Medicine: Eastern or Western, Conventional or Complementary?

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By Catriona Valenta

img_0437-jpg_lucid_1Let me declare a conflict of interest. My career as a provider of Western medicine has greatly influenced me, and I have never chosen complementary medicine myself, nor have I recommended it to my patients.  And 38 years of membership of a spiritual organization has not left me unaffected. I have long been fascinated by the sometimes fine line between science, spirituality and superstition.

It is undeniable that there has been an enormous surge of interest in “alternative medicine,” and with the ageing of our own UC baby boomers, many of us have friends who may be tackling serious illness with non-conventional treatments.

What did Reverend Moon mean when in his 1987 speech to health care professionals in our movement he said we need a careful blending of the Eastern concept of medicine (what is already being done in the Orient) with Western medicine?

I offer my answers to the following questions:

  • What is the “Eastern concept” of medicine? How can we define Eastern and Western medicine? Is it a purely geographical distinction? Where does alternative medicine fit in?
  • What can the different approaches contribute to make a system of health care that is holistic, principled and ethical?
  • How can we make informed and balanced decisions and as health care professionals help our patients to do the same? What sources of information are trustworthy?
  • Why do so many people shun Western medicine and chose alternative therapies?

Definitions

“Western medicine” is a system based on science, and is “evidence-based.” Many cringe at this term, but can one criticize the wisdom of “the judicious use of best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients?”

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