Death by Medical Politics

Published in the Denver Rocky Mountain News, June 11, 2000

The death of 10-year-old Candace Newmaker from "rebirthing" therapy was tragic. Linda Rosa's June 2 guest column, in which she seizes on Candace's death as an opportunity to categorically condemn alternative health care, was reprehensible. Rosa claims that there is scant evidence that alternative therapies, i.e. those that do not have the endorsement of the traditional medical establishment, actually work or are really safe. She contends that if the state would only regulate alternative health care more aggressively, we could avoid similar tragedies in the future.

Rebirthing is not the only way that people die at the hands of health care "providers." In April 1998, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that adverse drug reactions cause 100,000 deaths in hospitals annually. The mainstream media carried the story for a day or so and then dropped it. If Ms. Rosa read this story was she just as outraged?

I am very grateful for modern medicine. Society has reaped innumerable benefits from recent developments in medicine, technology, and surgical procedures. However, conventional treatments are not always necessary. Alternative health care frequently does things better, more safely, more economically, and with fewer residual effects. It is a booming industry because of what it has done for great numbers of people suffering from all manner of maladies. The results are real and not, as Ms. Rosa would have us think, "anecdotal." I know this from personal experience with chiropractic.

Contemporary medicine has many unfortunate parallels to contemporary education. Powerful political lobbies have grown up around conventional medicine and government schools that have had very detrimental effects on the quality of education and health care. These lobbies are protected by the government and largely unquestioned by the media. When someone challenges the conventional wisdom, the media almost always sides with the government school ("educratic") or conventional medical ("medicratic") establishments. The sad result is that once noble and dignified professions have fallen into widespread discredit.

Webster's defines medicine as "the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease." This definition deals with the aims of medicine rather than the methods. When a mature health professional realizes his limitations in helping a patient, he refers that patient elsewhere with an eye to what will help the patient rather than which community that provider represents. Let us forgo our smelly little, politically motivated, and scientifically unsubstantiated, orthodoxies and focus on patients rather than politics.

Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman

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