Friday, October 16, 2009

Integrative Medicine

We've been going to the same family practice health center for many years. A few years ago our primary care physician left and we were assigned to a physician's assistant who turned out to be great, so we happily stayed, but now she's also leaving. There's supposed to be a new doctor coming on next year who the PA said we'd like.

However, with the other changes in staff, a new doctor is the head doctor of the health center, and he wants to change it to an "Integrative Medicine" center, featuring "holistic" practices such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, "body work", and the like. The language is not overtly worrisome: he's not actually talking about us getting our chakras aligned (I always wanted to have mine rotated and balanced, too, but no one does that) but some of it is worryingly close.

Not that I think that all forms of "alternative medicine" are hokum. There are some real benefits to treating the emotional needs of the patient in ways that reach them, there are genuine medical uses for the placebo effect, and in the wide variety of "alternative" medical practices, there have to be a few that have something scientifically valid behind them, if only statistically. So it's possible, barely, to advocate adding just a smidgen of holistic practices to actual medicine and still retain the realness of medicine. But virtually every time I've ever heard anyone advocate for even the smallest amount, they were actually going way overboard, casting aside such things as objectively verifiable claims and scientific method.

So my first worry is, they're going to gradually slide farther and farther from real medicine and more and more into stuff that's going to make me uncomfortable. My second worry is that even if they don't slide, there will always be an undercurrent of subtle encouragement that makes me have to bite my tongue to not say "Yeah, but that's bullshit, so what can we really do?" Plus I hate the idea of having to apologize to people every time I tell them where I go. "Yeah, I go to the new age woo-woo place, but it's okay, I was going there back when they were still into medicine, so I got grandfathered in."

Maybe I'm overworrying, though. After all it's really hard to find a good doctor. And they know us already, we have a history there, so maybe we should give them a chance. Maybe they won't be so bad. Maybe the new doctor we were promised will adapt to us and keep the bullshit at bay. I suppose we should give it a try.

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