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Guardian of the Temple

lipitorA year ago I decided not to take my medicine. Like many of the better decisions in my life, it came late and was based first on instinct and backed up later by rational thought. My doctor had put me on Lipitor, and then, unsatisfied, changed my prescription to Vytorin. You know the one. The commercial shows people who look like food.

The trouble was that its side effect was to reduce muscle mass. When I went back to work as a carpenter and could no longer handle a stack of two by fours, I got worried. When I woke up one night and realized what the most vital muscle in the body was, I got scared. I’ll give you a hint. It never stops working and it pumps blood. Are you with me yet?

I got pro active. I cut out red meat, half of all meat in total, started eating Quaker oats as much as I could stand to, and eliminated all dairy except milk. I began to integrate tofu into a lifestyle dominated by a meat loving family. Besides saving $1,200 a year on tofu medicine, I started to feel like my old self.

Time passed and because I was looking for work outside of carpentry and not finding any, my wife and I started having marital problems. The same doctor who had prescribed Vytorin now wanted me to take carbamazepine, based solely on my wife’s theory that I was bi polar. I said a psychiatrist should make that judgment, and went to see one, because by then, my wife had decided our marital problems were entirely my fault.

Here is the kicker. Even though the psychiatrist was not sure of what my condition might be, he wrote me a prescription. First, though, he had me sign a waiver that said I could not hold him responsible if I experienced a possible side effect, which was a life threatening rash.

I have been thinking a lot about that and it does not help that I learned recently that most doctors get rewards for writing prescriptions for drugs. I find myself wondering when the pillsAmerican Medical Association started being the butt boy of the pharmaceutical industry and what it will take to turn around this awful trend. In a society where television commercials crow about over-eaters taking acid reflux remedies and alcoholics swallowing charcoal and chalk before going out on drinking binges, it is clear that Americans no longer hold themselves responsible for their own health. But when did the medical segment of the population stop holding themselves responsible for their judgments?

It is a question I cannot answer. Not only am I unqualified by dint of holding neither a degree in medicine or cultural sociology, but I am suspect because I have chosen to be responsible for my own health, for my own mental welfare. I am an outsider looking in at a culture gone awry. I am arrogant enough to surmise that maybe father does not know best, that, finally, I must be a guardian of my own temple.

Kevin Coughlin is currently writing a seven book series of historical fiction for American Legacy Publishers, and also writes science fiction.

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