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Wall Street Journal Article on Alternative Medicine Provokes Angry Response

The January 9 issue of the Wall Street Journal published an article by Deepak Chopra, MD, Dean Ornish, MD, Andrew Weill, MD, and Rustum Roy, PhD.  “‘Alternative’ Medicine is Mainstream” made the case that an integrative, diet-and-lifestyle approach can curb our sky-high medical bills and cure our costly medical ills.

According to the article, 75 to 78% of our nation’s health care costs are directly due to chronic diseases. They discuss the scientific basis of making wise diet and lifestyle changes to prevent and even treat chronic diseases. They show how genes are turned on and turned off by our lifestyle choices, putting our health directly in our own control, together with the health professionals we enlist to help us.

The Journal published a series of letters to the editor in response to the article on alternative medicine. Some of the letters, two of them written by MDs, offered biting criticism, essentially accusing the article’s authors of eschewing medical procedures like robotic surgery for prostate cancer, or angioplasty and stenting for an acute myocardial infarction. They rejected the notion that alternative medicine is even remotely acceptable: “The only reason such practices are becoming mainstream is due to the fact that our populace is scientifically illiterate….Only a scientifically literate populace can combat this quackery.”

What the letters to the editor uniformly failed to grasp from the original article is that integrative medicine—that is, using the best of all available therapies—is what an increasing majority of Americans already use for their own health. Allopathic medicine has an important place, but there has been neither a prescription nor a procedure that has cured a chronic disease. It is time to move beyond the debate of alternative medicine versus traditional medicine. It is time to listen to consumers who want the best of care; it is time to protect the right of the practitioner to practice and the right of the consumer to choose.

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