Remembering health freedom this Memorial Day

Tattered-American-FlagAs we celebrate Memorial Day today it is worth taking note that one of the most basic freedoms that our war dead fought and died for has been under attack for the past 120 years, and still remains so. And that freedom is the right to practice “health” in the way we see fit.

Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel famously stated, “Health is the first of all liberties.” But this notion seems largely forgotten in America today as we have become accustomed to having every health decision made on our behalf. It seems the only decision we make today is which health insurance to buy—and oftentimes we don’t even get to choose that.

Meanwhile many other countries still enjoy medical freedoms we have lost: our neighbors to the south can buy a myriad of medications that in “free” America can only be purchased with a “permission slip” from a doctor; in many countries outside the American system you can still have a physician visit your home; in numerous countries you have the freedom to self-medicate with marijuana; and in 64 countries around the world you can determine easily, by law, which foods are genetically modified, while U.S. authorities do their best to hide it.

In other words, outside America numerous choices still exist in managing your health… choices that once existed in America, but now are only a distant memory to some older Americans.

Perhaps the most ironic fact in this sad situation is that hundreds of millions of people in “communist” China have the freedom to choose natural/herbal approaches to healthcare which are recognized, even endorsed, by medical authorities—while those of us living in “free” America do not.

In China you can find Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors and hospitals operating side-by-side and in cooperation with western medical facilities and doctors. You will also find acupuncture practitioners widely available, respected and recognized by the medical authorities. Throughout every city you will find numerous TCM “pharmacies” with herbs, mushrooms, leaves, roots, tinctures, seeds, barks and powders. Herbal practitioners are free to tell their customers about the traditional uses of each. It is the customer’s responsibility to research the evidence, listen to the testimonials, discuss with the pharmacist—then ultimately decide the merits.

Most Chinese avail themselves to all practices; however, some Chinese go their entire lives visiting only Chinese Medicine doctors. Something that simply cannot be done in the U.S.

And this “freedom to medicate” is not limited to just choosing Traditional Chinese Medicine. Even for those who choose western medicine, they often experience greater freedom even in that venue. For example, in China you can walk into a pharmacy choose any number of antibiotics right off the shelf… without your doctor’s “permission.” One reader of this blog—a recent Chinese immigrant—tells us she was shocked when she came to America and found out she could not simply walk into a pharmacy and buy the antibiotics she needed for a minor problem that cropped up for her every few years.

According to the medical establishment in America, giving such freedom to the populace will cause untold millions of deaths because people are just too ignorant to handle such lofty decision-making without the aid of their doctor. Apparently the medical authorities and politicians feel the Chinese populace is smarter than the American populace.

The benefits of this basic health freedom can be seen first in the low cost of medical treatment; and, secondly, in the fact that drug dependency is much lower in China. The majority of Chinese senior citizens  take only herbal medicines; meanwhile their counterparts in America take an average of five prescriptions. It would appear that the system of  “doctor’s permission” that we employ in America results in a greater number of people being put on drugs… and, in turn, a greater number of prescription drug-related deaths.

These deaths are a logical conclusion of legislating for special interests; not for true safety. Simply follow the money. When you limit the choices of natural herbal remedies, then people turn to prescription drugs—making money for the pharmaceutical industry. In turn, if you require doctor visits to buy the majority of these drugs, America’s doctors make more money—keeping the American Medical Association happy.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and most Americans bristle at the notion of a communist country celebrating a freedom that they don’t enjoy… but it is a fact. Anyone who has visited China can testify to the wide array of alternative medicine one can benefit from. Not everyone necessarily chooses Traditional Chinese Medicine alternatives, but at least they have the choice. Meanwhile, here in The Land of the Free, “natural” practices are viciously opposed by those who have a financial interest in limiting alternatives. And they are opposed to the point where parents can actually be arrested if they choose a natural approach over the western drugs-are-best approach.

Before writing-off these statements as exaggerations, please pay a visit to National Health Federation’s website for an update in the world pharmaceutical lobbying and needless legislation… legislation that is more about control than safety.

The National Health Federation is a valuable resource where you will learn that even your dietary supplements are not immune in this health-freedom battle. It is one of the few vestiges of natural treatment left in America, and yet even this freedom is severely limited. Manufacturers are not allowed to state that a particular herb in a supplement can treat or cure any disease—even if thousands of years of use in India or China say they can. And more regulations are proposed every year.

Memorial Day came into practice after the U.S. Civil War. At that time “health freedom” was a given. Any American would have bristled at the notion of being told what kind of treatments they may or may not participate in. Even following WWI there was great freedom of choice in medical treatments, though today’s system, where a medical elite decides what is appropriate medical treatment, was well on its way to being established. For our own safety, of course.

This Memorial Day I can only wonder what those soldiers of a bygone era—soldiers who memories today we ponder—would think of today’s America. An America where every aspect of our lives is now regulated, including basic choices as far as managing our own health. I think they would be disgusted that we do not demand more freedom in all areas—including health. And they would be saddened that we are not willing to assume the responsibility that comes with the freedom they fought for.

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A positive point to end on: There is, in fact, some good news on the alternative medicine front, and we will cover some of it in Wednesday’s post. Please be sure to check back then.

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