Letters 9 August 2021

Letters 9 August 2021
On healthcare in India: A comment, and a rejoinder

The article "Healthcare in India: Towards an Agenda for Change" (August 6, 2021) describes well the Indian health care system in India. However, I disagree with the author that the alternate healthcare systems like Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani are not based on a scientific understanding of the human body. 

The 'alternate systems' are based on the understanding of the human body "as a whole" as well as the impact of the outside environment on the body. The system of modern medicine is based on human structures but fails to see the body as a whole. The modern system focuses on 'cut and learn' techniques and is far less experienced than the alternate system. The modern system is more useful for emergency treatments, and is still in the learning phase. The ancient alternatives are far more advanced than the western practices.

That being said, the practitioners of alternate system are not inquisitive and capable enough to learn the techniques to their fullest as they are more focused on learning the modern system owing to better financial opportunities. Only the students with low ranks in competitive exams shift towards the alternate system, that too just for the degree and a government job.

India should focus on improving the overall health structure, not just by imitating western system in the name of international standards, but by considering the human needs and the already available knowledge. It includes improvement in the modern system as well as re-establishing the ancient system of medicine.

Shubham Saini

A Response
This is in response to the Letter to the Editor by Shubham Saini (above).
It is often said that alternate systems of medicine understand the human body as a whole. What this statement means in practice is not well-defined and hence it is difficult to debate. If one considers that the statement refers to the fact that modern medicine is divided into specialities, it can be debated.The division into specialities has risen primarily because the body of knowledge is vast and it is impossible for a single human being to master everything in a short enough time to also actually put this knowledge to use and treat patients.  Certainly, several surveys of patient perception have bemoaned the fact that patients feel unsatisfied with the encounter with the medical care system as a whole and specifically, with the doctor. My opinion is that this is a problem in the political economy of health care and not the scientific basis of modern medical care.This is the point that I make in the article, that is, modern medical care is based on scientific evidence whereas traditional systems are not. Regarding what is called "the healing experience", the social aspects of human experience certainly must be a part of medical care, but it has to be a part of, not a substitute for, scientific care.
Regarding the second point about the scientific curiosity and capability of the practitioners of traditional medicine, I have no doubt that the author of the letter is correct. It fills me with sadness that this endeavour is wasted pursuing a path which is known to be a dead end.
George S. Thomas
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