Re: [GreenLeft_discussion] Carl Kenner's reply re Vietnam and Traditional Medicine
Re: [GreenLeft_discussion] Carl Kenner's reply re VietnamMike Karadjis:
I agree with him on the distinction he makes below
regarding different types of what are often classed together
as 'traditional' or 'alternative' medicine.No Mike, this distinction is arbitrary. For a sensible discussion of this whole area one must be clear about the differences between, for example, western herbalism, naturopathy, homeopathy, tactile therapies, traditional Chinese medicine, Indian Ayervedic medicine etc. Some of these would justifiably be called "traditional", but all of them would commonly be thought of in Western countries as "alternative", including those with a lot of proven clinical efficacy such as herbalism, TCM and tactile therapies (not all aspects of which could sensibly be called "traditional") . This is the sense that Socialist Alliance correctly supports the extension of Medicare to "alternative therapies" (and implicitly, though I think it should be explicit, public employment of "alternative" therapists at SA's proposed Community Health Centres - see the policy at http://www.socialist-alliance.org/page.php?page=191 ). It's not the best term to use but it's also completely wrong to assign to this term whatever one considers quackery.I might put the real distinction as between "orthodox, natural and complementary therapies that can improve health and well-being" and "useless and/or dangerous quackery". The latter includes poorly tested or inappropriately prescribed drugs regularly pushed by pharmaceutical corporations and lazier and/or greedier GPs. This distinction shouldn't be seen as too rigid as in between they'd be therapies like homeopathy which has no clinical "proof" (and also very few clinical trials, and no actual "dis-proof") but has a lot of empirical and anecdotal supporting evidence, and is in any case harmless.Carl Krenner has launched a highly ignorant attack on natural therapies in the SA discussion bulletin, which my partner (who's got a degree and commencing a master's in this area) and I will hopefully respond to in the few days remaining for the SA pre-conference discussion. In these contributions he makes no distinctions, as he seems to have discovered more recently with regard to Vietnam, between "traditional" and "alternative", as he criticises, with utter ignorance, Cuba's huge advances in natural medicines (consisting of or derived from traditional herbal remedies).The main political point is that there should be democratic public control of all aspects of health. BTW the herbalists' association to which my partner belongs is strongly in favour of tighter public regulation of "alternative" therapies.The Australian Greens have a useful section on "Complementary and Alternative Health Care" in their health policy http://www.greens.org.au/policies/services/health .
- Hi All
Yes I wanted to speak in favour of Nick here and I'd be interested in
seeing further comments. I have no particular brief to defend
alternative medicine of any particular kind but I was a bit stunned by
Carl's comments in the SA bulletin - that this and that alternative
therapy was based on the "stupid idea" that so and so is...
Allopathic (what Carl labels "modern") medicine is based on the
'stupid idea'that disease originates in the tissues of the body is
caused by a pathogen in the body and thus can be "cured" by some drug
that kills the pathogen or by removing the effected part. This form of
medicine is the dominant one precisely because it best serves the
interest of capital in individualising social problems and profiting
from drug therapies and invasive surgery. Of course this form of
medicine is an enourmously powerful tool especially in a crisis
situation but for much of what ails us in the West the solutions are
social and invasive therapies are not very useful. The completely
uncritical defence of medical "science" (and by extension, the
multinationals that back it seems extraordinary to me in a "modern"
----- Original Message -----
From: Nick Fredman
>>I agree with him on the distinction he makes below
>>regarding different types of what are often classed together
>>as 'traditional' or 'alternative' medicine.
>No Mike, this distinction is arbitrary.
I think you may have misunderstood Nick. I was not making a distinction
between 'traditional' and 'alternative' medicine, I was simply using those
two terms interchangeably (whether or not that's corrrect I leave to the
experts), and I said I agreed with the distinction Kenner made, in his reply
attached, between "different types" of such things, ie the distinction he
made, in Vietnam, between things such as balckening of teeth on one hand,
and the quack healer with the eggs, on the other. I'm sorry, I do not
believe that the "healer" with the eggs performed any kind of surgery. That
doesn't mean he didn't perhaps perform something useful psychologically in
the circumstances, but I would still make the distinction.
The point of my original post was precisely to defend traditional medicine,
and use VN as an example. As I pointed out to carl in my own reply, I know
people who have survived 17 years with serious cancers (with which they only
had "a few months to live") by eating nothing but raw sesame and brown rice.
To them this is very material. Sesame, after all, is also excellent for
producing breast milk in mothers, so why not. I've seen considerably less
success with highly invasive radiotherapy and chemotherapy. That doesn't
mean i would have the confidence to advise someone to do one and not the
other when it was a matter of life and death, as I'm not a doctor (though I
know which I prefer), just that I find such natural therapies to be entirely
within the bounds of materialism (unlike the faith healer with the eggs)
Nick is quite right that Carl's resolution is too sweeping precisely because
it allows no such distinctions, and I wasn't indicating any support to it.
Further, even if you tried to word it so that a distinction was made, the
result would be highly arbitrary and virtually meaningless without an
individual study of every alternative therapy in the world.
I also very strongly agree with what Shane says about the pharmaceutical
industry, I think it is impossible to be making any sure and certain
statements about any alternative therapies in the context of the domination
of the world market by Big Pharma who have an obvious vested interest in
pushing the most expensive and invasive types of medical treatment, and I
agree with Nick that therefore quack therapy should not only be seen as
covering 'alternative' quacks but also very much 'conventional therapy'
quacks and drug-pushers. In fact I was once so strongly convinced that Big
Pharma was the root of all evil that I had some sympathy for the HIV-
revisionism that people like Mbeki supports - this has clealry turned out to
be wrong, and acting on a hunch as Mbeki did was obviously catastrophically
wrong, but I still see nothing wrong with the fact that some scientists did
question remedies based on highly expensive drugs.
I also have strong qualms about things like fluoridation in Carl's
resolution, and don't agree with what Carl said about chiropractors, abaout
the only thing I agree with entirely is vaccination (and I don't agree
with "parents' right to decide", despite the fact that my sister is one of
I cannot imagine a socialist health policy without the inclusion
of 'traditional' or 'alternative' therapies or whatever you want to call
them, alongside 'conventional' or whatever therapy, but we shouldn't go
around deluding ourselves that there may not be just as many quacks in one
branch as in the other.
- Mike K:
>I think you may have misunderstood Nick. I was not making a distinctionattached, between "different types" of such things,
>between 'traditional' and 'alternative' medicine, I was simply using those
>two terms interchangeably (whether or not that's corrrect I leave to the
>experts), and I said I agreed with the distinction Kenner made, in his reply
Yes I misunderstood *you* Mike, as I think from the above and your
previous post you agree that the real distinction is between
effective and ineffective (and/or dangerous) medicine. However Carl
>There is nothing inherently wrong with this constitution. CombiningWhich is an entirely incorrect, in fact meaningless, distinction.
>"traditional medicine and pharmacology" with modern medicine does not
>mean support for alternative medicine or a rejection of medical
There are various natural and complementary therapies. How effective
each is (or different aspects of each) doesn't have a necessary
relationship to how "traditional" they are.
>This form of medicine ["orthodox", allopathic] is the dominant oneI agree entirely. The answer isn't lassaire faire market in medicine,
>precisely because it best serves the
>interest of capital in individualising social problems and profiting
>from drug therapies and invasive surgery. Of course this form of
>medicine is an enourmously powerful tool especially in a crisis
>situation but for much of what ails us in the West the solutions are
>social and invasive therapies are not very useful.
or blanket subsidies for (via Medicare) or socialisation of (via
salaried practitioners in public community health centres) any old
form of treatment someone's done a weekend course in, but a truly
scientific approach to all the historically constituted forms of
medicine, with a long-term aim of integrating the best features of
them. This is far more rational than an idealist fetishisation of
what's currently accepted by a "medical science" dominated by
corporate capitalism. I think the Greens policy is pretty good but
maybe assumes the continuation of a market in medicine more than a
socialist policy should.
A good example of the current state is how the AMA is demanding that
there members can get Medicare rebates for acupuncture (a therapy
with a lot of clinical support), as long as they're done a weekend
course, while people who've done a 5 year degree in traditional
Chinese medicine shouldn't get get a rebate. This has nothing to do
with scientific rationality, everything to do with greed and
defending doctor's caste monopoly.
Kath and I plan write something fairly brief on these points, and
some sensible policy, for the SA bulletin, and maybe something more
substantial later with more references etc for Seeing Red.
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