This week's reading discussed the possibilities of alternative ways of healing and health. The debate between traditional methods of cure/ preventing illnesses and the dominant biomedicine was the center of the discussions. With examples from different parts of the world, the authors promoted their viewpoints.
Mansfield et. al (2002) focused their research on the religious practices and spiritual beliefs of people regarding health care in people from rural eastern North Carolina, USA. Their research says that "health professionals should consider the faith of patients, not only in God per se, but also in how patients believe that God may act through a health professional in the healing process" (p. 407). Without getting into any criticisms of the study, I would like to share something from this research that reminded me of a personal story about how during critical times of illness people may lean more towards the unexplained and spiritual that what is explicitly available (such as in biomedicine).
During my middle and high school years, my classmates and I had this teacher who taught us Bangla. During our 9th grade, all of a sudden we heard that she has passed away! We could not believe what we were hearing. Was it an accident? Did she get into a road accident? No. She died of cancer. We never had any idea she was even sick. Then gradually we found out that she had breast cancer and she had gotten very scared and decided to go with spiritual healing.
She had gone to a religious man in a remote part of Dhaka city (the capital city of Bangladesh) who had given her pora pani - regular water treated with blessings from that religious person, most likely using verses from the Qur'aan. So our favorite "Bangla Miss" died from cancer because the pora pani did not work. At that age we did not realize (or even know to appreciate) that perhaps we should have respected her choice about seeking alternative health care, or that who are we to even judge what is better. I remember all we thought about was he absurdity of trying to cure cancer with pora pani. Perhaps she felt that God may work through that healer and who can question His willingness?
This example, in my opinion, reflects pretty much what Mansield et al's findings from the research. Perhaps it would be interesting to look at the genesis of local and traditional modes of healing in Bangladesh as Cho (2000) writes about. It would be also interesting to see how the politics of the region affects the decision making process of everyday Bangladeshis, especially the rural people. It has become almost a fashion in Bangladesh to discount traditional medicine, but what if evidence comes out that the roots of current biomedicine actually lie in traditional medicine as Tortter (2000) suggested.
So much to explore . . .