TCM Centre @ SGH – Inappropriate

The 22 Oct 2007 (Mon) The Straits Times had a newspaper article titled:
2.8m TCM centre at SGH from Nov

As mentioned in the article, this place will be called Bao Zhong Tang and will “complement SGH’s suite of services” and “is expected to become a draw for patients in the region.”

Modern medicine is evidence-based medicine. It’s not just “symptomatic treatment only” unlike what all the alternative medicine folks trumpet.

If a lifestyle change is shown to work, modern medicine advocates it. If a drug or herb is shown to work (like qinghaosu), it becomes part of the modern medicine regimen. All budding doctors are taught to “treat the underlying cause”.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a euphemism for “treatments that have not been shown to work”. The reason is that as above, any medicine that has been shown to work usually falls under modern medicine (also erroneously called Western medicine, as the CAM folks like to call modern medicine)

So why set up an expensive TCM centre in SGH? The answer, probably, is in money. J. doesn’t see how it’s going to complement SGH’s current services. Note that “Consultations and services in Bao Zhong Tang are likely to cost between $60 to $100”.

Now, by allowing this set-up, is SingHealth and the MOH giving the nod to TCM? Does this not give legitimacy to TCM? Does this not confuse the public futher regarding proper therapy for medical conditions?

Would this pave the path for other unproven, alternative treatments to become mainstream and set up their own institutions? What’s next – a homeopathy centre in TTSH, an Ayurveda centre in CGH, a Reiki energy healing centre in AH or a multi-religion prayer healing centre in NUH?

J. thinks that there is no room for unproven therapies in the largest public hospital in Singapore.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by undisclosed on November 26, 2007 at 7:51 am

    I disagree with the statement that TCM is unproved. There is a number of randomized controlled trials demonstrating that it does work for a number of conditions. It is also somewhat naive to think that Wester medicine is proven to work — most of our practices do not have a solid evidence-based basis. So, rather than saying no, we should take a scientific approach and test the therapies. Just my two cents


  2. Thank you for your comment, though it shows a lack of thought or even attempt to read my above post. I’m going to try to explain, and hope you will try to actually read first before posting.

    The problem with most, if not all, of these trials that you say is that the RCTs dealing with TCM are poorly designed, and like any poorly-designed drug trial for modern medicine (not “Western” medicine), lacks credibility. Because it’s TCM does not mean that it’s exempt from the demands of evidence-based medicine.

    Junk in, junk out. If you’ll note some of the meta-analyses of TCM RCTs, the conclusion is largely that quality trials need to be done of TCM.

    Pardon me, but you’ve left no name, no email, no method of identification, What exactly do you mean by “our” practices?

    And no, most of Western medicine has a solid evidence-based approach. Treatments, generally, are classified into symptomatic and curative treatments and are largely given on the basis of cost-benefit analyses. That’s how clinical practice guidelines like, “In gallstone pancreatitis, ERCP should be performed within 48hrs for those with concurrent cholangitis but not those without.” because of good quality evidence.

    Furthermore, pointing out that modern medicine isn’t perfect doesn’t bolster your case in any fashion. The fact that our current physics knowledge doesn’t allow us to understand everything in no way supports my alternative: “invisible leprachauns are doing it” theory.

    As I mentioned above, there is no room for unproven therapies. So prove it! Do some good trials! The problem is that, as I mentioned above, once a therapy has been proven, it falls under the realm of modern medicine.



  3. Posted by Tenzin on October 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I doubt an institution would be able expand to 23 strong throughout coastal China should its methods not be reliable, sometimes the only hope for cure, so much that it poses a question:

    Just who is the authority that refer Chinese medicine as “complementary and alternative medicine”

    I would like know if they have actually looked into the intricacies of Chinese medicine and its underlying theories.

    I have the same sentiments about the monetary aspect of this issue. =D


  4. Posted by CS on October 3, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Well Tenzin, as the intricacies and underlying theories of Chinese medicine involve things like yin and yang and the five phases (I’ve only just discovered this one on wiki), I imagine that must be quite difficult for western doctors to comprehend.

    Chinese medicine often claims to be misunderstood; I think we must also consider the possibility that there is nothing to understand.

    @J: Perhaps we should be clear about separating TCM from CAM. What I would be interested in knowing is whether any TCM has made the move from CAM to modern medicine. If there are such examples perhaps it will convince some people that we are not victimising Chinese medicine. If there aren’t, well… That just makes everything much neater and easier to categorise doesn’t it.

    Btw I guess you are very busy and don’t have the time to check this blog very often but I enjoy replying anyway haha. I have been posting with a variety of anonymous IDs (I keep forgetting which ones I use) but I hope you don’t mind… Want to browse your blog without being identifiable


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