New from Dr. Kaplan

Generalising about CAM is misleading

An article in the Guardian  makes some unfair generalisations about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) but also makes one very good point.

The author is an Australian oncologist called Ranjana Srivastrana. Oncologists or physicians specialising in cancer do not have easy jobs. Having worked in an oncology ward myself, I know the sadness of seeing new empty beds each morning. Nevertheless her general attack on CAM is hopelessly biased. Whole person medicine and CAM are not about ripping patients off and forcing them to spend thousands of pounds on supplements. There may be some unscrupulous practitioners (and doctors)  who do this, but in general my experience of non-doctor CAM practitioners is that they are caring people who appreciate patients as whole people and generally work hard to make a modest living.

Whole Person Medicine should always include orthodox medicine and this means anti-cancer drugs too. A whole person programme for a patient with cancer can easily involve radiotherapy, chemotherapy as well as CAM techniques such as Autogenic Training (for profound relaxation), homeopathy, acupuncture and creative visualisation. Many patient intuitively sense this and that is why Dr Srivastrana’s patients ask her the questions that so frustrate her. She should read Bernie Siegel’s book Love, Medicine and Miracles in which the author, a surgeon, beautifully illustrates a whole person approach to cancer which of course does not exclude the tools of the oncologist, but harnesses the power of the mind of the patient in the therapeutic process.

Srivastrana does make a very important in that she notes doctors and alternative practitioners seldom talk to each other and many doctors don’t understand CAM at all. In the era of instant communication, this should not be difficult to remedy. Some CAM practitioners spend many hours talking to their patients and the doctors of those patients may learn a lot by making a quick call. As that old BT ad said: ‘It’s good to talk.’

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