Who do you trust with your health?
It seems like a very simple question but there are a lot of different answers, it’s also quite difficult to critique any answer to it, especially if you take personal liberty into account. “The Government” is often the contentious member in your personal healthcare team – some see it as meddling, telling us what to eat or maybe blaming it because your Uncle can’t get Avastin on the NHS – almost everyone has an opinion on the Government’s role in their healthcare requirements.
Funnily though, even if you don’t trust the Government’s suggestion that you should limit your salt intake to 6g a day, you probably trust it to deem who’s trustworthy to look after you. Pharmacists, Doctors, Clinical Scientists, Physiotherapists etc… I could go on. All are certificated by the Government, which confirms that they meet the strict requirements to practice their medical specialty.
But soon there may be a new set of “professionals” for you to ponder the Government’s recommendation of trustworthiness. The Department of Health (DH) is proposing a registration scheme for practitioners of traditional medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, Chinese medicine and so on) which will make them appear endorsed by the Government.
These practitioners do not have training in evidence-based medicine and the proposed regulations will not demand that they have a full knowledge of the body or of the implications of various treatments on that body. Traditional medicine is by it’s very nature not modern, not advanced, dare I say, not complicated? A great degree of intelligence and training is required to be a Pharmacist or a Clinical Scientist, and even after the minimum four years these professionals are still limited in what they are allowed to advise upon. I therefore question Government endorsement of people who could not possibly have the in-depth knowledge of physiology to truly appreciate all aspects of the patient’s health.
And yet the practitioners feel qualified to diagnose almost every health problem, most often defying long established medical facts. This is incredibly dangerous as missed opportunities to diagnose cancers or bleeding disorders for example can mean the difference between life and death. Many people will see state regulation of these methods as an endorsement of their validity, which though it may not be strictly true, will see these “professions” gain trust amongst a public not trained to spot spurious claims and practices.
Health is far too important to tolerate far-fetched ideas of spiritual energy centres or herbal cures for serious conditions. There may be some truth to some of the claims made by these specialities, if so, lets test them and if they’re successful they can be integrated into modern medicine, rather than being part of that oxymoron category “alternative medicine”. Furthermore, these regulations should demand medical training from practitioners – three years minimum seems reasonable – after all, then the “professionals” can charge more for their services, everyone’s happy! The DH should go a lot further to ensure that people claiming to be able to treat people’s real medical conditions are highly qualified and capable, not just anyone who can buy some pills off the internet, light an incense stick and set up shop.
The Voice of Young Science (VOYS) are staging a protest outside the Department of Health on Whitehall from 11.30am on 8th September, demanding that practitioners of traditional medicine are not endorsed and validated by the Government. They will be handing out diplomas in old wives’ medicine as a stunt to highlight the ease with which anyone is able to qualify themselves under the proposed regulations. Please, if you can, go down and support them. Email Julia (email@example.com), the VOYS co-ordinator, for more information or to tell her you’re coming along.