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Title: Traditional healing systems and the ethos of science
Authors: Quah, S.R. 
Keywords: Clinical trials
Ethos of science
Evidence-based medicine
Health policy
Pragmatic acculturation
Traditional Chinese medicine
Issue Date: 2003
Citation: Quah, S.R. (2003). Traditional healing systems and the ethos of science. Social Science and Medicine 57 (10) : 1997-2012. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: This paper addresses the challenge posed to traditional Chinese medicine by the ethos of science and explores three related assumptions. First, the ethos of traditional Chinese medicine is incompatible with the ethos of science. Second, the challenge of science to traditional Chinese medicine is represented by the requirement to comply with internationally recognized standards of medical research and practice applied to biomedicine, adopted and implemented by the State. The State requires that the safety and effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine procedures and medications be ascertained following the methodology chartered by the ethos of science. Third, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners present a third ethos, the "ethos of pragmatic healing" based on the pragmatic acculturation of clinical practice, as an alternative to the ethos of science. This third ethos is an inadequate response to the challenge because it increases the divergence between health care policy requirements of scientific scrutiny and the fostering of traditional Chinese medicine as an icon of Chinese culture. The study is based on data from personal interviews with representative samples of three ethnic populations in Singapore; secondary data from other studies; relevant official data; and documents from biomedical and traditional Chinese medicine organizations. The methods include inductive analysis, multiple correlation and regression, and factor analysis among others. The analysis indicates that the pressure to comply with official health regulations and the inability to succeed under the ethos of science lead traditional Chinese medicine practitioners to respond with an ethos of pragmatic healing that eschews conceptual analysis, ignores the paradigmatic divide with biomedicine, and focuses on "using what works". This third ethos can only be a temporary response to the pressure to upgrade the practice of traditional Chinese medicine and it does not correspond to pragmatic acculturation commonly found in the population. The ethos of pragmatic healing leaves the challenge of science unresolved and it is likely to increase the level of conflict between the realm of biomedicine (including health care policy requirements of scientific scrutiny) and the ethos of traditional Chinese medicine. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Source Title: Social Science and Medicine
ISSN: 02779536
DOI: 10.1016/S0277-9536(03)00078-9
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