cathy Livingstone catseye at
Thu Dec 17 00:20:12 PST 1998

At 07:13 AM 12/16/98 EST, you wrote:
> C. Featherstone,
> I think the scientific point about CFS can be made this way:
>Your sister's girlfriend suffers from something, but we don't know what it
>is. Assuming that it is any particular kind of ailment, absent hard data,
>is not in her best interest. There is a set of symptoms that seem to come
>as a package. That package has been named CFS. Because CFS is idiopathic,
>there is no scientific reason to rule any cause out including
>psychosomatic causes. In fact, psychosomatic effects are the ones that
>have to be ruled out first, witness placebo-controlled drug studies.

How exactly are psychosomatic causes ruled out, scientifically?

To say that CFS may be psychosomatic does not reduce its seriousness at all.
>Psychosomatic conditions ruin peoples' lives and even kill them. What's
>more the medical community's not only has a tendency to ignore some
>problems, it also has a tendency to promote others. It is entirely in the
>medical community's interest to tell us that there are many things wrong
>with us and that these things can be cured only with a pill, procedure or
>therapy. Doctors hate things the can't fix. That's one of the reasons
>that the age of snake oil is not dead and never will be so long as people
>don the vestments of the learned, tell people "I can fix it" and take
>checks, cash, credit cards and kudos for their services.

Which is why they currently don't accept CFS as a disease: they can't identify it and thus can't make a buck off of it (yet!). Actually, maybe this is the way it now works: the pharmaceutical companies devise a 'cure' and THEN the medical profession finds the disease to match it. I'm getting too cynical (is that possible?).

> I think people who criticize "Western" medicine on the grounds
>that it is not open to new therapies, and new maladies on which to use
>those therapies, are misguided. The history of medicine clearly shows that
>it has always been open to excessive treatment of dubious merit, pure
>flim-flams and snake oil from the first. Look how the supermarket shelves
>are filling with "herbal" remedies inspired by the notion that using them
>somehow pulls one away from cold, capitalist medicine into a warm
>"holistic" bosom. St. John's wart and it's untested, unregulated (now
>specifically unregulated and unregulatable thanks to recent law)
>counterparts are big money makers. Which business do you think
>capitalists want to be in, the business of developing drugs and
>scientifically testing them for tens and hundreds of millions of dollars,
>or the business of digging up a root and making any claim you want about
>it? Do you think Merck spends all that money out of the goodness of its
>heart? Do you think Eli Lilly wouldn't fire all those chemists if it
>could ignore the FDA and the community of *scientific* medicine?

I think there's two separate histories of medicine you have here. One, guided by scientific discourse (and which does occasionally produce snake oils of its own) and the other, the 'alternative', homeopathic community which basically feeds off the very failures of the scientific medical field. Here in B.C., the alternative medical community is gargantuan. One of the problems with scientific medicine is that by 'curing' one particular and narrow health concern, it may create horrible 'side' (often very long term and deteriorative) effects on other parts of the body. Many medications require other medications to eliminate their side effects. In pops the alternates who claims to treat the body as a whole but have no scientific means to prove their claims. Part of the problem rests in the scientific method itself - how does one treat the whole body as a 'subject' of analytic discourse when it's such a complicated organism? Part of it is an inarticulate dissatisfaction with being treated as a cog in a medical production process. But whatever the reason, alternative medicine has become the venture capital of the medical field, although big capital has it's vulture claws out.

> peace, and good health to you too.



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