Alternative Medicine and the Christian Responsibility
Acupuncture, ayurveda, chiropractice, homeopathy, meditation, osteopathy, and yoga are just a few of the many types of medicine practiced all over the world. According to the western establishment, all these forms of medicine are called alternative medicines. However, some of the aforementioned techniques have been in continuous use for over six thousand years, predating western medicine by over four thousand years. Yet, still many M.D.'s reject alternative forms of medicine. One of the buzzwords in medicine in recent years has been "holistic medicine". Physicians are becoming more aware of the need to treat the whole patient rather than just certain symptoms. Due to this realization, a small percentage of doctors are turning to ancient forms of medicine as a guide to alternative treatments. As alternative forms of medicine emerge in the western world, Christian scientists need to determine the moral, religious, and scientific validity of such techniques in order to gain a more holistic approach to medicine.
According to the Hippocratic Oath, which every physician must take, each physician is expected to deliver the form of care which she considers most beneficial to a patient's health. There are a few minor stipulations guiding treatment by a physician, but for the most part, doctors have much liberty in choosing a regimen for a particular patient. If we look only at the Hippocratic Oath as the governing body of a physician's actions, then we must admit that no doctor is obligated to broaden his views and seed treatments with which he is not already familiar. However, every year doctors are required to fulfill certain requirements in continuing education. For that reason, physicians have a moral obligation to seek the form of treatment which will best benefit the patient.
This raises some important moral questions. Should a doctor reveal all possible cures to her patients even if she doesn't agree with them? Who should decide which treatment to pursue? Most American physicians would say that physicians are not responsible for giving a patient all treatment options and that the patient himself is ultimately in charge of choosing which treatment he wants. After all, a patient can choose to go to an acupuncturist, or an osteopath, or an M.D. While this is theoretically true, this is not the whole story, and there are some major complications. First, most people still regard their M.D. as the first line of defense with a particular ailment. M.D.'s are federally licensed to practice medicine while most alternative forms of medicine can be practiced by anyone with little education. Even the few forms of alternative medicine that do require licensure require far less education than M.D.'s. In addition, most alternative practitioners are only skilled in treating known diseases and are not fully capable of identifying diseases from their symptoms. For this reason most...