Does the End Justify the Means in Health?

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • I have a book on my desk that I realize has become a somewhat permanent fixture. I've long ago finished reading it, so it should have taken its place on a bookshelf or gotten passed on to a friend. I keep it on my desk as a daily reminder of the kind of person I strive to be, what I consider to be a true role model: Someone who talks a beautiful talk and also walks the beautiful talk.

     

    The book, Grandmother CEO, is about a black woman who grew up in the South in the earlier part of the 1900s. It is written from the perspective of her granddaughter, who learned many of her own life lessons by the presence and actions (more so than any words) of this remarkable woman. I write "remarkable" and immediately feel the need to clarify. I mean remarkable in the purest, human sense. Not in a "Hey, this woman is on the 100 Richest Women in the World list" - no, not even close to that. I mean remarkable in that she set priorities on a different plane - priorities like selfless service to others and to God, unbreakable openheartedness, steadfast courage and the will to act on it. She offered and grew love by caring for all her fellow human beings regardless of "stature" or even personal relationship to her - even a stranger left by all others on the street mattered to her. This woman of "little means" - a "nobody" - living out her priorities each and every day, despite numerous challenges and affronts to one's self-respect and dignity, quietly and powerfully impacting the world in a positive way. She held her self-respect and dignity close to her, and prevailed as a true role model. I want to be just like her.

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    I got to thinking about this because last night I finished another book, about a different woman "CEO." This book was business lessons culled from observation of a prominent female leader involved in the charity sector. One of the chapters, and business lessons, was about the end justifying the means. According to this account of this particular leader, it is OK to deal with "the devil" if you are going to do it "for the angels."

     

    That gives me great pause. I ask myself: Is this true? Is this the way "the real world" functions? Am I naïve to hope and strive for something else? Does this doom me to ineffectuality in the realm of business and my quest to create and cultivate a greater societal good?

     

    As a doctor, my mind goes to the parallel in health and wellness. Let's take the example of weight loss…let's say I have a few (or a lot) of pounds that I'd like to lose. I want to be healthier and, let's face it, another major motivation is that I want to look a different way…"better." So I start to consider the ways I can reach my goal - and there are many. Commercial diet plans, extreme exercise regimens, doctor-prescribed weight loss programs, good old-fashioned calorie reduction and increased energy expenditure - slow and steady over time, and diet pills of many types.

     

    Let's say there is a certain diet pill that is going to strip the weight right off, no effort on my part at all. But there are risks involved - known side effects to the medication such as mood swings, sleep disturbances, risk of addiction, potential liver and kidney damage…to name a few.

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    If I come out on the other side - to the "end" - with the weight gone but as a haggard, moody, addicted mess with a failing liver, did the end really justify the means? Sure, I lost the weight, achieved the goal; I "got what I wanted." But what did I become in the process?

     

    For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.

     

     

Published On: July 11, 2013