What’s the Diagnosis?

When visiting Italy it is an advantage to have a rudimentary grasp of the Italian language.
Similarly when dealing with health professionals it is helpful to understand their language.
Almost without exception, the currency of conventional professional medicine is ‘The Diagnosis’. It constitutes the summation of the clinical findings deemed relevant in a patient, is a label of conclusion and a template for treatment.
Knowledge of this can therefore enhance communication between health professionals themselves and those others who understand this language.

The diagnosis in itself is actually a very small part of the total health and disease picture despite the importance placed upon it by most.

This misunderstanding is one of the impediments we face as homeopathic practitioners when challenged by conventional therapists to explain our art. It also comprises the inspiration behind this post as we strive to remain respectful of those who approach disease management from a different perspective. It should not matter which road we take if we have the same goal in sight.

In homepathic practice the diagnosis is nothing more than just another symptom, albeit an important one, a collection of physical findings, but for the vast majority of conventional practitioners it has become the Holy Grail, the ultimate achievement. For conventional medical practice all else follows the diagnosis whereas for integrated practitioners the diagnosis forms part of the total picture but does not, by itself,  determine the course of management.

Conventional diagnoses often disregard the totality of symptoms which will include much more about the patients state of being, their behaviour, thoughts, feelings, responses and actions. In effect, the diagnosis and treatment ensuing from it alone is usually only aimed at a part of the patient. It is not uncommon therefore that other parts may become affected and new symptoms will arise until a cascade of ill health ensues throughout the whole patient. Many patients will discover then that they develop many diseases and collect a list of diagnoses.

All conventional practitioners and many others rely very heavily on the diagnosis.  Arguably, it should not be given any more importance in the disease picture than any other symptom. At best it assists many people to better understand the nature of their disease and at worst it is confusing or becomes an obsession on part of the patient and a point of competition and argument amongst those who disagree. This is the practice that leaves many people in the system feeling like a number instead of a person. In some respects I can see how this can be an advantage for the practitioner who has to cope with dealing with so much human grief. It can buffer reality and give an intellectual focal point and even a justification for actions. Sadly, the pursuit of the diagnosis has become a safety net against malpractice in a world that is becoming increasingly litigious.

Some conventional health professionals secretly or, worse still, openly cherish the practice of criticising others diagnoses in much the same way that a native speaker will dismiss the attempt of a foreigners attempt at speaking their language. Others will not even talk to those who seem to not speak the language well or at all. An accurate diagnosis has become a benchmark upon which a conventional practitioners entire reputation can be based.  As homeopaths we will encounter these difficulties in understanding more often in dealings with our conventionally minded colleagues unless we make continued efforts to remain familiar with the terminology that has become less important in our own healing methods. It may be frustrating at times but I have decided it is primarily up to us to set an example because we generally have the advantage of knowledge of both systems.

If there is no harmony there can be no healing. If there is no healing there can be no cure. Hahnemann in his Organon of the Medical Art describes cure as …’the rapid, gentle and permanent restoration of health; that is, the lifting and annihilation of the disease in its entire extent….’

Homeopathy and other integrated systems of medicine will look at the totality of symptoms and the diagnosis is just one of many parts. It is not the final or only determinant for therapeutic approach to management and as such, it is less likely to be abused, confused or over rated. It is also not necessary with these modalities to have the diagnosis prior to commencement of corrective therapy as the remedies can be well selected on other patient parameters.

Apart from acute contagious or infectious diseases, the only definitive ‘diagnosis’ for want of a better term in integrated medicine is that the patient is not travelling well. In fact, there will be a list of symptoms including many ‘diagnoses’ in each case of chronic disease. An homeopathic approach may take each one beginning with the most recent and work backwards to a state of health or balance if there is no single remedy to correlate with the whole picture. In this modern world it is increasingly difficult to find perfect symptom pictures that have not been altered by conventional therapies but the beauty of homeopathy is that it can usually transcend even these barriers.

Sometimes we don’t have to speak the language perfectly to get the real message across, we just need to listen, albeit quite intently, respectfully and patiently at times. The goal is universal and there are many roads to Rome.

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