ANTHROPOSOPHICALLY EXTENDED MEDICINE:
A FIRST VIEW
© 1997 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. (all rights reserved)
I took the opportunity of my first German trip (October-November,
1997) to investigate the medical work of the Anthroposophical movement.
This is a philosophical current that it is well-known in German-speaking
lands, but little known in the United States. It was founded by the Austrian
visionary, Rudolf Steiner, Ph.D. in the early part of the 20th century.
Steiner had original ideas about many things, including medicine. He suggested
to a medical colleague, Ita Wegman, M.D., that she investigate the use of
mistletoe in cancer therapy. His reasons for suggesting this are somewhat
obscure. Nevertheless, Dr. Wegman complied and felt that it had some value.
In the 1920s she founded the Wegman clinic in Arlesheim, Switzerland, not
far from the world headquarters of Anthroposophy, the Goetheanum in Dornach.
These are both in suburbs of Basel. In the 1960s, a hospital devoted specifically
to cancer was founded, the Lukas Klinik. ("Klinik" in German can
mean either clinic or hospital.)
It would be a serious misunderstanding to equate Anthroposophically Extended
Medicine (AEM) just with misteltoe. Actually, one could say that the AEM
approach has three parts:
First of all, this type of medicine starts from a base in conventional
medicine. They attempt to preserve all the beneficial things that regular
hospitals and doctors do.
Second, they use a variety of mind-body techniques that are quite unique
to their movement. This includes "curative eurythmy," a kind
of dance and movement exercise; music therapy; light therapy; art therapy;
etc. All the details pertaining to the patient's stay are carefully scrutinized.
Thus, the shape and size of the corridors are carefully taken into account,
the colors of the halls are chosen with deliberation, etc. The overall
impact is a peaceful and restful one.
Finally, they utilize mistletoe preparations, especially Iscador.
I spent the day at the Lukas Klinik as the guest of Ms. Gundel Krazer,
the hospital administrator. I also met with Dr. Heiligtag, director of the
hospital, and with Dr. Michael Werner, director of the Hiscia institute
across the street from the Klinik. It is here that the world famous Iscador
is prepared from mistletoe (Viscum alba), a semi-parasitical plant that
grows on trees across most of Europe and Asia.
It was fascinating to see the elaborate lengths that are taken to properly
mix the summer and the winter varities of mistletoes. Mistletoe also produces
different saps, depending on which tree it is found growing on. Dr. Werner
explained that most of the mistletoe for Iscador comes from the south of
France, and requires dangerous work climbing high in trees to retrieve it.
The hardest of all to find is the oak mistletoe, since this semi-parasite
will only grow on one in 100,000 oak trees. And so they advertise in French
agricultural papers, seeking leads to this type of mistletoe. Lately, Hiscia
has been doing some experiments to cultivate oak mistletoe, and we saw the
results of these experiments growing outside the laboratory.
I had other significant encounters with representatives of Anthroposophy.
Dr. Sören Schmidt, vice-director of research for Helixor, another mistletoe
company drove several hours from their headquarters in Rosenfeld to meet
me and hear me speak. Dr. Schmidt explained to me the subtle differences
between the various mistletoe products. There are now at least eight companies
in Germany and Switzerland making mistletoe products. Although you might
expect fierce competition, what I sensed with a cooperative spirit among
them. (In the city of Ulm, I also saw mistletoe containing herbal teas in
regular drug stores.)
Later in the week, I went to visit another of the Anthroposophically
Extended hospitals in Germany. This was the Filderklinik, situated in the
small town of Filderstadt. When the Filderklinik was established it was
out in the fields. Today it is a suburb of Stuttgart, not far from the U.S.
airbase. The Filderklinik was as impressive as the Lukas Klinik. That is
because it is a regular medium-sized hospital serving the needs of the entire
local population. They do everything that such a center would do, e.g.,
delivering 1,400 children per year. They also care for many seriously ill
cancer patients. I was greeted at the entrance by my old friend, Jürgen
Schürhölz, M.D., whom I knew from his testimony a few years ago
before Senator Harkin's subcommittee. (Dr. Schürhölz was largely
responsible for the German Commission C monographs on AEM.) He is a wise
and caring clinician. Now the medical director of the Weleda group, he maintains
intimate ties with the Filderklinik, of which he used to be medical director
as well. He also introduced us to Ernst Harmening, the "Geschäftsfürher,"
(chief administrator) who kindly accompanied me on our tour of the hospital.
We went floor to floor and room to room through this hospital. They have
many of the same facilities as the Lukas Klinik, although cancer is not
the specialty of the hospital. Incidentally, I ate lunch at both the Filder
and Lukas Kliniks and was impressed by the quality of the vegetarian cafeteria
food. It was really delicious! I was also impressed by the fact that patients
are encouraged to get up and come to the cafeteria for their meals, where
they mingle with the staff members.
I understand that Anthroposophy is controversial, and that some people
look on it as a kind of mystical sect. I do not pretend to understand much
about Anthroposophy as a movement or a philosophy. Its starting premises
are far different from my own. However, I think we should judge people primarily
by their works. ("In the beginning was the Deed," said Steiner's
hero, Goethe.) By these standards, I have a high regard for the kind of
care that representatives of this movement offer to patients. I like its
leaders. I was impressed by the quality of the data of they accumulate and
the generally excellent care they provide. Overall, they seems to me to
be ethical, responsible, and self-sacrificing in a type of medicine that
has not always been so.
I was happy to have the opportunity to see the results of this treatment
philosophy in action on its native soil.
--Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. (revised 12/17 and 12/27/98)
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