Time for health

Medicalised health care promises alleviation of suffering which includes pain, impairment and decline. Pain perceived as curable, becomes intolerable thus demanding drugs, hospital services and impersonal medical care. Otherwise, virtues such as patience, courage and resignation are sought. Religious rationale such as Karma, Kismet and a backlash of sin also offer succour and consolation.

Charles Richet, a century ago, in his ‘Standard Dictionary of Physiology,’ defined pain as a useful physiological sensation that made people turn away from danger. Every abuse is immediately followed by pain as punishment, which is clearly superior in intensity to the pleasure that abuse produced.

Ivan Illich, in his essay ‘Limits to Medicine,’ says that pain promotes a deep sense of loneliness where only questions exist. What is wrong? How much longer? Why must I suffer? Why does this kind of evil exist? And why does it strike just me?

Does the desperate quest for pain killers indicate the loss of humanity’s ability to bear pain or the will to heal when damaged? Why is the anguish so severe that it saps the vitality of inner resources and energy? Why does pain make affable people irritable and ill mannered? Michael Grossman explains the change in behaviour using an economic model. Since pain and suffering affect health, which is a durable capital stock used to produce an output called ‘healthy time’, routines and schedules are forcibly altered.

Healthy time as a consumer commodity enters directly into the individual’s utility function: people usually would rather be healthy than sick. It also enters the market as an investment commodity. It determines the amount of time an individual can spend on work and on play, on earning and on recreation. It can be thus viewed as a decisive indicator of his value to the community as a producer.

As a friend, recouping from a brief illness, summarised, “I don’t have the time to fall sick nor the money to die well in a multi speciality hospital!” So, let us first make some time for health.

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