Clearing misconceptions about 'Western medicine'

SINGAPORE - Ms Goh Sock Hoon's letter ("Be open to different approach"; July 9) contains several common misconceptions about "Western medicine".

First, what is called Western medicine is not Western. It is the application of scientific knowledge in understanding, managing, treating and preventing illness and ensuring health based on evidence.

Complementary medicine that is not part of the modern medical system also exists in Western countries.

Second, it is incorrect to say that "doctors treat symptoms, and are restricted to drugs and varying degrees of invasive therapies".

Depending on the root cause of the medical complaint, the appropriate treatment is prescribed. The treatment is comprehensive, appropriate, culturally acceptable and accessible.

Third, doctors teach and practise holistic medicine.

We often remind our trainees and students to treat the patient as an entity in a larger environment. Our patients are reminded at every visit to pay close attention to their lifestyles, diet and exercise in preventing and managing their conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Fourth, we also teach and emphasise the importance of prevention and the impact environmental factors have on medical conditions.

For instance, as part of the comprehensive management of asthma, we not only treat the patients, but also remind them about the daily use of preventive medication, avoiding trigger factors and modifying their environment and diet to prevent attacks.

Fifth, many doctors do not comment on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) out of respect.

Their silence is an important aspect of good and cordial professional conduct. It should not be seen as support, nor should it be implied that there are no negative effects associated with TCM treatments.

Finally, doctors respect their patients' autonomy in deciding what treatments they choose.

We discharge our duty towards our patients to the best of our abilities, give them our expert opinions and suggest comprehensive management plans after taking careful histories, conducting thorough examinations and, in some cases, some investigations.

Ultimately, we respect our patients' final decision on the type of management based on their preference.

Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

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