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Shortcomings of Western Medicine


An objective comparison of approaches that Eastern and Western medicine takes toward health and treatment is necessary for conducting a further evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of Western medicine. The emergence of the Western approach to medicine in the developed world follows the way of hypothetical deduction, while the Eastern approach uses the inductive method. The Western approach is characterized by a clear division of health from disease, while the Eastern approach views health as a state of balance versus disease, which is an unbalanced state (Tabish 5). Within the Western medicine framework, healthcare providers tend to work on changing the environment, while the Eastern model prefers to adapt to the environment. Western medicine is known for its influential pharmaceutical companies, research, cutting-edge technology, development of doctors, and education; however, there are some failures, and only some people recognize them.

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In Western medicine, any new hypotheses associated with caring for individuals are usually derived from general observations of phenomena in order to facilitate a carefully planned and designed research process. When enough data is collected, conclusions will be drawn as a result of statistical analyses and evaluations, which is linked to the deductive method of reasoning. On the contrary, Eastern medicine uses the inductive method, with research literature being based on records of practical experiences accumulated by practitioners over prolonged time periods. Usually, practitioners record their direct observations and rely on them within their practice. Because of the difference in approaches that researchers in Western and Eastern models take, it is complicated to compare the results that each framework offers to the medical practice.

What significantly distinguishes Western medicine from other models is that it places emphasis on the human body and clearly divides health from any type of disease, no matter if it is infectious, chronic, or psychological. In other words, the Western approach considers health and illness as entirely different processes, while Eastern medicine, for example, sees them as balanced and unbalanced states that are opposed to each other (Reiss and Ankeny). The environment is seen as the core factor that influences the processes occurring in the body. Professionals in the sphere of healthcare have the responsibility of controlling various phases of disease and health care within several disciplines. Physicians are trained predominantly for the care of acute disease phases, which are concerned with the identification of disease and its subsequent therapy. The areas of medicine concerned with health promotion, prevention of disease, and rehabilitation are usually considered the expertise of other trained professions. Therefore, there is a team approach that gives an impression of being more community-minded rather than individual-based, while the objective is rather individual-focused.

In addition, the Western approach is highly detail-oriented and considers every aspect of a patient with great detail, including the microscopic and macroscopic views of biology, embryology, cellular level of physics and chemistry, and more. As the findings of the assessment are identified, Western medicine will move to the clinical practice components of internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, psychiatry, and public health. Since professionals of one area of expertise cannot master everything, training and practice within the modern Western approach tend to be segmented, which leads to the lack of cohesiveness in relation to health and care. During segmented training, specialists in each field are trained separately from each other, and every phase of training is divided into even smaller stages. Thus, doctors of different directions begin to communicate with each other and work together only after finishing training. This fact indicates a lack of cohesion between various physicians.

Within the Eastern approach toward health, the process of learning is not segmented and begins with the universe, in which body-associated phenomena go hand-in-hand with the law of nature. However, compared to the Western model of healthcare, Eastern medicine necessitates further clinical observation, research, and practice (Reiss and Ankeny). In other words, before starting to work, future doctors need to spend a significant amount of time learning about practice and increasing their skills.

Western medicine and its approach to health care, among other things, is associated with changing the environment in which people live. Therefore, if the weather has an adverse influence on the body, a shelter is built to control the temperature. If such factors as humidity and atmosphere are unfavorable, other controls will be added to make the environment favorable. Another example is the development and creation of antibiotics to counteract the bacteria that have an adverse influence on the human organism. Techniques associated with sterilization are practiced to protect against bacteria. Treatment and therapy within the Western medicine framework apply the same principles of changing environments and protection against adverse influences. For instance, artificial organs and limbs are used for replacing injured or diseased body parts, while synthetic vitamins and hormones are used to enhance the activity of impaired bodily functions. Indeed, these procedures are not necessary, but there is evidence that, typically, they make people’s lives much better. According to Galeon, for example, a significant number of patients decide to get their injured body parts and organs replaced by artificial ones. It provides them with an opportunity to feel more comfortable and not wait their whole life until it is their turn to get the transplantation of a real organ.

Such achievements of Western medicine mark the victory of science and wisdom of humankind that allows to alter the unfavorable conditions and enhance the quality of life of individuals diagnosed with complex health issues. However, what is important to note is that despite the fact that Western medicine makes human life longer and helps people overcome severe disease, the discomfort, either physical or mental, may not always get elevated, which is a significant limitation that the Eastern approach views as important.

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The objective of medicine is to enhance the health of people through avoiding illness whenever possible, alleviating the burden of disease when illnesses occur, and prolonging life, predominantly through the prevention of premature mortality. However, the increasing influence of pharmaceutical companies on the training of medical professionals has become increasingly prominent with the industry’s development. The representatives of pharmaceutical companies have gained access to the training and preparation of medical students, which has resulted in a greater focus on medical therapy when treating chronic diseases. Due to the increased influence of pharmaceuticals on medical education, doctors fail to identify the root causes of diseases and conditions and, therefore, do not prescribe non-invasive interventions that would facilitate lifestyle and diet changes as the primary line of treatment (Mogre et al. 9). However, since drug companies are involved in medical practice and education, there is a conflict of interest associated with the ulterior motive of corporations making a profit by encouraging medical professionals to prescribe more medication to their patients.

The issue of the influence of pharmaceutical companies on medical education presents a conflict of interest. According to Wilson (2009) for The New York Times, a Harvard Medical School professor was found to be not only a full-time member of the faculty at the educational facility but also a paid consultant of ten drug corporations. Initial concerns emerged as students grew wary as their professor made multiple attempts to promote cholesterol drugs, underlining their benefits, and belittling students who asked about side effects. It was later revealed that several Harvard Medical faculty members were paid substantial amounts of money from pharmaceutical companies for consulting and speaking. The biased promotion of drug therapy in medical schools is both unscientific and unethical, which means that pharmaceutical companies have received too much power over healthcare education. In addition, drug companies have been found to publish skewed research findings and publishing false marketing claims (Levine 311). Therefore, the impact of pharmacological companies has changed medical education and practice into emphasizing the role of synthetic drugs in disease treatment and prevention. Thus, practitioners lose on developing therapies that would integrate a lifestyle and diet change that would be sustainable and holistic.

The hazardous effects of the pharmaceutical industry on the environment and the subsequent health of the population are often overlooked. According to Kapoor, “diverse classes of pharmaceutical compounds like analgesic, antidepressant, antihypertensive, contraceptive, antibiotics, and steroids have been detected in water samples” (1). Therefore, the environment and health are both directly and indirectly influenced by pharmaceutical chemicals, especially near industrial zones. Pharmaceutical waste includes waste from unused medication, test strips, and other supplies used in the packaging or production of medicine. The specific harm that such waste has on the environment and health of the population refers to the fact that medicine is manufactured intentionally to be biologically active in living organisms and have long half-lives, which makes them risky in nature.

The long-term exposure of the population to the increased presence of complex pharmaceutical chemicals in the environment may result in chronic and acute health damages, behavioral changes, the accumulation of harmful substances in tissue, reproductive issues, as well as cell proliferation inhibition (Kapoor 4). In addition, in fish that have been exposed to trace levels of medical birth control, a significant decrease in reproductive effectiveness was identified, which points to the possibilities of the influence of pharmaceutical waste on the population of fish. According to researches, “in total, 771 different pharmaceutical substances were measured worldwide in concentrations above their detection limits” (“Database – Pharmaceuticals in the Environment”). As for the aqua territory, “in surface water, groundwater and drinking water, 528 substances were detected globally” (“Database – Pharmaceuticals in the Environment”). It is hard to disagree that these numbers are disturbing, and more attention is needed to the problem of pharmaceutical waste and the overall effect of the industry not only on the environment but also on education and training.

The provision of adequate care in the sphere of nutrition by doctors is essential for encouraging healthy dietary habits among the population, with appropriate interventions having the potential to reduce disease morbidity, mortality, and the accompanying medical costs. If doctors gave relevant nutrition recommendations to their patients, the rates of nutrition-associated diseases would decline (Mogre et al. 26). However, the shortcoming that Western medicine has encountered is associated with doctors missing the possibility to give nutrition care to the population in the overall practice setting. It is common for doctors to refer their patients to nutritionists or dieticians, which leads to fragmented care. According to Mogre et al., practicing doctors do not have the competency to offer sufficient nutrition care in order to give reliable dietary advice to individuals (26). What exacerbates the issue is that few studies have investigated the problem, with limited solutions available to address the care barrier.

In terms of medical education, it has been found that students felt that doctors would have to play an essential role in offering nutrition care to individuals even though some dieticians and nutritionists are specifically trained to fulfill such responsibilities. The role of a doctor within the Western medicine approach should be such that supports or complements the role of dieticians and nutritionists. Medical students who participated in the study by Mogre et al. indicated that there are several responsibilities that doctors should have in regard to nutrition care (26). These roles should include nutrition advice and education, support of patients in following healthy diets, collaboration with dieticians and nutritionists, the monitoring of nutrition care progress, referring patients to relevant specialists, as well as advocating for relevant nutrition care.

Despite the expected responsibilities that doctors should take in nutrition care, the amount of nutrition-associated education, training, and preparation remains inadequate in medical schools (Adams et al. 941). This leads to a lack of competency among trained specialists to deal with rising dietary challenges in their patients. As suggested by Mogre et al., students felt that there was more to be done in regards to the issue because the lectures that they had were limited in content concerning appropriate nutrition care. In order to acquire more knowledge about how they can be useful in nutrition care provision, students had to engage in self-directed learning and consulting nutrition departments at the practice settings of their own volition.

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Several barriers to appropriate nutrition education and training have been identified. These are classified into three subcategories that include personal, interpersonal, and environmental (Mogre et al. 26). As mentioned by Williams et al., personal barriers that limit training and education are associated with individuals while interpersonal boundaries are concerned with the relationship between two or more individuals (258). For example, personal barriers may include the lack of motivation from faculty to teach nutrition-related subjects or the lack of knowledge on the subject. In addition, a personal barrier may be linked to the perception of educators that nutrition care is not doctors’ responsibility and, therefore, should not be included in education. Interpersonal factors may be associated with the inadequate collaboration of medical educators and nutrition professionals, which leads to the limited inclusion of nutrition-associated material into the curriculum. Environmental barriers are varied and have an overarching impact on limited nutrition education. These include the “lack of priority for nutrition within the practice, the lack of trained faculty that would be effective in the provision of nutrition education to students, the poor integration of nutrition as a theme within the curriculum,” time constraints associated with curriculum planning and implementation, and already overloaded curriculum, as well as the limited availability of individuals who would play the role model part in education (Mogre et al. 26). The lack of attention to nutrition care within the medical curriculum translates into the inadequate care that doctors provide to their patients.

The problem of insufficient nutrition care in Western medicine goes hand-in-hand with the issue associated with the increased focus on pharmacological treatment among healthcare personnel. Despite the fact that medical students agree that medical doctors are responsible for providing nutrition advice and identifying the need for relevant adjustments in patients’ diet, they often resort to prescribing pharmaceutical therapy with which they are more familiar. The barriers that limit the provision of adequate nutrition education at medical schools are accompanied by the increased influence of the pharmaceutical impact both on medical education and practice. There is a need to raise awareness of the need for and relevance of nutrition-associated education among curriculum planners and the faculty. A review of the teaching plan embedded into the Western medicine framework is imperative to meet the unmet needs of cohesive and practical nutrition education to ensure that future doctors are equipped with information on how to adequately address the challenges that their patients face in dietary choices and habits.

While an already overloaded curriculum and the inadequate hours are given for nutrition education within Western medicine were identified as limitations in cohesive nutrition education, the limitation is of low impact. As indicated by students interviewed by Mogre et al., if nutrition were seen as an essential responsibility of healthcare providers, curriculum planners, and the faculty would make changes in the curriculum to include nutrition-based care (26). Thus, there is a necessity to boost the awareness of stakeholders involved in curriculum development on the relevance and need for education on nutrition care within the medical curriculum.


The limited number of faculty to facilitate nutrition education among medical students is an essential limitation that Western medicine overlooks. This barrier is linked to the lack of engagement on the part of the faculty in providing students with appropriate training and education. Researchers note that “on average, medical schools devote only 19 hours of a four-year curriculum to nutrition” (“Why Medical Schools Need to Teach Nutrition”). It is hard to disagree that this is not enough for students who want to become professional nutritionists.

The issue is high on the agenda for the faculty because of the “need to increase contact hours and nutrition content and the integration of nutrition” as a crucial theme (Mogre et al. 26). There is a need to widen the availability of competent and trained faculty members, such as certified nutritionists. It may facilitate the improvement of nutrition-related content, the planning of teaching and relevant learning activities, as well as the integration of nutrition science in everyday practice, which is currently overwhelmed by the increased focus on pharmaceutical treatment of disease.

Works Cited

“Database – Pharmaceuticals in the Environment.Umwelt Bundesamt, n.d., 2020. Web.

Galeon, Dom. “Artificial Organs: We’re Entering an Era Where Transplants are Obsolete.” NeoScope, 2017, Web.

Kapoor, Davesh. “Impact of Pharmaceutical Industries on Environment, Health and Safety.” Journal of Critical Reviews, vol. 2, no. 4, 2015, pp. 25-30.

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Levine, Timothy. Encyclopedia of Deception. SAGE, 2014.

Mogre, Victor, et al. “Why Nutrition Education is Inadequate in the Medical Curriculum: A Qualitative Study of Students’ Perspectives on Barriers and Strategies.” BMC Medical Education, vol. 18 no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-11.

Reiss, Julian, and Rachel Ankeny. “Philosophy of Medicine.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016, Web.

Tabish, Syed Amin. “Complementary and Alternative Healthcare: Is it Evidence-based?” International Journal of Health Sciences, vol. 2, no. 1, 2008, pp. V-IX.

Wilson, Duff. “Harvard Medical School in Ethics Quandary.” The New York Times, 2009, Web.

“Why Medical Schools Need to Teach Nutrition.” Harvard T.H. Chan., n.d., 2020. Web.

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