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Modern Medicine:

The New World Religion


by
Olivier Clerc

Originally published in French as
Médecine, religion et peur: l'influence cachée des croyances
1999

reviewed by Mira de Vries

The French title is better at capturing the essence of this book.

Clerc is by a long shot not the first to draw parallels between medicine and religion, which is fine, because it cannot be done often enough. He does lay the accent slightly differently. The only religion he has in mind is Catholicism.

Clerc sees both the church and medicine as authoritarian, pushing the believer/patient into an infantile role, dependent on the religious/medical practitioner for delivery from harm. He is rightly keen to point out that we, the masses, share the blame by being all too eager to sell our independence out to the church/medicine for relief of our fears of impending doom and death.
"The structures have changed, but the fundamental dynamics have not; the goals of the game are still power, control over the population, and financial gain. ... Dominant or dominated, both are playing the same game, whose rules are dictated by power and fear."
Surprising to me is the role this author assigns to Louis Pasteur as the father of modern medicine. Is he? Pasteur, mentioned frequently throughout the book, is the only representative of medicine named, leaving me to wonder whether he is the only one Clerc studied. Rather than shower praise on Pasteur, the author posits that his medical beliefs were distorted by his religion (Catholic). Pasteur's field, immunization, Clerc considers archetypical of medicine's religious-like promise of divine protection and salvation, like baptism.

To mature and break free of religion/medicine, Clerc proposes, we must shed our fears. So far so good, but how do we accomplish that? Clerc seems to believe that alternative forms of medicine like homeopathy, natural medicine, and holistic medicine will help us, because those practitioners teach their patients self-reliance. Really? Clerc further advocates upgrading the doctor/patient relationship to a loving one. But if educated and self-reliant, why does the patient need any relationship with a doctor at all? Loving is how I would characterize the ideal parent/child relationship, the one Clerc is urging us to discard.

In summary, Clerc's message is wise and insightful, but as with every author, we should not let down our guard for the occasional lapse in logic.

MeTZelf wishes to thank our international liaison for contributing this book to our library.

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