Unproven, perilous alternative cures are embraced

  1. Philadelphia Inquirer;
    Posted on Mon, Jun. 8, 2009

    Unproven, perilous alternative cures are embraced

    By Marilynn Marchione
    Associated Press

    BALTIMORE - At one of the nation's top trauma hospitals, a nurse circles a patient's bed, humming and waving her arms as if shooing evil spirits. Another woman rubs a quartz bowl with a wand, making tunes that blend with the beeping monitors and hissing respirator keeping the man alive.
    They are doing Reiki therapy, which claims to heal through invisible energy fields. The anesthesia chief, Richard Dutton, calls it "mystical mumbo jumbo." Still, he's a fan.
    "It's self-hypnosis" that can help patients relax, he said. "If you tell yourself you have less pain, you actually do have less pain."

    Alternative medicine has become mainstream. It is finding wider acceptance by doctors, insurers and hospitals like the shock trauma center at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
    People turn to unconventional therapies and herbal remedies for everything from hot flashes and trouble sleeping to cancer and heart disease. They crave more "care" in their health care. They distrust drug companies and the government. They want natural, safer remedies....
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  3. by   FireStarterRN
    In my opinion, the main place for holistic approaches is in the preventative realm. The way we live is what makes us healthy. The food we eat, the air we breath, how we work, move, pray, those are the God-given ways to stay healthy. Also, avoiding chemical toxins, whether they are man-made or natural, will keep us fit.

    I've never been one to go for the latest healing fad of waving crystals, sleeping under pyramids, flower remedies, or the like. If people want to do it, I as a nurse will support them in their right to make their own choices for their own healthcare, however.
  4. by   zahryia
    I think they have a place in both preventive, treatment and dare I say curative arenas.
  5. by   CEG
    Unproven perilous mainstream cures are also embraced.

    Look at electronic fetal monitoring- does not improve outcomes while at the same time increasing morbidity in the mother. Yet it is so widely used that it is difficult for a patient to refuse it. I could easily name ten OB interventions that I see each day widely used, women are pressured and often coerced into them, and yet when someone walks in the door with a doula she is scoffed at.

    We in the medical professions tend to reject that which we are unfamiliar with yet we expect patients to submit to treatments based on our word without any scientific basis and even in the presence of science that tells us our treatments are harmful.

    Good for patients who take the time to research and choose their treatments, even if they aren't widely accepted.
  6. by   Moogie
    My concern with the headline is that it paints all alternative therapies with too broad a brush. Alternative therapies run the gamut from Reiki to herbs to aromatherapy to Tai Chi. Many are rooted in spiritual traditions such as Native or Hindu beliefs. It's wrong to lump all non-Western types of healing together and label them "perilous" simply because we don't know exactly how (or if) they work. Goodness, how many pharmaceutical companies market drugs in which the mechanism of action is unknown? How many drugs are there that simply don't work for some people or cause dangerous side effects that can injure health or cause death?

    I also don't think there are that many people who actually eschew Western medicine completely in order to pursue alternative remedies. Yes, they make the headlines---like that boy in Minnesota whose parents refused to let him have chemotherapy because they believed solely in prayer---but that's because the vast numbers who choose Western therapies aren't particularly newsworthy. Most Westerners who use alternative therapies think of them as complementing Western medicine, not necessarily replacing it.

    Despite the sensationalistic headline, the article does have a point in that there should be regulation of alternative therapies, especially herbal remedies. There should be evidence-based, standardized doses and the public should be able to purchase herbal products with the assurance that they're getting genuine, therapeutic ingredients and not something watered down with psuedo-organic fillers. The public also needs to be made aware of interactions between prescription and OTC drugs and herbal remedies. People do risk harming themselves if they don't know or understand everything they're taking.
  7. by   PageRespiratory!
    How can a respirator keep someone alive?
  8. by   Purple_Scrubs
    It drives me crazy when headlines like these pop up. People don't read the whole article, or they don't read it critically, and end up thinking that all alternative therapies must be junk.

    If alternative therapies are so ineffective, why do many carry warnings that they should not be used with other traidtional meds, because it can potentiate the effect. Example: St. John's Wort and SAMe should not be taken with SSRIs because it can lead to serotonin syndrome. Why would that happen if they were not effective on some level?

    My fertility doc has pamphlets in his waiting room for an acupuncturist that specializes in fertility, and there are studies showing it leads to better IVF outcomes.

    I just don't get why the media has to either glorify or villify something - there is no middle road with them! I guess an article saying that some alternative treatments have been proven effective in some cases would be boring. Who would want to read the boring truth! :icon_roll Sorry, stepping off the soap box.
  9. by   country mom
    I'm all for complementary/alternative therapies, with one caveat, "show me your data". If a practitioner or company is going to put a therapy on the market, then by-golly, go to the effort to study how it works and if it helps. Acupuncture is easy for me to accept, there is data to show it helps. Massage therapy- okay, that makes sense. But some of this far-out stuff with crystals and "rearranging" someone's energy waves, well, there has to be some kind of explanation.
  10. by   Junebugfairy
    "i'm all for complementary/alternative therapies, with one caveat, "show me your data""

    i 100% agree. we have data which shows that saint johns wort and same can help mild depression, so i do not consider these 'hokey'.

  11. by   Purple_Scrubs
    I agree about statistical data to back it up. But, I am willing to keep an open mind to therapies that are unproven as of yet. Research is expensive and time consuming, and if something is not harmful and seems to have benefit (even if it is the placebo effect), I say why the heck not! I do not want to see vulnerable members of the population being taken in by "miracle cures" with no proven benefit, so there has to be some balance to it. I don't want to see someone trying to sell Reiki or any therapy for an unreasonable amount of $$ in an attempt to make a quick buck. But even the doc who calls it mumbo jumbo admits it seems to work, so maybe eventually some research will be done.

    For myself at least, I usually try the natural way before resorting to anything invasive or drugs, but there is absolutely a time and place for traditional and contemporary medicine.
  12. by   Katnip
    The nurses who are performing the complimentary therapies including Reiki at the trauma center are not doing it "instead" of more mainstream treatment. Rather they are using it "in conjunction with" the treatment. Nobody said to take the patient away from the hospital and perform Reiki and it will cure. That's why I don't like the term "alternative" to describe what's happening in the article.

    Keep in mind at one time and for centuries, antisepsis was considered to be bunk. Many modern treatments were also poo-pooed by scientists of their day, but over time as technology became more refined, these practices became accepted as standard, and not always with solid evidence behind them.

    When I was in nursing school our pharmacology instructors taught that nobody really knows the true mechanism of action of acetaminophen, ibuprohen, and aspirin, but they work, so we use it.

    Please don't toss all complinetary therapies into the hokey category before actually looking at them.
  13. by   country mom
    It just vexes me when people fork over hundreds, even thousands, of dollars for some of these treatments that have NO hard evidence that they help. How much are these trauma patients paying for these "complementary" treatments? I'm sure they are not "complimentary".
  14. by   Purple_Scrubs
    But again, the doctor even admitted that they seem to work. If it helps someone deal with their pain, and they are paying for it (since I am sure insurance does not), what is the harm? I fail to see how something like this could be considered "perilous" as the article title states.