Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: Pursuing Health In An Anxious Age

Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age. Bob Cutillo, M.D. 2016. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From the foreword: What are we to do with our bodies, fearfully and wonderfully made as they are, in times of illness, vulnerability, and death?

From chapter one: Nursery rhymes are useful for a number of reasons. First, they rhyme, which makes them easy to remember. But they can also carry a great deal of meaning… Though we prefer not to think about it, we are very much like Humpty Dumpty. In spite of our own fragile shells, we believe we can sit safely on the precarious wall of life. Although our world is full of disease, accidents, and random misfortunes, many of us never plan on being sick or dying and are quite shocked when we are.
Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age is a thought-provoking read on life, death, health, and healthcare. Written from a Christian doctor's point of view, it addresses what is wrong--and in some cases what is right--about our society, about our society's view of health, and perhaps most importantly about the health care system.

Whether you have insurance or don't have insurance, whether you find your insurance lacking or satisfactory, I think this book is timely and relevant.

The book is not to be rushed through. In fact, I think there are plenty of sections of this one that deserve--almost demand--to be read through two or three times so that they can be fully absorbed or contemplated. Cutillo, I believe, asks questions that I've never encountered elsewhere. His solutions, again, are new and challenging. This book isn't the familiar same-old, same-old. His arguments are compelling, and, if not absolutely persuasive, at least provide much food for thought.

Some of the questions asked:

  • Why do we fragment a patient into pieces to give good medical care?
  • And why do we segregate the rich and insured from the poor and uninsured to deliver good health care? 
  • What if wasteful spending and too much health care for some means too little for others? 
  • Is health a possession or a gift? 
  • But why do greater certainty and more control only heighten our fear for what remains outside our control—especially if the possibilities are so improbable? 
  • How did statistical evidence grow to become such an unquestioned authority in our current world? 

Modern medicine looks increasingly more like the pursuit of happiness and control of the future than the cure of sickness and the care of health.
Most modern political and economic thought and action prioritize private and personal goals over communal care and the common good. Our current health care spending, predicated on individual fear and worry, creates more and more services with less and less value.
The individual pursuit of health contorts the role of medicine, asking it to deliver us from our finitude, our mortality, and our human vulnerability to suffering. But instead of good health care and better health, the end result is too much health care for some, too little health care for others, and less health for all. We have multiplied the means of health care without a good understanding of the proper end of health, resulting in increased waste and greater injustice.
If meaning and purpose are deeply tied to the very form and fit of our body, then our task and the task of medicine must advance beyond the blunt power to free ourselves from the limitations of our body to learning to live in and through the bodies we have been given.
If the person before us is both made in God’s image and uniquely loved by God, then whatever the good, the bad, the beautiful, or the ugly that we first see when we look, we are biased toward love. Many fellow human beings can be quite lovely, but many others are not; and everyone is unlovely at one time or another. But if our vision is rooted in the gaze of the gospel, then our love has life beyond any feeling, circumstance, or assessment of value, except in knowing that the person is valued by God.
The way God comes to us in the incarnation was, is, and always will be a surprise, a pure gift beyond expectation or understanding.
It will never be easy to choose for the protection of the poorest and weakest in health care. The truth that their health matters to our health is indeed a strange one. Not only for us but for every generation, it has been difficult to take notice of Lazarus at the gate.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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