Friday, August 28, 2009

This is not my kind of medicine

Just this week, I had a patient who checked himself out of the hospital early in order to pursue "traditional healing" at home. I honestly don't know what that specifically entails, but presumably something of the Inuit tradition. I've also had lots of other patients in the past tell me that they will or would rather pursue X treatments (where X = "natural," "homeopathic," etc).

These treatments are usually benign. Usually. How, you might ask, could something like homeopathy (which is really just water) be unhealthy? Well, sometimes the practitioners of ACM (alternative and complimentary medicine) are very critical of real medicine. Frankly, I'd hate to lend my credibility to a practitioner that is just going to diss me behind my back and possibly convince my patient they no longer need my help. Also, some ACM/natural treatments actually are harmful, or can decrease the efficiency of proven medical remidies. St. John's wort, for example decreases the efficacy of anti-retrovirals (used in the treatment of HIV infection) and oral contraceptive therapy. Even grapefruit juice can alter the metabolism of certain drugs.

So even though "alternative treatments" usually don't hurt, I still cringe when my patients say they use them, and I never recommend them.

But some other people in the world are soooooo certain that their unproven, hokey, primitive, might-as-well-be-called-magic treatments are the only way to go, they let people die instead of taking them to a real doctor. Like this kid. Washington really, really needs to fix their legislation.


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