The cancer industry is a clear example of this. Cancer treatments are very expensive involving expensive drugs and expensive equipment, such treatments cause much heartache and are often only available or feasible if patients have appropriate insurance. Cancer is also a clear example of how one might consider progress. Undoubtedly the cancer technologies did not exist in the past, now that they do exist and insurance can pay for them they are used greatly. But there are scientific doubts as to the effectiveness of such treatments, some even say chemotherapy and radiation therapy hasten death. And if that is not accepted what is clear is that such treatments lesses the quality of life for the short time remaining.
There is a general acceptance among patients that if doctors recommend these treatments they must be helpful. But the companies providing the technology also dominate the medical teaching establishment – as do the companies who provide the chemicals – drugs. Students go to medical schools to be taught to use technology and drugs that are provided by the companies. Question – are these students taught the best way to keep patients healthy? Are they taught the best way to provide quality of life for patients?
Here is where all the edges come in with regards to progress in health. In the West diseases of the poor have been dying out, that is not to say that the same is true globally as there are so many dying of hunger and poverty. But to focus on the West only, because finances have moved westwards it is clear that diseases from poverty have mostly disappeared; with current austerity policies some are returning. But what is less clear is the quality of life? People might have more material possessions but the quality of their health has perhaps decreased. It could be argued that western people have sufficient health to do their jobs, and are provided with drugs to return to work if ill.
It is definitely the case that there has been an increase in what are known as degenerative diseases in the West. These would include Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer and diabetes II amongst many others (Wiki: degenerative disease). One could describe progress in health as improvement in healing technologies whilst there is an increase in degenerative disease. Many people focus on lifestyle and diet as being the causes of the degenerative disease. What is meant by lifestyle? It is a word that covers up the problem. Many people see the lifestyle as the drugs that are used for entertainment, drugs legal or not. But lifestyle is a totality of work-slavery and drugs. For a long while I was an alcoholic, but when I wasn’t working – for a year I ran a magazine – I wasn’t drinking. I have no doubts the lifestyle was caused by work. When I stopped drinking I was mid-30s, my health improved but I was still stressed, and that stress remained with me until I retired early. During my working life I never saw sufficient importance in diet, and when I began a vegan diet (with a little fish) soon after retirement my health greatly improved. It was not just the food, it was the lifestyle – not having to work. Early retirement and then healthy living by the sea eating a healthy diet has so far seen off degenerative disease.
I would go as far as saying wage-slavery and poor diet produces degenerative disease, or perhaps safer there is a correlation between “wage-slavery and poor diet” and “degenerative disease”.
So with regards to health where is the progress? Technology advances have increased profits, altered the fabric of our society with social networking, improved certain aspects of health, yet we have increased degenerative disease. And that is in the West where finances have removed poverty as a disease factor. Yet globally there are deaths from hunger and poor health due to poverty. How careful must we consider progress!