Complementary and Alternative Medicines at stake in Spain

In Spain, the practice of Complementary and Alternative Medicine is at stake.

It started two months ago when 400 Spanish medical doctors and scientists signed an open letter calling for action against, as they call it, ‘pseudo-science’. This initiative was in response to two patients who chose to treat their cancer with CAM and deceased due to negligence of the doctors providing CAM treatment. The doctors failed to provide (or to refer the patient to another doctor to receive) conventional diagnostic monitoring and treatment in conjunction with the CAM therapy. It is clear that doctors should always ensure that the patient’s condition is properly monitored using conventional diagnostic resources and that known, efficacious conventional therapies are available in case the CAM treatment fails to produce the desired result. It goes without saying that these deaths are serious and should have been prevented. But the action is disproportionate to the 25,000 – 35,000 Spanish patients who die from conventional medical errors every year. Should, therefore, conventional medicine be banned?

The activists argue that CAM is pseudo-science because in their opinion it is not based on scientific evidence, whereas conventional medicine is. They ignore the fact that there is increasing evidence for the effectiveness of CAM, – more than critics are willing to believe –, whereas about 50% of conventional treatments have not been scientifically proven. Still, these unproven conventional treatments are not banned. Dr Iain Chalmers, former director of the UK Cochrane Centre and a vociferous proponent of systematic reviews, once argued: “Critics of complementary medicine often seem to operate a double standard, being far more assiduous in their attempts to outlaw unevaluated complementary medical practices than unevaluated orthodox practices.”

WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023

As a response to these actions, the Ministries of Health and Science are now preparing a Plan for the Protection of Health against Pseudotherapies. Action is needed to prevent the Plan to run counter to the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023.

The aim of this strategy, unanimously approved by the World Health Assembly, is “to guide and support Member States in the integration of Traditional and Complementary Medicine into national health systems, to maximise its potential contribution to health & health security, health equity, social inclusion and participation, sustainable wellbeing for all and trust in health authorities”.

In addition, the Plan may infringe the right of citizens to use the healthcare of their choice. Citizens are increasingly opting for the therapeutic approach they consider most suited to maintain good health and to prevent or treat illness, irrespective of whether delivered by conventional medicine or CAM. If practised by well-trained professionals, CAM is safe, effective and cost-effective. It promotes health, helps prevent long-term use of prescription drugs and has high patient satisfaction.

According to the European Charter of Patients’ Rights, “each individual has the right to freely choose from among different treatment procedures and providers on the basis of adequate information”.

Sign the petition

In order to protect this right, it’s highly important to sign the petition.

Here you find the English google translate version of the petition page, in the Spanish version you see the huge amount of people who have signed the petition (always more signatures needed).

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