Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Doctor's Thoughts on Alternative Therapies

On one hand, we want to do everything we can to give patients the perception and the reality of control.  On the other hand, we do not want to give them false hope, and as Ranjana Srivastava, points out in The Guardian, that is especially difficult when some "alternative" therapies thrive on a sense of insiderhood and secrecy and often bill themselves as underdogs at war with traditional medicine. But sometimes the therapies themselves can undermine or contravene therapies that are based on extensive, documented research.
The community practitioners who are best at checking in with oncologists are physiotherapists, palliative care nurses and general practitioners. They seem to have no qualms about sharing doubt, seeking advice and negotiating compromise.
But the point of many alternative therapies seems to be in their secret powers of healing. I know it’s often said but I honestly don’t consider arrogance a good explanation for why oncologists and alternative practitioners don’t talk. I would, however, say that dismay and distrust feature heavily. As does the troubling realisation that a doctor can face reprimand for inadvertent error but an alternative practitioner can get away with intentional harm.
This is not a reason to excuse the former but to regulate the latter. Perhaps this would make it easier to follow the advice that doctors need to familiarise themselves with the various forms of complementary and alternative medicines. It is conceivable that some worthwhile measures are tainted by the same brush as a lot of fraudulent ones.
Health literacy moves at a very slow pace. The alternative health industry, worth many billions of dollars, marches briskly. It will always attract unguarded patients who will cling to the faintest promise of recovery without associated harm. Whenever money changes hands and the premise sounds too good to be true, the motto remains: Caveat Emptor.

What Do Doctors Say to  'Alternative' Therapists When a Patient Dies?

No comments:

Post a Comment