I read this article in Forbes, from a critic of acupuncture. In essence, he’s saying the NIH doesn’t recommend acupuncture and that not only don’t they recommend acupuncture, but that acupuncture might even be dangerous enough to kill an unsuspecting patient.
First, the critic has cited a situation that supposedly happened in 1995. There review is in the Lancet from August 12, 1995. There is no summary of the article and the PDF is available for $31.50. I’m not willing to pay that to ascertain that this was because of acupuncture or not. The title of the article, Fatal cardiac tamponade through congenital sternal foramen gives me no clue whether acupuncture plays any role in this issue. Basically, our critic must, in 2011 cite a situation in another country from over 15 years ago to “prove” the dangers of acupuncture, assuming that is the gist of the article and that the person who died from the cardiac tamponade did not happen do so on the acupuncture table rather than having it caused by the acupuncture.
If it does indeed prove that such an article did not mention acupuncture as a factor or that acupuncture was such a minor factor, then the critic can just claim he didn’t completely understand the science, much as John Stossel claims to have just misread the information on Organics. Back in February of 2002, John Stossel did a segment on the news program 20/20. He made the claims that organic food was more likely to be contaminated than conventionally farmed food. Organic Gardening, among others, tried to find the lab that tested the soil to find the tests but were unable to trace the source. A lot of people were talking about this “new” information. However, in August of 2000 Stossel made an apology for misrepresenting the science and that was that. It’s a quick apology–my bad sorry. However, word is out that organics may not only not be worth your money but that they may actually be bad for you.
Back to medicine, I read a book by Melody Peterson Our Daily Meds a few years ago. In this book, Peterson asserts that pharmaceutical companies have done far more whitewashing of their practices than anyone suspects.
In addition to doing studies until they get the results they want (ie a group of people with few or no problematic side effects and who respond well after taking their medication) some companies have gone so far as to have doctors on their staff in order to use the doctor’s name on articles written by other staffers who are in essence marketers. These articles give the legitimacy of the medical doctor but without the doctor ever having to do any writing. Why should the company do this? Money. These articles quell fears. They suggest that the medicine is good. In addition, they question any independent studies that might be done suggesting that the medication can be harmful.
Why attack acupuncture? Obviously Americans are flocking to natural medicines. Acupuncture works for people. They see results when they see their acupuncturist. They’re buying less medication and refusing medications unless they know they’re vital. People are taking charge of their healthcare and at least insisting their doctor offer explanations and choices. In the midst of this, the big money in healthcare is losing out. While they may not be losing much today, they see that alternatives like acupuncture offer a way for people to not spend so much to feel better. They worry they might lose even more money tomorrow. So they find people like the critic in Forbes to write articles that criticize the efficacy of acupuncture. These critics twist words to make articles mean what they want them to mean. They put the worst possible spin on any interpretation, even when that is clearly not the intent of the writer when the article is taken in context, and then attack anyone who disagrees.
As someone who is very politically involved, this is a common tactic to keep an opponent off-balance. It doesn’t matter if what is being said is true or not. Just keep talking and attacking and stand your ground.
The more angry acupuncturists get the less likely they can make their point in a thoughtful manner. Additionally, the pro acupuncture people will try to convert the critic. He’s not trying to convert or change anyone’s mind. He’s there to muddy the waters and sow doubt and fear. Acupuncturists think they have to prove his claims wrong. Unfortunately nothing is ever absolute and there is probably a situation where someone could argue against gravity.
The critic and his followers won’t change their minds. It’s important to understand that as a professional you have to counter with the experience of your patients. Yes, there are people who are afraid of acupuncture and don’t agree with it but there are always people who will find fault with any study. You are professional and have made a study of this medicine. You’ve helped a lot of people.
So why is having to go this much farther a good thing for practitioners? Because obviously acupuncture is becoming popular enough that those in traditional healthcare not for the care they can give to others but for the money they can make off of others are threatened. That’s why is a good thing that there is someone writing critical articles in Forbes. Acupuncture has arrived.