Did anyone watch The Enemies of Reason on Channel 4 last night?

This particular episode was entitled “The Irrational Health Service” and explored the ideas of unconventional alternative medicine.  I think Richard Dawkins soundly debunked them.  I particularly liked his statement that “alternative medicine that is proven to work becomes medicine and not an alternative to it”.

Anyway The Hildy and I began a heated debate (we like heated debates because we get to cuddle up afterwards) on the merits of alternative medicine.  The Hildy has taken herbal remedies for headaches and swears to there efficacy but I maintain that the effect is largely placebo.  She also openly mocks the work of her aunt who claims to be a faith healer. 

Faith healing for me is one of the most despicable practices that is allowed to continue in a modern world where it replaces conventional medicine.  I see no problem with someone seeking complimentary care through faith  The human body heals faster when a positive mental attitude is maintained and complimentary care can help to keep a person’s spirits up.  For me faith healers are little more than charlatans and snake oil salesmen seeking to exploit the weak and needy for money or to satisfy some deeply unsettling need in themselves.  While I don’t doubt that people have recovered their health as a result of the placebo effect of faith healing it does not stand up to rigorous testing and should therefore not be allowed to replace conventional medicine. 

I would love to see a health service that took the time with their patients that the practitioners of alternative medicine did in the show.  Sadly each patient is seen for an average of only eight minutes by an NHS doctor and over an hour by alternative practitioners.  NHS GPS being very much limited to triage in my opinion at least compared to private medicine.  I mean the doctors have the same training but privately get paid more than on the NHS.  The difference is in how you are treated as a patient.  This is something that alternative medicine has over conventional medicine.  The NHS has time and skill only to treat the ailment and not the person while the alternative practitioner has time to treat the person but not the skill to treat the ailment.

What is your opinion?


Filed under Bad things happen, Reasons to be cheerful, You decide

14 responses to “Health

  1. Sioned

    Well, this is an interesting one for me. Being Native, we have a huge belief in “hands on healing”. It is not “faith healing”, per se, but close enough I suppose. I have seen it work numerous times so for me, it is a real thing, a thing that works. At times, I know that for some of it, it is the power of positive thought that can help the person but other times, it is just the touch of the healer. When you live within a culture like mine, you begin to see and believe things that others, outside that culture, do not. I am not saying that hands on healing should be used instead of traditional medicine, but, at times, it can help those that believe, in conjunction with whatever a doctor is doing as well.

  2. Sioned

    Oh! the one thing I did not mention is, in my culture, no money is changed hands for this type of thing. At least not be real holy people. There are those that try and take on the Native culture and charge for spiritual help… we call those people plastic shaman and try our best to oust them. Most times though, these people get a foothold within the “new age” community and people start to follow. It is a shame that people so want to believe in something that they fall for that, but, so be it. Regardless, we do not charge to help people, ever. Medicine men and holy people are some of the poorest (monetarily), people I know. They give you the shirt off their back as that is what they have been called to do. They know it is a gift and not one to be squandered or used for monetary gain.

  3. Lovely Michelle, I’m glad you commented especially considering how annoying you must find my views sometimes.

    As far as I understand it the medicine man holds a special place in your culture so his touch would have a placebo effect on those who believed that it would work. In addition they offer a vital link in the community by offering support to those who are in need and take no money to do so. While certainly laudable for their work as community carers I’m afraid my jaded view sees no ‘magic’ at work. It’s good though that the power of conventional medicine is not being denied but the hands on healing is being used to support the healing process.

    Does it sound as if I’ve got the gist of the matter?

  4. Sioned

    Ok.. let me try this again (I replied but my internet connection went out and it took my reply with it).

    Nothing you ever say is annoying. Your opinions are always well thought out and well said. I appreciate your opinion, even when it differs from mine.

    Not all medicine men are healers and not all healers are medicine men. Healers are thought of very highly in my community and are special in their own right. It is so hard to explain the roles these people have in our community and that the things I have seen and felt, are real. Not just positive thinking, but actual real healing. Let me think on how to explain this all the correct way. I would hate to make my people sound like a bunch of weirdos (when everyone knows it’s just me who is the weirdo!). :o)

  5. You’re not weird…wel, no weirder than I am. 😉

  6. I had a pain in my shoulder once .. the “faith healer” laid her hands on me, opened her colours and met her spirit guide .. and afterwards .. I still had a pain in my shoulder .. so I went to the osteopath and he cured the pain in my shoulder!

    This same faith healer cured another friend of a pain in their elbow, but as a consequence their tooth fell out!

    Another friend went to one of those group healing things at Guildford Civic Centre .. she went in with a pain in her knee and came out with a pain in her elbow!

    Do I believe .. erm ???

  7. Jason

    I’m all for Alternative Medicine. I don’t care if in some cases it is a Placebo, if it works, if it makes a difference to a condition, then I say go for it.

    As the Richard Dawkins statment suggests, many medicines have been created out of “alternative” therapies, and the use of certain herbal plant extracts is just as good a therapy in my mind.

    I do also agree wholeheartedly with Mr Frog’s comment about time. Often when I visit my GP I notice him pressing the button to signal the next patient before I’ve even gotten my coat. They do need to start treating the person rather than the condition, I’m sure they’d achieve a more cohesive long term effect that way!

  8. Yasmin

    Medicine isn’t completely like other sciences, such as Chemistry or Physics, because how people describe, manifest or display their symptoms is to some extent both culturally and individually specific, and medical conditions themselves are often not a result of a single bodily malfunction, but a collection of interconnected reactions. I personally don’t find the concept of ‘alternative’ medicine attractive, but there are plenty of ‘scientific’ remedies that either function in ways science still doesn’t wholly understand (like aspirin), or which turn out to have applications way different from the problems they were developed to address, like the cancer drug that can be used in tiny doses to treat macular degeneration. Sometimes it strikes me that all medicine is a bit hit and miss, but I’d like the people ‘hitting and missing’ me to have a degree in medicine from a reputable medical school and a long apprenticeship in a proper hospital.

  9. where are you, where are you??!?!?!?!??!?!?!

  10. Cataclismical, sounds like a right pain.

    Purple Jason, there is a distinct difference between a natural cure (rest for exhaustion, drinking water for just about anything, chewing willow bark to reduce pain) and purely placebo cures (chanting, praying, juggling kittens). The former can be shown to have an effect that is repeatable and measurable while the latter cannot. You are quite correct that many modern drugs are derived from plants and from simple cures. I dare say that sometimes the unrefined source may even be just as or possibly more effective than the refined drug. Specifically here I am thinking about cannabis to relieve the symptoms of MS or cancer where the drugs derived from cannabis are less effective. So, yes, we shouldn’t abandon natural cures in favour of drugs unless drugs are more effective.

    Yasmin, one of Dawkins’ points was that people now tend to distrust medicine for the very reason that you describe. It is too complicated for many people to understand and side effects naturally worry them. Some people choose to embrace superstition in their ignorance as it feels safer to them.

    Jellyface, I’m right here but I’ve got stacks of work to do so won’t really be commenting much this week. Sorry if I miss the “knees up”.

  11. Only this morning my mother was complaining on the phone to her sister that the doctor only saw her for 10 minutes. I overheard and realised that was true of my own visits too. Rush in and rush out.

    She went on to say how much she missed our doc in Tx. Granted, he was private, but no question was too stupid, he listened to everything and weighed it against what he saw himself, and in so many of his responses there was a lot of counseling integrated with the treatment. He gave as much time as needed, within reason. Yet he was very preventative and avoided prescriptions as much as possible.

  12. Olivia, in America you get what you pay for. Sometimes I think it’s a shame that this is so true in England. Will you miss the NHS when (if?) you go?

  13. Prof Mamba

    Hey friends, thanks for all your comments on this subject of Faith healing. Iam a faith Healer based in Sandton, jo’burg. Of course, to every one real, there is nine fakes. No surprise then that this trade is hijacked by some charlatans who simply seek to survive. but the proof is in the testing… My Email is: I challenge anyone to prove the efficacy of faith healing. I also believe and teach my students to consider faith healing, not as an alternative, but as a complementary healing practice to conventional medicines. thanks again.

  14. Professor Mamba, with a name like that how can I not take you seriously. I also challenge anyone to prove the efficacy of faith healing, especially compared to the effect of a placebo.

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