Synthesis of Research on Eastern vs. Western Medicine

913 words | 4 page(s)

Two types of medicine that are often discussed in the modern world include eastern medicine, which includes traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and western medicine, which is traditionally practiced in industrialized nations of the western world. However, in recent years, with the movement toward evidence-based medicine, there has been a question concerning the value of these two types of medicine. Specifically, many have questioned which one is better or if they should be used in conjunction with each other. To many in the west, eastern medicine is viewed as a complementary and alternative type of medicine (CAM). However, many are focusing on an integrative approach.

Some still believe the two should not be combined as this would lead to a loss of both types of medicine. Two articles that discuss these types of medicine include “The Model of Western Integrative Medicine: The Role of Chinese Medicine” by Gustav Dobos and Iven Tao and “When the East Meets West: The Future of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the 21st Century” by Jane Qiu. Both of these articles examine the issue of western versus eastern medicine. It is apparent that while these types of medicine may complement each other, they should not be integrated. If they are integrated, they will lose their identities as separate types of medical specialties.

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In the article by Dobos and Tao, the authors discuss the idea that the combination of traditional western medicine with complementary forms of medicine from the east would lead to a synergistic effect. The authors also believe that the combination of the eastern methodologies of mind and body medicine with western methods of chemicals and surgery would lead to improved outcomes in the patients. The term “integrative medicine” is used to denote the combination of western medicine with CAM and eastern medicine. It is a newer concept that seeks to combine the best of both practices, which limiting the adverse effects of the treatments. The authors point out that a number of conditions and patients would benefit from this type of medicine. They suggest that asthma patients, cardiac patients, diabetic patients, psychiatric patients and others would be the ones who would see the greatest improvement from integrative medicine. They also suggest that this type of medicine is better suited for chronic complaints. Furthermore, most medical schools in the United States are currently including some type of eastern medical and CAM training in the curricula. The authors believe that integrative medicine is the obvious step for both western and eastern medicine (Dobos and Tao 11).

In the article by Jane Qiu, the author acknowledges that an ancient method is meeting modern forces. The author discussed the issue with several leading experts in the field and offered a thorough explanation on the topic of TCM. The field of TCM has been handed down from generation to generation. It is not focused only on treating diseased tissue, which is often the narrow focus of western medicine. Rather, it focuses on the energy fields of the individual. In this method, it is holistic. The determination by many in the West that it is “pseudoscience” reflects a western viewpoint based upon only Eurocentric concepts. Since many in the west do not understand the concepts of energy fields that guide eastern religion, they are not qualified to judge it. For this reason, it should not be combined with western medicine (Qiu 378).

It appears from both articles that both types of medicine are searching for something. While the western type of medicine struggles with its strict approach to disease, it recognizes that it cannot deal with its patients in a systems-based approach anymore. As the world has become a global environment, people have become more enlightened regarding other concepts and religions. This is a fantastic thing for society. However, it has left many craving more than just the rigid western approach. Western medicine has realized that it has to integrate with other cultures. Unfortunately, it may seek to destroy the other types of medicine. If Western medicine can work to utilize the best of CAM approaches without destroying these medicine as an independent type, it will work.

TCM has also recognized that it is at a crossroads. The article acknowledged that young people do not want to study TCM and do not want to practice it. They struggle with the esoteric views of TCM. Ironically, as people from the west seek out these views to guide their lives, people from the east are looking for science to guide its medicine. Eastern medicine must move into the Twenty-First Century with a form of evidence-based medicine. It can be done with the traditional eastern methods. They can integrate what is necessary to survive.

Western and Eastern medicine are two distinct types of medicine. Western medicine is highly rigid with a scientific basis. It is focused on treating the disease of the body, which is often system specific. Eastern medicine appears more mystical. It focuses on the energy paths in the body and how these can be healed holistically. There is a movement towards the integration of these two. However, this may actually destroy both types of medicine. Rather, they should learn from each other. If both types of medicine can take from each other what it needs to improve itself and its practice, everyone will benefit. If they completely integrate as medical concepts, both types of medicine will be lost for future generations. Patients should have the option of multiple types of medical practices from which to choose.

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