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Health Essay

Health Essay

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Published by anita violeta

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Published by: anita violeta on Aug 12, 2011
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Iulia Maria Coanda Page 1
Critically examine whether complementary and alternative medicines offer a distinctiveunderstanding of health and illness?The old scientific discourse of biomedical medicine has encountered a µthreat¶ to its hegemonic position; the new arising form of health care, the Complementary and Alternative Medicine, hasgiven birth to a new pluralism in the medical system (Cant & Sharma, 1999). Complementaryand Alternative Medicine can be generally described as a distinctive form of health care that is atodds with the conventional medicine which mainly subscribes to scientific scrutiny and proof (Yuill, Crinson & Duncan, 2010). However, this broad definition has been subjected to criticism because within the area of this complementary and alternative medicine there are significantdifferences in their practice and philosophy; for example the degree of µholism¶ (i.e. discussed inthe main body of the essay) in one practice can be higher or lower than in another. This is alsowhere the distinction between µalternative¶ and µcomplementary¶ takes place: alternativemedicine totally refuses to recognize any similarity with biomedicine (i.e. conventionalmedicine), whereas complementary medicine is seen as an addition and not a challenge to theorthodox medicine. Nonetheless, this essay will refer to these practices in their totality asComplementary and Alternative Medicine (i.e. CAM) (Cant & Sharma, 1999; Heller et al., Yuill,Crinson & Duncan, 2010). This essay will analyze the claims of CAM and their actual impact onhow health and illness are understood, treated and integrated in people¶s life and how these differ from biomedical practice. Thus several different characteristics of the alternative approach aregoing to be proposed for this discussion and critically compared to the conventional health caresystem. The main CAM aspects such as its: holistic view, individualistic approach, consultationenvironment, relationship between patient and practitioner, naturalistic approach, and integrative
Iulia Maria Coanda Page 2
or independent status. These main characteristics will be then considered, explained andexpanded in the main body of this essay so as a better understanding of CAM¶s discourse shedlight on its genuine or apparent distinctiveness from conventional medicine.Firstly, we will explore the concept of µholism¶ and individualism in relation to CAM. Theconcept of health is seen here not just as the absence of disease, which is maintained by biomedicine, but as a relationship between body and other aspects in an individual¶s life such asspirituality. This philosophy can also be traced back in Western history with the Christianideology of morality. The habit of eating meat was seen as a stimulant for weak morals andsexuality, the ascetic idea of vegetarianism was then promoted for the cleansing of both body andsoul (O¶Connor, 1995). Thus, the reductionist attitude of conventional health care, which strictlydeals with parts of the body, as if they were parts of a machine that have to be assembled againin order to function at their maximum capacity; is confronted by CAM. ³By rejecting theeither/or thinking characterizing the biomedical model in favour of multiple realities or µways of knowing¶ CAM allows for a wide variety of belief systems and cosmologies´ (Stone and Katzcited in Heller et al., 2005: 159). The main CAM healing treatments are, however, uniquevarying from one alternative practice to another. The more mechanistic way and similar to biomedicine¶s way of dealing with pain is encountered in some osteopathic and chiropracticapproaches, homeopathy and ayurvedic medicine (i.e. traditional Chinese healing practice) aremore inclined to regard illness as an imbalance in the human¶s entire system, which does notonly result from the physical components of an individual but from their entire way of living,their personal health history, how they react to pain and what meanings they attach to differentthings. Nonetheless, this can also lead to a clash between the practitioner¶s and the patient¶s
Iulia Maria Coanda Page 3
 belief¶s and ideas of what illness is, which can then lead the patient to find another practitioner that is in accordance with hers or his life experiences and ideas. This also puts the patient in a position to µshop¶ for health care, and consume the best alternative for him/her (Cant & Sharma,1999; Heller et al., 2005; The Open University, 2005). The alternative medicine proposes a wayof living that maintains health and works with the imbalance or illness from the inside, leavingthe body to heal itself; standing at odds with orthodox medicine that is external, which views the body as a battle field in which the illness needs to be exterminated in order to restore health.Dissatisfaction with orthodox medicine is being illustrated in many alternative literatures (Cant&Sharma, 2005; Lupton, 2003; Furnham, 2002), who point at its failure to cure chronic pain andthe lack of disregard for the individual¶s personal history that might have an impact on her or hishealth situation. In another words CAM ³offers more meaning to the patients and allows them tolink their illness to wider cultural, personal and social frameworks´ (Cant & Sharma, 1999: 42-43). Stevenson et.al (2003) also point out that the iatrogentic fear (i.e. the complications thatmight appear after taking a specific biomedical treatment or intervention) is also a factor of whyalternative medicine is increasingly sought, however, this will be discussed further on along withmedicalization and the µnatural¶ characteristics of CAM.Going back to the holistic distinctiveness, the whole idea that: the body can heal itself, that itmaintains a certain balance and harmony in order to function correctly or that it requires thenatural flow of µenergy¶ arises certain problems. Lupton (2003) points out that from an ethical point of view, alternative medicine does not eliminate the preaching attitude in teaching what isgood or bad in order to function properly and be a µhealthy¶ human being. He also acknowledgesthat using the metaphor of µenergy¶ or the µflow of energy¶ that is being used in many CAM

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