Doctors’ group often trashes traditional Chinese medicine

It’s not surprising that the Doctors of B.C., formerly the B.C. Medical Association, should object to the province’s announcement that Kwantlen Polytechnic University may host the first traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) publicly funded diploma program in B.C. [“ TCM is still a divisive issue”, February 6-13].


In 1996, the B.C. Medical Association objected to the B.C. government’s creation of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of B.C., which licenses and regulates TCM. In the late 1990s, the BCMA opposed the B.C. government’s initiative to provide TCM patients with coverage under the Medical Services Plan.


Following the pre-election throne speech in 2013, in which the government announced its intention to make TCM a university discipline, the doctors’ association objected again.


The Doctors of B.C.’s chair of its council on health promotion, Dr. Lloyd Oppel, has argued that because the government failed to consider the “perspective of the scientific medical community”, it may be putting the public at a health risk.


Oppel contends that some Chinese herbal ingredients may be toxic. He alludes obliquely to the unfortunate misuse of a member of the Aristolochia plant genus by a practitioner from Europe who, at the time, may not have been following TCM protocols. Because of this highly publicized case in 2001, Health Canada removed this plant genus from the market.


This plant, which consists of over 100 species worldwide, has been a component in the medicine systems of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. More recently, it was included in the allopathic medical practices of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and other western countries.


For centuries, products from this plant genus have been included in what, today, we consider to be western medicine and its forerunners. Is Oppel suggesting that because western medicine has had a long history of using ingredients from the Aristolochia genus, it should be eliminated from the university curriculum? Is he, in fact, suggesting that his own credentials should be questioned?


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