Friday, November 20, 2009

Another Haiku on Politiku, a Clarification, and a Brief Follow-up

A few follow-ups from my last post:

1) Another haiku of mine is up on Susanna Speier's Politiku. Exciting! This one is about, you guessed it, the H1N1 virus and vaccine.
I even got to work a bit as a co-editor with Susanna on her post and haiku choices.

2) It may seem from the following paragraph in my last post that I am equating other types of medicine such as chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, and acupuncture with pseudo-science:

"Natural medicine is all the rage right now. Part of this is simply brilliant marketing--'all natural' products and curing our ailments 'naturally' sounds instinctively more purifying, wholesome, healthy, and safer than the 'un-natural' alternatives. Herbals and vitamins can be key to good health and there are conditions, like chronic back pain, that conventional western medicine doesn't handle well and that chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists handle in much less invasive and less medicated ways. But many pharmaceuticals are made from herbs and ingredients found in nature. And natural doesn't mean safe: poison ivy is natural and so are rattle snakes and so is hemlock."

With poor clarity of ideas and poor organization in that paragraph, I can see how that would come across. What I meant to say is that while I am suspicious of products that toot their "all-natural-ness" specifically for the purpose of marketablity (and not because there's some proven health benefit to their having that quality) and while I don't agree that "all-natural" medications are automatically superior to "non-natural" ones as many consumers seem to believe these days, I think that there are some unconventional (and often non-western) medical treatments, practices, and ways of healing that are valid and even superior in some cases to those conventional western medicine has to offer. Moreover, western medicine has a lot to learn from the emphasis of those practitioners on maintaining health and preventing illness first and foremost over simply reacting to illnesses after they happen. That being said, I believe that it is unprofessional, unethical, and irresponsible when and if such practitioners advise their patients to entirely renounce conventional western medical treatments, especially ones that have proven successful.

There are places where science and medicine diverge. My concern is with medical and health practitioners who claim their treatments and protocols are valid according to the scientific approach, when they clearly aren't. Science, unlike art, is not a malleable concept. Unlike beauty, science is not in the eye of the beholder. To me, science doesn't seem to be a relative term. More on this later, maybe . . .

3) This New York Times article is about a case where scientists are advocating for fewer tests and procedures, less spending, and less medical intervention, based not an any political or economic agenda, but on findings from research. These findings show that the benefits of the current testing protocols may not be worth their cost and the harm they cause. This article also illustrates the divergence between medical scientists and practicing medical doctors. I can see how women's groups would see this recommendation as an attack on women's health care, the advancement of which has been hindered by discrimination against women, and I acknowledge the influence of politics and economics on medical science, but I don't think that's what is behind these particular findings.

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