Sunday History Channel: Ivan Illich on Health


A 1995 issue of Aisling Magazine ran an essay by philosopher Ivan Illich that challenged our society’s growing psychological dependence on the health care system. “(S)ome of us today have come to believe that we desperately need packages, commodities, all under the label of “health”, all designed and delivered by a system of professionalised services,” wrote Illich. “Some try to convince us that an infant is born, not only helpless needing the loving care of a household, but also sick requiring specialised treatment by self-certified experts.”

Illich continued: “Many have forgotten or are no longer able to enjoy those commonsense ways of living that contribute to one’s well-being and ability to recover from illness. Many have allowed themselves to become dependent on a self-aggrandising technological myth, against which they nevertheless complain, because of the impersonal ways in which it impoverishes many while enriching a few… I believe it is time to state clearly that specific situations and circumstances are sickening, rather than that people are sick. The symptoms which modern medicine attempts to treat often have little to do with the condition of our bodies; they are, rather, signals pointing to the disorders and presumptions of modern ways of working, playing and living.”

Health (Aisling Magazine, Issued 17, 1995)