At one time belonging in the same caucus, it wasn't long ago that religion and medicine packed up their offices and set out to form independent parties. Up until the 17th century, the two worked in collaboration to promote healing. Priests were often known as healers and healers were often priests, revered and respected in their communities. As empirical science gained a following and more and more people began questioning the church's authority, a chasm developed and then broke wide open.
"When the split happened, the art of healing was lost," says Derrick DeSilva, MD, a well-known internist, lecturer and radio talk-show host based in Somerset, N.J. "Many physicians are beginning to realize that. Doctors need to stop the fight within themselves and allow healing to become a part of caregiving."
Larry Dossey, MD, executive editor of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine journal, agrees. "We gave up the significance of our own minds and thoughts in consciousness and healing. The result is that medicine is perceived as remote, technical, cold and uncaring," he says. "No one is happy with this result, including the physicians. We are agonizing our way back to restoring meaning, values and purpose."
The way to get back to holistic medicine, says DeSilva, is to incorporate spirituality into the Western medical paradigm. "Seventy-five percent of our patients want us to pray for them," he notes. While many believe that organized religion can undermine spirituality, perhaps it can also be said that organized medicine has undermined healing. Integrating both seems to be catching on for doctors, priests and patients.