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Knowing your limits

MagazineMarch 1993 (Vol. 3 Issue 12)Knowing your limits

I made a house visit to a patient with mastitis whose baby was six days old

I made a house visit to a patient with mastitis whose baby was six days old. Her GP had just been and told her she needed antibiotics. She asked him whether she might try homeopathic treatment as she was breastfeeding. He stood up, turned to her husb

More and more patients are wanting to avoid unnecessary medication, particularly during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and for the minor complaints of babies and children.

When I was pregnant I was diagnosed as having a urinary tract infection in spite of the fact that I had not one symptom and was completely well apart from some morning sickness. My acupuncturist told me to take the antibiotics and that he'd sort out the mess afterwards. It was, I believe, an unnecessary prescription. The antibiotics increased my nausea 10 fold and left me with depression. What a shame that he didn't refer me to a herbalist or a homeopath.

A patient of mine with abdominal pain was diagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome. Acupuncture treatment hadn't helped and she fared no better with homeopathy. Eventually she decided to have a full battery of medical tests. A smart consultant took extensive x-rays. He found a coil floating around in her abdominal cavity. Earlier, when the coil had disappeared she had been told by her GP that she must have passed it vaginally, even though she maintained that she had never done so. The coil had passed through the wall of her uterus (not a rare occurrence I am afraid) but luckily it hadn't punctured any of her vital organs. I have a lot of respect for that patient. I learnt a lot from her.

As patients we do have the right to choose we can and should be involved in making appropriate choices choices that will aid our diagnosis, our treatment, our healing. We need to be encouraged to listen to our gut feelings, our instincts on who treats us for what and when , and to seek as many second opinions as we feel we need.

As a practitioner my primary goal is to heal to use the tools that I have to stimulate my patient's inner healer. I cannot heal all the patients all the time, neither can anyone else in any other therapy. We need to be aware what are our own limits so that we can know how and when to make referrals.

I refer patients to other practitioners when I feel that what I have to offer is limited for whatever reason. I may refer a patient to another homeopath if I believe that homeopathy can help, but I need some help on a difficult case; to an osteopath if there's a physical problem after, say, an accident; to a cranial osteopath for babies and mothers who've had a long and difficult birth; to an Alexander Technique teacher if a patient needs to learn less stressful ways of using his or her body; to a doctor or specialist if I suspect there's some serious pathology, or if a patient needs urgent orthodox medical attention; to a herbalist or acupuncturist if a patient wants to stay with alternative medicine but isn't finding homeopathy helpful; a counsellor or psychotherapist where a "talking" therapy is needed to heal emotional wounds; nutritional advice for patients who are on limited diets and so on.

It is up to us as healers to get smart about what other therapists (orthodox and alternative) are offering so we can help patients make the right choices to get the treatment they need.

Miranda Castro is a Fellow of the Society of Homeopaths, director of patient management at the College of Homeopathy in London, and author of The Complete Homeopathy Handbook and Homeopathy for Mother and Baby, both published by Macmillan.

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