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DoctorsWhether it is alternative or allopathic (conventional), bad medicine is just bad medicine. We have patients who take no prescription or over-the-counter medication at any time. We see others who are taking 10-12 medications at once, who are interested in getting off as many of them as possible. They know that prescription drugs can be and often are toxic, and they experience those adverse effects. Certainly we deplore situations where patients enter the hospital with chest pain and are discharged with eight new medications, with no detailed advice on beneficial life-style changes, and told not to eat vegetables because they are on Coumadin.

There are times, however, that prescription drugs are useful and even life-saving. There are times when surgery can save a life, as in the evacuation of a subdural hematoma, and times when it is massively destructive, as in prefrontal lobotomy for psychiatric disorders.

I have seen physical therapy employed when the cause of pain was obvious but undiagnosed malignancy, herbs employed for critical aortic stenosis that needed surgery, congestive heart failure treated with acupuncture. The list goes on, and indeed every practitioner in every field of medicine has failed at some point to make the right diagnosis, or has offered the wrong therapy, or failed to offer the right therapy. Conventional practitioners are for the most part untrained in alternative therapies, and often demean them, while alternative practitioners have limited training in conventional diagnosis and treatment.

So what is the innocent consumer to do? He can he safely traverse the minefield of medical options before him? My father’s life was saved and prolonged by aggressive medical therapy, but also damaged and finally destroyed by it.

My answer is: get an opinion and get a second opinion. If your current therapy is not working or making you ill, see another practitioner. Do not ignore pain, even if they say it’s in your head. Pain always means something. Use your own best judgment, and follow your own philosophy of life. If you believe an operation is wrong for you, maybe it is. I had a patient with severe heart disease who repeatedly refused cardiac catheterization and lived another 20 years, until he was 92, without it. Another patient with heart disease badly wanted to avoid bypass surgery but conceded to family pressure, and died without ever leaving the hospital.

You are your own best counsel. Be aware, be educated, establish a better lifestyle (it can always be better), and try to keep an open mind. Ask us. We keep lists of hundreds of practitioners and many therapies, and the list is always growing.

Allan Sosin, M.D.

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