Oh really?

June 10, 2008

I know many doctors are sceptical of alternative medicine and its benefits, but according to one story from the States it is really only safe to try it when the patient is dead. A Chinese woman of 19 underwent cranial surgery at an American hospital, but she died two weeks later. She was declared dead, but was kept on a ventilator to allow her parents to get to the hospital and see her. On arrival, the father asked that she be given a Traditional Chinese Medicine concoction, which he said was routinely used in his society for patients in a coma.

The doctors had several conversations with the father, but couldn’t see how the herb could help a patient who was, to all intents and purposes, dead. Perplexed, they called in the hospital’s ethics committee to ask whether they could administer the substance while the patient remained on a ventilator.

After much deliberation, the committee sanctioned the use of the herb as it offered “psychological benefits to the family and the absence of risk to the patient (since she was dead).” As a life-long believer in combining the best of medical knowledge with the vast experience of treatment from the many traditional (ie alternative) systems of medicine, I can only hope this was not typical of most medical staff’s beliefs. I know doctors and nurses in the UK who allow homoeopathy, aromatherapy and even acupuncture for pain relief in childbirth in some hospitals – let’s hope that attitude spreads.


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