Has modern medicine lost its soul?

This week I came across a post on Facebook that shocked me whilst at the same time having a deep sense of resonance. It was about a successful millionaire cosmetic surgeon called Dr Richard Teo who surprisingly developed terminal Stage 4 lung cancer whilst in the peak of his health and career success.

It was a dreadful diagnosis for him, as at age 40, with a highly successful surgical practice, he was in the prime of his life. He was an avid gym goer and one day asked his friend and fellow doctor to perform a scan of his back, as he was suffering some minor back pain.

He thought it was a slipped disc from all the squats he was doing at the gym. It turned out to be tumour.

Several scans later, they found a lungful of secondary tumours, including in the brain, spine, liver and adrenal glands. He was given 3-4 months to live.

Dr Teo passed away in October 2012, but the post that I received on Facebook carried an important message from him. One that I wish to reflect and pass on.

He made a speech to a school full of dental students just days before he passed and recounted his story. It was an incredibly courageous speech as Dr Teo as he admitted to his deep desire to accumulate wealth, rather than care for patients.

Dr Teo was brave enough to share how he was attracted by the money in cosmetic surgery. His practice performing liposuctions, $15,000 breast augmentations and so on was prolific and he could barely keep up with demand, employing more and more doctors.

He commented on how vanity was a fantastic business. He did not see patients, he saw cheques and he had no interest in caring for them, he was numb to pain, only privy to material gain.

He talked about his Ferrari, joyrides to the Malaysian Grand Prix circuit, his social circle of millionaire internet founders, forex traders and bankers as well as stunning Miss Universes’. He was a long- standing academic achiever, amongst the best in the highly driven society of Singapore. Upon graduation, high achievement translated into financial success and in his mind, he had it all and money gave him the life that he thought he wanted.

In a way, I could resonate with this sentiment as I too had studied in the top academic institution in Singapore, Raffles Junior College, prior to studying medicine in the UK. And I could clearly observe the intense cultural pressures to perform at an ultra high standard academically as well as students being judged by material accomplishments, particularly the wealth of their parents.

Dr Teo’s attitude prevailed until that fateful day that he learnt he was not going to be around much longer, and money could not help him at all.

It was such a powerful revelation when Dr Teo, at this speech to dental students who were a few years away from being money-making machines themselves, educated the others on real joy.

Upon his diagnosis, Dr Teo realised that none of his material gains ever brought him real joy. He realised that he actually couldn’t handle all that wealth and it was only now that he could really feel for his patients, and truly understand what they were going though.

In life, he had lost his soul, but in facing death, he had found it again.

One story like this does not reflect on the state of practitioners of modern medicine. However, it did talk to a select few in the profession, particularly in the high-paying fields of medicine, who can no longer feel for their patients, but rather are driven by the financial returns that it brings them.

Here I would like to paraphrase Dr Teo’s own words of advice, and he says it best:

Everyone knows that they are going to die; every one of us knows that. The truth is, none of us believe it because if we did, we will do things differently. When I faced death, when I had to, I stripped myself off all stuff totally and I focused only on what is essential. The irony is that a lot of times, only when we learn how to die then we learn how to live.

So if I were to sum it up, I’d say that the earlier we sort out the priorities in our lives, the better it is. Don’t be like me – I had no other way. I had to learn it through the hard way.

Few things I’d learnt though:
1. Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart – this is so important.
2. Is to love and serve others, not just ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with being rich or wealthy. I think it’s absolutely alright, cos God has blessed. So many people are blessed with good wealth, but the trouble is I think a lot of us can’t handle it. The more we have, the more we want. I’ve gone through it, the deeper the hole we dig, the more we get sucked into it, so much so that we worship wealth and lose focus. Instead of worshipping God, we worship wealth. It’s just a human instinct. It’s just so difficult to get out of it.

Anyway I think that I’ve gone through it, and I know that wealth without God is empty. It is more important that you fill up the wealth, as you build it up subsequently, as professionals and all, you need to fill it up with the wealth of God”.

Do you have a strong opinion on Dr Richard Teo’s advice?

To read Dr Teo’s full speech in its entirety, click here.

The Gambles explain why global wellbeing does not THRIVE

As promised, I continue to provide some fascinating insights from all the speakers I heard during the UPLIFT festival in Byron Bay recently. UPLIFT is a gathering of visionaries in science, spirituality, health and sustainability dedicated toward igniting a whole new paradigm of conscious living in the world.

A truly insightful perspective came from Foster and Kimberly Gamble, who are connected to the famous household retail brand Proctor & Gamble. Foster and Kimberly were the producers of the documentary “THRIVE – what on earth will it take” and spoke about their movement at UPLIFT.

The documentary weaves together breakthroughs in science, consciousness and activism with some very interesting research.  It has also been translated into 20 languages and watched by 10 million people in its first year.

The movie inspires global change, by identifying some of the major reasons why society at large is not thriving. Essentially, Foster points to some revolutionary work, particularly in the fields of renewable energy, holistic health and environmental sustainability which are being suppressed from proper commercialisation due to the monopolies held by big corporations.

He also points to several major families, such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and Morgans, who control the agenda of governments and these major corporations in order to hold the balance of power. The documentary uses interesting visuals to depict how these manipulative relationships cascade through international organisations such as the World Bank, World Health Organisation and International Monetary Fund, down to the US healthcare , education and food manufacturing systems.

I must admit, THRIVE had a strong “conspiracy theory” concepts to it. But at the same time, it had some insightful research and observations that I have seen in other independent documentaries and did make me question particularly if our global wellbeing is determined by a much larger agenda.

Having worked in major pharmaceutical companies however, I find I have a balanced perspective of not judging any particular party now, but rather focus on what the solution can be for better healthcare worldwide. Producing medicines was certainly not as easy as the filmmakers make it out to be, yet I do recognise there was always a commercial agenda involved. This is one of the realities of any industry and is always a sensitive topic when it comes to healthcare.

Nonetheless, as I am prefer to be a more solution-focussed individual, I was enticed by Foster closing solutions which rightfully said that ultimately we are all responsible for own health and wellbeing and can still make individual choices.

This is the biggest take-away I got from the movie and which you can apply to your life right now, particularly as we celebrate Xmas and a time for gratitude.

In my experience, we have a choice as to learn more about the true causes of our illnesses, before considering multiple medications or extensive surgeries. Sometimes, all it takes is for us to consider our diet, if we are doing enough exercise or even sleeping enough, before looking at other potentially more toxic solutions.

Whilst I did not agree with everything in THRIVE, I did find it to be a thought-provoking piece that certainly providing me with some ideas on how we can improve global health and wellbeing and particularly integrate modern medicine with Eastern therapies in order to bring the best healthcare for people worldwide.

I also do believe that Foster is on the right track by creating a network for collaboration on the THRIVE movement site, as such major changes can also occur through the force of joint effort under a common vision. This is also what I am doing having started the Global Collaboration for Health & Wellbeing a few weeks ago with Australian leaders.

Have you ever experienced anything to indicate that there is a global conspiracy in healthcare?