Traditions Deserve More Respect
Your articles on the world of so-called complementary and alternative medicine [June 29] had an extraordinarily consistent slant -- that of the science-writer establishment, nurtured on the high-tech, pill-popping, reductionist science culture. It is a perfect match for the media's acceptance of the pro-war administration posture in early 2003. All the writers appear to have read only routine articles critical of the field, which is now accurately described by the term Whole Person Healing (WPH).
That title should calibrate your writers. First, WPH is obviously not the "alternative" to anything. Persons are not bodies alone. They are surely body and mind and spirit. Healing is multidimensional compared with curing, since it affects mind and spirit also. Only one medicine is an "alternative" to another -- Tylenol for aspirin; streptomycin for penicillin, etc.
What is fundamentally wrong in many of the articles is the authors' regular invocation of "science" as the final arbiter of healing. As a card-carrying scientist, author of 1,000 papers, 30-year member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and four other national academies, I must disabuse the authors of the idea that what the current scientific establishment believes is some kind of immutable truth. Their cultural-historical posture is in error: Science is mutable. Quantum mechanics wiped out an entire culture of physics that preceded it. Up to the 1950s, all U.S. geology professors (and no doubt the U.S. newspapers) snickered at a crackpot German's idea of "continental drift." It took nearly 20 years to vindicate Alfred Wegener in the United States. Scientific paradigm change is very slow: reporters beware.
Evan Pugh Professor of the
Solid State Emeritus
Pennsylvania State University
Chair, Friends of Health
State College, Pa.
Feedback on Feedback
I am writing to express my disappointment with "All in the Head" [June 29], which reported about three alternative approaches to mental health treatment, including neurofeedback.
The tone of the article likened neurofeedback to snake oil. This is unfortunate since there are over 30 years of research to support its use for such disorders as seizures and ADHD. (See www.isnr.org for a comprehensive bibliography.) There is Grade A evidence supporting the efficacy of regular biofeedback for the treatment of migraines (Campbell, Penizen and Wall, 2000) and it should not be surprising that we are now seeing similar success using neurobiofeedback.
Also, I was misrepresented in the story as a psychologist instead of a licensed professional counselor (I said that I have a PhD in psychology, which does not yet make me a psychologist. There is a two-year postdoctoral supervised practicum and then exams before this license can be granted.)
It is interesting that antidepressant studies that show a 70 percent response rate with mechanism of action "unknown" can be viewed as strong proof of efficacy, while similar EEG neurofeedback studies that show 70 to 80 percent response with allegations of mechanism "unknown" are seen as unconvincing. This treatment approach can help with problems that medication/psychotherapy can not.
Michael H. Anderson, MD
When my son was diagnosed with severe inattentive attention deficit disorder (ADD), I was told to get a prescription for stimulants, which I would not do because I had heard of neurofeedback. My search for answers on neurofeedback led me to the International Society of Neuronal Regulation (www.isnr.org), where there is a list of more than 232 papers and scientific studies, of which 59 are on ADD and ADHD.
So my choice was to try 40 sessions of neurofeedback or 1,440 doses of stimulants to get him through high school. I chose to try the 40 sessions of neurofeedback. Without ever taking one stimulant, my son suddenly started spelling better, doors in the house stopped slamming, chores got done, grades went up, real conversations began, and his grandmother said he was a new child.
Healthy, Wealthy and Why
"Primary Loss" [July 6] cites a common problem, even for those who know how to navigate our complex health care system.
As a pediatric sub-specialist, I often act as the anchor for families forced to switch primary care providers for their sick children. An important factor in this problem is only touched upon by the author of your story. Inadequate and ever-decreasing payments to physicians for provided services in the face of markedly increased expenses for malpractice insurance, rent, etc., will force many good doctors to abandon their practices.
One only has to read the newspaper to see a major cause for this trend. On July 4, the New York Times reported that "about a dozen executives will collect a total of $200 million or more if Anthem Inc.'s proposed $16.4 billion purchase of WellPoint (Health Networks) goes through."
Insurance executives and investment banks are enriching themselves on the backs of hard-working, well-meaning physicians on the front line of medicine. Shame on them!
Seymour I. Hepner, MD
A Cheaper Way to Get Clipped
With the exception of diabetics and others who may have complications that require monitoring, why on earth are the elderly turning to podiatrists for toenail clipping ["Who's Footing the Bill?" July 6]? It's outrageous! A much more cost-effective solution is to get toenails clipped at one of the ubiquitous area nail salons. The elderly could get their nails clipped for $10 or less -- and in many salons receive a pedicure for $25. I encourage Medicare to reject even more claims.
See Them in All Their Glory
Readers of "Leech Therapy After Surgery" [July 6] might be interested to know that live leeches are on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine (6900 Georgia Avenue at Elder Street NW, Bldg. 54; www.nmhm.washingtondc.museum) in a permanent exhibit, "Human Body, Human Being," which also displays preserved specimens from the major body systems and medical artifacts and instruments important in the development of modern medicine and hospitals. Admission and parking are free.
Public Affairs Officer
National Museum of Health and Medicine
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology