Dancing On A Volcano: Health, Medical and Life Ethics

Dancing on a volcano can hold the keys to the journey from belief to self.

Griffin Cooking the Brew

Griffin Cooking the Brew

…by Joska Ramelow

Beliefs are often serving up a cocktail of soft and reassuring options that furnish parts of our mental comfort zone with fluffy reassurance in a troubled and stressful world. We often tend to avoid the hothouse of volcanic eruptions whose ground breaking truth can shake up our stable mindsets, and with it, our beliefs.

On the other hand, mankind often needs a reassuring supportive space with physical and mental comfort to grow to it’s full creative potential. That is largely true when it comes to food, shelter, and clothes. However, we tend to easily neglect the fact that when encountering truthful insights that will help grow our knowledge base, it often tends to disrupt our carefully constructed belief system and causes cracks in our consciousness.

The conditioning of a consumerist society likes us to carefully present that

The perfect lawn.

The perfect lawn.

which we regard as our very own consciousness as a perfectly clipped summer lawn. Therefore, everything that suits this well turned out image of ours, is then taken advantage of. This very quickly leads to an attitude of just picking the best looking things of the shelf in the human supermarket, whether it is looks, style, fashion, the home furnishings, cars, holidays and all the rest of the surrogate options in a consumerist society.

Not to appear biased against any of these materialist things mentioned… far from it…but is this the end of all our options we can simply buy and then get on with more of it when the next season with fresh ‘options’ comes around again?

Our health connects us to the vast expanse of life with it’s ‘ten thousand things,’ as it is so aptly expressed in Chinese medical doctrines. I would even contend that,on the basis of latest research into photon activity of our cellular level, each one of us is directly connected to the vast universe surrounding our own home galaxy.

outer space stars 1920x1200 wallpaper_www.artwallpaperhi.com_50Radiomicrographic images of the brain show a stunning similarity to the nebulae and swirls of stars that form a vast network across our universe. The old dictum, ‘As above so below’ is very clearly reflected in this wondrous correlation. Our daily grind between office, home and supermarkets to ‘run’ our life’s seems to be far removed fro this coordinate system within which our vehicles of life, the very bodies we inhabit, and with it all its physical and mental health, is manifesting.

As mentioned above we need the protective space of our beliefs too for as long as it furnishes a set of reference points on our own horizon in our journey to sovereignty and self, or the act of knowing. This often causes a stress potential of a duality of choices, for one, what appears as good or bad or comfort or pain often reveals itself to be a polarity that marks both ends of a field within which a flux of options and choices becomes apparent.

This may be an uncomfortable proposition at times, but it offers the individual a key to personal growth and development, a movement with dynamics that prevent the stagnation within an encrusted one-season-mindset. If someone were to be stopped in the street and was being told that just about everything that was happening to him, whether good or bad, had been planned for him by other individuals, and that his very own health played a large part of it, he would probably wave it off as mere conjecture, or at worst, some paranoid conspiracy fantasy.

Are we not all free, after all? In principle yes, but…. As Janis Joplin sang. ”Freedom is another word for nothing left to lose….” we are free to see whether our daily actions are working at the rock face of ignorance to remove personal obstacles, or not. Ignorance is, in contrast to ‘Ne-science’… following dictionary definitions…an avoidance of seeing things as they are, despite already knowing better.

It is a sort of co-dependency with an alcoholic partner, where one is not prepared to see it and goes along with the ‘good times’, despite knowing it to be the source of constantly misery and frustrations.

When it comes to managing our own health questions we are often told by our doctors that it is we who make the decisions when receiving a medical treatment, which is the truth told, plain and simple. It is legally mandatory for medical professionals to raise this point when providing their services.

This is covered by laws of medical intervention since any service is potentially looked at as being a ‘tort’, legal speak for a potentially harmful action. The Roman dictum ‘Caveat emptor’, ‘buyer beware’, is the first rule underpinning this encounter. We often tend to dismiss this as mere inconsequential ritual in the process of our encounters with medical services even if it may it be the simple prescription of antibiotics or anti-depressants.

Our mind tends to be jolted more into action when it comes to decisions and agreements over more serious propositions regarding medical intervention, may it be the removal of gallstones or curative protocols for cancer treatments. Most of the time, the receivers of these medical services find themselves, at best, with very patchy and rudimentary information on their fundamental rights, or at worst completely ignorant of these.

In exploring these questions we have to widen the angle on the field as a whole a little more to understand medical research and consumers rights in its full context. But before advancing any further here is what the World Health Organisation (WHO) had to say about it in it’s 1978 Declaration of Health at it’s Alma Ata conference.

The Conference strongly reaffirms that health, which is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, is a fundamental human right and that the attainment of the highest possible level of health is a most important world-wide social goal whose realization requires the action of many other social and economic sectors in addition to the health sector. 

This makes it abundantly clear that the vast majority of health professionals think of health as a more complete, all inclusive state of well being, rather than the mere absence of disease. At the same time, an eminent academic critic, Ivan Illich, who was an astute observer of this arena, produced a ground-breaking book in 1976 entitled Limits to Medicine, Medical Nemesis.  It shook the world of health professionals and people working in social services, alike.

He highlighted a number of inconvenient truths: the WHO definitions are one thing but the actual everyday medical practise was running fast in another direction. Could this be due to research and development within a pharmaceutical industry that exclusively kept their eyes on market share?

This is worth exploring since our own personal well-being, safety and health is

Ivan Illich, philosopher and priest

Ivan Illich, philosopher and priest

directly tied into this question. So, the Austrian Philosopher, Ivan Illich, researcher and eminent critic of the medical establishment again wrote in the introduction to his book under the heading Expropriation of Health

The medical establishment has become a major threat to health. The disabling impact of professional control over medicine has reached the proportions of an epidemic. Iatrogenesis, the name for this new epidemic, comes from iatros, the Greek word for ‘physician,’ and genesis, meaning ‘origin’.  Discussion of the disease of medical progress has moved up on the agendas of medical conferences, researchers concentrate on the sick-making powers of diagnosis and therapy, and reports on paradoxical damage caused by cures for sickness take up increasing space in medical dope sheets.

Unfortunately, the problem has not gone away but kept growing, since headlines in the Daily Telegraph from June 17th, 2014 remind us as follows:

Nice: Aspirin has all of the risks but few of the benefits Dr Campbell Cowan, chair of Nice’s Guideline Development Group, says that aspirin has never been as effective as warfarin in preventing strokes.

Every month there seems to have been another, and sometimes opposite, view expressed as regards this non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory family of drugs. It’s active ingredient, salicylic acid, is used wherever any inflammatory episode shows up in our bodies. This could be joint inflammations, headaches or the above debated controversial blood thinning therapy.

Here are some further examples: Take aspirin before bed to cut morning heart risk.

  • 19 Nov 2013 ‘Regular aspirin can be harmful’
  • 20 Dec 2013. Aspirin with milk cuts cancer
  • 07 Dec 2010. Healthy people ‘should not take aspirin to prevent heart attack’
  • 03 Nov 2009 Aspirin can’t help 1 million heart patients


The same goes for many other drug families used frequently by millions, whether it be statins or antibiotics. With statins, the anti-cholesterol drug to prevent heart attacks, the benefits and side effects have predictively begun to show the same trends than were forecast by Illich in 1976. A news item in ‘The Express’ from June 14, 2014 reads:

Evidence for NHS statins advice ‘wholly inadequate’, says expert Prof Kim McPherson, a public health specialist, calls on Prof Sir Rory Collins, a fellow Oxford don, to publish full data on which new NHS statins guidance is partly based.

In the same context we are now told: Rapeseed oil ‘better than statins for heart’ Rapeseed oil could be even more effective than statins in helping to lower cholesterol and protect the heart.

The same article form June 18th, 2014 further reads: The oil – extracted from the bright yellow crop which covers much of the British countryside – has also proved to be particularly effective against type 2 diabetes. It has the same cholesterol reducing effect as 20mg of statins, double a standard daily dose, and cuts the risk of heart problems by seven per cent, scientists say. The researchers were led by Dr. David Jenkins of St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, the man who created the now famous glycemic index, a scale showing which foods raise or lower blood sugar levels.

After just a a few minutes spent doing a small sample web research one uncovers big chunks of information that seem to confirm the trend observed by Illich back in 1976.  So one may ask what is going on here?

Before one is equipped to understand the fuller picture it may be worth to cast an eye on the statistics of medical practise to reveal the full dimensions of this riddle. The online source ”What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY)” related the following a few years back:  13 September 2007 The annual rates of serious adverse reactions and deaths from a prescribed drug have almost tripled since 1998. Just 51 drugs – including painkillers and immune system-modifying agents – were responsible for the vast majority of reactions, new figures reveal.

In 2005 – the most recent year when figures have been made available – 15,107 people in America died as the result of taking a prescription drug, while 89,842 people suffered a serious adverse reaction…..” Other observers of the scene, such as Dr. David Stewart, who mentions in his book on Aromatherapy, that the annual death rate due to properly prescribed drugs in the US is closer to 100, 000 people.

plane-crash0022He asks, when our media report about a fully-laden jumbo jet crashing the headlines are dramatic. However, this figure is equivalent to one fully-booked jumbo jet crashing every week of the year and we hear a deafening silence.

A report in Life Extension Magazine entitled Death By Medicine from 2004 comments on a big meta-study in the US and treats the reader to the following figures:

  • Adverse Drug Reactions The Lazarou study analyzed records for prescribed medications for 33 million US hospital admissions in 1994.
  • It discovered 2.2 million serious injuries due to prescribed drugs
  • 2.1% of inpatients experienced a serious adverse drug reaction, 4.7% of all hospital admissions were due to a serious adverse drug reaction, and fatal adverse drug reactions occurred in 0.19% of inpatients and 0.13% of admissions.
  • The authors estimated that 106,000 deaths occur annually due to adverse drug reactions.
  • Using a cost analysis from a year 2000 study, in which the increase in hospitalization costs per patient suffering an adverse drug reaction was $5,483.
  • Costs for the Lazarou study’s 2.2 million patients with serious drug reactions amounted to $12 billion.
  • Serious adverse drug reactions commonly emerge after FDA approval of the drugs involved. The safety of new agents cannot be known with certainty until a drug has been on the market for many years.

These debating points, statistics and figures are, give or take, easily transferable to other industrialised countries with corresponding industrial- scale health care provisions. In light of the figures unearthed from the rock face of legitimate peer-reviewed research, this small spot check leaves the reader with a somewhat discombobulated mindset.

With it’s assumptions of noble care, goodness and welfare, it stands in steep contrast to our perception of modern health care systems and it’s nostrums built on semi-religious assumptions (doctors as specialist demi-gods in white) which on balance seem to carry a discernible risk. Particularly, if we,’the market,’ do not go for a second opinion or get to explore ‘alternative’ or rather ‘native’ pathways of treatment.

Noble and more ancient forms of care...

Noble and more ancient forms of care…

This is to say, there are systems of health support that have successfully been in operation for thousands of years, that today are almost forgotten. So, what is the key to adjusting ones’ position vis-a-vis health care provisions that may carry bigger risks than is seen at the outset of any treatment program proposed?

Ivan Illich says this, and I fully agree: ”’Better health care will depend , not on some new therapeutic standard, but on the level of willingness and competence to engage in self-care. The recovery of this power depends on the recognition of our present delusions. 

This said, I may add, is only a template that can be thought of in more walks of life, as the Alma-Ata declaration of health pronounced so many decades ago. The obesity and unfolding diabetes and cancer epidemics, particularly in countries having adopted a western lifestyle, stand tall as witnesses in the dock of the courts of the unfolding crisis that is upon us.

Since we know that chronic metabolic diseases are often related to nutrition, we can apply the same circumspect attitude of being in questions to our field of life that includes the foodstuffs we eat, the water and beverages we drink, the exercise regimes we may or may not adopt.

Each one of us has to learn to cut through the web of self-deception on these 27_Ewalds_joy_and_pride_laid_bare_JPGand free oneself from a state that resembles a co-dependency in a life that appears ever more disconnected from it’s natural and, therefore, cosmic origin. As alluded to above, the solid things in our world resemble only a small spectrum of what we can perceive with our five senses. But, as in quantum physics, this may only represent a mere 4% of what makes finding ourselves in a living body.

Some views nowadays go further than the Alma-Ata definition of health and include the flux of electrons, protons and neutrons within the universe whose very emanations of energetic fields and flux may ultimately have something to do with robust health and energetically based systems like acupuncture might rewire this connection more comprehensively in a sick system than the reductionist nostrums of our industrial scale health care provisions.

Free Spirited Health

Free Spirited Health

So, in this sense, it can be the courageous dance on the top of an energetically charged volcano like-vortex, that is our body, that provides the keys to with the reset button of a sick system. There is a welter of information out in the public arena, internet and other social media included, to furnish a suitable basis for our own self-generated second opinion to these challenges. In this spirit the intention of this column called ‘Free Spirited Health (FSH)’ will view, review and comment on issues and topics in the health care arena that are often given very little room in the conventional media channels for a debate amongst a wider audience.

Joska Ramelow, BSc Hons, Phytotherapy MRCHM MBAcC



  • Illich, Ivan; ‘Limits to Medicine’, Marion Boyars publishers Ltd, repr.2001