Patients 'are not lab rats'

Combining complementary and orthodox medicine into what is called integrated health is a controversial idea - criticised recently in the Scrubbing Up health column by Professor Edzard Ernst.

In this week's column, Dr Michael Dixon, medical director of the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, says patients should be able to choose what works for them.

Integrated health is not a new concept - the best doctors and their clinical colleagues have practised it for years. It means treating patients as whole human beings - paying attention to body, mind and soul - instead of regarding them as nothing more than a set of symptoms to be got out the door as quickly as possible.

But according to a small number of vociferous opponents, it is a "smokescreen for unproven treatments".

The objection seems to be that many of us who practice integrated health include some complementary treatments in our repertoire. They claim there is no evidence for them and that medicine must always be based on scientific evidence.

Of course we should always use the best evidence that is available, but the patient and his or her views are also an essential part of the equation.

I am a doctor - a GP - and, like many of my colleagues, I will recommend complementary treatments to suitable patients depending on that patient's clinical condition, on whether there is an effective conventional treatment available and - crucially - on the patient's own wishes.

'Wonderfully rosy view'

As medical director of the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, I encourage other doctors and health professionals to do the same. Am I going against evidence-based medicine? Certainly not.

It is wrong to say there is no evidence for complementary therapies.

For instance, the British Medical Journal recently published a study demonstrating that the Alexander Technique was more effective in treating lower back pain than either pain relief drugs or physiotherapy.

Source - BBC