There once was a young man who was interested in automobiles. He loved to drive them and tinker with their engines. He decided that it was his calling to be an auto mechanic. The young man lived in a small town where there was only one mechanic who provided auto repair for the people.
The young man walked into the small auto shop and found the older mechanic with his head under the hood of a car. The young fellow explained to the older mechanic that he desired to be an auto mechanic and wondered if he would be open to taking on an apprentice.
The older fellow, knowing that it would not be long before he retired, agreed to be the young man’s mentor. He led the young man to the back of the shop and showed him a big, red tool box. The mechanic smiled as he opened the tool box. The box was full of screwdrivers. There were all kinds of screwdrivers; small one, long ones, Phillips head, flathead, angled, magnetic and so on. The mechanic turned to the young fellow and told him that he would teach him how to use each one of the screwdrivers and in time, he would be just as good a mechanic as the older fellow.
For almost 40 years, the old mechanic had worked on cars with his screwdrivers. He had become so proficient using the tools, he began to see cars needing repair from the perspective of the screwdrivers. “Ah, he would say to himself. I think I can use this screwdriver to fix this problem.”
There were times when he could not fix the car’s problem and he would tell the customer, “I guess it is time for you to get a new car.” And, they did. The mechanic accepted his limitations without question and life moved on day to day and all was good in his world.
One day the young mechanic was working on a car and a tool salesman came into the shop. The young mechanic had never seen the tool salesman and informed him that the owner was away from the shop. The tool salesman asked the young man if he was interested in seeing some tools. He excitedly agreed.
When the salesman opened his box, the young mechanic, expecting to see only screwdrivers, saw many tools that he did not recognize. The salesman explained that these tools were called wrenches and that they could do things that the screwdrivers were incapable of doing. The young man purchased a supply of wrenches and began to use them along with the screwdrivers. He could fix cars that in the past he was unable to fix. He tried to share his new tools with the older mechanic but the shop owner was not interested in new gimmicks. He would stick with his screwdrivers, the tools that he was used to relying on. In time, the customers asked for the younger fellow and the old mechanic retired.
I heard the story of a lady with a dog who had lymphoma and the vet had told her that her only option for treatment was chemotherapy. She said that since her dog was 12 years old, they had decided that they wouldn’t put her through that and would just be happy to spend her remaining time making her comfortable. When I heard the story, I imagined the old mechanic telling her that the only thing he had to treat with is a screwdriver and that it was likely time for her to get another dog.
Conventional medicine is a lot like the old mechanic. It has gotten really good at doing its job but ignores its obvious limitations. It has dug its feet in the sand, refusing to look at other alternatives and options. Fortunately, there are some clinicians that are open to looking for something different, something that might benefit their patients. Those who won’t may likely go the way of the old mechanic.