The scope of complementary medicine consumption in Israel is growing, similar to the trend in the world. Complementary medical services are offered, among other places, by health funds and by several hospitals.
The term “complementary medicine” refers to diagnosis and treatment methods that are not included within the framework of traditional medicine and encompass more than 158 different fields. Some of these fields are slowly becoming a part of traditional medicine, while others lack a factual basis and their reliability is questionable.
Until recently, the IMA had serious reservations about the use of complementary medicine and did not give thought to developments in the field. This approach is no longer advisable for the following reasons:
- At present there are no limitations on or monitoring of complementary medicine or those dealing in it, and patients often fall prey to fraud and deceit, not to mention harm caused by various “practitioners”.
- As complementary medicine is currently ignored and doctors are not exposed to the field, patients using these services are reluctant to report this to their doctors, let alone consult with them. Therefore, the doctor caring for the patient does not have complete and comprehensive knowledge of all treatments the patient receives and cannot express his opinion concerning the implications, positive or negative, stemming from this treatment.
- The Ministry of Health has already taken action to regulate the field of complementary medicine and if the IMA does not formulate its policy in the matter, the field will be regulated without the involvement of the medical community.
In light of the above, the IMA maintains that it is very important for the organization to formulate its position on the issue based on the following principles:
- The consumption of complementary medicine by the public is a reality and cannot be ignored.
- The doctor will act in the patient’s best interests as he sees fit, including the use of complementary medicine. It is expected that a doctor will not deal in complementary medicine without the proper training.
- The IMA will establish a designated committee comprised of doctors dealing in complementary medicine and doctors not involved in the field, with the mandate to classify the types of complementary medical treatments according to criteria to be defined by the committee. The committee will reexamine the issue on a periodic basis in light of developments in traditional and complementary medicine.
- We encourage research in complementary medicine that will provide the factual basis for the various fields.
- Complementary medicine practitioners who are not doctors should be given the status of para-medical practitioners, with all the attendant implications. Such a status will enable practitioners that are not doctors to practice complementary medicine on an independent basis, subject to a certain degree of medical supervision.
- Complementary medical treatment will be provided to a patient only following an evaluation and a diagnosis by a doctor, followed by periodic monitoring by the patient’s doctor or the referring doctor. Furthermore, the complementary medical practitioner will update the family doctor or the referring doctor periodically concerning the treatment process and progress.
- Every complementary medical practitioner in a field recognized by the committee will undergo an organized training process, examinations and licensing under the supervision of the Ministry of Health.
- The study curriculum in a complementary medicine field will include elements of traditional medicine. These elements will be included in accordance with the decision of the IMA Medical Council, which will be a partner in designing the syllabus.
- Measures should be taken to ensure that doctors are exposed to knowledge about complementary medicine during their medical studies and their continuing education, so that they will be able to advise their patients on the matter.