Moyers takes thought-provoking look at health care

February 23, 1993|By The Kansas City Star

The next big breakthrough in medicine may be achieved by going backward, not forward.

That seems to be part of the message in a five-part public television series, "Healing and the Mind With Bill Moyers" (Maryland Public Television, 9 p.m. each night, Channels 22 and 67). Two hour-long episodes were shown back-to-back last night, a single 90-minute episode is broadcast tonight, and two hour-long episodes are scheduled for tomorrow.

Modern medicine has become synonymous with high-tech machinery, sophisticated monitors and newer and better drugs. None of these things, however, can take your hand and make you a partner in your own health care, Mr. Moyers says.

In general, modern medicine, as practiced in the West, tends to ignore the role and the power of the mind in healing injury and curing disease, he says. But here and there, Mr. Moyers finds people and programs that help people use their mind to combat pain and illness.

Using the mind for healing conjures up images of primitive tribes or occult philosophies. Actually, it need not be that mysterious.

Tonight's show, "Healing From Within," looks at two therapies that involve neither drugs nor surgery. One is a stress reduction class in Worcester, Mass., that teaches Eastern-style meditation patients with chronic pain and even terminal illness.

The other is a group psychotherapy program in Palo Alto, Calif., to help relieve some of the stress and anxiety in women who have advanced cases of breast cancer.

Tomorrow's programs demonstrate the practical day-to-day aspects of healing with the mind. In "The Art of Healing," Mr. Moyers follows the progress of a woman about to undergo open-heart surgery in Boston.

To no one's surprise, he finds she is far more ready to participate in her recovery once she and her family have been given answers to their questions about the surgery.

In Dallas, Mr. Moyers makes house calls with a doctor who works out of a clinic that serves a low-income neighborhood. The better the doctor knows his patients, the more likely they are to seek medical care in a timely way.

Though not intended as a survey of alternative therapies, "Healing and the Mind" shows enough of them to raise good questions about what should go into a patient's recovery plan.

Its biggest problem is the age-old public TV dilemma: too many talking heads, too little action and graphics.

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