Pharyngula

Not you too, New Zealand?

Let’s imagine that you, a rational person, are a high muckety-muck in some prestigious scientific institution — like, say, the Royal Society of New Zealand — and you’re asked whether some fringe subject — like, say, Traditional Chinese Medicine — should receive the endorsement of your society. How would you determine your answer?

If you’re anything like me, you’d go to experts and ask, “Is there good evidence that this really works? Is it a subject we should pursue in greater depth?”

Not the Royal Society of New Zealand, though. No, forget all that business of whether TCM actually works, or even does harm: instead, they hired a consultant psychologist who interviewed 30 people and asked them whether they’d used TCM. Their conclusion:

The Society recommends that TCM should become a registered profession and that registered practitioners should be clinically well qualified.

It apparently doesn’t matter whether it works or not, and the fact that it can cause harm was actually used to support endorsing it in a fine piece of topsy-turvy logic.

There is the potential of harm from the practice of TCM. Apart from the risks already outlined in the proposal document, clients consulting TCM practitioners are at risk of delayed diagnosis and treatment of their conditions, which can carry significant consequences. It is possible that an occult fracture is missed in a client consulting a TCM practitioner for foot pain, or early meningococcal disease overlooked in a client with fevers and general malaise.

Regulation of TCM will ensure that all TCM practitioners are aware of the limitation of their service, and to know when to refer clients to another health service if necessary. Improper practice of TCM, such as tuina (massage therapy) and tei-da (practice of bone-setting), has been shown to induce physical damage (e.g. joint dislocation, spindle damage, deep tissue/muscle damage) to the patients and some herbal medicine may also not be suitable for pregnant women. It will therefore be important to ensure that registered TCM practitioners are responsible and clinically well qualified.

I have decided that chewing broken glass is a cure for cancer. It is irrelevant whether it actually does so; it does cause severe bleeding and oral and throat damage, though, so I’m moving to New Zealand, where that will be cause to officially recognize and register my practice, so that the state can better protect my patients from harm.

(Also on FtB)