Western Medicine

Western Medical Science

Keeping well, preventing illness, treating the injured and caring for the infirmed has always been the main focus of human existence. Our physical and emotional state of being has encompassed our thoughts and influenced every decision that was ever made in some way.

Over the millennium, spanning all global cultures, different philosophies, theories, and modalities, were implemented.

Historically, the Fall of the Roman Empire (~485 AD) was the “beginning” of western medicine as we know it today, when buildings, public health systems, libraries with ancient texts and books, were destroyed and much of the knowledge of medicine was lost. With the Church becoming the governing mindset there was an intellectual drought and lack of growth and prosperity in Western Europe. For the next one thousand years science and scientific exploration became heavily influenced by religion and politics.

“The physician treats, but nature heals.” Hippocrates

“It is much more important to know what kind of patient has the disease than what kind of disease the patient has.” William Osler (Physician 1849-1919)


There have been many individuals throughout history who have made great sacrifices for the advancement of scientific exploration. The history of medicine and healing is both fascinating and telling of the times and the mindset based upon religious, political and environmental influences steeped in theological arguments and scientific reasoning.

Western medicine as we know it today began only about three hundred to four hundred years ago (c.1550-1700,) during what was called the Scientific Revolution. This was where there was a transformation of thought from the idea of holism and the cultural traditions of nature and mind-body-spirit connections to more scientific methods that were observable, demonstrable, measurable, and self-evident.

This coincided with the depersonalization of the patient, whereas the body was regarded as a machine and disease was viewed as being separate, as investigations and treatments became more objective and scientific.


This dualistic concept, separating mind and body led to the emphasis of the treatment of symptoms for the sake of the symptom, ignoring any association with the mindset or psychological state of being.

Socially and politically the role of the doctor shifted from promoting health and preventing disease to obtaining a diagnosis and treatment of illness, or at least the alleviation of symptoms and distress. In our current time, it is quite often that the “symptom” is regarded as the “disease”, for instance, in the case of hypertension.

We say a patient has hypertension or high blood pressure based on the results of a blood pressure monitor; and we administer a medication to lower the blood pressure without looking deeper into the actual foundational cause of the hypertension.


Pharmaceuticals are synthetically isolated compounds designed for a specific cause. The value is in the rapid onset of its primary or targeted effects. However, they are not without a long list of “other effects” which are called side effects or adverse reactions that can be harmful and potentially life-threatening.

Most pharmaceuticals are made to be used short term to treat an acute problem; like pain medications, such as morphine, an opiate derivative and antibiotics for infections. The development of penicillin, the first antibiotic in 1935, saved the lives of many who suffered from tuberculosis, pneumonia and other bacterial infections.

However, in today’s world, we have developed a reliance on them to help mitigate our chronic symptoms, trying to feel better, and never quite achieving the results we desire, and unfortunately, the wide-spread over use and abuse of antibiotics has created strains of resistant bacteria.


The mechanistic and systems approach to medical treatments led to the pharmaceutical solution doctrine of a “pill for an ill”. This method of “treatment” gives us a false sense of security that all is well, while the underlying cause is sinking deeper into the body to only show up as a different problem later on.

The use of pharmaceuticals as the main modality of medical treatments has created the standardized concept of Evidence-Based Medicine – where the use of a drug is required to undergo a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study to evaluate its effectiveness, safety and validity.

This idealized protocol is not without its own problems and potential unscrupulous behavior and has led to the intolerances of the medical community to other more natural therapies regardless of their historic successes.


Modern western medicine provides us with great advantages as well as disadvantages.

This mechanistic and systematic approach has encouraged the recruitment of “specialists” and advances in surgical techniques, innovative technologies, hospitals and prestigious learning institutions.

Medical science has made tremendous advancements concerning the knowledge of anatomy, physiology, cell biology, microbiology, genetics, pathology, anesthesiology, pharmacology and the ongoing investigations of safer and more efficient ways to perform surgeries, and the stabilization and treatment of emergent cases.

Many tools and technologies developed over the last one hundred fifty years, such as the microscope, the thermometer, laboratory blood analysis and blood typing, the X-ray machine, MRI, CT scan, anesthetic equipment, and surgical instruments have benefited countless lives by means of early diagnosis and intervention.

Over the centuries, throughout different countries and cultures, countless lives were saved, lost and sacrificed for the sake of scientific exploration. The last three hundred years have had its moments of successes, failures, great discoveries and times of epic injustices in the name of science.


Western medicine was designed for and shines in the Emergency Room! There is never a dull moment in the ER. There are countless situations that constitute an emergency.

Whether it be trauma, broken bones, acute hemorrhage, exposure or ingestion of toxic substances, bites from venomous animals; foreign objects that get stuck in all different locations and orifices, all kinds of “shock” states, or the acute exacerbation of chronic illnesses, such as seizures, heart failure, metabolic or endocrine-related events (like Diabetic Ketoacidosis, or an Addisonian crisis), and many other phenomena, this list is not exhaustive. You want to be able to go to an Emergency Room and get the treatment, blood products, pain management, medications, diagnostics, procedures and surgeries necessary to save your life in that moment.

Those are the moments when we are very grateful for the successes, trials and tribulations of Western Medicine.

Overall, health and wellness is truly a balance and integration of both Western and Eastern Medicine

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Dr. Barrie Sands is a veterinarian, healer, scientist, author, artist, and an international educator and speaker.

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