I came across an article written by Vik Adhopia on the CBC Health website page. The article was titled “Evidence or not: alternative health makes inroads into public system”. A major premise of this article appeared to be to share a perspective that there is a lack of research in existence to support the efficacy of alternative medical treatments for Canadian citizens. There are often greatly differing views between the allopathic and naturopathic medical communities, such as with the outspoken critic of alternative medicine Dr. Christopher Labos, who is a practicing cardiologist and epidemiologist that strongly believes that most alternative therapies are “little more than a placebo effect”. However, differing perspectives also occur from allopathic medicine itself. For instance, the vice-president of medical affairs at the Brampton Civic Hospital, Naveed Mohammad, believe that medical doctors should be practicing alongside naturopathic physicians – they should not be shunned from the allopathic medical community. Does promoting alternative health practices hurt science-based medicine? Although there is no consensus on this within the medical community, the author ends the article by quoting Dr. Labos in saying “People get into medicine to make patients feel better”…the problem is, by legitimizing stuff that doesn’t work, you then dilute your own credibility”.
Now, although there is not a great deal of evidence supporting the effectiveness of alternative therapies beyond the placebo effect, does this mean that people should not have the ability to obtain these treatments? If there are massive amounts of people from all over the world that continue to use traditional and alternative medical treatment options with perceived “positive effects”, would this not provide a legitimacy for these treatment options? At what point does the medical community stand to say, “this is an effective treatment option” instead of “the positive outcomes observed from this treatment option are purely due to a placebo effect”?
I believe it is very important for Canadian adults to have the freedom to explore alternative health options, regardless of the current literature that supports the effectiveness of these health therapies. This becomes especially important when there are patients suffering with particularly debilitating and painful conditions (including any sort of terminal illness), since there may not be any particularly effective treatment options available in the realm of allopathic medicine. Alternative medicine clinics often contain many forms of therapy – ranging from scientifically-backed treatments for certain conditions such as psychotherapy and yoga, to less evidence-based treatments like acupuncture and reiki. By labelling alternative medicine as an illegitimate field within healthcare, you run the risk mislabeling effective treatment options as ineffective. But, even more importantly, you totally undermine the legitimate opinions of patients that perceive a true therapeutic outcome after these treatments.
Ultimately, I believe it is of the upmost importance to respect the patient autonomy that competent adults deserve when deciding on medical treatments for themselves. Mainstream science should work openly alongside with alternative medicine, pushing for more research within this field. When assessing the impact of these treatments, we should continue to try to resolve the ideology around the treatments being “just a placebo effect”. However, if I were to decide the verdict for alternative medical treatments, I would say: innocent until proven guilty.
Adhopia, V. (2016). Evidence or not: Alternative health makes inroads into public system. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/alternative-therapies-health-care-1.3793965