Which group in the 11th standard becomes a doctor

Why esotericism doesn't work in medicine

It's a dilemma with people who are sick. If they do not feel well looked after by doctors with a classical, scientific training, many seek help from those who operate outside the strictly scientific framework. The Medical University of Vienna has recognized this danger.

The Alumni Club hosted the "Esoteric in Medicine" event in the lecture hall center, and ended with a panel discussion entitled: "Why is esoteric popular and a successful business model?" Around 200 students, professors and interested laypeople had gathered.

Homeopathy gone

A course on homeopathy was held at the Medical University until autumn last year. The rectorate decided not to leave this teaching, which could not be scientifically proven, on the curriculum and distanced itself as an institution. The event was, so to speak, a sign of wanting to deal with the topic in a different way.

On the podium: Edzard Ernst, professor emeritus for complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, the German doctor, ex-homeopath and book author Natalie Grams, the pharmacologist Michael Wolzt from Med-Uni Vienna and the journalist Krista Federspiel. Why not actually an opposing representative? "Because they are not coming," said Federspiel. Ernst specified the real difficulty. It would be like arguing with someone who believes the earth is flat. "

And so the fronts were drawn between conventional medicine and other promising healing lessons: While some only accept what has been proven to be effective for many patients, individual cases are also valid models for alternative methods.

What evidence means

Evidence-based medicine means only allowing treatments if they work and are safe for a large number of patients. The clinical studies required for this are complex. Different groups are formed to prove effectiveness. Some get the real active ingredient, others a placebo - and conclusions are only drawn after a meticulous statistical analysis. In order to argue based on evidence, there is often a strong scientific struggle. That is why the representatives of evidence-based medicine are actually angry when alleged healers make statements without this evidence. But that happens all the time, especially in the media, according to the podium, and it was very emotional. It was agreed that all traditional forms of healing also fall under esotericism; just because something is old does not automatically mean that it is good.

The fact that this dichotomy and the different approaches are not easy to understand, especially for laypeople, was shown by the speakers. It is difficult to convey that in evidence-based medicine it is never an individual case that counts, but only the effect on a collective. "Even superstition has not disappeared from the mind," says Federspiel. The ex-homeopath Grams admitted that "one feels particularly comfortable in the world of homeopathy because there are usually very simple answers or explanations to very complex questions".

More empathy

The fact that "people generally do not particularly enjoy taking medication should also be taken into account," said Wolzt. He knows from experience that many patients who take medication also experience the side effects listed on the package inserts.

Finally, Natalie Grams also addressed the physicians' ability to empathize. "Time that you need for patient talks is simply not rewarded in the health system", the popularity of the alternative esoteric methods is a consequence of the fact that a lot of doctor-patient communication goes wrong. Another hurdle: For some complaints there is no scientifically based solution, and serious doctors admit that too. "It is precisely then that patients run into the arms of esotericists," says Federspiel. They pay huge sums of money and are dropped, mostly when it becomes life threatening.

At the end of the discussion, however, Grams' appeal: "We need friendliness towards people who believe in esoteric methods, and not harsh criticism - otherwise we will lose more and more." (Karin Pollack, May 24, 2019)