Beth was an 11-year-old girl whose mother brought her in for a consultation mostly to address behavioral and emotional issues. Over the years she had a number of neuropsych evaluations that led to an alphabet soup of diagnoses - ADHD, ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), AS (Asperger Syndrome) and my personal favorite PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified).
A number of years ago, a young woman in her early 20's we'll call Samantha sought out homeopathic treatment for difficulties she was experiencing during pregnancy. She had given birth just a year or so earlier and had experienced problems toward the end of her term. Now, this tine around Samantha was complaining of extremely low energy, poor digestion, generalized itching and irritability.
Daniel (not his real name) was distraught and in tears the first time we met. It wasn’t an appointment - he had just dropped by the office with his wife to ask if homeopathy might help. Waves of emotions passed over his face as we spoke and he seemed barely able to contain whatever pain he was experiencing within himself. There was no physical illness as far as he knew – or so he explained, but mentally Daniel felt at the end of his rope and wasn’t sure if or how to carry on. Actually, when the time came, I wasn’t sure he would show for his appointment. We had set it up for a few weeks out because of some traveling he had planned and my schedule. In such an acute state, who knows what might happen between now and then? But, in fact, there he was right on time…
Before heading off to Ghana, I was given the impression from past volunteers with whom I spoke that most of the cases in the village clinic of Mafi Seva would be relatively simple ones of acute illness or injuries. This turned out to be not entirely accurate.
The cases were simple in the sense that they were fairly straightforward. Unlike my own practice where many patients have chronic degenerative diseases, autoimmune illness or complex mental states often complicated by medical and dental interventions as well as multiple prescriptions, the people I saw in the village presented with conditions and histories that were less involved. There were fewer strands and influences to untangle, and overall responses to the remedies seemed to be more immediate.
As was his nature, Samuel Hahnemann minced few words in describing his first hand observations of the treatment of the mentally ill. In a footnote to his Organon of the Medical Art, which was first published in 1810, he wrote:
One must be astonished at the hard-heartedness and indiscretion of physicians in several mental institutions. These cruel physicians, without seeking the true medical mode for such diseases…content themselves with tormenting these most pitiable of all human beings by means of the most violent beatings and other excruciating martyrdoms…. They lower themselves far beneath the level of prison guards, for prison guards execute such punishments only because it is the duty of their official position and do so upon criminals…1