Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Dr Tomlin Paul | Death from belief

Published:Wednesday | August 10, 2016 | 12:00 AM

We have been hearing from ever since that 'belief kills and belief cures'. Working on the front line of life and death as a physician, if belief really kills, then I should be seeing its fingerprint. But looking back at death certificates written for more than three decades, I can find no case in which the cause of death as written included the word belief. I saw lots of strokes, heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and hypertension but no 'death from belief'. So if belief kills, then it's either doing a good job hiding from us or we may be guilty of covering it up.




When I write a death certificate I have to first state the disease or condition that led to the person's death. I then write the underlying conditions that contributed to this primary cause. So stroke as a cause of death often has high blood pressure or diabetes as underlying causes. The adamant call from a relative, "Doc, I want to know what my father died from," is seeking a response for that main cause, like heart attack or cancer. Yet all of these conditions were developing for some time in the body, and behind that death certificate there is always a story to be told that's full of beliefs, decisions and actions.

It may sound a bit strange, but the best time to identify the underlying cause of death is not on the autopsy table but during life.




Here's a short story.

"Doc, I don't really take my pressure tablets unless I feel the pain in my head or neck-back." I am seeing this patient for the first time but they have had high blood pressure for 10 years. In my checks, I find an enlarged heart and low-functioning kidneys, suggesting a path to heart and kidney failure, both common causes of death. The belief that high blood pressure gives you a signal as to when you should take your medication is a belief that can kill you! High blood pressure is one of the quietest conditions but with the most devastating effects on the major organs.




Some beliefs are never uttered, but they affect our behaviour in a serious way. For instance, some drivers believe that they are safe driving way above the speed limit, swerving in and out, passing everything in front of them. Worse yet, after a drink or two, this belief gets even stronger. It's another belief that can kill you, and sadly, others who do not even share your belief.




Are you holding on tightly to your beliefs? Remember that beliefs drive our actions and behaviour and can take us down a path of pain, suffering and death. Nowadays, you can always find some information to support those harmful beliefs.

It's time to put your beliefs on the table and see if they are serving you well. Don't take any chances. Seek out credible sources and be open to change. Let it be for you that 'belief cures'!

- Dr Tomlin Paul is a family physician at Health Plus Associates in Kingston; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com