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October 18, 1995

Healing Traditions: Alternative Medicine and the Health Professions

Author Affiliations

University of Connecticut Storrs, Conn

JAMA. 1995;274(15):1246. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530150070039

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This book presents a very strong argument that medical clinicians must become more aware of their "medicocentric" bias and learn to accord patients more authority in decisions affecting their treatment. Using the phrase "vernacular health systems" to encompass everything from folk and popular health practices to homeopathy, chiropractic, visualization, and New Age healing, O'Connor documents the extent to which even well-educated, middle-class professionals often reject the perspective presented to them by medical experts. The problem is even greater when obvious cultural differences impede communication and understanding between physician and patient, as in Third World societies where patients' values and expectations regarding health and illness differ greatly from those of practitioners and in cases in which ethnic and social class differences require some adjustments in doctor-patient relationships.

But O'Connor goes farther than this and insists that patients always and inevitably put their own interpretation on their own health problems and that

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