What is Scientific and Proven Alternative Medicine : It’s time for conventional medical professionals to prove the science behind their treatments by demonstrating successful, non-toxic and affordable patient outcomes.
It’s time to revisit the scientific method for dealing with the complexities of alternative medicine.
The US government has belatedly confirmed the fact that millions of Americans have known for decades – acupuncture works. A panel of 12 “experts” told the National Institutes of Health (NIH), its sponsor, that acupuncture is “highly effective” for treating certain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, tennis elbow, pain after dental surgery, nausea during pregnancy, and nausea. and vomit. associated with chemotherapy.
The panel is less convinced that acupuncture is appropriate as the sole treatment for headaches, asthma, addiction, menstrual cramps, etc.
The NIH panel said that, “there have been a number of cases” in which acupuncture was successful. Because this treatment has fewer side effects and is less invasive than conventional treatment, “it’s time to take it seriously” and “expand its use to conventional medicine.”
This development is certainly welcome, and the alternative medicine field should be pleased with this progressive move.
But underlying the NIH’s support and qualified “legitimacy” of acupuncture is a deeper issue that must be uncovered – a presumption so ingrained in our society that it is almost invisible to all but the most discerning eye.
The assumption is that these medical “experts” are entitled and qualified to provide an assessment of the scientific and therapeutic benefits of alternative medicine modalities.
They do not.
The problem hinges on the definition and scope of the term “scientific.” The news is full of complaints from medical experts who consider alternative medicine to be unscientific and unproven. Yet we never hear of these experts taking a moment from their slurs to examine the principles and assumptions of the scientific method they value to see if they are valid.
Again, they don’t.
Medical historian Harris L. Coulter, Ph.D., author of a four-volume history of Western medicine called Divided Legacy, first reminded me of an important, though unrecognizable, distinction. The question we must ask is whether conventional medicine is scientific. Dr Coulter argues convincingly that is not true.
Over the past 2,500 years, Western medicine has been divided by strong differences between two opposing views of physiology, health, and healing, says Dr. Coulter. What we now call conventional medicine (or allopathy) was once known as Rationalist medicine; alternative medicine, in the history of Dr. Coulter, called empiric medicine. Rationalist medicine is based on reason and prevailing theory, whereas empirical medicine is based on observed facts and real-life experience – on what works.
Dr Coulter made some surprising observations based on this difference. Conventional medicine is foreign, both in spirit and in structure, to the method of scientific inquiry, he said. The concept is constantly changing with the latest breakthroughs. Yesterday, it was germ theory; today, it’s genetics; tomorrow, who knows?
With every change in fashion in medical thinking, conventional medicine must discard outdated orthodoxy and impose new ones, until they are changed again. This is medicine based on abstract theory; body facts must be wrinkled to fit these theories or be rendered irrelevant.
These doctors of persuasion accepted the dogmas of faith and imposed them on their patients, until proven wrong or dangerous by the next generation. They get carried away by abstract ideas and forget the living patients. Consequently, diagnosis is not directly related to cure; the link is more a matter of conjecture than science.
This approach, said Dr. Coulter, “is inherently imprecise, approximate, and unstable—this is dogma of authority, not science.” Even if an approach barely works at all, it’s still noteworthy because the theory says it’s good “science”.
On the other hand, practitioners of empirical, or alternative medicine, do their homework: they study individual patients; determine all contributing causes; pay attention to all the symptoms; and observe treatment results.
Homeopathy and Chinese medicine are prime examples of this approach. Both modalities may be added as physicians in these and other alternative practices are constantly seeking new information based on their clinical experience.
This is what empirical means: grounded in experience, then continually tested and refined – but not reinvented or discarded – through the everyday practice of doctors with actual patients. For this reason, homeopathic remedies have not become obsolete; acupuncture treatment strategies do not become irrelevant.
Alternative medicine is proven every day in the clinical experience of doctors and patients. It was proven ten years ago and will still be proven ten years from now. According to Dr. Coulter, alternative medicine is more scientific in the true sense than Western, so-called scientific medicine.
Unfortunately, what we all too often see in conventional medicine are drugs or procedures that are “proven” effective and accepted by the FDA and other regulatory agencies only to be revoked years later when they prove to be toxic, ineffective, or lethal. .
The vanity of conventional medicine and its “science” is that substances and procedures must pass double-blind studies to prove effective. But is the double-blind method the most appropriate way to become scientific about alternative medicine? Not that.
The scientific guidelines and boundaries should be revised to cover the subtleties and clinical complexities that alternative medicine reveals. As a testing method, double-blind studies examine a single substance or procedure under isolated and controlled conditions and measure the results against an inactive or empty procedure or substance (called a placebo) to ensure that no subjective factors get in the way.
This approach is based on the assumption that single factors cause and reverse disease, and that these can be studied on their own, out of context and in isolation.
Double-blind studies, although taken without critical examination as the gold standard of modern science, are actually misleading, even useless, when used to study alternative medicine. We know that no single factor causes anything, nor is there a “magic bullet” capable of reversing conditions alone. Various factors contribute to the emergence of disease and various modalities must work together to produce a cure.
Equally important is understanding that a variety of causes and cures occur in individual patients, no two of which are alike in psychology, family medical history, and biochemistry. Two men, both 35 years old and having the same flu symptoms, do not necessarily and automatically have the same health conditions, nor should they receive the same treatment. They may, but you can’t count on them.
The double-blind method cannot accommodate this level of medical complexity and variety, but it is a physiological fact of life. Any approach that claims to be scientific that has to exclude this much empirical and real-life data from its studies is clearly not true science.
In a deep sense, double-blind methods cannot prove effective alternative medicine because they are not scientific enough. It is neither broad nor subtle and complex enough to encompass the clinical realities of alternative medicine.
If you rely on double-blind studies to validate alternative medicine, you will be double-blind about the reality of treatment.
Listen carefully when you hear medical “experts” whine that a substance or method has not been evaluated “scientifically” in double-blind studies and therefore has not been “proven” to be effective. They are just trying to mislead and intimidate you. Ask them how much “scientific” evidence there is for using chemotherapy and radiation for cancer or angioplasty for heart disease. In fact, it’s very little.
Try turning things around. Experts demand that they scientifically prove the efficacy of some of their dairy cows, such as chemotherapy and radiation for cancer, angioplasty and bypass for heart disease, or hysterectomy for uterine problems. Its efficacy has not been proven because it cannot be proven.
Practitioners and consumers of alternative medicine don’t have to wait like hat-in-hand petitioners for conventional medicine scientific “experts” to hand out some derogatory snippet of official approval for alternative approaches.
Instead, smart citizens should demand that these experts prove the science behind their treatments by demonstrating successful, non-toxic and affordable patient outcomes. If they cannot, this approach should be rejected as unscientific. After all, the proof is in the cure.