A tragedy in the making?
During the course of clinical practice, veterinarians (and physicians) often encounter a variety of circumstances that affect the daily course of administrating care to a patient. They can either be a hindrance or a help towards the goal of attaining the most appropriate medical treatment for a given individual.
For example, refusing a blood transfusion or declining blood work can greatly impede ones ability to treat or diagnose whereas people jumping in line to donate an organ opens the doors to previously impossible therapies. Such is the way of clinical practice as the doctor blends his or her experience, current available science based knowledge, and the patients (or owners) perspectives in order to come up with a “do-able” strategy. These approaches vary depending upon the balance between these spheres of influence and often translate into unique therapeutic approaches. The ultimate goal is to find an effective balance that is heavily tempered with the hammer of scientific methodology.
In other words, even though an elected therapy may vary in some way depending upon a given situation, it needs to “pass muster” so to speak. It needs to demonstrate a level of effectiveness, plausibility, and repeatability that results from steady and rigorous inquiry from a serious- admittedly imperfect- community of humans involved in an intense endeavor; the search for reality based solutions.
This has been the responsibility society has given to the medical community, especially in the last century. Though the nature of healing may have a seemingly infinite set of variable influences and built in uncertainties, it has been wisely placed under the guiding light of methodologies that allows for consistent and tangible results.
Herein lays the growing concern when faced with a set of practices that walk away from these hard won lessons regarding healing. Though science is not a cult, religion, or some particular “post-modern” version of reality there are those who think that it is one or all of these things. Due either to misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and mostly, a lack of adequate science education many people falsely compare the hard won knowledge of modern medicine equally with archaic and implausible modalities such as homeopathy, the five elements, and most of chiropractic theory.
The alarms of reason and truth should be sounding all around the halls of higher education as these types of belief based and unreasonable systems gain a foothold within the realm of hard won legitimacy- without having any!
Dr RW discusses this very concern regarding the uncritical teaching of alternative therapies in US medical schools noting the alarming trend towards incorporating Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) courses into their regular curricula. Are these courses being critically examined for plausibility and efficacy? The unfortunate answer is no! Sampson (University School of Medicine, California) cites in a 2001 study:
“Advocacy and non-critical assessment are the approaches currently taken by most U.S. medical schools in their courses covering what is commonly called "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM).
Another recent 2007 survey reviewing preclinical students at Georgetown University School of Medicine reflects a possible receptivity to
“Interest in and enthusiasm about
This 2002 survey explored the apparent lack of familiarity in US medical schools of
Another eye-opening reason to be concerned about the infiltration of uncritical thinking and associated CAM modalities into medical education is the example of the insidious growth of
“…it is also important that the public understand what is happening and that we hear the voices of nurses who are concerned about the growing adoption into nursing practice of alternative modalities that have no scientifically valid theoretical underpinnings or proven medical efficacy.”
Together, these observations reflect important warning signs the medical community needs to take seriously if the foundation of a reality based/critical thinking education is to continue to hold its proper role as the gateway to effective modern medicine.