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The Huntress vs. The Headline: “Coffee Enemas Are Not Your Friend”

July 12, 2011

I faced a difficult decision over which headline to feature today as the Headline Gods’ have smiled upon me. Satan’s headlines have also successfully spawned for me too with such demons as “Brutus The Croc’s Big Bad And Hungry (The Telegraph.com.au), “I Fell In Love With My Cousin, Says Greta” (News.com.au) and “Dance Champ Parties Long And Hard” (the Herald Sun).

Well and truly spawn of the devil.

I was all set to write about speed eating today but then stumbled across this headline, which is not only entertaining and truthful, but raises an issue that is very close to my heart. I know that I will offend and upset some people with my point of view, so I apologise in advance. Tory Shepherd writes about the use of “complementary and alternative medicines” (CAM) amongst consumers and discusses the opposing views offered by the Medical Journal of Australia, exploring whether it is ethical for doctors to prescribe CAM treatments that may lack an evidence base. An excellent question to ask.

Ms. Shepherd states the obvious that if a doctor is prescribing such treatments as reiki, coffee enema’s or vaginal blowing (don’t even bother googling that one) patients should be reporting them to the medical registration board. But as Ms. Shepherd asks where does medicine end and quackery begin. It’s a very fine line.

Generally speaking I do not approve of CAM – often there is little evidence to support it, the industry lacks credibility as they do little research into their practice and CAM practitioners often prey on sick, vulnerable and desperate patients, offering high hopes, false cures and a dose of snake oil. I fail to see how this benefits patients. What I do see, however, is why patients are seduced into seeking CAM therapies. Modern medicine cannot cure everything and sometimes the treatments can be worse than the disease itself. Doctors are often rushed and distracted giving patients the impression they’re disinterested, whereas CAM practitioners often give an hour of their time, making a patient feel valued and heard. And for some strange reason there is an idea floating around amongst consumers that ‘natural’ is ‘better’. Even though the body processes everything in exactly the same way, regardless of where it comes from.

Ms. Shepherd notes that the debate is further complicated by some issues. Reality is that some CAM has clinical evidence backing it up (such as the use of St. Johns wort for mild depression), often placebo’s work (however this practice is rightfully discouraged by the medical profession) and health professionals need to be aware of any CAM treatments a patient may be using as they can interact with conventional medicine or produce complications during conventional medical treatments (ie. garlic tablets act as an anticoagulant and patients do actually need to stop taking it a week prior to having surgery). Combined with the fact that CAM treatments have prominent displays in pharmacies and that some health insurance providers offer rebates on some CAM practitioners the medical profession has to work smarter so as not to alienate their patients from seeking evidence based medical advice. It’s a very fine line indeed.

What would actually make it easier to sort the wheat from that chaff as far as CAM is concerned? If the CAM industry took a professional line themselves and began conducting research into their treatments and practices it could potentially benefit many. Much needed credibility would be given to the CAM industry, medical doctors would be able to refer patients to and prescribe CAM treatments when appropriate and dodgy practitioners who are preying on the vulnerable could be rooted out. Seems like a win/win situation to me.

So that’s my rant for the day. And for a cool picture I have an excellent one of a cat that likes to dice with death.

Ivo Berg, an amateur photographer took this picture after being deeply disturbed by the suicidal cat happily playing outside 17 stories up. It took several “frightening” attempts to get the shot, however Berg was eventually rewarded for his patience.

And my dog can’t even stay on the couch without falling off…

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4 Comments
  1. Kate permalink

    The cost of this type of treatment can well be demonstrated by the coronial inquest into the death of Peter Dingle’s wife a few years ago and was highlighted in Australian Story on the ABC last night.

    • An excellent example and not to mention the number of child deaths due to parents refusing to allow their children to be treated by conventional medicine. More research and evidence needs to be produced to ensure patients are getting the best available care they can get.

  2. Chris permalink

    I really don’t understand this belief that just because something is natural, it is better for you.
    Mud is perfectly, but I wouldn’t eat it.
    I am annoyed when i hear/read about parents who have unwell children because they refuse to use ‘unnatural’ treatments…

    Having said all this, when I had meningitis a few years ago, an awesome Chinese guy gave me some acupuncture. He did make it very clear to me that I needed to be in hospital, but he said he could take away my headache for an hour or two, just so I could get some rest.

    I REALLY appreciated that, since it was the only thing that worked.

    • Essentially though, Chris, the fellow doing your acupuncture acted responsibly by making it clear you needed conventional medical treatment. It is important that the CAM industry be regulated and essential training provided so providers of the service know when they’re outside their scope and can refer to medical services when necessary. This way patients can be confident in the services they receive as being the best practice and care they can get.

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