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The Death of a Young Actress Sparks Debate Over Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Here’s the Rebuttal

By Alex Farley (People's Daily Online)    06:02, September 15, 2016

Xu Ting

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is caught in the crossfires of China’s netizens. After the tragic death of the young actress Xu Ting, who publicly announced her decision to choose TCM over western medicine, many are calling into question the actual effectiveness of TCM. The 26-year-old actress didn’t want to go through the pain of chemotherapy and refused treatment. Two months later, when her immune system had all but collapsed, she accepted chemo. It was too late by then, and Xu passed away.

China’s online community has since criticized Traditional Chinese Medicine, blaming it for her death. Others have noted that chemo often fails as well, yet it’s still widely used.

Xu Ting in cupping therapy

Dr. Feng Li, Head of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Department at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, believes that the problem lies within an incorrect public understanding of TCM.

Here’s a translation of his piece in the People’s Daily:

Is it that TCM is bad at treating tumors? Regardless of whether it’s Western medicine or TCM, malignant tumors are not something that can simply be treated using a single method. They require a synthesized approach, combining both eastern and western methodology.

For example, while western approaches like radiology, chemotherapy, and surgery are effective in shrinking the tumor. TCM is effective in reducing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, edema, and pain that comes with western treatment. Moreover, after the tumor is under control, TCM helps to repair the immune system, accelerate the body’s recovery, and minimize the chance of the tumor returning. It’s irrational to blindly reject one treatment in complete favor of another. No medical professional would say with certainty that TCM or western medicine is superior. They both have their own advantages and shortcomings. Each case requires specifically tailored treatment according to the stage and pathology.

Therefore, in treating malignant tumors, solely relying on acupuncture and fire cupping is not enough. It’s not that acupuncture and fire cupping are useless. Rather, the treatment was used on the incorrect area.

This incident reflects the mindset of some patients when considering treatment options. Some fear the agony and suffering felt by those undergoing chemo and radiation therapy. Out of a psychological fear, they choose to completely pursue the less painful option offered by Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some even feel that TCM has mystical powers, able to cure any illness.

Additionally, public dissemination of the popular science behind treating tumors is insufficient. After contracting an illness, many feel lost and will desperately seek out any doctor that presents a solution. This is a situation we all need to hereafter avoid and correct.

I recommend that once patients discover their illness, they go to a regulated, prestigious hospital and seek medical advice. On a national level, there needs to be an increase in regulation and supervision so that patients can receive a standardized level of treatment. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Zou Luxiao, Bianji)

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