Modern medicine is first and foremost a medicine of survival. It mends fractures, calms intense pain, and can treat severe infections. It is an approach that rests on a great level of expertise when the human body is subjected to a high level of stress. If modern medicine does not intervene at that moment, death can occur in the short or medium term.

The notion of survival is important as it describes the specificity of modern medicine and the essentiel role it needs to play in a health network whose purpose it is to offer optimal care. This specificity can be summed up by this:

1. Acute Survival Phase (body and psyche):

  • when the physical body is in mortal danger (hearth attack, pneumonia, cancer...)
  • when pain becomes intolerable (lumbar sprain, urinary calculus...)
  • when a person has suicidal or homicidal ideas
  • when a person displays excessive anxiety (panic disorder or severe insomnia).

2. Non-acute Survival Phase:

  • The person presents a pathology which needs to be stabilized in order to try and prevent an acute survival phase of the physical body. Here are two examples: insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and hypertension.

A patient with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus whose illness is under control with the help of medication thus finds himself in a non-acute phase of survival. He needs the insulin to be out of danger and not enter an acute survival phase.

The same analysis holds for medication prescribed for hypertension where the body is not in an acute survival phase but rather in a non-acute survival phase since in this instance there is generally no apparent danger of death. The pharmacological treatment is therefore administered to lower the incidence of deadly pathologies such as heart attacks and strokes. Even though these medications are used in a context where the body is not in an acute survival phase, they are deemed to be extensions of those prescribed when the physical body is in danger of dying.

To better understand this, we can ask the following question: what will happen if the patient stops taking his medication? If he exposes himself to a greater risk of developing a deadly pathology in the short or medium term and closes in on a risk of acute survival phase, this therapeutic intervention becomes part of the specificity of modern medicine.

This notion of specificity is very important because it determines the field of action in which modern medicine operates in order to offer the optimal care that modern society requires.

Thus, as the community as a whole understands the specificity of modern medicine, its population as well as health providers will be able to determine the proper domain of medicine, allowing other approaches, such as acupuncture, to eventually play a bigger role in the treatment of different pathologies.

Martin Moisan, md
Kanesatake Health Center
12 Joseph Swan
Kanesatake (Québec)
J0N 1E0

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