I was reading an article (here) that was on MetaFilter, which is a website that contains short blurbs about almost every subject, posted by MetaFilter members, aka MeFites, and serves as a shortcut to reading the web without actually having to search around. Natch, if you have a real interest in something, you can always google it, but Metafilter is for person who doesn’t know what their interest is.
For those of you who are used to reading my entries, you’ll know I ramble before getting to the point. Worse, I lead up to the point, take a tangent and then continue as though nothing had happened. For the rest of you, the occasional readers, the less patient among you, and the borderline normal, perhaps I should designate my tangents with a different color, so you can skip through the meat first before going back and trying to figure out what all the garbage was.
The article, really blog entry, was somewhat interesting, but the comments to it were more interesting. It made me think a little about homeopathic medicine, alternative medicine, and placebo-type treatments. There are some who are of the opinion that much of homeopathy is somewhat placebo (not sure what the adjective form of the noun placebo is.. but placebic looked funny), in the sense that a human being will cure himself simply by believing what he has done will work. Somehow there is that capacity that is not always scientifically measurable.
I think there are two forces at work here: 1) Expense and 2) Effectiveness.
First, expense. If one could use bleach and vinegar to do the same work that Drano does, one might choose bleach and vinegar because at $1 per gallon or less, the savings is clear. By the way that example had nothing to do with medical treatments, please don’t drink Drano. Or vinegar, or bleach.
The cost of a prescription, depending on your insurance provider could be up to $25 or $40 for a drug that has no generic equivalent.
The cost of a visit to the doctor in our case is $20, not counting what the insurance company has to pay. This can get extremely expensive when we are showing up just to have the dude with 12 years schooling and several years residency and maybe a lot of years practicing (a rather worrysome word..) say hmm you’ll need to see a specialist for that one. The specialist visit isn’t much better. $40 just to get in the room with him (a hooker is cheaper, and you’ll probably feel much better afterwards, not that I would know) and have him say, hmm you’ll need to get a scan, and oh by the way I can only look at the left knee this referral says absolutely nothing about your right knee, so I have no idea if you even own a right knee (true story!!). 2 visits to the specialist ($120 plus the $20 at the first doctor’s = $140) later: Ah yes, you should try these exercises and it will eventually work itself out.
I don’t even want to think about if a serious, life-changing injury were to happen.
There’s also the ‘cost’ of navigating the ins and outs of managed health care, with referrals, co-payments, appointments, procedures, and long delay times. For the simple procedure of jabbing my daughter’s tear duct, we have seen the pediatrician 3 times, and the specialist once. With that out of the way her appointment was made for almost 60 days out.
That was the science side.
On the alternative medicine side, I’m not as familiar with the expense, but I will try to address it to some level. For one thing, there are ways to get certain homeopathic treatments covered by insurance, but it is not automatic, not readily available, and not always covered, and probably not covered to the extent that regular medical doctors are, not to mention the cost of the coverage would be in addition to the cost of your regular health insurance, because even if I believe in snake bones and spider juice, I still wouldn’t want to pay the hospital bill were I to contract cancer or get into a serious accident.
As for the treatments or advice themselves, I’m not even sure what the cost of those are, but I would say up to $100 per visit. I also don’t know if one could schedule a visit within a few days of calling or if there’s a long wait. There might be a series of treatments or there might be just one, depending on the practitioner and the ailment you have. There’s also the issue of availability. If the person wants to get away from conventional doctoring, they have to search out (sikh out?) the kind they’d most likely believe, assuming that kind is near enough by. If not near, then travel time and costs must be included in this equation. I wouldn’t presume to say that not all homeopathic remedies are the same to the homeopathic alternative medicine enthusiast/patient, but that’s what I tentatively think, because that’s the way I think. For example, I’d take accupressure over shamanism any day.
The other force at work is probably the more important of the two: effectiveness.
There is something about modern medicine that makes its physicians unable to see the forest for the trees. In specific applications, this is good and right, such as reattaching a hand, or removing a melanoma.
The focus is also on the outlying causes, such as the off chance that persistent headaches could be the result of ovarian cancer, as was the case recently- one of Sharole’s friends went in for migraines and was diagnosed with cancer. This is also not bad, because if health conditions are not caught early, the condition progresses, becomes more serious, more difficult to treat, and more difficult to recover from. So if it were the case that the patient were experiencing symptoms of something she knows not what, and was diagnosed with something less than what it was, the doctor must be liable, right? I think it’s this issue of liability that has made doctors afraid to diagnose without tests and scans first. The problem is, however, that the illness progresses while waiting to get into the test and while waiting for the results. For serious illnesses, this may be a fair trade off because it made the doctor aware. For lesser illnesses this is unnecessary.
I think it is in the realm of lesser illnesses, and illnesses caused by emotional stress that modern medicine has lost ground, or given up ground to alternative medicine, or alternative healing, or homeopathic remedies. It is in this realm that practitioners have the ability to diagnose not just the physical symptom, but the emotional and psychological symptom, and remedy all aspects together. That there is a little bit more mystery about the path to the cure I think appeals to those who believe in it, as though the non-understanding of it allows for it to be more powerful, and thus, more effective in the mind of the patient.
Now that you’ve come to the end of this long ramble, you might realize I don’t completely know what I’m talking about, I’m certainly not a specialist in any of these areas. But those are my thoughts. Maybe I’ve sparked some thoughts in you on the topic. I’d love to hear what you think.