Suppose there is a healthy life expectancy of 150 years. Would you take advantage of it? After 13 years as a neurosurgeon, I pioneered successful non-surgical rehabilitation of patients with chronic pain and depression. Eighty-five percent of over 30,000 patients recovered and were able to live drug-free lives. I then began asking general audiences how long they wanted to live? I was stunned to learn that most individuals were almost as depressed as my patients. They were more concerned with:

  • Global Warming
  • Nuclear contamination/war
  • Oil and energy
  • Terrorism/Iraq
  • China and the development of third world countries
  • Chemical pollution, including pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified foods
  • Quality of education and parenting
  • Financial security
  • Health habits and health care

To some extent, all of these problems relate ultimately to health and to personal choices. We have not dealt adequately with any of the 9 problems! In the United States, the issue of health CARE has been the subject of vehement debate since at least the 1940's when Harry Truman tried unsuccessfully to ''nationalize'' medical care. Failing that, he made one of his great tactical errors-doubling the number of hospital beds and medical students! In 1965, Johnson made a similar tactical error, addressing partially the uneven affordability of medical services by introducing Medicare.

In 1963 I wrote to President Johnson telling him he was about to bankrupt the country with government intervention in medicine. I was investigated by the FBI, and they tried to get me fired from Western Reserve Medical School. I was also discharged from my consulting position at the Cleveland VA Hospital. At that time, medical costs were 4.5% of GNP. Medicare was enacted in 1965. Within 5 years headlines screamed ''A crisis in Medical Costs''-at 12% of GNP. Today, they are 16%, rapidly heading towards the 20% that may be the tipping point. Health overall is worse now than in 1965. For example, obesity has doubled. The number of premature and unhealthy newborns has quadrupled. The use of drugs has ballooned. The U.S. is number 17 in health worldwide. Unless massive reforms are instituted, we may be bankrupt within less than a decade.

The problem with the initial introduction of Medicare was that it followed the Blue Cross-Blue Shield model-you had to be hospitalized to obtain adequate care. In 1967 I surveyed the physicians at one of the finest hospitals in America, Lutheran Hospital in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Two-thirds of patients in that hospital were there, not because of serious medical need, but because that was the only way insurance would pay. The battle between the insurance industry, patients and physicians has accelerated since then. Over 15 years ago a major article in the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE emphasized the problems of insurance companies' usual claim policy of ''Delay, Delay, Delay, Deny!''

Medicare also opened the government trough, with every aspect of medical service pigging up. Hospitals, the drug industry, home medical services, physicians, etc, all expanded exponentially. But there was no increase in health education and no incentive to remain healthy. We need a national plan to develop a ''life wish'' to resolve intense conflict between individuals and society and to enhance happiness.

Co-incident with the advent of Medicare, junk ''fast food'' soon began to dominate American cuisine. Now we have exported this madness to much of the world. And the wonder of television, with other modern technology, led to increasing inactivity of Americans. Fifty years after Oschner first warned us about the dangers of tobacco and smoking has been cut almost in half, making it now the number two cause of death. The junk food industry and TV have created the number one cause of illness and death, obesity. And the PharmacoMafia, hospitals and sheep-like physicians have created the third leading cause of death, the American Medical System. As of 2000, the JAMA admitted that 250,000 people are killed each year by drugs, surgery and hospitalization. Some, such as Gary Null, have argued that the actual number is three times that! But most Americans appear not to care nor to make the personal choices that preserve health.

Meanwhile, the federal government appears to behave more like the mafia. Mafia is generally used to indicate that a large group of people is engaged in racketeering. To a great extent the federal government has many of these characteristics, refusing to address any of the major crises adequately. It forces upon Americans concepts and policies that are ''popular'' with far less than 50% of Americans. And Congress treats itself much as if it is royalty; for instance, members of Congress are ABOVE the mundane Social Security System. Their pension plan for themselves is much like the take of the pimps who run prostitution rings! And these Brahmins have the best health care available, with free access to Bethesda. They begin to remind me of Marie Antoinette's statement about the peasants: If they have no bread, let them eat cake! Of course if you can't afford bread, you can't have cake. Today the federal government is treating senior citizens, and most Americans, the way French Royalty treated the peasants. And it will lead to increased rates of suffering and death. Without calling it euthanasia, a majority of Congress and the legislatures of many states are equal conspirators in changing the rules of life to create greater death, while encouraging big businesses to continue polluting Americans with unhealthy junk food and excessive and often ineffective and dangerous drugs.

As Mark Twain said ''History has tried hard to teach us that we can't have good government under politicians.'' He also said the only criminal class is Congress. Al Quie quit Congress after serving 22 years in the House of Representatives, because he said he could not find enough morally honest representatives. Perhaps one way to improve Congress would be to allow no politician to serve more than 6 years.

Since Medicare, with collusion of the government, the PharmacoMafia has virtually taken over medicine and is certainly a huge part of the Evil Empire, battling with the tobacco industry and fast food junk for first place. The new so-called Medicare Drug Plan is another example of the government's questionable management, similar to the $10,000 toilet seats in government airplanes. Perhaps the government's idea may well be to kill off as many seniors as possible, to save on Social Security and Medicare expenses! Is this the only solution our ''royal'' Congress is able to envision?

In 1977 one wise Secretary of HEW, Califano, emphasized a widespread consensus of experts throughout the world-the only improvement in health would come from PREVENTION. And in 1979, John Knowles, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, emphasized the fact that 80+% of illness is the result of poor lifestyle habits-the failure of personal responsibility. In his most famous editorial, Franz Inglefinger, editor of the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, suggested that ''…we wind up barely on the positive side of zero'' with medical interventions! We have the technology to replace many organs but we cannot replace the quality of life that is lost because of poor personal responsibility for lifestyle.

There are several problems that must be addressed if the country is to avoid bankruptcy and premature death of many Americans. Less than 3% of Americans have all four of the most essential health habits:

  • No smoking,
  • Body Mass Index between 19 and 24,
  • Five servings of fruits/vegetables daily,
  • 30 minute of exercise 3 times a week.

Is this lack of common sense a reflection of a pervasive death wish rather than a life wish? The refusal to take responsibility for one's most important asset, health, fuels the demand for ever increasing government dependency and for at least 5 times as much medical care as would be needed if everyone followed good health habits. No drug or surgery can compensate for proper care of the human body. In addition, a majority of Americans are deficient in magnesium, calcium, folic acid, iodine and B6, among others. A vast majority of Americans are ''burned out'' with low or deficient DHEA and with excessive free radicals. Forty percent of Americans are clinically depressed and another 40% are not truly happy. Is it Freud's concept of a death wish that drives the lack of common sense which has led to the leading causes of illness and premature death?

  • Obesity
  • Smoking and tobacco
  • The American Medical System, including excessive prescription drugs
  • Failure to understand the relationship between body, mind, and spirit

Why has the government failed to address the devastation of the tobacco industry? Why does the government fail to address the 250,000+ deaths caused by the American Medical System (JAMA, July,2000)? That is greater than 9/11 EVERY WEEK! Without smoking, obesity, pharmacological and iatrogenic (physician caused) deaths, average life expectancy would already be 100 years. Without significant incentives for Americans to adopt healthy habits, no expansion of medical care can change the future.

We now have the technology to extend life to at least 120 years. How will the government deal with that! Physicians, meanwhile, have been sheep in allowing the transformation of the best possible medical system to be on the verge of total collapse as stated two years ago by Secretary of HEW, Tommy Thompson.

One Solution:

  • Place a health care surcharge on all products known to damage health

A. Cigarettes $5 per package, all the money to go into funds to lower the cost of medical care for everyone

B. Junk fast food, hydrogenated fats, white ''enriched'' flour, sugar and corn syrup, etc. For instance, $3 per burger and fries, ''pop'' at $1 per can or $3 per half liter. Alcohol, $5 per fifth of whiskey; $2 per fifth of wine, $2 per six pack of beer, etc. All such surcharges to go towards lowering the basic costs of medical treatment for everyone

  • Turn over most primary care to Nurse Practitioners
  • Ban lay hospital administrators. All hospitals should be administered ONLY by nurses or physicians
  • Ban all public advertising by the PharmacoMafia
  • Ban all drug company ''reps''
  • Equalize insurance for every American. Everyone who lives long enough will eventually need coverage as a mature individual. There should be no age, sex or racial profiling.
  • Establish a flat rate for comprehensive medical insurance, including all prescription drugs for all Americans. All insurance companies must charge the same rate for all people, whether in a group or not. Instead of a government run program, establish the amount needed to cover medical care and prorate it for each person. This rate could be set and charged by existing insurance companies who would be required to offer the same rate to everyone. The money collected from health care surcharges would be distributed on a per person basis to the insurance companies. The insurance industry would function on a cost-plus basis, perhaps allowing 2% profit. And Congress should not have health care or pension plans superior to that of the average American!
  • Abolish medical malpractice suits. Provide an arbitration panel to settle all such claims
  • Provide that insurance for those below the poverty level
  • Require that the insurance companies provide intense weight control, physical activity, smoking control programs
  • Require that the insurance companies provide excellent stress management programs

The government's primary responsibility is protection from aggression. It appears that we need to become more proactive in protecting people from themselves! While the government has attempted to discourage people from using marijuana and narcotics, the problems of tobacco, junk food and polypharmacy have been ignored. There are obviously many other ''reforms'' that might be beneficial but this is a beginning. For instance, I have not addressed adequately the alcohol and drug abuse problems. Once individuals have been identified in either category, they should be required to undergo intense self-regulation rehab programs. And the plan of the PharmacoMafia to place every American on at least 6 drugs-a ridiculous suggestion published a couple of years ago-needs to be aborted. Since a major executive of one of the leading drug companies recently admitted that most of their drugs benefit less than 50% of patients, physicians and patients need to examine far more scientifically the reason so many drugs are being prescribed! The best antidepressant is 42% effective, with a 25% complication rate. The peasants may not eat bread or cake, but they do not need to be poisoned.

Going beyond the basics for an average healthy life of 100 years, we now have the technology to rejuvenate the body's ability to make DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone, the most critical hormone), calcitonin to keep our skeleton youthful and to reduce the free radicals that otherwise age us prematurely. We could live a healthy life well beyond 100 years, but unless the Federal Government acts soon, average life expectancy may well drop over the next decade. That is NOT the solution to the Medicare and Social Security crisis! Actually the least costly and most efficacious solution would be for all Americans to take responsibility for their health and to choose to live. The choices of most Americans accelerate illness, encourage excess Medical intervention, and shorten or compromise the quality of life. We need more than 3% of Americans to develop a life wish.

HOLOS UNIVERSITY GRADUATE SEMINARY is a unique school training counselors in the major complementary and alternative approaches, as well as producing outstanding spiritual counselors and directors.

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