Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Alternative medicine takes a beating from skeptics and I could fill this blog post with sites that condemn it as unscientific quackery. Yet none of this has deterred people from pursuing alternative medicine at an ever growing rate. If this stuff is so fringe, why are so many people taking advantage of it? What is it about alternative medicine that draws people in?
People choosing alternative medicine are generally better informed and more proactive about their own health; so why would they choose unproven medicine? I think it’s because people aren’t stupid and because they make rational choices. No one really doubts that traditional medicine is absolutely the only sane choice some situations, such as bodily injury and immediately life threatening trauma. But for many areas of medicine the choices aren’t so clear cut.
Especially in the United States -where their first duty is to empty your wallet-, hospitals are immune system depressing stress factories. When you are in a hospital, you are now in a situation beyond your control. The practice of medicine is too complicated to make good educated choices without a great deal of study; you have to agree to services and drugs whether you want them; whether you can afford them, or not. You are working around a busy doctor’s schedule in which he/she has precious little time to see you as a person. You are shuffled from one area to the next in a literal assembly line of misery as they make you wait in line in order maximize their own efficiency.
It is their game and their rules and if you want their help you have to go along with it. Now I’m willing to endure this for broken bones, gashes, hernia repairs and the like, but beyond that I begin to have less confidence in the system. I have a phobia about shoving unkown, weird chemicals down my throat on the remote chance that the drug company trials were properly conducted and nothing was hidden. Apparently, this is a rational fear. From the medical consumers website:
How prevalent is the non-reporting of SAE? [Serious Adverse Effects] A study by Ioannidis and Lau surveyed the safety reporting of new medications in 192 randomized drug trials, which altogether included over 130,000 participants. Only 46% of these trials reported or specified the drugs’ SAE. Overall, the researchers found the space allocated to safety results was equal to the amount of space devoted to contributor names and affiliations. The conclusion: “The quality and quantity of safety reporting vary across medical areas, study designs, and settings, but they are largely inadequate.”
In fact, about 100,000 people die from prescription medication complications every year.
And the risk doesn’t stop there. Anytime you go into a hospital you are potentially taking your life into your hands. Here are some more chilling statistics:
Study Highlights Among the findings in the HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals study are as follows:
— About 1.14 million patient-safety incidents occurred among the 37 million hospitalizations in the Medicare population over the years 2000-2002.
— Of the total 323,993 deaths among Medicare patients in those years who developed one or more patient-safety incidents, 263,864, or 81 percent, of these deaths were directly attributable to the incident(s).
— One in every four Medicare patients who were hospitalized from 2000 to 2002 and experienced a patient-safety incident died.
— The 16 patient-safety incidents accounted for $8.54 billion in excess in-patient costs to the Medicare system over the three years studied. Extrapolated to the entire U.S., an extra $19 billion was spent and more than 575,000 preventable deaths occurred from 2000 to 2002.
— Patient-safety incidents with the highest rates per 1,000 hospitalizations were failure to rescue, decubitus ulcer and postoperative sepsis, which accounted for almost 60 percent of all patient-safety incidents that occurred.
Because of the rise of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria the risk of dying from even routine surgery has been steadily increasing. There is a definite risk factor in using ordinary medicine for healing. Then there is the money. According to the AARP:
# One in three American families have had problems paying medical bills in the past year, up from about a quarter saying the same two years ago.
- Every week, thousands of Americans file for bankruptcy related to medical costs. 42 percent of adults report having problems accessing health care due to cost.
- 46 million Americans are uninsured. Middle class and upper income families are the fastest growing segment.
- The average cost of health insurance for an American family is nearly $13,000.
- Many Americans may be tied to jobs they dislike or stopped from opening their own businesses because of the excessive cost of health care coverage or preexisting medical conditions that deter them from changing insurance providers.
To sum it up, in traditional medicine we have a high cost, high risk impersonal system run by people whose first duty is not to the sick, but to the investors. Your life can be ruined even if it is saved.
By contrast, alternative medicine is relatively safe and just as importantly, inexpensive. Most of the harm in alternative medicine comes from a few easily identified sources: Unproven activities with a physical risk, such as ear candling or colon hydrotherapy. Super doses of just about anything; but more specifically megadosing vitamins and using inappropriate treatment for a serious medical condition such as an herbal treatment for an aggressive cancer or a large open wound. My experience is that the vast majority of people proceed with appropriate caution when using alternative methods of treatment.
An often overlooked aspect of alternative medicine is the good relationship that can develop between the provider and the client, the control a person has over the path of treatment and the variety of choices available. These things are important psychologically for good health because they can prevent stress and thereby keep the immune system operating properly. I have a chiropractor that I go to about once a month for maintenance; he not only knows who I am, we have an actual relationship. I know he is looking out for my best interest and I trust him completely. When I got into an auto accident I went to him first with absolute confidence that he was going to make me better. This feeling alone is a health benefit.
There is another aspect normally not considered and that is the placebo effect. Taking charge of one’s health is, in itself an act of healing and increases the probability that a person will simply heal themselves regardless of the method of treatment. That probability is about 20%. Considering that when this happens a person gets the benefit with minimal effort and expense, it’s worth shooting for.
Another benefit of alternative medicine that because the costs are so much lower, there is room to experiment with different methods and find a combination that feels right. My experience is that this is the normal practice; there is usually some sort of chronic illness or injury and the person uses a variety of methods, sometimes including conventional medicine to effect a cure, which is fine as long as you’re careful about mixing herbs with pharmaceuticals.
As far as psychic people go, I’ve never known any that didn’t do everything in their power to stay away from hospitals. (I’m no exception.) Some things of course, require regular doctors, but that’s just stitches and fixing broken bones and other areas where they’ve got the right answer. Being sensitive means responding well to alternative methods and generally being able to pick out the best ones. I think that this, more than anything else draws us to alternative sources for our health care. It works for us.
I’ve heard several stories of psychic people simply walking out of hospitals because the conventional methods were going to kill them or let them die.
What I hope that I’ve shown here is that even though we might not always know why, we’re drawn to alternative medicine for good sensible reasons that make a lot of rational, ordinary sense when you take the time to examine the facts.