Book Review: Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice

INFLAMED by Rupa Marta and Raj Patel looks at healing, wholeness, and justice through the lenses of our bodies and our culture. Our bodies, particularly our immune systems, are under attack because of the stress and ongoing trauma of living in a pandemic. In addition, because of the lack of uniform access to healthcare for marginalized persons, the long-reaching effects of healthcare disparity will impact our world and our western culture. There’s no getting around that.

Any discussion about access to healthcare in the US is particularly dicey because it has been politicized to such an extent that just to speak of “healthcare for all” will immediately result in attacks from one political party or the other. However, as a healthcare chaplain for more than 12 years, I have seen first-hand the results of inadequate wellness resources. A woman who had a diagnosis of glioblastoma did not have access to the world-class treatments given to a US Senator. An enlisted man who worked on a submarine and developed mesothelioma was not able to get treatments to prolong his life, but his commanding officer did. And those with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and now COVID-19 have a statistically poorer chance of survival if they are non-white.

The book addresses issues related to the various systems of the body: immune, circulatory, digestive, respiratory, reproductive, connected tissue, endocrine, and nervous system. Each chapter devotes considerable time explaining what the various systems of the body do, and then how they are impacted by the stress we live under every day. Quotes from a wide variety of voices, from medicine to music, provide examples of the impact of this stress. The book ends with a discussion about “deep medicine“ with the intent of “decolonizing“ the way in which we view healthcare.

“Deep medicine“ takes a constellation of reflection and historical analysis of how traditional medicine has been addressed in the past, and how it can be revamped for the future. In a healthcare environment that is more focused on profit than wellness, traditional medicine is often lost. The wisdom of ages, if it cannot be analyzed, quantified, and researched, has less validity in the healthcare industry today. For instance, the authors note that meditation, a practice that is inherently free to the human being, (you just have to sit down and do it!) has become a multi-million dollar industry. Everything from apps on our phones, to websites, TEDTalks, podcasts, and corporate meditation retreats have moved meditation from a self-directed practice to a profit-making business!

The authors emphasize an awareness of the earth and its own ills due to chemical spills, pesticides, pollution, and crashing ecosystems. As someone who is affected by pollution levels and other airborne irritants, I’m physically aware of the changes in my environment.

I can’t provide a good analysis of the medical content of this book, so I will leave that to others more qualified to analyze the specific medical suggestions made. However, just reflecting on the supposition that we are not well because we treat neither our bodies nor our planet with respect and care, does ring true to me. There is a good index, and several pages of references. 

It’s not light reading. It is thought-provoking. But as we consider how we will exit a global pandemic, and especially how we could change the way that healthcare is delivered to US citizens, there’s much to be learned from these authors.

Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice. Rupa Marya and Raj Patel. (c) 2021 Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hardback 484 pages. ISBN: 978-0-3746-0251-2

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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