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MedGenMed. 2004; 6(1): 37.
Published online Mar 25, 2004.
PMCID: PMC1140741

The ND: Treating the Whole Person

Dr. Kimball Atwood, in his paper titled “Naturopathy: A Critical Appraisal”,[1] could have simply stated that patients need to exercise the same care in picking a naturopath as they would in choosing a Western medical practitioner, without denigrating naturopaths as a group.

His statement that greater training in “conventional methods” leads to better care, while training in alternative methods results in “highly implausible, ineffective practices” has little scientific merit and falls short on proof.

A degree from our medical schools is not a guarantee of competency. And the workload of most of today's physicians diminishes their capacity to always do a good job. Being rushed, MDs too often rely on educated assumptions rather than proper diagnostics. They hardly touch a patient anymore. The ND, treating the whole person, often notices what the Western practitioner misses.

How wonderful for patients if we could benefit from what both approaches have to offer. Unfortunately, the exclusion all too often is initiated unilaterally by those on the Western medicine side of the equation.

I offer the following 2 personal experiences in support of my points:

1. While hospitalized recently, I told the attending physician that I suspected I had developed a hernia. This MD was the medical resident on duty that day. When I mentioned the hernia, he looked confused. Then, with me lying on the hospital bed, he did a few furtive pushes on my abdomen and dismissed my suspicion as unfounded. The clearly visible hernia was confirmed a few days later by my primary care physician.

This man is an example of what Dr. Atwood, in his treatise, offers as the superior option because of his extensive training in “traditional methods” and his extended internship and residency.

2. I was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and my urologists told me that they could not work with me if I did not follow their recommendations of surgery or radiation. In essence, they fired me simply because I chose to try some alternatives that, even by their own admission, offered statistically the same relative long-term prognosis.

This makes me wonder if Western medicine is reluctant to document alternatives that might disprove their working assumptions. The data are excluded before the fact. Contempt prior to investigation is not good science.

I have been a part of, and/or witnessed first hand, many success stories resulting from alternative medical therapy after the patient's Western medical options had been exhausted by trial and failure.

My experience is that, statistically, MDs make about the same number of missed calls as NDs. Luckily for most patients, time and nature are the real healers.


1. Atwood KC. Naturopathy: a critical appraisal. Medscape General Medicine. [March 5, 2004]; Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/465994. [PubMed]

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