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From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Idiopathic vs. holistic medicine--what's the difference?
Date: 17 May 1997

In <> "Donald E. Scott"
<> writes:
>I was speaking with someone the other day who referred to her firm
>beliefs in idiopathic medicine practices.  I have heard this term used
>often and have never been absolutely clear as to what it is. Is it the
>same as or similar to a holistic approach to medicine? Any information
>would be greatly appreciated.

   Idiopathic is just Latin for "we don't know the cause."  When you
rule out all known causes for a problem or symptom (like anemia or
jaundice or cardiomyopathy) medical doctors refer to the rest as
"idiopathic."  We tend to treat "idiopathic" problems symptomatically,
because we have no idea of what else to do.

   It's easy to tell quack health care systems of beliefs, BTW, because
they have no such thing as "idiopathic" problems.  They think they know
what causes everything, and there is nothing they don't have an answer
for.  The measure of the intellectual honesty of any system of thought
is the extent to which it admits its ignorance.  One of the major
ironies in the discussion/debate between orthodox medicine and
"alternative" medicine, is the extent to which "alternative" systems of
thought acuse orthodoxy of "arrogance."  Talk about the pot calling the
kettle black!

                                        Steve Harris, M.D.

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