( By Dr Ramesh Kapadia )

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Bio Medical Model

Throughout the history of Western science, the development of biology has gone hand in hand with that of medicine. The mechanistic view of life firmly established in biology since the first scientific revolution of the 17th century has dominated the attitude of the physicians towards health and illness. The human body is regarded as a machine that can be analysed in terms of its parts. The diseases are seen as malfunctioning of biological mechanisms and studied from the point of view of cellular and molecular biology. Three centuries after Descartes, the science of medicine is still based on the notion of the body as a machine, of disease s a consequence of break-down of the machine and the doctor's task as the repairer of the machine. The new concepts in modern physics have brought about a profound change in our world view. ' from the mechanistic concept of Descartes and Newton to a holistic and ecological view, a view similar to the views of mystics of all ages and traditions.

To reincorporate the notion of healing in the theory and practice of medicine, medical science will have to transcend its narrow view of health and illness. This does not mean that it will have to be less scientific. On the contrary, by broadening this conceptual basis it will become more consistent with recent developments in modern science. To begin with, the definition of health given by W.H.O. in the preamble of its charter may be useful ; ' Health is a state of complete, physical, mental and social well-being ; and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.'

Detailed knowledge of biological functions on the cellular and molecular levels not only led to the extensive development of drug therapy but was of tremendous help for surgery, allowing surgeons to advance their art to the levels of sophistication beyond all previous expectations. This development of medical technology became all pervasive in the modern medical care. The increasing dependence on medicine of Hi-technology has raised a number of problems which are not only of medical or technical nature, but involve much broader social, economic and moral issues. The President of Rockfeller Foundation writes, ' We have developed the finest bio-medical effort in the world and our medical technology is second to none.' Less Thomas, President of the Memorial Sloan Kattering Cancer Centre observes, 'We are left with approximately the same roaster of common major diseases which confronted the country in 1950 and although we have accumulated a formidable body of information about some of them in the intervening time, the accumulated knowledge is not yet sufficient to permit either the prevention or the outright cure of them. ' The Dean of the Graduate School of Public Policy, U.C. Berkley States, ' The best estimates are that the medical system ( doctors, drugs and hospitals ) affects only about 10% of the usual indices for measuring health.'

Although the knowledge of the cellular and molecular structure will continue to be important, fuller understanding of life will be achieved only by developing a 'system biology', the biology that sees an organism as a living system rather than a machine. Prior to 1492, one would easily count oneself learned and believed the earth to be flat, but when it became possible to travel great distances, as did Columbus and Magellan, the data changed and consequently the model of earth's configuration had to be revised. In Medicine today, with the discovery of modern physics, we have taken Magellanic voyages. New holistic way of thinking is the need of the hour. Resistance to change is unbecoming of the true scientists , for the history of science is a record of change. Our medical model uptil now, dealt with limited information and was limited as a result. Now the new information is that consciousness matters. The evidence supporting the importance of consciousness emerged from the most unlikely place - modern bioscience, which has traditionally championed strictly a mechanistic view of man. One of the main lessons that the physicists have had to learn in this century has been the fact that all the concepts and theories we use to describe nature are limited. As Werner Heisenberg observes : ' Every word or concept, however, clear it may seem to be, has only a limited range of applicability. Scientific theories will always be the approximation to the true nature of things. Scientists will not need to be reluctant to adopt a holistic framework for fear of being unscientific. Modern physics can show them that such a framework is not only scientific but is in agreement with the most advanced scientific theories of physical reality. '

Science has been affected by a point of view which tries to be value-free. This is of course mere prejudice.


David Bohm.