Search all of the Society for Participatory Medicine website:Search

Last Friday we dug up our founder Doc Tom’s Seven Laws of Self-Care, from 1985. At one time Tom served as medical editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, the Woodstock-era empowerment resource whose subtitle was “Access to Tools.” At left (click to enlarge) is the cover of the original 1968 edition – just as I was getting out of high school.

(Yeah, I know, some of  you punks weren’t even born yet. Let’s see if you live this long.)

Well, that same data-spelunking expedition found this, even earlier:

"Doc Tom"in Mother Earth News, 1980

What You Should Know About Drugs – an interview by Tom in Mother Earth News with Joe and Terry Graedon. They had already founded the People’s Pharmacy, which is now of course a very successful website (and radio show and book series and online user forum…).

Twenty-nine years later the Graedons were among the co-founders of the Society for Participatory Medicine. Check out these early signs of defining an engaged, educated patient:

FERGUSON: What is the most important fact to know about drugs?

GRAEDON: First and foremost, don’t ever focus your treatment efforts exclusively on such substances. If you have an ailment, first try to understand the problem, its causes, and its symptoms….

FERGUSON: [In a doctor visit] A lot of people would feel cheated if they got advice instead of medication.

GRAEDON: Absolutely. Many of the pressures for drug use come from the client. We live in an “instant” society today, and — when folks are ill — they expect instant relief. …


How current – this summer there’s been much talk of how patients seem to think more treatment is better, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Continuing:

FERGUSON: How can we break such patterns?

GRAEDON: People have to learn some basic clinical medicine for themselves . . . health workers need to step out of their authority roles a bit and share their own uncertainties and doubts . . .

Here we are, a full generation later. It makes me wonder:

What parts of today’s conversations will show up thirty years in the future?

That interview was a long time ago: 14 years before the Mozilla browser blew open the info vaults in 1994. Look what was taking shape:

  • The Whole Earth Catalog (1968-1998) was a project of Stewart Brand.
  • In 1985 (our previous post), Brand and Larry Brilliant founded the WELL (“Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link” (Wikipedia))  – originally dial-up, then it became the first internet-based bulletin board system (BBS).
    • BBSs were the beginning of people connecting over vast distances, which was the start of social networking.
  • Consider what was bred on the Well. From Wikipedia:
  • When hypertext made massive data browsable  (1994), Tom published his famous triangle slides (January ’95), showing how citizen access to information would turn healthcare on its head.

Heady times. What are we creating today? What will the world look like thirty years from now, in 2040? How old will your children be?

We believe that as patients, clinicians, health plans and government wise up about patient contributions, healthcare will become a much better place to be a patient – and a heck of a lot better place to work. That’s why we’re doing the work of developing these new methods, in the Society for Participatory Medicine.

Join us, or volunteer for teams if you’re already a member. Be part of the future.


Please consider supporting the Society by joining us today! Thank you.