May 30, 2024

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Ahead of polls, debate over integrative medicine hots up

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Public health is not a popular subject that generates a lot of heat and dust during election debates.

But ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power at the Centre, the attention being paid to and the crores that have been flowing into the resurrection of traditional medicine systems and the vociferous discussions on “integrative medicine” has triggered much apprehension as well as heated debates amongst the medical fraternity.

The push given by the BJP government at the Centre to integrative medicine and proposals to launch an “integrative MBBS course”, wherein students of modern medicine may be expected to spend a year learning traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda as part of their modern medicine curriculum, has not gone down well with the medical community.

The Indian Medical Association had been alarmed when last year, the Health Minister of Haryana announced the State government’s plan to include a year of mandatory Ayurveda studies in the MBBS curriculum.

Against ‘mixopathy’

“The kind of “mixopathy” that the Union government has been pushing, will not augur well for our health system. The threat that undergraduate medical students will have to study an integrative MBBS course is very much on the horizon and we are sure that once the general elections are over, it will come to the forefront again,” says the national president of IMA, R.V. Asokan.

“Elections are perhaps the only time when politicians are vulnerable… Once they are in power, they will not lend us an ear. So IMA has, through a ‘charter of demands’, asked all political parties to maintain the purity of modern medicine,” says Dr. Asokan.

While the IMA has put forth various issues, it is the issue of integrative medicine that figures first on the list. As instructed by its central leadership, all local IMA chapters in the State have been holding meetings with Lok Sabha candidates and discussing the key issues, especially why ‘mixopathy” cannot be accepted.

The BJP government has been quite serious in its efforts to promote integrative medicine. Following the setting up of the Centre for Integrative Medicine and Research at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi in 2016, it also announced the establishment of AYUSH-ICMR Advanced Centres for Integrated Health Research in four AIIMS in the country last year

‘Let patients choose’

IMA maintains that “every system of medicine has its profile and history. Integrative medicine is a threat to patient care and safety. It is a health catastrophe waiting to happen. A cafeteria approach, with the patients having the right to choose, is the only acceptable solution.”

While there have indeed been some comments in the social media that in order to protect modern medicine, doctors should stand together and ensure that BJP does not come to power at the Centre, IMA leaders assert that they do not want to tell anyone whom to vote for.

But not everyone is of the opinion that integrative medicine is a health catastrophe waiting to happen. The Director of AIIMS, New Delhi, M. Srinivas, who was in the capital recently, told The Hindu that there are many areas in modern medicine, where traditional medicine can become complementary so that it adds value to the care given to the patient. “Integrative medicine is just complementary medicine. It is up to us in modern medicine to use our clinical validation skills to see if any component of traditional medicine can add value to our care,” according to Dr. Srinivas.

Ayurveda doctors

Though troubled by the incessant drubbing on social media that Ayurveda is a ‘pseudoscience”, the Ayurveda practitioners in the State are quite happy about the Centre’s efforts to give more legitimacy to the ancient medicine system. However, when it comes to integration with modern medicine or the introduction of an integrative MBBS course, they are not happy either.

“We believe that Ayurveda has a definite role to play in rehabilitative medicine but it should be the choice of the patient. All this talk about integrative medical education by 2030 is something we are also apprehensive about,” V.J. Sebby, general secretary of Kerala Government Ayurveda Medical Officers’ Association, says.

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