Bioethics Discussion Blog: Medical Ethics of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (7)

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Medical Ethics of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (7)


Back in November 2004, I started writing a series of posts on the medical ethics of complementary and alternative medicine. Because of inadequate management of symptoms by modern medicine and perhaps because of the poor communication skills by modern physicians, many patients are turning to alternative medicine for relief. I found the following “historical” listing of prescriptions for one symptom on several joke websites and thought it reflected some truism about medical treatment through the ages. What do you think? ..Maurice.

A Brief History Of Medicine

I have an earache.

2000 B.C. - Here, eat this root.
1000 A.D. - That root is heathen, say this prayer.
1850 A.D. - That prayer is superstition, drink this potion.
1940 A.D. - That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill.
1985 A.D. - That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic.
2003 A.D. - That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.


8 Comments:

At Saturday, January 14, 2006 1:55:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

I agree! It's come full circle, eh?

Seriously though, I have to wonder ...

When patients are not happy with their physicians because of lack of communication or inadequate symptom management ... why do they turn to alternative medicine?

Is it a placebo effect because they believe it's going to work? Is it that the alternative medicine practitioners are all about the science of people rather than the science of medicine?

In either case - I believe the mind is being treated before the body by many of those in the alternative branches of "medicine."

That leaves me more than a bit leery when friends tell me about eschewing their medical doctors in favor of "alternative" fellows.

Are those particular 2004 posts still on your blog?

.

 
At Saturday, January 14, 2006 9:25:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Moof, your analysis of why patients turn to alternative medicine is identical to mine: placebo effect along with the practitioner's attention to people rather than medicine. Yes, all my postings since I started in July 2004 are here. Click on the Archive for November 2004 and scroll down to the series of 6 postings. ..Maurice.

 
At Sunday, January 15, 2006 3:34:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Peace Dr. Bernstein!

Thank you for your reply. I took a look at July 2004, and didn't find anything on alternative medicine there. I also looked at July 2005, in case you had made a typo on the year. Then I did a blog search, and it didn't turn them up.

The case of the vanishing posts!

If you're certain of the date, are you certain that they're visible, and not "private?"

Also - as I went through your other titles during my search, I found some very interesting posts: Physician Assisted Suicide, Doctors who pray ... and other subjects which have been part of recent blog conversations in which I've been involved. I'm going to have to come back in and take a look at your archives - there's a lot of information in there!

Is this blog the only place you have all of that in writing? If so, you may want to be sure you've backed it all up on your own hard drive, or on a CD, in order to not lose any of it. There's far too much good stuff in here for that to happen. You should consider pressing all of this into a book - sorted by subject ...

 
At Sunday, January 15, 2006 4:05:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Please forgive me - after I *wiped my glasses* I was able to see that the archive month was November. I don't why I had July on the brain - it doesn't even *look* like November. Maybe it was meant to be though, because I did find some intensely interesting posts in both July 2004 and 2005.

In one of the posts on alternative medicine, you mention that you think alternative practitioners should be able to work together with orthodox physicians ... because of the (psychological) value of the alternative medicine having such a positive effect on some patients.

I need to question you on that. Why would a western physician need to work with, for example, an eastern practitioner, if he realizes exactly what is causing his patient to benefit from the alternative medicine? Why can't he simply involve the patient psychologically, in the same way the eastern practitioners do? He wouldn't even need to use the "alternative medicine props" to do so ...

Is it a matter of training, time, interest? Surely physicians of all stripes understand that the psyche is as important as the body in illness ... yet really, most physicians only treat the physical manifestations of an illness. That can sometimes be counterproductive, especially when the medical condition has an emotional origin.

This is a very interesting subject. More and more people are turning to alternative medicine, and frankly, I find it worrisome. A friend of mine is in the late stages of cancer. She told me about how her acupuncturist son was giving her advice which was contrary to what her oncologist was recommending. This certainly put her at odds with her physician, whom I'm sure only had her best interest in mind.

This is trend that could set us back medically, and it would be a shame.

 
At Sunday, January 15, 2006 9:04:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Moof, I'm glad you found the postings. Many of my visitors obviously read the older postings since they are directed there by having entered keywords in Google and other search engines. I hope they also move to the home page and read some of the more recent ones too.

I have a feeling that many or most alternative medicine practitioners stress the need to "comfort" their patients by their procedures and don't make new clinical diagnoses or advise clinical decisions in the realm of conventional medicine. As for the behavior of the acupuncturist son, the advice was certainly not free of conflict of interest and even if he was a physician such advice must be looked at with caution. ..Maurice.

 
At Monday, August 07, 2006 9:55:00 PM, Blogger john grant said...

Hi, I must say I am the great believer in alternativemedicine. I also built an alternative complementary medicine website myself. You have a great site with very quality information. I will definately point my visitors to your site.
Thank you,
Bob Vaughan, Los Angeles
alternative complementary medicine

 
At Wednesday, September 27, 2006 9:32:00 PM, Anonymous Karen said...

I absolutely agree that it has come full circle, and I am glad to see that it has. The reason so many people are turning to alternative medicine is because alternative medicine treats the cause rather than suppressing the symptoms. I believe that doctors, regardless of whether they were the worst in their class or the smartest, were taught only about medicine. Their entire business is built and funded on the basis of medication. Every day new medicines are being created and few studies are being done on the long term effects of these medications on the body prior to their realease. If from the year 2000 BC straight on up these herbs have been being effectively used to treat ailments, how could one discredit their authenticity while throwing themselves completely into the belief that these manmade compounds are the only way to heal oneself, despite the negative and largely unknown risks?
As far as I am concerned, doctors are people just like everyone else. I don't think anyone can say they have never made a mistake. Doctors are not all knowing and are not incapable of human error.

 
At Thursday, November 16, 2006 9:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear friends,

Yesterday when i was going through some google search for my herbal knowledge base i came across a very intersting website.

http://www.worldherb.net

They have Herb Business Directory with hundreds of companies working on herbs, herbal products essential oils, chinese herbs, bulk herbs, herbal medicine and best part is it is free of charge.

You can post the offers also in the site.

They have interesting feature of herb encyclopedia also

http://www.worldherb.net

Happy Surfing and if you come across some interesting site for herb please post on group.

Thanks

Linda

 

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