Alternative Medicine

There is growing interest in alternative medicine. There is a certain amount of dissatisfaction or disillusionment with ‘modern’ medicine because

  • ‘Modern’ medicine does not give cure or even relief in many instances.
  • It is often very expensive, beyond the affordability of many patients.
  • Some people consider that it can be hazardous, because it is not ‘natural’ and of other reasons.

There are many systems in vogue in India. Some are time honored remedies. Many of them might be able to render help, if practiced correctly. They often have a holistic approach. Unfortunately charlatans and get rich quick merchants of medical care play upon the fears and emotions of the patients (and their relatives).

They may cause more harm than good. There is a rising tide of quackery. Untrained and unqualified persons often claim to be practitioners of alternative medicine.

There is need for assessing the value of alternative therapy. The methodology for their assessment may be different from the ‘scientific’ methods adopted for ‘modern’ medicine. But evaluation is a must. This must be done with a healthy respect to these therapies.
It is also necessary to insist on certain standards and qualifications of the practitioners of alternative medicine. While there are recognized institutions giving training in some systems, there is no such training for other systems, There might be some informal training.
Sometimes dangerous and inappropriate drugs are promoted and use. Use is made of many media to advertise these drugs. People who have only an imperfect understanding of the virtues and vices of drugs are tempted to try these drugs. The patients often a prey to plausible suggestions.

There is an increasing tendency among practitioners of ‘modern’ medicine to prescribe drugs found in the material medica of other systems of even those which are not found in them, just because they are advertised widely with all kinds of claims. Prescribing some Ayurvedic medicines along with other drugs is becoming quite popular. Misuse of drugs and procedures by persons unqualified in those systems may add to rather than subtract from the patients problems. So also some of the practitioners of other systems use indiscriminately some of the medicines found in ‘modern medicine’ pharmacopoeias, with often adverse results.

There have been many moves for the study of integrated system of medicine but they cannot be said to have been successful. Such efforts are continuing. There are many courses of studies in integrated medicine.
The National Heath Policy (1982) states: “The country has a large stock of health man-power, comprising private practitioners in various systems, for example : Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Yoga, Homeopathy, etc. This resource has not so far been adequately used”.

The Government of India is keen on promoting Indian Systems of medicine. They are “widely used by all classes of people and felt to be central part of the cultural heritage. Yet the knowledge and ethics of its practitioners are said to have declined from those of former times. In some respects an irregular medical practice and in other respects part of the regular medical system, the modernization of Ayurvedic and Arabic medicine in India brings them into an ambiguous paramedical relationship to modern scientific medicine”- Charles Leslie, 1974

Ethical problems can arise in the relationships between practitioners of modern medicine and the practitioners of other systems of medicines.