Skeptic News: British Columbia embraces TCM

images (4)From: Vancouver Sun

Exactly one week after Surrey Memorial Hospital sprung a leak for the second time, Premier Christy Clark promised in her throne speech her government would work “to create the environment for” a school of traditional Chinese medicine at a post-secondary institution.

In the section entitled “Health Care and Innovation,” the speech stated:

“An innovative health care system must respond to the changing needs of its citizens and embrace practices beyond traditional western medicine.”

An ancient Asian system of medicine based on dubious and folkloric treatments is suddenly innovative, while “western” medicine, the progress of which has been based solely on the application of rigorous scientific evidence, is suddenly “traditional.” More than just Surrey Memorial is all wet in this government’s management of health care.

B.C. is a hotbed of alternative medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine has lots of company here — naturopathy, reiki, homeopathy, herbal remedies. It’s not uncommon for patients, especially cancer patients, to complement their regimen of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with alternative treatments.

The author of the above goes on to state that he supports the right of patients to choose whatever healthcare they wish but opposes the tax-payer funding of nonsense. It is worth a read.

The trend for politicians to reject science and evidence in favour of anecdote and woo is worrying. Particularly in the field of healthcare where one might hope evidence based policy held sway.

It seems politicians are happy to throw money at any old nonsense if they think it will win them votes.

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One Response to Skeptic News: British Columbia embraces TCM

  1. Peter Maxwell says:

    The trend for politicians to reject science and evidence in favour of anecdote and woo is worrying. Particularly in the field of healthcare where one might hope evidence based policy held sway.

    It seems politicians are happy to throw money at any old nonsense if they think it will win them votes.

    This sort of article, I find somewhat disappointing: if there is to be stark criticism of “alternative medicine” on the basis of poor science and tax-payer funding then why do the current medicines approval processes escape unscathed? Surely the suppression of negative results by drugs companies would be cause for concern? Does bullying of academics, selective funding and designing studies for a desired outcome to achieve what are often marginal positive results not cause for alarm? This is before we consider issues such as longitudinal problems of medicines that are not shown in most studies and the extending of profits by marketing stereoisomers of drugs that have no proven additional benefit.

    There is research to support certain herbal medicines for specific uses; I suspect if more studies were funded, there would obviously be more data. However, the author of the article seems to adopt a reductionist view that all alternative medicine is somehow nonsense. Remember, many of our modern day pharmaceuticals either started off or are direct extracts from plants/bacterium/fungi, e.g. Opiods, Atropine, Digoxin, Nystatin, Valproate, etc.

    If there are to be complaints about the safety of alternative medicines already in use – e.g. with drug interactions – then one of the more prudent moves is to require qualifications to be able to practice. In that sense a degree qualification is a good start. One will train a GP, psychiatrist, nurse, etc without regard to specific drugs; so why should herbalists or TCM practitioners not be trained, unless you tacitly assume all of the field is nonsense?

    Evidence based medicine is great in concept but not always entirely possible in reality and the same standards must be held across the board.

    The one thing I do possibly agree with are definitions: “traditional Western medicine” is essentially herbal medicine, I’d use the term “modern medicine” to refer to the type of care we’d normally get from a hospital or doctors’ surgery.

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