January 23, 1998

Alternative Therapies

Homeopathy, n. A school of medicine midway between Allopathy and Christian Science. To the last both the others are inferior, for Christian Science will cure imaginary diseases, and they can not.

Ambrose Bierce(1842-1914?)

Whenever I hear the term "alternative medicine," I recall a story that I heard many years ago:

It seems that a young man had spent a good deal of time visiting houses of ill repute all over the world. After a trip to Hong Kong, where he indulged his fancies to the fullest, he found, one morning, that his penis had turned blue. The next day it was black. He went to his doctor, who sent him to a urologist. The urologist pronounced it gangrene of the penis and said that it would have to be amputated. Before the doctor could arrange for the operating room, our man ran out in a panic.

He reasoned that he had gotten the disease in the orient and perhaps a Chinese doctor would know more about it and could help him. So he went to Chinatown and found the oldest traditional Chinese doctor he could find. He was ushered into the presence of a very old man attired in traditional Chinese robes. He showed the doctor his penis. The doctor looked, stroked his long beard, and said, "Very interesting, very interesting. But tell me why you, a young American, would come to me, an old Chinese, when so many of your countrymen are competent physicians?"

"What the American doctor wanted to do didn't appeal to me."

"So you have been to see an American physician. What treatment did he propose?"

"He wanted to amputate my penis," the young man replied.

The doctor roared with laughter, "Amputate? Really, he wanted to amputate? These foolish Americans! Go home, young man, go home; in a week it will fall off by itself."

When a person goes to a doctor,of any kind, he may come away feeling better or worse. Often that is a function of what the doctor does or doesn't do. If he discovers that you have a serious or a potentially fatal or incurable disease, you will leave feeling much worse.If, on the other hand, he tells you that everything is fine or under control, you will leave feeling better. This can be translated into a therapeutic principle that the less a doctor does for you the better you will feel. However, in order to give the customer a feeling that he is getting his money's worth, the doctor has to appear to do something. This often translates into giving you some medicine, or a prescription, or a shot, or simply putting a needle or needles into you.

If your objective in going to a doctor is to feel better, it is obvious that the best treatment is one that does absolutely nothing but leave you with the feeling that you have been helped. There are many professionals who, for a price, are willing to do that.

You can, of course practice do-it-yourself alternative medicine. In the Real Goods catalogue is an "All-Natural, Drug Free Remedy for Minor Aches and Pains." For a mere $40 you can buy this gadget that operates on the same principle as acupuncture. If you press this gadget on the top of your head, it will help your hemorrhoids. There is a place near your elbow which, if pressed, can help your toothache. They also have "Bio-Magnets" that will perform more miracles.

When I go to a doctor I do not go because I want to be made to feel good. I go because I suspect that something may be wrong with me and I want to know about it. If possible, I want it fixed. If I wanted to feel better, I would have a piece of chocolate cake and something tasty to drink.In other words, there are many ways to help yourself to feel good for a hellofalot less money, time or trouble.

You might disagree with me and point out that the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) has just approved acupuncture as a Class 2 Medical Device. They didn't say that it worked, or cured anything. The FDA didn't say much of anything about why they did it, but I suspect that by doing what they did, they place acupuncture needles under their jurisdiction. They can now mandate that those needles be packaged as disposables and used only once. In this way they will prevent the spread of AIDS and hepatitis by acupuncture needles. This type of spread has been reported. It was not the first time, nor the last, that people have been killed by their doctors.

I have just discovered that the medical insurance that my wife has, which also covers me, will pay for acupuncture treatments. The money used to pay for those treatments is amortized among all of the people who have the insurance. In other words, my wife and the teachers are is helping to pay for it.

If the trend continues, your medical insurance will eventually pay for fortune tellers, astrologers and witches. You can expect insurance premiums, as well as death rates, to go up.

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