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October 2021

J R Coll Physicians Lond. 1997 Mar-Apr; 31(2): 155-7.

Medicine: alternative, complementary or competitive? Some thoughts on other ways of doing things.

Ngu Blackett K.

Faculty of Medicine and Biological Sciences, University of Yaounde, Cameroon. [email protected]

Alternative medicine depends on which side of the fence one is sitting. In an African setting 'modern medicine' is often treated as competitive or complementary to traditional medicine. Differences in views as to what is health, and what causes disease can result in altered treatment objectives. Health needs to be seen in a wider context, and management with patient participation, rather than 'imposed treatment', is called for. Although we need to be open to new ideas, these need to be critically assessed if we are to do no harm to our patients. For patients to take part in the decision-making process they need adequate information. We need to improve our communication skills, and to understand that a pathophysiological explanation of illness does not answer the basic question which we all ask when ill--'Why me?' In this respect we can do well to learn from traditional healers who try to treat the whole patient and not just the disease.

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