Tech should be open to all doctors
The longstanding rivalry between doctors of Western and Oriental medicine has been rekindled. The Association of Korean (Oriental) Medicine has formed a task force to campaign against a regulation that forbids the use of medical equipment by acupuncturists and doctors of Oriental medicine. Doctors of traditional medicine are arguing that they cannot conduct simple diagnoses because they are prohibited from using modern technology due to opposition from doctors of Western medicine and the general stand-offishness of health authorities. The Korea Medical Association claims that access to modern Western technology by doctors of traditional medicine would undermine public health and goes against medical laws and licensing regulations.
Few paid attention when Intel co-founder Gordon Moore declared in 1965 that the overall processing power of computers will double every 18 months at a rate that could go on for the next decade.
But the reality superseded Moore’s law. One microchip today can hold a capacity larger than all 1950s computers combined. The staggering advance in science and technology has revolutionized every aspect of academia, industry and life in modern society.
But modern science and technology is hands-off for Oriental medicine, even though there is nowhere in the medical law that says doctors of Oriental medicine can’t use medical equipment.
Nevertheless, they are unfairly restrained. This is due to a judiciary and administrative misinterpretation of the legal provision that says Oriental medicine is not based on anatomy.
But the word “anatomy” comes from “Huangdi Neijing,” or “The Emperor’s Inner Canon,” an ancient Chinese medical text that was recorded in 1 B.C. The book describes how the internal human state can be gauged by examining the blood flow and feeling organs after a person has died.
The book describes in detail the location, weight, volume and length of the intestines, the five zang organs - considered the yin to the yang of the six fu - the blood line, skin, muscles and bone framework.
Another medical text, “Nan Jing,” from the same ancient age explains the liver by dividing it into two comprising of lobes on the left and right.
The segmental study of the liver is close to the functional anatomy as defined in 1954 by the French surgeon Claude Couinaud, who separated the liver into eight sections - four each on the right and left.
The anatomical details in ancient Chinese medical text do not greatly differ from what we know today about human anatomy.
Traditional Chinese medicine takes into account the body’s vital energy, or qi, to examine and diagnose diseases and the state of the human body and a person’s health.
It is therefore wrong to observe that traditional medicine is not based on anatomical properties. It could be argued that the subjects, schooling and training in traditional medical schools differ from Western medical schools because equipment is not officially licensed at the former institutes.
But this can be solved if appropriate education and training takes place after equipment is legalized. Concerns about public health risk if modern equipment falls into the hands of doctors of traditional medicine are therefore not justified.
Diagnostic equipments like X-rays and ultrasound sonograms based on theories of physics are common and open to scientific innovations. They should not be exclusive to doctors of Western medicine.
Modern science and technology are heritages of civilian evolution and assets that should be accessible to anyone for use and application rather than being the exclusive properties of a certain individual or group. Doctors of traditional medicine should also be allowed to use modern technology such as ultrasonographies and electromagnetic machines so that they can examine and treat patients more accurately. Doctors of Western medicine hindering the use of technology for their Oriental medicine counterparts can only be viewed as being selfish.
What should matter is the health and safety of people. Traditional medicine doctors are licensed physicians. They must not be prohibited from employing modern science and technological equipment. It is the people’s loss if they are not properly treated due to technological handicap and inaccessibility.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is a professor of the Oriental Medicine College of Sangji University.
by Baek Tae-hyun