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News2008May › Alternative Medicine: Only the dead are safe to try it › May 2008

Alternative Medicine: Only the dead are safe to try it

When is it safe to try alternative medicine? According to doctors, it's when the patient is dead

When is it safe to try alternative medicine? According to doctors, it's when the patient is dead.

A woman of 19 underwent cranial surgery at an American hospital, but she died two weeks later. She was declared dead, but was kept on a ventilator to allow her parents to get to the hospital and see her. On arrival, the father asked that she be given a Traditional Chinese Medicine concoction, which he said was routinely used in his society for patients in a coma.

The doctors had several conversations with the father, but couldn't see how the herb could help a patient who was, to all intents and purposes, dead. Perplexed, they called in the hospital's ethics committee to ask whether they could administer the substance while the patient remained on a ventilator.

After much deliberation, the committee sanctioned the use of the herb as it offered "psychological benefits to the family and the absence of risk to the patient (since she was dead)." Sadly they weren't so concerned about the risk of the conventional treatment that killed her.

(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2008; 299: 2188-93).


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