Caring and Responsibility: The Crossroads between Holistic Practice and Traditional Medicine

Caring and Responsibility: The Crossroads between Holistic Practice and Traditional Medicine

Caring and Responsibility: The Crossroads between Holistic Practice and Traditional Medicine

Caring and Responsibility: The Crossroads between Holistic Practice and Traditional Medicine

Excerpt

Americans are interested in holistic health. They may be flagrantly for it or against it. They may be abstractly speaking of incursions of the new health oriented, preventive, and participatory approaches to medical care into their lives. Or they may be trying acupuncture or visualization for a chronic illness, or incorporating nutritional changes and exercise into their daily routines to improve their health. This book will examine a range of issues subsumed under the term "holistic health" in an attempt to understand this phenomenon and its implications for the broad context of health care.

There are a multiplicity of ways to structure definitions of health, illness, and healing interactions. Each society organizes the experience of health and illness, as well as the provision of health care services, in ways congruent with its dominant values and institutions. According to Wallis and Morley, most societies have historically been medically pluralistic. They elaborate: "Practitioners of various curing arts employing distinct concepts and techniques have competed for a clientele which accord to none of them a status as uniquely competent or efficacious over the general domain of human illness" (Wallis and Morley, 1976: 10).

In contrast, advanced industrial societies have been characterized by the dominance of scientifically-based, allopathic medicine. This emergence of a broad consensus of an organized medical profession has promoted the rise of various forms of so-called marginal medicine. Wallis and Morley describe and summarize the characteristics of these forms: "Almost inevitably marginal practitioners conduct their practice not merely outside the profession, its facilities and privileges, but also on the basis of divergent beliefs concerning the causes and appropriate practices for coping with illness" (ibid: 13-14).

Both medicine and the goal of health are relatively sacrosanct in contemporary America (Freidson, 1970a: 51). Freidson describes the . . .

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