Your choice: alternative or western treatment?

Tita Valderama

Tita C. Valderama

Alternative medicine appears to be gaining popularity among Filipinos in recent years. The trend is not yet for a full shift from western medical practice, but a combination of western with alternative treatment.

The high cost of the conventional or western medicine does not seem to be the primary consideration. The alternative healing options can be quite prohibitive, too.

The competence of western medicine practitioners also come into view, plus too expensive laboratory tests and procedures.

Take the case of a friend’s brother who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer only after more than three months of repeated laboratory tests. None of the doctors consulted in three hospitals in Metro Manila detected cancer cells rapidly eating up his internal organs, until the patient became too weak to walk after weeks of having difficulty swallowing food. He died less than two weeks after the diagnosis.

Another friend is undergoing chemotherapy for Stage 4 lung cancer that was diagnosed only after several tests when he vomited blood following a fever that lasted for a month.

Their experiences became arguments for some of their relatives, friends and associates to turn to the alternative healers, many of whom were educated on and practiced western medicine.

Questions were raised on efficiency, competence and practicality of relying only on the conventional treatment.

Is cancer really difficult to track down until it has affected primary organs like the kidneys, liver, or brain? Or is it because hospitals, including the premier medical institutions like St. Luke’s and Makati Medical Center, don’t have the equipment that are modern enough to detect cancer and other chronic diseases in the early stages? Or there may be state-of-the-art equipment, but there is shortage of competent medical practitioners to use them properly?

It has been said that western treatment has turned to become a for-profit service in favor of the multi-national pharmaceutical companies.

But riding on the acceptance of alternative medical treatment, some hospitals have already embraced it through wellness programs or integrative medical services.

St. Luke’s in Global City, for one, opened three years ago a Complementary Medicine Services (CMS) that institutionalized the fusion of Oriental medicine with Western medical treatment.

The government, through the Department of Health (DoH), has been promoting the use of herbal medicine and traditional healing methods like “hilot” in spite of its meager budget.

Outside the hospitals are several private clinics offering services from acupuncture to naturopathy that are gaining widespread attention for treatment of diseases from cough to cancer.

The alternative medicine that had been so helpful and traditionally practiced by most Filipinos for a long time is naturopathy. It uses natural methods using light, water, heat, cold and common herbs and nutrition for treatment for less serious illnesses as home remedies.

We have heard stories from people with terminal illnesses and still alive to affirm the effectiveness of naturopathy.

Naturopathy, which can be traced back to the 18th or 19th century, is one of the most popular alternative healing methods. It has become an important component of medical tourism in recent years

Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a medical system that believes in the healing power of nature. An expert in naturopathy is called naturopathic doctor. Naturopathic doctors base their practice on six timeless principles founded on medical tradition and scientific evidence.

The lure of alternative medicine becomes more pronounced as the shortage of doctors practicing western medicine worsens.

According to the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the country needs 930,000 doctors to meet the ideal doctor-population ratio of one doctor for every 100 people when the country’s population reaches 100 million this year.

PMA president Leo Olarte said the Philippines has 130,000 licensed doctors, but only 70,000 are practicing.

Worsening the situation was the shift of around 10,000 doctors to nursing in the last 10 years. Many specialists were forced to seek greener pastures elsewhere because of the meager pay in local medical institutions, particularly in government-maintained hospitals. Others have retired or emigrated.

The debate on the efficacy of alternative or natural medicine versus the western or conventional treatment will go on. Hopefully, the arguments will always redound to the benefit of patients, and not driven by profit considerations.

In the end, it is entirely up to the patient to choose either western or alternative medicine, or combine both treatments. But that will also depend on the patient’s financial capacity.


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