29 December 2017 (online)
When I was a child; I remember my parents having a giant atlas. It never quite fitted into the bookcase and so would find itself in various tables, shelves and corners of different rooms, moving around the house, seemingly with a life of its own. We never really talked about it and I can't remember my parents ever suggesting that we look something up in it. Occasionally you would walk into a room and see someone else looking at it but more often you would notice that it had moved and you would suspect that someone had glimpsed something they hadn't known before. Whenever I looked in this atlas I learnt something new. I remember looking at it and it dawning on me that I had up to then only thought of countries from the perspective of their land mass. Suddenly the atlas showed me the world in terms of population density and rainfall. This atlas altered the paradigm in which I saw the world and my place within it. Remodelling Medicine by Jeremy Swayne, a Fellow and former Dean of the Faculty of Homeopathy, likewise shows you the world in a different way. On every page there are some gems.
This book takes you to places and invites you to see things through new eyes. It is nothing less than an atlas of the world of medicine. An atlas that is completely different from the one that most doctors are brought up with, which map the body, and health, onto biological systems, concepts of disease and models of treatment. It is not that it does not include these, but it re-frames the person as a whole lot more. On numerous occasions while reading Jeremy Swayne’s book I attempted to go from one chapter to the next in a logical format, but it somehow confounded me. I put it down and when I opened it up my bookmark might have disappeared or I suddenly found that another chapter caught my eye. While for some readers this might reflect a lack of narrative or structure, I experienced it as an invitation to navigate through the book in a different, and more individual way. I found myself re-reading the extensive quotes and noticed when doing so that I felt a sense of companionship and less alone with the challenges of holding a homeopathic view. So much so that I frequently found myself breaking off from the text to track down the source of a reference.
The book is hardback and has a solid feel to it. It is divided into a useful introduction and 5 sections. The first section looks at chronic disease drawing a parallel between the limitations of using a conventional medical approach to treat chronic disease and the situation with conventional medicine, itself a disease of our time. This leads into the second section exploring the different relationship between medicine and the individual, medicine and science, medicine and healing and medicine in society and introducing the importance of the patient’s perspective. A chapter on medicine in crisis draws out some of the crises in conventional medicine. Next is a short section on maintaining causes that is particularly poignant to those with a homeopathic training and underlies the insight that Jeremy Swayne derives from his homeopathic training and experience. There is a chapter on different sorts of proof and evidence and also on the resistance to change. The fourth section is on the direction of cure, which looks at the broader goals of medicine and revisits what can be learned from various forms of natural medicine and looks at paradigm shift and context. Exploring how the context in which care is offered determines the type of care that is offered.
The final section is titled Regime Change and makes up almost half the book; it looks at how things could be done differently from a number of perspectives including how different ways of engaging in clinical practice can address some of the issues raised in the early part of the book. Revisiting the limitations of science and some interesting reflections on training and the spiritual dimension of working as a healthcare practitioner.
Some readers, who might want to use this book as a treatise or campaigning tool, might find the lack a clear strategy on how to change the dominant medical paradigm, frustrating. But it is not short of suggestions as to how it might be different. The author’s maturity, experience and essentially gentle nature shines through, allowing even the most challenging sentiments to be put across in a way that shows insight and understanding of those who adhere to the conventional medical paradigm, even when it is to the detriment of others.
It will be interesting to see how it is received in these circles. I have seen the author presenting aspects of this book to clinicians and educationalists at a UK medical school and its essentially holistic message being well received and influencing curriculum development. While there is plenty in it for those who are angry with the conventional mindset, Remodelling Medicine invites the reader to feel rather sorry for those doctors immersed in the health problems of humanity but who are restricted to thinking and working in the current conventional medical paradigm.
We all have our own feelings and thoughts about why so many conventional medical colleagues appear threatened by homeopathic ideas. This book reminds us of the gift of being able to be different, it gives strength to our arguments, it connects us to others who see some of what we see, and provides a structure for holistic perception. It should be on the bookshelves of all of us, not just for our own information but to give to any sceptical colleague with advice to: mix it with a little curiosity, add a little open-mindedness and succuss with humility. Then stand back and watch.