Examining Holistic Medicine book review

Medical guidelines should insists on proof that time-honored medical practices and procedures that cost money and may harm or kill patients are actually effective. This Forum is about how to force organized veterinary medicine to issue Evidence Based Guidelines.

Examining Holistic Medicine book review

Postby malernee » Sat Mar 27, 2004 9:22 am

Holistic Medicine
Examining Holistic Medicine

edited by Douglas Stalker and Clark Glymour. Published by Prometheus Book.

A wide variety of "alternative" medical treatments are currently offered and employed, all falling under the label "holistic." What are "holistic" medicines, and do they offer a legitimate alternative to traditional medicine? Or are they instead just a misguided attempt to alleviate the suffering of individuals who are anxious for any sign of hope?

What are holistic therapies, anyway? They include treatments like acupuncture, threaputic touching, visualization therapies, rolfing, reflexology, homeopathy, herbal medications, chiropractic treatments, aroma therapy, colonics, macrobiotic diets, iridology, and much more. They rarely have very much in common technically (although advocates rarely try to compete with each other), and they all claim to be alternatives to traditional scientific medicine.

What does it mean to be "holistic?" Practitioners of such treatments claim that they aim to treat the mind, body and soul of their patient. This is unsurprisingly appealling to most people, considering the fact that any treatment does better when the patient feels a personal connection with their physician and believes that someone actually cares about them.

Strangely enough, despite the label "holistic," many of the treatments which are placed in that category rarely are holistic after all. Holism assumes a total unity of mind and body, whereas most alternative treatments are actually *dualistic - they assume a division between the two, even though there is considerable interaction. True holism can only be found in philosophies like Christian Science: they maintain that the only thing which "really" exists is the mind, and so disease is simply just a state of mind.

Why has this book collected such a variety of articles from distinguished scholars and scientists about these treatments? The fact of the matter is, belief in these ideas has serious social ramifications. The most obvious of these involves the issue of public health - if the treatments don't work, a serious strain is can be put on medical and insurance resources.

Another, less obvious, problem is the effects upon the respect for basic scientific principles and methodology. Holistic medicines never demonstrate their effectiveness scientifically, and indeed usually display great contempt for scientific studies which are designed to weed out the good from the bad treatments.

It is more useful to describe such medical practices as a social movement rather than a branch of science or health care. The twin aims of practitioners are to institutionalize their ideas in order to achieve greater social acceptance, and to loosen the demands which are normally imposed upon anyone making empirical claims. The first goal, obviously, requires the second - and the second can have terrible consequences for society.

Unfortunately, the use of holistic medicine is not simply a fringe movement made up of a few cranks. By some estimates, it's an industry doing between $15 and $20 billion annually - and growing! A report in New England Journal of Medicine back in January 1993 showed that about one-third of American adults had sought some sort of unorthodox therapy in the preceding year.

That is why this volume of essays is so important - anyone wishing to understand more about holistic medical practices will find a lot of information. The first part includes chapters about the history and background of how such practices have developed in the United States, a topic often ignored in the discussion of alternative medicines. They did not just spring up overnight, but instead are part of a long tradition.

The second part of the book deals directly with refuting common arguments made from holistic philosophy. Austen Clark, for example, directly addresses the common argument that traditional medical practices do not adequately understand the role of the mind in both diseases and in cures. Another essay takes on the common tactic of misusing modern physics, like Quantum Mechanics, to provide a pseudo-scientific basis for their ideas.

The fourth and final part moves from general issues to very specific holistic remedies, providing eleven essays refuting common practices like homoepathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, theraputic touch, iridology and more. There is much too much information in those articles to summarize here, but they provide effective rebuttals to some of the most common alternative treatments which people promote and use.

There is a lot that a person could learn about holistic medicine, if they wished to take the time; but for most of us, it isn't necessary to become experts. Books like this eliminate that need by providing, in one volume, sufficient information to understand what is wrong with these alternative treatments and why they shouldn't be used.
Site Admin
Posts: 462
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2003 5:56 pm

Return to evidence based vet guidelines

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest