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orthodox + complementary healthcare « Previous | |Next »
July 23, 2011

There is a debate over orthodox and complimentary health care at The Conversation. It doesn't get us very far from the tedious black and white (either/or) style of debate so common in Australia, even though pockets in the medical community seems to be growing more open to alternative medicine’s possibilities, not less, despite the lack of clinical evidence supporting the claims of alternative medicine.

According to David Freedman in The Triumph of New-Age Medicine in The Atlantic the primary reason is because mainstream medicine itself is failing.The reason is that:

Modern medicine was formed around successes in fighting infectious disease.Infectious agents were the big sources of disease and mortality, up until the last century. We could find out what the agent was in a sick patient and attack the agent medically.” To a large degree, the medical infrastructure we have today was designed with infectious agents in mind. Physician training and practices, hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry, and health insurance all were built around the model of running tests on sick patients to determine which drug or surgical procedure would best deal with some discrete offending agent. The system works very well for that original purpose.

However, the success of modern medicine has bought to the fore the chronic, complex diseases—heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other illnesses without a clear causal agent. Now that we live longer, these typically late-developing diseases have become by far our biggest killers. Heart disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases now account for three-quarters of our health-care spending.

The drugs the medical profession thrown at these complex illnesses are by and large inadequate or worse, as has been thoroughly documented in the medical literature. The heavily prescribed drugs that have failed to do much to combat complex diseases, while presenting a real risk of horrific side effects. Many healthy people each year are converted into long-term patients.

The medical profession knows perfectly well what sort of patient-care model would work better against complex diseases than the infectious-disease-inspired approach we’ve inherited. That is one that doesn’t wait for diseases to take firm hold and then vainly try to manage them with drugs, but rather is a preventive approach that focuses on lowering the risk that these diseases will take hold in the first place. This preventative primary careincludes the promotion of a healthy diet, encouragement of more exercise, and measures to reduce stress which impairs the immune system, rather than drugs and surgical procedures.

Freedman says that the latter involves a healing approach that is rooted in closer practitioner-patient interactions--a more caring practitioner who takes more time and bonds better with patients---focused on getting a patient to adopt healthier attitudes and behaviors interactions. This is not possible with the corporate approach to medicine in which GP's are paid for providing treatments, not for spending time talking to patients. Hence the shift to integrative health care--the conjunction of complementary with mainstream medicine.

This undercuts the either orthodox or complementary medicine approach since the middle ground is one of plugging the gaping holes in modern medicine and doing what is best for the patient. Alternative or complementary medicine is a legitimate response to mainstream medicine’s real shortcomings.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:25 PM | | Comments (4)


Complementary surely?

Yep. I've changed complimentary to complementary. Thanks for that.

I've argued before that in the long term, for improvement in the health of the population, and (if productivity is associated with intelligence and education) economic performance, that there should be full public funding of visits to non-evidence-based practitioners - homeopaths, prayers, crystals, whatever - that quakery should be promoted.

Survival of the most-rational, Darwinian selection - it'd take a generation or two, but it'd be worth it.

As for the corporatized medicine, a recent study reported in Vox shows hospitals, ("big end" specialist hospitals not just small town ones) that are run by physicians give better results than ones run by the corporate types - the types required by regulations to maximize the interests of shareholders.

I'd rather see national registration and mandatory higher education qualifications as a prerequisite to work as a health practitioner.