Monday, November 24, 2008

Aromatherapy by any other name still prob'ly stinks. Pt. 1.

As Tom Daschle and the rest of the Obama team prepare to take on the snarling colossus of healthcare reform, it behooves the nation to first decide what healthcare even is. That's more of a challenge than it might sound like.

Consider: Late last month, Urban Zen, a foundation operating under the aegis of the Donna Karan Company, made headlines by donating $850,000 to New York's Beth Israel Medical Center for an experimental program premised on the belief that yoga, meditation and aromatherapy can improve cancer survival
rates over chemo and radiation alone. Is that medicine or not? And in any case, is it the most discerning use of $850,000? Key questions, because the Karan grant is actually just a small manifestation of a stunning nationwide trend.

Amid today's tireless celebration of personal empowerment, America has witnessed a wholesale exodus from orthodoxy in myriad realms and settings—and nowhere has this movement's impact been more significant than in healthcare, where the quest for "freedom of individual choice" has wrought an entire parallel universe of practice that we legitimize as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). No longer a fringe enterprise, CAM today is (minimally) an eleven-figure industry whose interests are championed on Capitol Hill by dozens of high-powered lobbyists as well as sympathetic Congressional heavyweights including Dan Burton, Orrin Hatch, and Tom Harkin. The treatments named in the Karan grant—along with such other CAM staples as therapeutic touch, reflexology, homeopathy, sundry items from the herbal medicine chest, and other odds and ends (emphasis on the root word, odd)—form a constellation of pseudoscientific panaceas mostly adapted from the Eastern healing arts. All are rooted in the belief that each of us is imbued with the capacity to "heal thyself," and that all we need to do to guarantee superior well-being and longevity is learn how to kick-start that process.

It's a seductive message. According to government figures, about 75 percent of American adults have turned to alternative medicine at some point, over half embracing a "mind-body" approach. In the largest well-documented study of the subject, reported a decade ago in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., the number of consumers who admitted trying CAM during
the preceding year easily eclipsed the number of patient-visits to traditional family doctors. The study estimated that Americans were then spending between $36 and $47 billion on CAM, depending on how one defines the genre. Since that watershed report, at least 42 states have licensed CAM practitioners to ply their trade. Major hospital systems, like Johns Hopkins and New York's Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, are apt to incorporate CAM-based programs, usually bracketed as "integrative medicine." Indeed, as noted in SHAM, a few years ago Penn State's Art Caplan (right), arguably the nation's foremost bioethicist, made an eyebrow-raising admission (to me) about these offerings at his resident university hospital: that the facility's recent acceptance of CAM had nothing to do with any groundbreaking research, but rather was a nod to simple consumer demand: It existed because people wanted it, and would pay for it. That amounts to market-driven healthcare. You want it? We'll do it! What a remarkable state of affairs!

Further, evidence suggests that fees for CAM services are increasingly billed to insurance through "creative" claim-writing—liberal interpretation of the diagnostic and treatment codes used in medical billing. Reimbursement for conventional medicine is governed by Current Procedural Terminology codes (CPTs). For some years the CAM leadership has been promulgating a set of 4000 new treatment codes that cover "nearly every healing modality practiced by alternative healthcare providers," to quote one article. That includes some pretty fanciful stuff—like remote healing, wherein people in so-called healing communities pray for the recovery of patients scattered here and there. Once these codes are absorbed into the healthcare establishment
in particular, once they're blessed by MedicareCAM will have been fully mainstreamed. And it will have done so while bypassing all of the customary peer review, controlled studies and other checks and balances that are the hallmark of sound medicine.

35 comments:

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, while I would readily agree that many forms of "therapy" now practiced are little more than fantasy, we need to keep in mind that a great deal of what we consider "mainstream" medical practice was developed without the controlled studies upon which we place so much credence. Perhaps the main difference between the "alternative" medicine today and the "mainstream" medicine of the last century is the process by which we vet and document its practice and effects.

Prior to the development of penecillin, for example, the standard treatment for syphilis was to cauterize the chancres (sores) that appeared on the body. This had absolutely no effect upon the disease; it merely masked the symptoms.

Given the track record of mainstream medicine, it's really no wonder so many are opting for alternative treatments - even those that are unproven, ridiculous, or downright dangerous. Cancer, for example, is treated by either excising the affected tissue that we can see (hoping we see it all), burning the affected tissue away with radiation (which kills the immune system in the process), or dispensing enough (hopefully) cancer-specific poison to kill the malignant tissue, while (again, hopefully) wreaking minimal damage to healthy tissue. In the pursuit of an extended life, we frequently destroy the patient's *quality* of life. Does it come as any surprise that many people seek a different course of treatment?

Twenty years ago, I went to my old family physician (an MD) with a sore on my arm that wouldn't heal, and seemed to be getting larger. He diagnosed it as a melanoma, and wanted to surgically remove it and the surrounding tissue and follow up with chemotherapy. Knowing the survival expectancy with such treatment, I chose to seek alternatives, and ended up going to my acupuncturist / herbal physician, who works closely with MDs in the houoston Medical Center. He gave me a combination of herbs that I was to brew into a bitter tea and drink twice a day. After several weeks, while sitting with some friends who had been very concerned about my cancer, the lesion, which had shriveled into little more than a scab, literally fell off, and I've had no recurrence of any kind. Had I opted for mainstream treatment, the odds are very good that I wouldn't be alive today.

I admit to being somewhat biased against accepted treatments for cancer, having watched both my father and his mother die slowly and agonizingly under the care of highly-respected physicians. And while I don't place much credence in treatment approaches that make no sense to me, I recognize that some treatments that are accepted today found their origins in the same kind of illogic. For some maladies, I will seek mainstream medical treatment without hesitation. In those cases where mainstream medicine is clearly a heavily-funded and researched crap-shoot,* I have no problem seeking answers - and treatment - elsewhere.

----
* - I worked in medical research for a number of years, and saw how heavily the biases of study sponsors skewed the "results" of the studies. A study performed for a drug company will generally support the sponsoring company's claims for the drug's efficacy. And this isn't just a rare occurrence; it is more the rule than the exception.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, look, I share your disenchantment with some of what the medical mainstream has to offer, having watched my own dad go through hell during his end-stage battle with cancer. (They were still scheduling "procedures" at a point when he was all but comatose. My mom and I looked on helplessly, and one of my greatest misgivings in life is that I didn't stand up like a man and shout "ENOUGH!") But I stand by my overriding question: Do we just abandon our reverence for the scientific method in a willy-nilly rush to embrace quack-ish therapies for which "evidence" is anecdotal at best?

At a time when costs in the healthcare system are spiraling out of sight and we're trying to arrange a system of universal coverage, shouldn't we focus on elements for which there is, at least, some proof of efficacy that can withstand the rigors of scientific testing?

RevRon's Rants said...

Certainly, our primary focus should be upon those elements that stand up to current testing criteria. However, I think we'd be making a critical error if we altogether abandoned research into alternative treatments, as well as attempting to expand the scope of the research criteria by which we measure our results. Had the scientific community routinely discounted theories before they were effectively disproved, before their antitheses were formulated, or before we even understood the logic behind them, we would still be using leeches to treat internal bleeding. Again - as always - we need to balance what we know or believe against what might exist beyond the boundaries of that knowledge and those beliefs.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, I feel as if you and I have been down this road before. And I come back to my (probably too-familiar) question: Once you admit these fanciful "therapies" into the discussion, where do you draw the line? I think you'd be shocked to see how little formal evidence there is for the utility of even some of the most widely accepted CAM approaches (like, say, acupuncture).

If a place like Sloan-Kettering is willing to offer (and bill for) aromatherapy, then how can anyone say it's "wrong" for me to put out a shingle offering, say, my super-dooper-urine-therapy wherein I pour cat pee over your forehead and thereby drive out the evil spirits that are causing your unwellness?

RevRon's Rants said...

Yeah, we've gone down this road before, and I still posit that even as we strive for fullly quantifiable results and accountability, we needn't throw the baby out with the bath water. I think common sense would eliminate the vast majority of "woo" treatments out there. That same common sense should tell us we don't know everything - or even how to clearly establish what we don't know.

Had we adhered to a strict reliance upon the scientific method before applying treatments, we wouldn't have at our disposal many of the currently available treatments. Aspirin, for example, was on the market for nearly a century and alleviated immeasurable suffering before we had any clue as to why or how it worked.* The same applies to a multitude of drugs and procedures.

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* Fortunately, we discovered fairly quickly that another drug that was introduced by Bayer at the same time - heroin - had untoward effects that outweighed its therapeutic value in most cases.

RevRon's Rants said...

BTW - "Urine therapy" was not uncommon in combat. Lacking sterile water or saline solution for irrigating a potentially septic wound, fresh (human) urine was better than most available water sources.

Steve Salerno said...

Yeah, OK Ron, but when you go around dissing heroin, then we've got to part company for good... ;)

RevRon's Rants said...

Oh, there was a time... but I'll say no more.

Steve Salerno said...

Hey, I hear ya. Some years back in California, I fell into a terrible cycle of migraines/cluster headaches. The pain was just intractable, unremitting, which is not a good thing for someone who hopes to make his living by writing. I went to one of Cali's then-proliferating "pain specialists"--a guy who later lost his license, interestingly enough, for doing chelation therapy--and he put me on an "as-needed" regimen of Damason (hydrocodone + aspirin) and Valium. This went on for a while. The "as-needed" part became more and more of a factor in my daily routine. Then one day I realized I was actually looking forward to the headaches because they'd give me a reason to take the pills. Not good. So I stopped, and the headaches gradually abated (for the most part) on their own. But I tell ya...I can definitely see how people surrender their lives to that stuff.

Lena Phoenix said...

There have been three excellent books published recently on the efficacy (or rather, lack thereof) of CAM treatments:

Snake-Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine,

Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All, and

Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine.

The sad reality is that the copious amount of evidence showing the vast majority of CAM is nothing more than placebo has done little to diminish its popularity. Snake Oil Science does a particularly good job of explaining the cognitive biases that result in CAM often being given credit it does not deserve.

As compelling as Ron's personal anecdote about being healed of cancer by a CAM treatment may be, I know too many people who have experienced real harm from ignoring conventional treatment in favor of unproven alternatives, including one friend who seriously endangered his life by delaying chemo in favor of The Gerson Diet (currently being promoted in a movie entitled "The Beautiful Truth.") While he was busy juicing 14 times a day, his one small tumor grew into two large ones.

As the author of Suckers points out, when it comes to cancer, evidence really does matter. Those who promise cure through unsubstantiated CAM methods prey on the hopes and fears of desperate people in a way that makes conventional medicine look practically enlightened by comparison.

Steve Salerno said...

Thank you, Lena. And what a cool name...

RevRon's Rants said...

As I've said many times, I do not eschew conventional treatment for the majority of maladies from which humans suffer. By the same token, I think that discounting efforts to even research alternative treatments is both myopic and ultimately, foolish.

There has been significant research (by leading universities & medical schools) into the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of any number of disorders, primarily involving neurological and soft tissue trauma and disease, yet there are still those who refuse to even consider it anything but "voodoo." I acknowledge that there's a lot of bogus "medicine" being practiced out there, but would remind those who lump all non-traditional treatment methods together that virtually every scientific breakthrough has been founded in a quest for answers to questions that were beyond the understanding of the scientists of the time.

As it turns out, my acupuncturist / herbal physician has worked with a number of researchers and MD's at Baylor College of Medicine, who acknowledge that the "anecdotal" evidence obtained relative to some of the treatments he offers shows significant promise.

As to my cancer... 1) I was diagnosed by my longtime physician, an internist. 2) The only treatment I received was the herbal mixture I got from my alternative physician. 3) Spontaneous remission of melanoma is virtually unheard of. 4) Life expectancy for untreated melanoma is 5~7 years. 5) Melanoma has never been documented as responding to the placebo effect. 6) It's been 20 years since I was diagnosed. I don't care if someone calls it anecdotal, placebo, or junk science. The plain fact is that I am still alive, and have had no recurrence of the illness. Statistically, it would be highly unlikely for me to have lived this long after conventional treatment, much less, a treatment regimen that was nothing more than a placebo. It's therefore unlikely that anyone is going to convince me that the treatment I received - and which fits well within the boundaries so often derided as being "woo" medicine - was worthless.

And for the record, I do have fairly extensive medical training & experience.

Lena Phoenix said...

Ron,

I agree with you that promising treatments deserve quality research even if their mechanisms are not fully understood. Anecdotes such as yours are valuable sources of information that can lead to pilot studies, and promising pilot studies should lead to comprehensive, large scale, double blind, placebo controlled studies. This is happening with CAM on a number of different fronts, and I am glad to see that it is. But what the evidence from large trials conducted thus far repeatedly shows is that hardly any CAM treatments actually stand up to this kind of rigorous testing.

Yes, the world is a mysterious place and there is a lot we don't know about it. But if CAM modalities really work, that efficacy should be measurable even if we don't understand how they work. Once you move beyond the realm of pilot studies, however, the evidence for CAM efficacy just isn't there.

With regards to acupuncture, I know that there have been a lot of promising studies done pointing to efficacy for a number of different conditions. However, in the vast majority of cases, subsequent large-scale studies have repeatedly failed to validate these results. There is currently some weak evidence that acupuncture might be slightly more effective than a placebo for certain types of pain and nausea. In all other areas, however, the quality research has shown it simply does not work. Trick or Treatment has the most comprehensive and user-friendly analysis of the research on acupuncture that I have seen thus far.

I'm inclined to believe this research because it matches my own personal experience: I used to be a die-hard believer in CAM myself, yet treatment I received from five different acupuncturists had no effect on my own medical problems. I can also understand why your own experience would lead you to come to the opposite conclusion; of all CAM modalities, after all, herbs have by far shown the most promise and many traditional Chinese herbs are currently being researched by pharmaceutical companies as we speak—perhaps the herbs you took are among them. But since we do not yet know if your own experience is the exception or the rule, I think it's important to point out the risks of the all too human tendency to give more weight to personal anecdote than rigorous research.

Noadi said...

Ron, have you really considered that your doctor made a mistake? You say he was in family practice so not an expert on cancer and I assume since you didn't mention a biopsy that the diagnosis was made purely on visual examination. It very well could have just been something benign and healed on it's own. I'm not a doctor and I can think of a number of things other than cancer that can cause nasty sores.

I'm not totally opposed to what this hospital is doing. Yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy do have relaxing effects for people and yoga is good low impact exercise so they are probably effective in reducing the stress that cancer treatment causes. I think making patients comfortable and less stressed is a worthwhile goal especially with cancer treatment which is unpleasant and painful at best. Where it crosses the line is in the portrayal of these 'treatments' as having real effects on patient survival.

RevRon's Rants said...

Lena, I actually am in agreement with what you've said here, but would add a caveat: Too many of the research studies performed in this country are funded by organizations with a vested interest in a specific outcome, and the results themselves end up tainted by the association.

Our most recent experience was with the FDA hearings on the safety of breast implants. Plenty of "anecdotal" evidence was presented by individuals and physicians with first-hand knowledge of serious health effects, as well as with the exclusionary practices applied to data that supported their findings. On the other hand, every instance of testimony which claimed that implants were safe was delivered either by manufacturers' lobbyists or by plastic surgeons, both of whom, ironically, claimed to have no financial interest in the manufacturers. The fact that their livelihood was dependent upon approval was somehow overlooked. Ultimately, the hearing chairs recommendation was that silicone implants be freed from the moratorium that had been placed upon their manufacture.

My point here is that if we are to trust the results of research studies as being the arbiter of a given treatment's efficacy, those studies must be free of any bias, one way or the other. Such is clearly not the case nowadays. Methods must be absolutely transparent, freed from even the hint of external influence. When such integrity is standard practice, I might have more faith in a process that tells me a given treatment is or isn't viable.

Anonymous said...

Why are so many sophisticated college educated people so gullible when it comes to health and so-called "wellness"? These people would never fall for a scam where somebody sold them the BRooklyn Bridge, but when it comes to health care they buy the Brooklyn Bridge every day in effect by turning to all these quack therapies. What's at the root of this?

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, the phenomenon you reference has long been of interest to me. This applies very much in what I call the SHAMscape, too (which is one reason why I consider CAM very much an outgrowth of, or at least an ancillary to, self-help as a whole). It's not the dummies who fill up Tony Robbins seminars or (generally speaking) wait breathlessly for the next offering by Joe Vitale or Mark Victor Hansen. These constituencies are often highly educated, ultra-discerning people in all other aspects of their lives. But not in this aspect.

Anonymous said...

Well you're not answering my question, though. So what's at the root of this?

Lena Phoenix said...

Oh, gosh, Anon, where to begin? Snake Oil Science probably has the best discussion of this issue; it goes into great detail about how the combination of things like the placebo effect, the natural history of chronic pain, expectation bias, the Hawthorne effect, regression to the mean and logical errors like the post hoc fallacy can conspire to make a CAM treatment appear much more effective than it actually is.

Add to all that the fact that most of us aren't trained in how to read and interpret scientific studies, our brains seem designed to favor personal anecdote over abstract data, the media that should skeptically examine these claims often fails to do so, and then throw in a dose of good old fashioned wishful thinking, and it's not all that surprising that so many people find themselves led down the primrose path of CAM.

Anonymous said...

I apologize in advance for any ad hominum attacks that come about in my forthcoming rant - but I gotta ask Revron how he is comfortable walking into and purchasing Chinese herbs from a Chinese doctor when they prescribe and administer the following:

1. Illegal Endangered Rhino Horn
2. Shark Fin Cartilage- soon to be endangered from all the shark fin soup sold.
3. Bear Bile from tortured beasts
3. Tiger parts - also endangered

In fact you can read it all here:

http://advocacy.britannica.com/blog/advocacy/2007/10/traditional-chinese-medicine-and-endangered-animals/

And before you start telling me that thats not what your Dr gives you, I'll ask you how the f*&k do you know whats in the tincture or herbs you're taking. Even in the case that you don't receive them in your medicine, the money that you are paying him goes towards him purchasing those animal products for his deluded Chinese clients.

Its beyond disgusting and really makes me ill to see all this hippy new age zen like people happily going to their Chinese doctor oblivious to how he stands for everything they loathe. And on top of that - they really don't do anything.

G-d save us from the enlightenment!

Londoner

Steve Salerno said...

NOTE: This last (Londoner) was a close one. I am not comfortable with the tone and/or the way the arguments are presented. However, I think the specifics, and the compelling overall point of the argument, do merit consideration, and "redeem" the form. This is one of those where I may have made a mistake, and I ask people's forbearance in advance.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for allowing me to put my thoughts across Steve, I'll write it better next time.

Londoner

Steve Salerno said...

Londoner: It's not a question of "better." It's a question of the ad hominem factor, as you yourself recognized.

RevRon's Rants said...

Londoner - I won't go into the ad hominem aspects of your comment beyond stating that they were ill-informed and of questionable intent. My acupuncturist was not only trained as a physician - as well as an acupuncturist and herbalist - in China, his practice conforms to strict Buddhist guidelines. I was referred to him by a dear friend who is the abbot at a local Buddhist Temple I was privileged to build some years ago. In keeping with the dictates of both disciplines, he does not utilize *any* treatment that involves animal products.

Your allegations about my doctor - and about myself - are both over-reaching and incorrect. As to your characterization of all those "hippy new age zen like people," not to mention your blanket dismissal of therapy disciplines that predate Western medicine by several centuries, I would suggest that creation of a strawman that conforms to one's own perspective does little to forward reasoned discussion or better understanding.

I too am amazed at what a lot of people choose to believe, but am hesitant to summarily categorize everyone.

RevRon's Rants said...

Noadi - My family doctor was an internist (internal medicine) who was quite well-known locally and a highly respected diagnostician. As a matter of fact, it was he who was first to correctly diagnose my father's cancer. And while there are any number of pathologies that can manifest as skin lesions, the appearance and progression of a melanoma is pretty unique. After his diagnosis, I did significant research myself, as I expect most people would do. I wanted very much for it to be something else, but found nothing but confirmation of his diagnosis.

Look, everyone... I have no interest in "converting" anyone to anything. All I ask is that others at least consider that there just might be things that we don't know about or understand, and to not be quite so quick to deride people whose experiences and understanding don't mirror our own. Broad-stroke dismissals and ad-hominem attacks speak much more about the issuer than about the target. Just a thought...

Steve Salerno said...

I remain skeptical of the Eastern healing arts--as one would expect, given that a similar mentality underlies much of SHAM, especially its "New Wage" wing. I do think, however, that Ron's reply perfectly illustrates the duality in approach that I've been trying to emphasize on this blog since forever. It is possible to attack the idea without attacking the person who subscribes to the idea. Or at least, it should be.

Otherwise we all devolve into the realm of Al Qaeda: "Believe what I believe, or you are the devil."

Anonymous said...

Revron

I apologize for my less than normal restraint however I can get very passionate on my pulpit when I'm speaking about anything to do with animals - its my achilles heel - but I will endeavour in the future to get my point across without having to attack anyone.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is something that is practiced now world wide and I am sure that if I had to ask any person going to an acupuncturist/herbalist they would tell me that there's doesn't use any animal products as noone wants to contemplate the horror. Even here in the UK its actually illegal nevertheless:

http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/chinese-medicine.html

I think the main reason that it continues is because the original medicines prescribed by the herbalists were animal based and deemed powerful. What happens now is that herbalists have to substitute more moral alternatives however it is always seen as "not as good as" which is why native Asians always want the real thing. So you have a whole system of medicine based on meaningless cruelty.

Therefore it pains me when people advertise and refer their friends to Chinese medicine as I believe it supports this disgusting market.

As we have discussed before on SHAM - just because something is ancient does not mean that its clever and pretending that this doesn't exist will not make it go away. The only way to stop it is to educate people - as I tried to do before.

RevRon's Rants said...

Londoner, I am in perfect agreement with you in your disdain for anything that involves inhumane treatment of animals (or humans, for that matter!)*. While there are certainly a significant number of Eastern practitioners who utilize treatments that are animal-based, trained physicians, such as mine, completely eschew such products. To lump him and those who adopt similar ethics with what his peers consider little better than witch doctor-y is ill-informed and unfair.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to consider that some people like myself who make choices different than your own just might have researched their subject as as carefully and objectively as (perhaps more than) you have in reaching your perspective. Deriding others, whether by outright ad hominem attacks or through more subtle (but no less offensive) dismissal serves only to eliminate the opportunity for either party to learn anything. If one's mind is completely made up on a topic, of course, learning ceases being a goal. If that is the case, it is probably worthwhile to attempt to understand the real goal of one's participation in the discussion.

--------------
* - It should be noted that the inhumane treatment of animals is practiced to a significantly greater degree in the development of cosmetics and "mainstream" medical treatments than it is in Eastern practices.

Anonymous said...

Revron, now you're saying your thinking is better then my thinking - which is no better then my ad hominim rant which got you upset in the first place.

I'll agree to think about the concept that there may be herbalists that eschew the use of animal products if you agree the concept that there are just as many that do use animal products and therefore without the advantage of an intimate relationship with the herbalist which you are fortunate to have - it is likely that if you were to go to a herbalist you would unknowingly support trade in endangered and tortured animals.
And that is why promoting the use of herbalists without this caveat emptor may offend.

And then lets move on to other debates on the SHAMscape.

PS - I never use cosmetics tested or made using animal products & I'm a vegetarian - in case anyone is interested

Elizabeth said...

It should be noted that the inhumane treatment of animals is practiced to a significantly greater degree in the development of cosmetics and "mainstream" medical treatments than it is in Eastern practices.

This is an excellent and important point, Rev. Practically all pharmaceutical products are tested on animals who are treated with stunning cruelty in the process. The distinction here between Eastern and Western approaches to medicine, in this particular respect, does not have a leg to stand on.

I have tried to stay away from this discussion, for I have nothing more to add to what's been already said; I do have to say, however, that I side with Rev in my attitude. This may have something to do with growing up in the socialist Poland, where healthcare was not-for-profit and doctors (with first-class education) freely prescribed (and still do) herbal concoctions in addition to pharmaceuticals. In Polish pharmacies, "hard" drugs stand on shelves next to various herbs and it raises no eyebrows (or hackles). We all learn growing up what works for what malady, so we can use over-the-counter herbs at home before we resort to drugs. (Though I have to admit I have never heard of treating cancer with herbs.)

Speaking of cancer, however, and the discounted anecdotal evidence, my friend's 7-year-old daughter passed away at the end of September after a two-year (horrific) battle with cancer. At the end of her life she was so ravaged with drugs that her docs, at Children's Memorial in Chicago, could no longer administer pain medication. Instead, they suggested to parents that they try acupuncture. They did, and it worked, bringing much needed relief and peace to the last days of the child's life.

The vehemence with which various forms of CAM are treated in the US strikes me as unreasonable and irrational (yes). And it suggests, to me, that there are other factors involved in the opposition to CAM, factors that have nothing to do with rationality but much with political turf wars. Which is not surprising in a system where healthcare is a for-profit enterprise. I would bet my arm and leg that if we had a single-payer system here, CAM would be met with less opposition and more real efforts to study and understand it.

Last, but not least, happy and healthy Thanksgiving to all.

And should you overindulge and develop digestive difficulties, I recommend mint tea (and a strong mint-based stomach tincture, which, unfortunately, you cannot get in your local pharmacy. Oh, well. Stick to Pepto-Bismol then.:)

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, two wrongs don't make a right and I think the cruelty should end in both.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all

Londoner

Elizabeth said...

two wrongs don't make a right and I think the cruelty should end in both.

I wholeheartedly agree, L.

Elizabeth said...

Sorry, my last post went out "clipped." It should have read:

two wrongs don't make a right and I think the cruelty should end in both.

I wholeheartedly agree, L.

But does it mean that you eschew modern medicine and pharmaceuticals, the way you suggested Rev should, because it abuses animals?

RevRon's Rants said...

"you're saying your thinking is better then my thinking - which is no better then my ad hominim rant which got you upset in the first place..."

Just so you'll know, anon, I am not upset. Just wanted to point out that your assumption was inaccurate, since you dismissed an entire segment of medicine, based upon incomplete knowledge. If you'll re-read my comments, I did not feel the need to attack you as a person, nor did I belittle your integrity and intelligence. And that is where the difference between our comments lies.

I support open-mindedness, tempered by the willingness to research and learn about something before passing judgment. In so doing, I do not in any way support the barbaric practices you describe as being pretty universally practiced by Eastern physicians. And if someone is willing to accept someone else's viewpoint (mine included) without seeking out and considering alternative viewpoints, I can assume no responsibility for what is quite frankly intellectual laziness.

"PS - I never use cosmetics tested or made using animal products & I'm a vegetarian..."

Are we to assume that you also own no shoes, belts, or other items made of leather, and that you completely eschew taking any pharmaceuticals, both over the counter and prescription? Or that you never submit to medical or surgical procedures of any kind? Because if you avail yourself of any of these, it makes you a willing participant in the very animal abuses you condemn.

It is far too easy to pass judgment on others, and to assume that they fit within one's neatly constructed - if inaccurate - description. "The only way to stop it is to educate people - as I tried to do before."

Elizabeth said...

I just want to mention that Ron and I have not consulted each other before writing our last posts. :)