I want to talk to you about a friend of mine.
He's often misunderstood and frequently attacked,
but deep down, he's a really great guy!
I'm talking about Western Medicine. It may seem
ridiculous to some that Biomedicine needs defending. But in some
circles, such as our new-age-y alternative medicine circles, biomedicine
frequently becomes the scapegoat, the bad guy, "The Man" who's
keeping us down.
I have to admit, when I arrived at the Pacific College
of Oriental Medicine as a bright-eyed na´ve new student, I thought
and probably declared, "Chinese Medicine can heal anything! Biomedicine
isn't good for anything except emergencies. They're so foolish;
they only treat the symptoms, not the root!"
Over the course of my education, I have discovered
certain mature truths about eastern and western medicine. You
might say I've become wise in my old-student-age. You wouldn't?
Well, here they are anyway:
- Each medicine has strengths and weaknesses. No medicine can
help every patient with every disease.
- The patient is more important than both the medicine and the
- Healthcare practitioners can get along with one another if
they let go of excessive ego about their training and themselves!
And don't assume; Oriental Medicine practitioners are just as
guilty of this as M.D.'s and D.O.'s.
- "Cooperative care" is when practitioners in various types
of medicine team up to care for one patient.
- The patient needs one of their healthcare practitioners to
be the primary gatekeeper or case manager. In California, at
least, this could be the Oriental Medicine Doctor. That requires
respect from the patient's other doctors (see #3).
The ideal is patient-centered care wherein various doctors put
aside their own egos and together use whatever aspects of their
training are effective to get the patient well.
With that in mind, each healthcare profession has certain responsibilities.
For one, doctors need to learn about the true efficacy and scope
of each medicine. Egotism can very cleverly prevent this.
For example, M.D.'s have been slow to admit to the damage done
by corticosteroids and antibiotics. Some may still refuse to recognize
the success of acupuncture and chinese herbal formulations even
in those conditions where there are good randomized
clinical trials to back it up.
On the flip side, alternative practitioners tend to maintain
at least as much ignorance about biomedicine. All drugs are not
bad. All western medicine does not treat just symptoms. Alternative
medicine treatment alone could, in certain situations, put the
patient at risk. We need to be just as open minded and willing
to learn about the pro's of biomedicine as the con's.
So, If you find me in a car wreck, take me to the ER! But if
I get hepatitis C or AIDS, I'm trying herbs first. If I can avoid
the aggressiveness and side effects of biomedicine, I definitely
Doctor image courtesy of Getty Images