Acupuncture Today
February, 2003, Vol. 04, Issue 02
 
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Part Four: The Pattern

By C.P. Negri

In the early part of the 20th century, the "regular" physicians we now call allopaths formed an alliance with drug companies and institutions like the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations to prevent homeopathic and eclectic medical schools from getting grant money and accreditation.

They succeeded. Within a short time, these popular practitioners were largely extinct. This is excellently detailed in the third volume of the Divided Legacy books by Harris Coulter.

The osteopathic doctors (DOs) were enticed to join the "regulars" and were repeatedly offered automatic MD degrees if they abandoned the osteopathic approach. The American Osteopathic Association refused to disband, but they converted the curricula of their schools to avoid the same fate as the homeopaths. Today, osteopathic medical schools teach very little osteopathy; they became MDs in practice for the most part in an effort to survive.

Chiropractors, on the other hand, went to court. After decades of opposition by the allopathic medical profession, the U.S. Supreme Court found the American Medical Association guilty of violating antitrust laws, and of criminal conspiracy in "plotting to eliminate the chiropractic profession."

All of these historical events are matters of public record. They are being pointed out to illustrate that there has long been a tradition of opposing and actually eliminating any competition to the allopathic method. Just because there are over 50 schools of Oriental medicine in the U.S. (more, I might point out, than osteopathic schools) does not mean we are here to stay. Twenty-two homeopathic medical colleges and 113 homeopathic hospitals disappeared in a 17-year period because of political maneuvering. Remember, these were people with the MD title after their names, yet their institutions were wiped out because they were "unorthodox" - and also wildly popular with the public.

Today, the same orthodox medical institutions that once called acupuncture "unscientific quackery" and warned the public not to use our professional services are reversing themselves. Is it because there were no good scientific studies of our efficacy until recently? No. There has always been good evidence; it just wasn't accepted. What's worse, orthodox medicine lied to the public and said no studies had been done. Many doctors are still repeating the same stories. Why not? It's what they were told.

What has forced the orthodoxy to accept (to the degree that it has) the evidence has not been scientific inquiry and fairness. It has been the marketplace. The public is now spending more money on us than them. When it was discovered in 1997 that more than twice the amount of money spent on hospital care was spent at unorthodox medical offices, allopathic doctors sat up and took notice. The public logged 243 million more visits to unconventional providers than to regular primary practice doctors. This bit of unsettling news has not been lost on them. They might still not believe in this "quackery," but they know there is money in it, and they want it.

I was surprised, and yet not surprised, to hear that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently established a policy on alternative medicine and urged their members to discuss these methods with patients. Parents with small children have been one of the largest groups to look elsewhere for health care answers, due to the widespread dissatisfaction with routine antibiotic treatment. Increasingly, you will hear MDs say, "Oh yes, some alternative therapies really work - and we do them right here!"

The current generation won't remember that a similar controversy raged about vitamins years ago. Vitamin supplements were considered to be quackery by physicians and drug companies well into the 1950s. It wasn't until the public embraced vitamins in a big way that doctors reluctantly admitted that vitamins could help people be healthy. Now, nearly all of the large vitamin manufacturers have been taken over by drug companies.

As recently as the 1960s, the American Medical Association's official stance on diet was that it "does not play any appreciable role in health and disease." By today's common knowledge, this appears unbelievable. Remember: when your family doctor gives you some fleeting dietary advice, he or she probably accepted the concept only grudgingly. Remember also that even today, very few medical schools require nutrition courses.

In the first half of the 20th century, publishing magnate Bernard MacFadden was considered public enemy #1 by the AMA for his creation of drugless sanitariums in many states, to which people traveled to regain their health through his system of "physical culture." MacFadden had wealth and a publishing empire with which he influenced the public. He warned people of the increasing amount of drugging the medical profession was doing, and publicized natural cures by diet and exercise. AMA president Morris Fishbein attacked him in print on many occasions. Yet hospitals now increasingly have "wellness centers" - spa-like gymnasiums designed by top architects to be appealing to the eye and unabashedly competitive with other providers of fitness programs.

The fitness craze has produced a population that is less dependent on medical services. This has worsened a problem for the health care industry. As insurance and government reimbursements dwindle, the health market has become very competitive. The very methods MacFadden espoused years ago have attracted a large portion of the population. It would be futile now for the medical profession to keep telling people that diet and exercise don't really help them. So the only answer is to give them what they are buying elsewhere.

This is what irks me most about organized medicine. They are sore losers. When they find themselves on the losing side, they invade the winning side. If it is their honest belief that diet or exercise, herbs or acupuncture, or plain sunshine does not cure anything, they should just stick to whatever they think works best. And if they are providing those therapies now that there is money to be made from them, they were either lying earlier when they said they didn't believe in those therapies, or they are providing those therapies now, even though they don't believe in them. Either way, it's dishonest.

Conventional medicine is now embracing unorthodox methods it once absolutely railed against. This is supposed to present a new attitude of broadmindedness and brotherhood, but in truth there is no more effective distraction to keep people from viewing your shortcomings than to prop up your newfound magnanimity. No one wants to penalize someone for his past nastiness when he is supposedly turning over a new leaf. No one is going to pin someone down on all his past failures when his current success is being celebrated. It would be bad form. But just because the orthodoxy is discovering the gentle, effective methods we originated, does not mean they will abandon the most invasive, severely toxic, and least effective therapies they have!

Years ago, I was always somewhat annoyed with friends of mine who were political activists for various causes. They irritated me with the accusation, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." Until conventional medicine not only embraces more effective methodologies but also denounces its past failures and attitudes, it will not be part of the solution. It will set itself up, as usual, in the chair of judgement in which its own shortcomings and predatory actions are glossed over, with the spotlight on everyone else. In a courtroom, there is no mistaking who is in power. Everyone may be listening to the defendant's pleadings, but in the end, the audience doesn't determine what happens to him.

With orthodox medicine as the judge, we have in the past received the strictest sentences and had our appeals denied. While this seems to be changing, we must recognize that although he is a little older and grayer, we still stand before the same judge. We have lots of new evidence, an impressive argument, and the sympathy of the courtroom is with us. But we still have to impress the judge.

We will likely receive a pat on the head for our successes and a superficial display of cooperation, but it will be coupled with an implied warning: Don't forget who's boss.

We should not stand for this. And if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

 

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