Editor's note: The first three letters to the editor were written in response to "Our Future," written by Steve Given, LAc, MTOM, and published in the January 2003 issue.
Regarding the "Our Future" article, many practitioners would like to know: when was the freedom of speech and/or the freedom to lobby one's beliefs taken away from the citizens of the United States by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?
Richard A. Freiberg, DOM, DAc, AP Pompano Beach, Florida
I applaud Steve Given's perspective in his article, "Our Future." His observations are also true of our society as a whole. Not only for acupuncture, but for our future on this seemingly shrinking planet, we "can only be successful if personal attacks are replaced by collaboration and mutual respect."
Steven Krems, MD Marina Del Rey, California
I would like to thank Mr. Given for his article on the profession. I do not share his perceptions of the California issue.
First, I would like to say that all groups have agendas; acupuncture organizations and schools are no different. The fact that there are so many different political ideas about Oriental medicine has created great rifts between these groups and prevented us from moving ahead with unity or embracing the diversity.
I find it interesting that there is a fight over how California has sought to regulate its Oriental medicine practitioners. The United States Constitution grants each of the states the power to regulate and license its health care providers as it sees fit. The special interest organizations are not the authority here. Do you think we should just ignore this document because we are having some problems accepting these changes in California. I do not agree with all of the changes that have occurred, but let's be honest: we wouldn't make any changes unless we were forced to do so legally. California is moving more quickly toward establishing the Oriental medicine profession as a legitimate, primary care alternative to allopathy. Along the way, it has reduced competition from undereducated practitioners. Few other states have protected legislation that allows us to practice at the primary care level.
I have found it very odd that for years, our profession chose to go with a master's degree instead of a doctorate like the other medical professions. We need to have entry-level doctoral programs as the public looks for doctors as experts in their field. I currently live and practice in the Midwest, where I have seen and heard my share of Western medical experts who have licensed medical degrees, but no knowledge of the alternatives they are talking about.
For years, it was the schools and Oriental medicine organizations that were guiding us toward our current point in time. I agree that we as a profession need to come together to create political solidarity. For those of us who do not live in California, or no longer practice there, I think it is all right to feel a little angry and jealous, but let's not stay focused on it for too long. We have a long political road ahead of us. The medical profession is moving more toward alternative expertise without the true knowledge or understanding of its application.
Name withheld upon request St. Paul, Minnesota
The Use of Plants and Animals in Oriental Medicine
As one of the organizers of the Consensus Conference on Protecting Medicinal Plants and Animals in Oriental Medicine, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the intent of the conference and to respond to Mercy Yule's letter about not throwing "the water buffalo out with the bath water" in the January issue. One of our keynote speakers, Henry Lee, did challenge our profession to avoid using animal products. However, I would like to point out that ultimately, attendees did not come to any consensus about whether to use animal products, only that replacements should be found for endangered animal (and plant) species used in Oriental medicine.
As Andy Ellis, another speaker at the conference pointed out, the Buddhist tradition has very successfully avoided animal products for hundreds of years. (Perhaps they know something we don't?) Maybe the Buddhist point of view needs to be included more in the discussion, not censured. In any case, the whole point of the conference was to demonstrate that Oriental medicine has many options; using medicinals derived exclusively from plants is certainly a viable one. My personal opinion is not whether animal products should be used, but under what circumstances. The use of animal products is a discussion in and of itself, and our project seeks to create meaningful dialogue on the issue.
Elizabeth Call, MS, LAc Chinese Medicine Conservation Education Project Greenwich, New York
Accidental Needle-Sticks and HIV: A Closer Look
I wanted to offer a correction for a reference that was cited in "It's Time for Accidental Needle-Sticks to Come Out of the Closet" from the January issue.
The authors say, "To our knowledge to date, there has never been a reported HIV seroconversion from an acupuncture needle-stick." They reference a CDC article on the Web; that source actually states that there has been one documented case of HIV transmission through an acupuncture needle.
I fully recognize that the risk of HIV transmission via acupuncture needles is extremely low, and I believe it's important to be correct when offering facts to the public.
Barbara Walker Acupuncture Intern Tai Sophia Institute Laurel, Maryland
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