the human atmosphere

The Human "Aura"

“I didn’t want my body to be opened…I didn’t want to be violated in that way.”

–  Steve Jobs on his decision to pursue alternative treatment

I just read an article which claims that Steve Jobs regretted his decision to undergo alternative medicine treatment for his pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, which resulted in his death a few weeks ago.  According to Walter Isaacson, who has written a biography on Steve Jobs, by the time the former Apple CEO made a decision to discontinue alternative treatments, the tumor in his pancreas had already spread to surrounding areas.  Thus, from a supposedly good prognosis, his condition deteriorated and proved to be fatal.

The relatively new revolution called Alternative Medicine  has evolved over the past few years.  Just like Steve Jobs, there are individuals who opt to try alternative treatments to cure common and not so common illnesses.  The claim of alternative medicine practitioners is that it is safe and it works. While most people accept that conventional medicine is essential for emergency treatments, some sectors believe mainstream treatment is less effective when it comes to disease prevention, chronic disease management, and even in cancer therapy. These are the realms where alternative medicine is usually practiced, and it has supposedly earned millions of dollars for its business proponents.  In fact, a number of large tertiary hospitals, both public and private, have started to offer alternative medicine services.

So how does alternative medicine claim to differ from allopathic or conventional medicine?

First, alternative medicine practitioners claim that their practice is more holistic, treating patients as a whole individual instead of breaking them down into organ systems.  According to them, too much specialization has crept into allophathic medicine practitioners.

Secondly, alternative medicine says that it is less aggressive in treating disease, which means that it does no rely on a “quick fix” approach.  They claim to rely on more gentle modalities, and allow the body to heal on its own.

Third, some sectors maintain that allopathic medicine is based on too many strict rules.  To some, it seems as if the guidelines of allopathic medicine practitioners cannot be violated or interpreted in any other way, for fear of malpractice suits.

Fourth is the assertion that conventional medicine seemingly views the body as a machine, and most disorders are best treated with drugs. Alternative medicine claims to assert that the body is “a network of channels” involving simple energy transfer mechanisms. Impediments in the flow of energy through these channels lead to ailments, and the goal of the healer is to remove these impediments or “energy flow blockers”.

Lastly, alternative medicine alleges that it is more open to participative and coordinated treatment with patients, while conventional medicine is more paternalistic in approach, with patient opinions not listened to or dismissed as unscientific.

How do we resolve these differences in mind-set?  The key is to incorporate the best characteristics of alternative and allopathic medicine in order to enhance health care.  The ability to establish scientific evidence is a strength of allopathic medicine, but some of its practitioners truly pale in comparison to alternative medicine proponents in terms of patient interaction – the “art” of medicine, so to speak.  By combining the science and art of medical management, incorporating both ideologies into the education of future physicians, an integrated and complementary approach would benefit everyone.  Alternative treatments must be researched in order to establish their effectivity through evidence-based studies.  In turn, conventional medicine practitioners must see the whole person and be more  open to conversation to establish a more trusting relationship with patients and their families.




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