Thursday, June 16, 2011

Allopathy vs. Naturopathy: Medicine's Culture Wars

All of us have gone to the doctor at one point or another in our lives, hopefully more infrequently than frequently. Western medicine or allopathy inspires and encourages us to imbibe of the waters of its fountain of disease interventions heavily enriched with the nutrients of surgery, pharmacology and technology (medical devices). On the other hand,

"Naturopathic medicine is based on the belief that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) teach their patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies’ ability to ward off and combat disease. NDs view the patient as a complex, interrelated system (a whole person), not as a clogged artery or a tumor. Naturopathic physicians craft comprehensive treatment plans that blend the best of modern medical science and traditional natural medical approaches to not only treat disease, but to also restore health. " (website)

Both allopaths and naturopaths take the following oath: which has been translated briefly as, "First, do no harm." We have all heard horror stories about doctors in the name of allopathy killing, poisoning, maiming and torturing their patients; medical malpractice insurance premiums attest to this sad fact. Naturopaths call upon our body's own vast healing powers, after they identify and treat the causes, not the symptoms of disease; the treatment is the antithesis of Big Pharma, surgery and technology, relying on diet, exercise, treating the whole person, removing the barriers to self-healing, customizing diagnosis, educating and retraining the patient toward health, and much more.  But in a medical emergency, any one of us would be thrilled to receive the high powered care offered by allopaths, not naturopaths. Clearly, both fields are vital to enhancing what we know and understand about the human body, which at this point is considerable, but probably a thimbleful in comparison to what will be known and discovered about humanity three hundred years from now, if we have not offed ourselves before then.

The medicine studied by naturopaths is as rigorous as that studied by allopaths in the first four years of graduate level medical school curricula.  Naturopath curricula factors in additional components rarely found in allopathy. In the next four years, the curriculum orientation toward healing is vastly different    from allopathic medicine which focuses on interventions related to alleviating disease symptoms.

Both branches of medicine take up this oath of morality and ethics, penned in 1964 by a preeminent doctor, a former Principal of the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences and Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University. Many medical schools have their graduated doctors swear to this. You already know it, but maybe not in its entirety; and sometimes it's good to review the ethics.

                                                        Hippocratic Oath

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Now, aren't you glad you read this?

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