providing treatments, not for spending time talking to patients," it's tough to harness these aspects of the placebo effect nowadays. Perhaps, Freedman speculates, some of it can be done via nurses or non-physician therapist-practitioners.

(cf. AlteredNative (2002-01-24), ModernMedicine (2005-04-29), Evidence-Based Medicine (2010-01-16), Medicine and Statistics (2010-11-13), ...) - ^z - 2011-07-29