The Education of the Patient, Part 1

The essence of patient consent is informed consent. If the patient doesn’t have critical information ? information that might make the patient delay or even forego treatment, information the lack of which contributes to aborted treatment ? then that patient cannot truly give consent. In these circumstances, she doesn’t even really know what she is consenting to!

Informed consent is not just a matter of using layman’s terms to describe homeopathy to the patient, then having the patient swallow the remedy of her own accord. It is giving the patient all the information she needs in order to decide whether to follow this type of treatment. Just as allopaths must tell patients about common drug side-effects and the pros and cons of a lumpectomy versus a radical mastectomy, homeopaths must make sure their patients understand what is involved in their treatment and for how long. It may be even more important for homeopaths to do this careful education, because homeopaths often rely on the patient’s cooperation and open communication more than allopaths.

The Education of the Homeopath

I also think it is very possible that Dr. X was not adequately trained as a homeopath, since he didn’t offer me any alternatives for continuing my treatment when I ran into difficulties with antidotes. I also think this is likely because MDs are often permitted to practice in holistic areas with far less training than non-MDs. In California, for example, MDs can perform acupuncture after very brief training, hours compared to the years that licensed OMDs must have. I think this attitude may pervade other unlicensed areas, like herbalism and homeopathy, perhaps permitting them to think they are qualified when they actually have comparatively little knowledge.

Understand that I have not for a moment considered bringing any legal claims against Dr. X, nor am I advocating that homeopathy patients do so under similar circumstances. But if my ailments had been more serious, the consequences of Dr. X’s poor communication could also have been more serious.

Far more disturbing to me, though, was his apparent unwillingness to learn and grow from the experience. Had I encountered that attitude after a similar experience with more serious health problems, I certainly might have sought legal help.


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