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Dear Michael,

Did you know that the third leading cause of death in America is ‘iatrogenic’ disease,' which means - 'medical treatment,' or 'treatment by a doctor?'

This was reported in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) just a few short years ago. *

*This was followed by articles (all saying the same thing) from Harvard University, The Center for Disease Control, the British Medical Journal - The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine and the national news (New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and US World Report).

So, Michael, if you accept this statement, what the heck are you saying in your movie? I am painting with a broad brush here, but aren’t you making an argument that all people get better access to the ‘third leading cause of death’? Don’t you think there is a very important story that needs to be considered here?

There is something very wrong with our medical treatment wouldn’t you say? Something that purports to be good for people is actually causing their death, and, these statistics don’t even count the many, many more suffering and ill from the drugs, operations and other medical treatments and the many more not dead yet. Obviously, this is outrageous! Now, right off, let me say that I do not believe that there is a grand conspiracy of doctors out there, just a deeply seated wrong view and philosophy with accompanying therapy, aided and abetted by the big pharmaceutical companies with their own goals and purposes (money) who find the whole situation to be a virtually endless goldmine and like kids on a tear ain't lookin' too closely at deeper issues. They’re makin' a ton of money while seeming to do a good thing, you know, sort of like Haliburton.

I understand what you are trying to do and I respect it greatly. But while your heart is good, I believe your thinking is not so good, at least on this issue.

You want a better life for everyone. So do I. You hate that corporate greed and lack of common respect for humanity has intruded into healthcare and medicine and ruined many lives. So do I. But, if you accept that medical treatment is the ‘third leading cause of death’, after heart disease and cancer, what exactly are you trying to create access to?

I suggest it is specifically ‘critical care’ that you should refer to in your movie’s critique of the medical access situation in America. I believe you must make this important distinction. Otherwise, you help to obscure what is really at the heart of a very important matter.

‘Critical care’ is necessary when a person is hit by a bullet or suffers a loss of limb or a fall or is struck by a car, exposed to environmental toxins, or has taken their health so far down the wrong road that they need to have a new heart put in or a kidney transplant. For this, our Western medical treatment is fantastic and of course, everyone should be entitled to have access to it. Thank you for taking on the corrupt corporate vultures that make money paramount in this originally sacred profession and instead pray on those who are sick, ill and diseased. But this is not the root or the cause of the vast majority of illness suffered in the west today. It is merely a leaf, a branch of it.

Organic disease represents the majority of illness in America. Think of the diseases suffered every day, arthritis and winter colds, tooth decay and irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and constipation, acne and heartburn, herpes and headaches, obesity and high blood pressure. I suggest that all of these mentioned here are not really helped by western medicine (outside of suppressing the symptoms).

"As to diseases, make a habit of two things — to help, or at least to do no harm."

-Hippocrates, Epidemics

Although there are a few exceptions, Western medicine operates mainly by suppressing and/or removing the symptoms of a disease. When you remove or suppress a symptom, a disease is not ‘cured’, any more than a sick plant is ‘cured’ by taking off its brown or diseased leaves. Like a man with a limp, trying to hide the limp while walking, the limp simply comes out somewhere else. In addition, most drugs of the western pharmacopeia, upset and further toxify the body causing their own illnesses all by themselves. It is known as ‘side effects’, a euphemistic term for the poisoning of the body. How else do you explain the steeply rising incidence of disease in a first world country like the United States? Why are we not far healthier than the rest of the world? How else do we understand the increasing epidemic of so many different kinds of sickness in our population? Our medical system is ass backwards and dangerous to health, hurting many of those it purports to help. . . But it is more than that:

Have you seen the wonderful movie ‘Supersize Me’? It so clearly makes the argument that eating ‘bad’ food leads to disease. Most people who watched that movie took ‘bad food’ to mean MacDonald’s, but it is more than that, much more. Bad or inappropriate food is spread throughout our culture. It is insidious. It includes the processed, refined, almost everything in a box or can, (including so-called health foods and organics), with more ingredients than you can understand. It is in the unrecognizable stuff, in almost anything having a number as part of the name, pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized, homogenized, hormone-treated, antibiotic injected, dried up, cooked three weeks ago, reheated, microwaved, corn syrup sweetened, artificially sweetened and flavored.

‘Bad’ food is often non-local because ‘local’ means a food that exists in the same area and season that you exist and its why they eat whale blubber in the Arctic and mangoes in Brazil and not vice versa until recently when Whole Foods can fly it in for you. And, ‘bad’ food is non-seasonal food. People are now eating watermelon, even organic watermelon at Christmas, flown in from South America. All of this is harmful because it causes the body to go out of whack, out of harmony with its environment, its season and locale, and, this lack of harmony is called disease. Along with all this comes the wrongheaded intervention of the Western allopathic medical profession that offers a variety of drugs to suppress the symptoms that come of bad eating, causing people to become even more sick with toxic reactions from the drugs.

In 2004, I studied Ayurveda, the oldest medical system in the world. I attended a college in Nagpur, India where I received a degree as a practitioner. My teacher often told our class ‘It is almost always the diet and lifestyle of the person that has caused them to be sick. Not in every single case, but, in 95% of them. Our body is made from what we eat, if we want to change the makeup and/or health of our body, we must change our food.’ He told us of a man who came to him asking for a renewed prescription of the herbs he had received for his intestinal difficulties. My teacher asked him if he had changed his diet as he had been instructed. When the man said, “No”. my teacher threw him out, telling him that if he did not change his diet he would do nothing more for him. He told him to come back when he had done so. After all, it was what he had been eating that had brought about his symptoms in the first place.

If you consider the very rich from hundreds of years ago, they were very often less healthy than the peasants. Why? Because they demanded and got the refined flour, bread, meats, cheeses and other ‘high-end foods’ that only they could afford. Poor people could not afford such luxuries. But, now, everyone can. Indeed, the vast majority of people in the West have gained the ability to consume the refined, sugared, preserved, cooked days ago, reheated, non-local, non-seasonal, chemically preserved, processed, unwholesome food that makes up the bulk of the everyday diet of the average American. In fact, the tables have now turned 180 degrees and it is the poor, having lost their connection with the earth and family farms generations ago, that tend to eat more processed and refined food, as it is now cheaper and quicker.

All of this is completely apart from the corporate and governmental greed and malfeasance you make the concern of your movie. But this is very important to point out because you come very close to obscuring the original crime or cause.

Imagine if your next door neighbor was beating his wife. You are trying to make sure she has proper and affordable health care. But, shouldn’t our primary concern be to stop the abuse?

You are letting the real perpetrator escape notice in only demanding a change in our government and corporations in their service \s for people who are sick. This is good and must be done. But, I am saying 1) That the medical profession as practiced in our country is deeply flawed in its approach and the results of that approach and 2) The vast majority of people should not and need not get sick in the first place. Once they get sick, the primary and usually more than sufficient responsibility for change is on the individual and what he eats, not, primarily on the government or a health care provider, although once again, I applaud your critique of them and agree that changes here are important and need to be made. But we also need a personal, practical, do-it-yourself approach. We need something the individual can change and do. We need something that goes to the root of the problem- your neighbor to stop beating his wife. It is sort of like the whole argument about Bush’s commutation of Libby’s jail term, that single act taken alone can obscure much deeper sin and sickness and you know how important it is not to lose sight of that.

Just a few weeks ago I read about a local Bay Area 18-year-old cheerleader with arthritis in the San Francisco Chronicle. The gist of the article focused on her family’s inability to afford the medical treatments for her disease. A better and more important story is that by changing her diet the symptoms would disappear- I would bet my life on this . . . I know you like challenges. I challenge you on this.

Did you see the recent article on how older Chinese women who eat a ‘western’ diet of red meat, shrimp, fish, candy, desserts, bread and milk have a 60% higher incidence of breast cancer than the Chinese women who ate their centuries-old diet of tofu, vegetables, bean sprouts, fish and soy products? (SF Chronicle 7/12/07)

Have you ever read the book, The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell? He published his findings after running the largest and most comprehensive study ever on the relationship between diet and disease. He summed up this 20 year (China) study saying that as far as maintaining health and avoiding disease, it all came down to three things: ‘Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner’.

Have you ever heard about Weston Price, a dentist who traveled around the world in the 30’s at a time when indigenous cultures were being exposed for the first time to the ‘new’ western processed/ refined foods? Dr. Price found that in cultures where there had been almost no dental cavities throughout a whole population, within one generation almost everyone now had them.

How could all this be so? Michael, its the food! It’s the food. It’s the food! To get rid of a symptom the only intelligent way is to remove the cause. The cause and cure of most (not all) disease can be found in the food we eat. Otherwise, if we treat only the disease symptoms of incorrect eating it is like trying to hold a large beach ball under water- eventually, the ball will pop up somewhere else (iatrogenic disease).

Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” The word ‘radical’ means, ‘root’. Get radical Michael.



- Peter Malakoff





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