In the late 1600s an important event occurred that began our modern medicine. Antony van Leeuwenhoek invented a microscope and discovered bacteria—“animalcules” as he called them. Louis Pasteur then proposed the idea that disease resulted from an infection from a “foreign germ." Thus began the idea that disease was something separate from the sick person. The pathologist was someone who gave this disease a classification. Illness was something the pathologist could remove, put under a microscope and objectively view.
Here is something to think about: Classifying or diagnosing diseases in people and making someone well are entirely different activities. This is not to say they are entirely separate. They are simply different activities. A lot depends on what one needs. If I have cancer and want to know the probability I will live 3 months or 10 years, then the people who classify disease are just the people to ask. They take a biopsy, get their microscopes out, and if they say, “This cancer comes from the gallbladder,” then I will be lucky to be alive in 6 months. If they say, “It comes from the prostate,” my chances are excellent I will live longer. Those who classify disease are good at giving you such information. It doesn’t mean, however, that they are good at treating what they classify.
It is not necessary that such a system of classification be linked with the treatment of disease. The intention of this system was to study and classify disease as separate from individuals who are ill. For public health issues, for statistical patterns in populations, this approach is ideal, because this is what it is: the study of forms of disease throughout broad populations. It is when a doctor generalizes the trends of a given population to you as an individual that it might be worth taking a pause. Yet, classification can be linked with the therapeutic task of making ill people well, and when it is the doctor has what I call a First level or diagnostic intention.
It is important to understand that alternative medicine doctors have different treatment intentions. They do not link a disease classification with the treatment. Being more holistic, they focus on you as an individual and why you have come to express your own peculiar symptoms. Classifying a disease leads one to treat the part that is sick, not the whole.