Doctors and Complementary Medicines

Doctors and Complementary Medicines

This article is being included for several reasons, not least of which is the stance that the health establishment takes in the overall debate, and the conclusions it comes to. These should be considered tentative and not necessarily in themselves an accurate conclusion.

Certainly, bringing this debate out into the mainstream is valuable. But to put complementary medicines on the same footing as pharmaceutical medications is a serious flaw in the argument. Because medicine is predominantly scientific, it will often see these in an “either – or” manner, and favour one over the other. No prizes for guessing which…

So, unless a wider and more holistic framework is used to examine this argument, I am not sure how far it will get. Here, as elsewhere, medicine in its limited scientific approach, is judging other ways to health and healing by its own standards, and not necessarily the values and beliefs of the systems in which complementary approaches are set.

Here’s the article:

DOCTORS should be encouraging patients to base their use of complementary medicines on scientific evidence, and warning them to be cautious about claims not based on such evidence.

“It may help to suggest to patients that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” the National Health and Medical Research Council advises in a new guide for general practitioners.

It is entitled ‘Talking with your patients about complementary medicine – a resource for clinicians’.

Doctors are often reluctant to ask patients what complementary medicines they may be using, said NHMRC chief Warwick Anderson, while a 2008 survey suggested that only half of patients using complementary medicines discussed them with their doctors.

The most common reason given was that their doctors hadn’t asked them. But the guide also warns that patients may be reluctant to talk about complementary medicine for fear of being criticised by their doctors.

Professor Anderson said doctors needed to know what their patients were taking both to ensure it didn’t conflict with any treatments or prescriptions the doctor may recommend, and to caution against reliance on uncertain alternative remedies when effective conventional treatments were available.

He said the information also gave doctors more insight into a patient’s condition. “You need to take the whole person and environment into account when offering health advice,” he said.

Professor Anderson rejected suggestions that the guide was aimed at getting doctors to discourage patients from using alternative medicines. “There is nothing Machiavellian about this,” he said. “It is an attempt to help physicians who tend to shy away from asking people why they take complementary medicines.”

The guide suggests that when discussing evidence for treatments, doctors could refer patients to summaries of research evidence such as the online Cochrane Consumer Network.

Source: The Australian