Blog Post

New Age "Mission Creep" - Why Untested Treatments are Infiltrating American Health Care

Susan left this comment on our blog: "I’ve been reading these posts for a while and I’m wondering how vulnerable, sick people who realize they need help are going to get the help they need when health care and self-help have become a minefield of New Age practices/products. . .

"I get a magazine from our nearby Catholic (without-Catholic-in-the-title) hospital and it contains more New Age offerings than the magazine from the secular hospital. A nearby parish’s website is sponsored by a chiropractor. The ad mentions 'innate intelligence,' 'maximizing full human potential' and educating patients to be empowered 'to take charge of their health.' They offer coupons.

"This Easter my sister told a story about a patient at the Catholic hospital. He was in major pain after surgery, pain which none of the doctors or pain specialists could solve, so they brought in an acupuncturist. And guess what? Miraculous recovery.

"How is a Catholic to navigate this minefield while being responsible for their health when those we need to trust are not trustworthy? St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us."

It is indeed a challenge in today's medical system which employs too many MBA's in their administrative positions who are more concerned with marketing and attracting patients by offering them the latest trends in "natural" treatments in spite of being fully aware that they are not scientifically valid.

Even the acupuncture cited in Susan's comment that was used in a Catholic hospital and that supposedly provided a "miraculous recovery" had nothing to do with the Traditional Chinese Medicine belief in the existence of a universal life force, aka qi, chi, prana, etc. Acupuncture remains clinically unproven, but the scientific explanation for why pricking the skin with needles can provide pain relief is well-proven.

What Susan is experiencing is the intrusion of integrated medicine into US healthcare which has been going on for some time. It's primarily due to complaints and conspiracy theories about how the current medical establishment has become infiltrated by politics and people out to make money which has made our current system overly-technical, uncaring and cold-hearted. Proponents of alternative medicine are making billions off the notion that the only way to redeem it is through the use of integrative and alternative medicine whose practitioners tend to be more compassionate and caring, and spend more time with their patients.

Professor Edzard Ernst, the world's first professor of complementary and alternative medicine at Exeter University in the UK, disagrees with this view.

"This argument is a classic straw-man: it deliberately exaggerates the weaknesses of modern medicine and proposes that its defects can be repaired by adding unproven or disproven treatments to the system—after all, alternative practitioners may well have time, empathy, and compassion, but they also employ treatments that are not evidence-based, implausible, or bogus."

In addition, many of these unproven and so-called "natural" remedies are based in religions that are not compatible with Christianity. A prime example of this is Reiki. Before becoming a Reiki practitioner, students must attend an attunement ritual, a spiritual ceremony led by a Reiki master that involves channeling Reiki energy, known as the Source, from the master to the student while tracing invisible “sacred” symbols on  their heads and hands. Because Scripture condemns the channeling of spirits (see Deuteronomy 18:9-14), patients need to be fully informed about this so-called "massage" that requires training in the form of spiritual attunement rituals.

For this reason, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement in 2009 condemning the practice of Reiki as "inappropriate for Catholic institutions." However, it continues to infiltrate the general healthcare system in spite of its lack of scientific support and it's deep roots in spirituality.

In this blog, a Catholic nurse describes her efforts to convince hospitals to provide full disclosure to patients about alternative therapies such as Reiki, acupuncture, yoga, etc. in order to protect patients from possible spiritual conflicts.

As Dr. Ernst says, "If modern medicine needs to be reminded of the importance of the art of medicine, this should not be achieved at the expense of the science in medicine. Integrating unproven or disproven treatments into our clinical routine would not improve but can only worsen the situation. The art and the science are not mutually exclusive. In fact, good medicine will always consist of both elements."'

He disputes the assumption that unproven or disproven treatments become acceptable simply because they are often administered in a kind and caring fashion.

This is, quite simply, not true, he says. "The current drive for integrated medicine is illogical and potentially harmful. It should be a concern to anyone with a real interest in improving tomorrow’s healthcare."

As for pastors who allow chiropractors to advertise in their bulletin, they need to exercise due diligence about these establishments which too often promote untested alternatives, most notably "energy medicine" techniques such as acupuncture, Reiki, etc. Too few pastors are aware that the Vatican document, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, refers to the "energy" underlying these practices as the "new age god."

Pastors also need to be reminded that allowing any of these practices to be offered on church property such as through health fairs or by their Parish Nurse, can leave them liable for any injuries that might result.

The best way to combat this infiltration into our healthcare system is to speak up about these practices in a respectful and intelligent way, then leave the rest up to God.

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