The Doctor and the Drug Question

The Doctor and the Drug Question (Conclusion)

IF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENT1STS had a one-hundred-year history of using only rational treatment methods, many in the scientific world would now be in a position to appreciate and perhaps slightly envy us. Such a history would have consisted of total membership commitment to the Spirit of Prophecy principles of health reform and commitment by physicians to totally rational and efficacious treatment methods. . .

-Physician, Corvallis, Oregon, at the time this article was written

Lessons From Our Past

IF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENT1STS had a one-hundred-year history of using only rational treatment methods, many in the scientific world would now be in a position to appreciate and perhaps slightly envy us. Such a history would have consisted of total membership commitment to the Spirit of Prophecy principles of health reform and commitment by physicians to totally rational and efficacious treatment methods.

Our pioneers could not have been expected to recognize that a lack of knowledge made it impossible for their physicians to use drugs rationally. Nor could they know the extent to which pharmacology would advance during the life time of their great-grandchildren. But in His love and wisdom God sent messages of warning that contained exceptions to allow for future developments.

Our spiritual forefathers seem not to have had enough faith in the inspired messages to practically limit their treatment of disease to the simple, natural remedies. We have hindsight to help us follow a plan we can at least partly understand. We have found in the writings of Mrs. White of seventy years ago the key words that dominate and serve as guides in the discussion of the prescription drug problem of 1972 "rational" and "efficacious," meaning reasonable and effective or beneficial.

Truth in Labeling

In 1962 Congress made the Food and Drug Administration responsible for guaranteeing our citizens that the safety and effectiveness of medicines are correctly explained in advertising and labeling. Drug labeling refers particularly to what is called the package insert. This is printed material enclosed in the package with the medicine. In it the manufacturer sets forth his claims for the usefulness of the drug and prescribes the precautions necessary to avoid harm from its use.

Was Nineteenth Century Therapy Good?

The Drug Efficacy Study was the first grand scale search for scientific evidence that drugs being used are really effective as advertised. Its purpose was to promote rational prescribing. The ten pharmacology professors I visited generally felt that, with few exceptions, rational prescribing of medicines was only beginning to be possible in the 1930's.

If these experts could be transported back to 1903, with their present knowledge, they might well concur in the Lord's pronouncement through His servant that "it would have been better if, from the first, all drugs had been kept out of our sanitariums. . . . [Simple remedies] would be just as efficacious as the drugs." --Selected Messages, book 2, p. 291.

Drugging Is Still No Good

Before the twentieth century it was not uncommon for a treatment program to consist of stimulating drugs repeated for one whole day and alternated with sedative drugs for the following day. This is an example of "drugging" which Counsels on Diet and Foods, page 83, declares "should be forever abandoned." But such folly has not been entirely abandoned yet. People still jolt themselves awake with coffee in the morning and drug themselves with a pill to sleep at night. They are following an irrational Dark Ages program just as bad as the one condemned a century ago. In times of all but complete ignorance, reform called for almost complete discarding of drugs. Today, after the development of some knowledge, the reform needed is the rational use of fewer drugs.

In the May 31, 1971, issue of American Medical News Dr. Edwards writes:

Overall, the National Academy of Sciences experts reported a "deplorable situation" in the generally poor quality of [drug] labeling and of evidence submitted in support of efficacy claims. . . . The use of an additional drug which is not needed ... is an irrational prescription. . . . No patient should be ex posed to a drug he does not need. ... It is fair to say that the [Drug Efficacy] study lays the ground work for some of the most significant medical re forms in many years.

It was in 1898 that Ellen White stated, "The drugging business has done more harm . . . and killed more than it has helped or cured. . . . Sanitariums were to reform the medical practices of physicians." Medical Ministry, p. 27. If one considers the great difference between the two time periods from which these statements came in terms of the development of medical science, it is apparent that they speak of the same problem.

The Day of Miracles May Lie Just Ahead

In some cases a miracle in answer to prayer for healing is the only hope. But "God does not heal the sick without the aid of the means of healing which lie within the reach of man." Selected Messages, book 2, p. 286.

Cancer of the lung is the most common fatal cancer in American men. Modern therapy promises these men only one chance in ten of surviving for five years. This does not mean they should refuse treatment. Sick men must use "everything that to [their] intelligence is beneficial." But if the best medical science can do is save one out of ten, nine of their chances for cure of cancer of the lung must be sought in another direction.

On page 127 of The Ministry of Healing the true remedies are listed: "Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power." These cancer patients will find their brightest hope for extended survival at the end of this list.

The Promise Is Conditional

Through trust in divine power they can obtain help which would otherwise lie beyond their reach. The first seven of these remedies form an outline of the laws of health. Because "it is just as much a sin to violate the laws of our being as to break one of the ten commandments" (Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 45), one could not expect God to work a miracle and heal cancer unless the sufferer at tempts to follow God's program of healthful living. "God requires all who believe the truth to make special, per severing efforts to place themselves in the best possible condition of bodily health." --Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 619. Having complied with God's requirements and cooperated in His plan we can expect Him to honor His pledge "to keep this human machinery in healthful action" (Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 17), but "how can the Lord work in ... behalf [of the sick] when they . . . refuse to heed His instruction in regard to health reform"? --Ibid., p. 400.

Usually a Miracle Is Not Required

If we really understand and follow all of God's rational program for healing, few diseases will come as near to requiring a miracle, because of their hopeless outlook, as lung cancer. According to the Spirit of Prophecy, the everyday capacity of the human body for self-repair is evidence of the love and power with which God has planned to replace the miraculous method of healing.

The way in which Christ worked was to preach the Word, and to relieve suffering by miraculous works of healing. But . . . we cannot now work in this way, for Satan will exercise his power by working miracles. . . . For this reason the Lord has marked out a way in which His people are to carry forward a work of physical healing, combined with the teaching of the Word. Sanitariums are to be established, and with these institutions are to be connected workers who will carry forward genuine medical missionary work. --Selected Messages, book 2, p. 54.

The Responsibility of Health Institutions

Any discussion of rational therapy must include mention of the best place for such treatment to be given. In 1872, Mrs. White published a booklet called Health Reform and the Health Institute. On page 15 of this booklet she writes, "The directors of the Institute should avail themselves of every facility which will aid in the successful treatment of patients." (Republished in Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 170.) Soon afterward, the Health Institute became a sanitarium and hospital. Since then the church has opened other full-service institutions wherever the equipment and the staff could be brought together. The sanitarium phase represented what we would now call a health education and preventive medicine section. Sad to say, some have considered this merely an optional, supple mental service, but the Lord originally presented it through His messenger as the most important aspect of a medical facility. We were to teach people "how to take care of themselves so as to prevent sickness" (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 553).

The Test

The essence of God's program for healing is that practically always the principal feature will be a reform in one's habits of living, but occasionally a medicine may be found to assist nature's capacity for self-repair. We tend to squirm under God's requirements and fear that we cannot succeed with such a plan in our institutions today. This fear indicates that for the moment we have forgotten what our special business really is. With prayerful tact we are seeking for those who can be taught, step by step, to love all of God's way.

When a sick man enters a modern hospital many marvelous tests and examinations are performed. Stainless steel shines everywhere and the impressive equipment captures his confidence. He feels that great things are being done for him, and they are. A patient cannot help but be powerfully influenced by what he sees and hears in such a place. The physician who directs all of this shares an awesome responsibility with those who operate this imposing temple of healing. The burden of this responsibility is especially heavy when, as is so frequent, the tests are all negative and the patient's problem is found to be only a matter of too much food and drink with no exercise to burn off these hazards of affluence. "When a physician sees a patient suffering from disease caused by improper eating and drinking or other wrong habits, yet neglects to tell him of this, he is doing his fellow being an in jury." --The Ministry of Healing, p. 114. "Present the matter tenderly, but never keep silent as to the cause of the affliction." --Medical Ministry, p. 49.

We Have a Flood of Light

If our efforts are to be directed to helping people bring their life habits into harmony with God's laws of health, where shall we look to find the details of this program? The Lord's messenger says in Counsels on Diet and Foods, page 493, "I have had great light from the Lord upon the subject of health reform. I did not seek this light; I did not study to obtain it; it was given to me by the Lord to give to others." And in Counsels on Health, page 443, she says, "Health re form is the Lord's means for lessening suffering in our world."

"Those who live in the last days . . . need to be fully established in the principles of health reform." --Evangelism, p. 262. "It is the Lord's design that the restoring influence of health reform shall be a part of the last great effort to proclaim the gospel." --Medical Ministry, p. 259. A sanitarium "was the means God was to use in bringing His people to a right understanding in regard to health reform." --Notebook Leaflets, vol. 1, no. 42, p. 2 (1901).

One purpose of sanitariums was to function as schools where "the principles of genuine health reform are to be brought out" (Medical Ministry, p. 325). In all our health institutions "the principles of health reform should be care fully and thoroughly set before all, both patients and helpers" (Counsels on Health, p. 449).

An active health education service is required today in order for any medical facility to provide a truly modern and complete scientific program of rational therapy. The best informed members of modern society have recently begun to clamor for preventive care such as that recommended in the Spirit of Prophecy long ago. The name given to this segment of the work is much less important than the message it teaches. The principles of healthful living revealed to Ellen White in vision will make this service, and the institution as a whole, one of our most effective soul-winning agencies. "The influences that are associated with health reform will commend it to the judgment of all who want light, and they will advance step by step to receive the special truths for this time." --Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 379.

The Full Gospel

"Health reform is an important part of the third angel's message." --Counsels on Health, p. 49. Note these inseparably interrelated aspects of our gospel ministry:

"Medical missionary work is the right hand of the gospel." --Testimonies, vol. 7. p. 59.

Health reform "is the right hand of the gospel" (Notebook Leaflets, vol. 1, no. 8. p. 1).

"Our sanitariums are the right hand of the gospel." --Counsels on Health, p. 212.

As time passes it becomes increasingly clear that our medical missionary efforts should occupy the important position Mrs. White was shown that they deserve. We should incorporate into our work the health principles God gave her.

The Lord considered the care of our bodies and the care of the sick around us to be so important that He sent the Seventh-day Adventist Church hundreds of pages of instruction concerning medical missionary work. Through visions He directed that we operate special institutions in which to apply His divinely ordained methods of preventing and treating disease. Every Seventh-day Adventist Christian needs a clear under standing of what these methods are. "Soon there will be no work done in ministerial lines but medical missionary work." --Ibid., p. 533.

In Counsels to Parents and Teachers, page 468, we are warned that "the world's need today cannot be met fully by the ministry of God's servants who have been called to preach. . . . The Lord has ordained that with those who preach the word shall be associated His medical missionary workers Christian physicians and nurses." But a yet more sobering statement is that "the Lord calls for unity, for oneness. ... I want to tell you that when the gospel ministers and the medical missionary workers are not united, there is placed on our churches the worst evil that can be placed there."--Medical Ministry, p. 241.

In these chaotic days of stress and intemperance, God's people need to give greater attention to His counsel regarding health reform than ever before. If, indeed, "soon there will be no work done in ministerial lines but medical missionary work," then our sharpest attention should be focused on this ministry. As individual Christians and as a church body let us study and apply these wonderful principles that will be "the right hand" of a finished work.


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-Physician, Corvallis, Oregon, at the time this article was written

September 1972

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