Ted J. Kaptchuk, OMD
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Kaptchuk T.; East Asian Medicine. Ann Intern Med. 2002;137:703. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-137-8-200210150-00030
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2002;137(8):703.
Dr. Barnes' comment on the need for a sensitive bilingual encounter between distinct medical systems is greatly appreciated. Indeed, knowledge of other medical systems necessarily encourages self-awareness and is an antidote to arrogance. I find myself so much in agreement with Dr. Barnes that I wonder whether her metaphor of language and “translation” may not be radical enough. The difference between traditional East Asian concepts of medicine and biomedicine extends beyond linguistic issues to the philosophical foundations of their epistemology (1). Chinese medicine relies on the veracity of the senses, the person-centered experience either as reported by the patient or perceived by an observant practitioner. Ultimately, biomedicine depends on deliberately controlled experiments and understands that what is to be most accurate must be shielded from the bias of human observation. More than saying something different about the “real,” Chinese medicine and biomedicine engage a reality as distinct and foreign as Ptolemy's cosmos is from Galileo's universe.
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