AI: The Harms of Natural Medicine


This holiday season, a 14-year-old cousin of mine had to have an emergency appendectomy and spent New Year’s eve hospitalized. She had the surgery on Dec. 29th, but she’d been showing symptoms (unbearable pain that refrained her from even walking and inability to keep anything in her stomach among them) since the 22nd. The reason it took her seven days of suffering from a ruptured appendix before medical intervention?

Her parents thought she could be healed by lots of patience, natural tea… and a faith healer.

They took her to the hospital twice to take IV fluids for the dehydration, but kept coming back home when she felt slightly better because a hospital is no place to spend so much time in. They brought in a faith healer every afternoon and every time she left they’d say “look, she’s already looking a little better”.

Of course they didn’t know it was her appendix, otherwise they would have kept her in the hospital (appendicitis is one of the few conditions universally known to only be resolved by medical intervention). I can understand they were doing what they thought best for her, that they were trying to make her be okay, and be okay in time for Chistmas and New Year’s, which is probably what pissed me off the most.

They would come to me every once in a while, because I as a biology student I am the most knowledgeable person regarding health and medical care in the immediate family, to ask whether it was okay for her to self-medicate or if an specific type of tea would harm her, etc. My answer was pretty much always the same: “take her to the hospital, she needs to be rehydrated, no standard food poisoning would last this long and hurt this much, I don’t have the authority to determine which medicine she should take, it could end up hurting her more”. It took a whole week of harming their daughter with useless “natural treatments” and putting her through impossible pain for them to be convinced a doctor would do it better.

Have you ever dealt with people who think faith healers – or a biology student – hold greater knowledge and potential for cure than medicine? Have you ever seen a situation where it actually ended up hurting someone? How can we educate people about the risks of “natural medicine”?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 3pm ET.

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