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Invalid Science / Questionable Medicine

Dr. Peter Mansfield

The British Medical Profession, like its colleagues all over the western world, has proudly based its claim to public esteem on a foundation of modern science and technology. Whenever public and professional concerns have come into conflict, the public has been asked to trust scientific reason as expounded by the experts.

That science has taken nearly two centuries to build up, piece by piece, gathering pace alongside the careers of Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard. To the one, we attribute many of the basic observations at the root of modern microbiology and our predominant germ theory of disease; to the other, the laboratory methods by which medical science has proceeded ever since. The British National Health Service, now 45 years old, is entirely based on these twin principles.

This is where doubts creep in. For the Health Service has failed to live up to its name. It has never improved the nation's overall health by the smallest fraction in any single year of its existence. On the contrary, it has steadily increased our reliance on medicines and medical institutions.

If the parents may be judged by the shortcomings of their child, there is something radically wrong with our much vaunted medical science. What? It cannot be a matter of mere money, since huge amounts of this have been committed to medical research for half a century now. It has to be a matter of direction. And the primary failure is embarrassingly obvious. No one has given any thought to what health is.

Think about it. Since the beginning of the modern medical boom, all eyes have been on microbes, molecules and animal models. When did anyone in authority ever stand back and take a long look at the whole human being? Private medical and educational scientists at the Pioneer Health Centre in Peckham made the only British venture into this area - and were given the thumbs down by the only official medical delegation that ever visited them.

Now look at the consequences of this glaring omission. We have no direct scientific measures for personal health, because nobody has thought to develop them. This has prevented anyone from checking whether and how medicines, surgery and radiation affect personal human health as a whole. Instead, trials are judged by alterations in detailed measurements, with no direct or obvious relation to the personal health of the trial subjects as a whole. When science moves into experiments on animal models, the assumptions that connect them with human experience become outrageous - yet are never questioned.

We have no time to review in detail all of the ramifications of this monstrous error, but we can begin to see that our entire medical community have based their standing on feet of clay. We can pause long enough to add one further doubt - that Pasteur, in founding microbiology, was fundamentally wrong in the conclusions. It transpires that he very largely plagiarised the work of one Antoine Beauchamp, a far better scientist than he, whom Pasteur fatally misunderstood. Beauchamp's work established that disease causes microbes to develop - not the other way round. What a different attitude to immunisation we would now share had Beauchamp's thinking received proper attention! It is clearly set out in books that are in print and available in this hall, and it has never been more timely than now. I leave you to pursue this fascinating subject at your leisure.

For the moment we have only to draw the inference to which all this is leading. If medical science is focused on feet of clay, then so are all the institutions we have built on it. The more weight we give these institutions, the more surely will those feet crumble.

Now, all around us, we see the evidence. The National Health Service is collapsing for lack of true direction. Though it was our proudest medical institution, and for decades the envy of half the world, it was never truly a health service.

That era is yet to come. We have first to reject a false science without meaning for human health or happiness. We must then build a true science of health in its place, of which human health will be the key department. Only then will scientists again command the respect of the public. And at last the work of human health practitioners down the ages - based up to now only on right-thinking, compassion, experience and insight - will be open to appreciation, evaluation and improvement.

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