To me the so-called ‘debate’ about the acceptability of the presence of CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) in society and its availability on the NHS belongs much more in the paradigm of political philosophy than it does in science.
It is also clear to me that many of those who deplore CAM are much more concerned with the affront it makes to their ideologies – namely scientism and statism – than they are with the health of the nation or what sort of medicine the people want for themselves.
CAM’s detractors are fond of criticizing the Government for upholding the public’s right to choose CAM and to receive it on the NHS and are often bitterly disappointed when successive Governments repeatedly favour personal choice for patients and doctors’ discretion about treatments, capsule over their draconian recommendations to ban any medical interventions with which they (the detractors) do not agree.
The Enlightenment is often cited as the point at which humanity finally learned to use reason to trump ignorance, unhealthy superstition and other errors. Somewhat ironically its heyday was in the mid 18th Century, the time of birth of the founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann.
I have mentioned the name of my late mentor Eric Karl Ledermann on these pages before. After qualifying as a doctor in Berlin, Ledermann fled the Nazis in 1933, requalified as a doctor in Edinburgh and went on to become a holistic doctor, a psychiatrist and medical philosopher who espoused a whole person philosophy in physical medicine and an ethos in existential psychiatry which stated that ‘the goal of psychotherapy is to make the unconscious conscience of the patient conscious.’
His classic text, Philosophy and Medicine, begins with his appreciation of the great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant. His views are rooted in logic and philosophic precedent and he could not have been further removed from the crackpot profile of a practitioner of CAM so often cited by the opponents of whole person orienated methodologies in medicine.
It is a pity in these modern days of very limited attention span, that few people have either the patience or the time for philosophy of medicine but retain the mouth for voicing highly opinionated and biased political ideology on healthcare in medicine. More can be read about the remarkable Dr Ledermann on his website, in a transcription of an interview I conducted with him here and in his obituary in The Times in 2005.