Wisdom from ‘The Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine’, by Marc S Micozzi MD, PhD

This is my favourite book at the moment. The contributors include respected doctors, researchers, professors, scientists and therapists from all over the world. The foreword is written by C. Everett Koop, MD, ScD, former surgeon general of the United States. I think of it as an educational textbook written for doctors by doctors. CAM is the acronym for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

In the light of recent debate happening in regard to CAM training in universities, I’d like to share some perspectives from this incredible text. But some background first on the furore: As my professional body the ANTA puts it:

“It was reported in a newspaper recently that a group of medical researchers and scientists are lobbying universities to close down alternative medicine degrees and the group believes health funds should not pay rebates on alternative medicine for failing to champion evidence based science and medicine.”

The Chapter I would like to draw from is Chapter Five ‘Social and Cultural Factors in Medicine’, written by Claire Monod Cassidy, PhD, Dipl Ac, LAc

“Euro-American society in particular has developed science to be the believable knowledge method, the knowledge orthodoxy since the late nineteenth century. The determination with which Westerners cling to their cultural preference concerning the power of science approaches a religious fervour.”

Cultural Relativity

(quotes from ‘The Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine’, by Marc S Micossi)

“…. one must stand back from one’s own beliefs and models and recognise them as constructed and not exclusively correct.”

“Those who can stand back dispassionately – that is, those who really do think like scientists – understand that a great deal of the argument over which systems are modal or alternative is really an argument over cultural turf. As such, victory in this argument serves the usual politic purpose of maintaining power by insisting on the virtue of one’s own values, often by attacking the perceptions of ones rivals, but these are political, not scientific, acts.”

“Cultural relativity….tells practitioners and researchers to remain in a fairly neutral, non-judgmental stance, knowing the values of people without adopting or rejecting them (Kaplan, 1984). From this position, clinicians, researchers, or students can observe their own perceptions and those of others and understand how these interpretations serve users’ lives. They can avoid becoming mired in which method is true, because nothing is exclusively true when all realities are constructed.”

“From a worldwide viewpoint, biomedicine is unusual in the following ways:

1. Its intense attachment to materialistic interpretative models.

2. Its focus on the physical body, often to the virtual exclusion of the person.

3. Its focus on the disease, often to the virtual exclusion of the person.

4. It’s vast development of disease types.

5. Its highly technological delivery system.

6. The invasiveness of its care modalities.

7. It’s emphasis on acute disease, trauma and end-stage malfunction, with relatively little focus on prevention and wellness.

8. It’s high cost.”

My thoughts on this: None of the things on this list are bad. Biomedicine has filled a gap that needed filling. It has developed a weak link in the chain. But like the logical, rational, conscious mind, biomedicine sometimes thinks it is the boss and tries to take over, instead of seeing itself as part of a whole. The mind is not the only part of who we are: there are other ways of thinking and perceiving; there are other parts of us. We are intuitive, feeling creatures and we have an abstract, creative way of thinking and feeling that isn’t always rational. These parts of us are no less important than the conscious rational mind…but science would have you think they are, and this kind of thinking is deeply ingrained in our society.

Biomedicine is wonderful stuff but it needs to be balanced with heart, soul, spirit and a more holistic perspective on reality. It’s slow on the uptake- it isn’t embracing and making good use of the science coming out of fields such as physics, neurotheology and psychoneuroimmunology. Nor is it making good use of the research done over centuries by modalities tried, true and tested, like Chinese Medicine and the meditation practises of the east. And then there’s an ethical issue: repressing a culture’s traditional medicine is cultural oppression. To ban CAM education in a modern system that has been doing a very good job of regulating CAM practises, is ludicrous.

Biomedicine is slow, and it needs to catch up. It’s also in crisis. Iatrogenic disease (illness caused by the medical system) is rife, bedside manner is poorly lacking and whether they like it or not, the people they are serving are often spiritual with cultural values that need to be honoured and respected. There is a reason why people turn to CAM: biomedicine sometimes lets them down. It doesn’t have all the answers and it’s high time the biomedical system grew up and embraced the rest of the world. I’m generalising here because there are incredible biomedical researchers, doctors and practises happening all over the world – people and organisations who are leading edge…. but they are too few.

We need better attitudes to be filtering through the masses. We need science to step down from it’s pedestal and start dialoguing with the ‘people’ without prejudice. Whether biomedicine likes it or not, CAM therapies and medicines are here to stay. I believe they will be impossible to repress. The same companies making trillions producing biomedical drugs are making trillions selling vitamins and herbal remedies to the masses. The big pharmaceutical machine is unlikely to stop churning and Cam therapies are a brilliant guidance system for the safe use of these products. CAM studies in universities are needed to ensure we have professionals who can educate people who are self-prescribing (do you know many people who aren’t?), and teach them how to do it safely.
Omanisa is a naturopath, spiritual counsellor and healer who specialises in reading and healing the aura. To find out more about Omanisa and her work, check out her website.