If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art,
respected by all humanity and in all times;
but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my life.
Final stanza of the Original Hippocratic Oath [translated into English from Ionian Greek] It is truly a queer feeling one gets sitting in an auditorium where in the past you have been taught the collective knowledge of some 3000 years of scientific advancement, and then told in the present that it is all for nought. That at least was the feeling I had after sitting through a lengthy debate between doctors Joe Schwarcz and André Saine as they battled for the audience’s endorsement of their take on the motion, “Be it resolved that naturopathic medicine should be regulated as a primary care service in Québec and naturopathic doctors should have full scope of practice.” The crowd wasn’t exactly a sterling example of unbiasedness in that this debate belonged to a greater series of events that took place over Naturopathic Medicine Week.
To those of us, who I dare say were students of the ‘scientific enlightenment’, we sat quietly amidst hisses and mob-like retorts from the lynch-ready group of conventional medicine deviants. Dr. Saine’s principle arguments stemmed from a series of butchered statistics and demagogic appeals to the audience that could only be met with concealed giggles from those of us who actually knew of what he meant to reference. Perhaps my favourite of the night, which in turn prompted me to correct him from my seat in the crowd was his utterly fatuous claim that all amino acids were, in the context of the body, “acids” (they are amphiprotic). As Dr. Saine struggled through his opening remarks (if you haven’t quite gotten it yet, he was for the motion), requiring an extension of his allotted time, he described the 7 tenets (or might I suggest, dogma) of the naturopathic practitioner. Reciting them in his ‘broken latin’, aude sapere, praeventum, primum non nocere, vis medicatrix naturae and so on. What strikes me the most about these tenets, are the remarkable similarities they share with parts of the Hippocratic Oath. It is fitting to mention these semi-ancient laws governing the original physician in two respects. They are of course the foundation of modern medicine, establishing and to some extent formalizing the practice of medicine and conferring it with some added dignity from what it had held in the past. It should be obvious to us however, that after 2500 years some of it might not exactly be avant-garde. Yet, this was the point that Dr. Saine stumbled to after an hour of debating with Dr. Schwarcz, stating that Naturopathy hasn’t changed in several centuries. That which doesn’t change is useful, therefore Naturopathy must be useful. A syllogism if I’ve ever heard one! What could one do, if they were in the shoes of Joe Schwarcz that night? He accepted the challenge and delivered his arguments like a toothbrush trying to penetrate the bacterial plaque of a mouth that hasn’t seen such an object for quite some time. Dr. Schwarcz even agreed to meet with Dr. Saine for a second round of debate. I plan on attending the next one, and suggest that you do as well. Bring your antibiotics with you; I hear naturopaths can’t stand the stuff.