Angry Doctor

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Alternative Medicine and the Ultraman Mystery

As a child, angry doc used to enjoy watching 'Ultraman'.

Maybe it was the monsters, maybe it was the fact that the internet hadn't been invented yet, or maybe it was the sight of a masked man in a tight, shiny bodysuit...

For readers who are unfamiliar with 'Ultraman', here's a
succint summary of the TV series:

The show seemed to follow a formula that was set in stone. The Science Patrol is summoned to investigate strange occurrences and encounters a monster. They battle the creature for a while with their rocket plane or hand weapons, but find that they cannot stop the giant menace. At that point Hayata figures out a way to separate himself from the group and transforms into Ultraman. The rubber monster's lifespan can be measured in minutes once Ultraman appears.

What typically happened was that Ultraman would fight the monster-of-the-week using karate until a warning light on his chest beeped - indicating to him that he was low on energy - whereupon he would decide to sod all that martial art stuff and utilise his Death Ray instead. This powerful mode of attack (officially known as the
Specium Ray, it seems) would instantly vapourise the opposition, after which our hero would fly off into the sunset.

Even at that age, however, angry doc could not fathom why, seeing as how effective the attack was, Ultraman did not choose to use his Death Ray at the first instance but risked dangerous hand-to-hand combat instead.

Time after time.

Episode after episode.


So what has 'Ultraman' got to do with alternative medicine, other than the fact that they both involve mysterious men from the east with strange powers to save us that science cannot yet understand?

Well, one of the justifications from proponents of alternative medicine on their use is that if western medicine has done all that it could and the patient is still not cured, why not try alternative medicine since is harmless and may in fact provide a miraculous cure?

It kinda makes sense in a 'what does he stand to lose anyway, right?' sort of way, until you realise that if alternative medicine therapies were indeed harmless and may provide a miraculous cure, it would be more logical to use them as the first line of therapy instead, wouldn't it

Or is there some mysterious reason that eludes angry doc as to why we should 'save the best for last', as Ultraman always did?



  • Hi angrydoc,

    Yes you brought up a good point. Why not start it earlier?

    Actually you know the reason why. The studies have "proven" that it doesn't work. And many doctors will say it doesn't work. So don't waste your time on it. Try western medicine.

    And then western medicine fails. And the patient goes "Oh yeah so much for research and evidenced based medicine. It didn't work either!" Then they get somewhat disappointed and pissed with western medicine and then they go try alternative medicine against their doctor's advice.

    However there are increasingly some specialists who would not object totally to use of alternative medicine in a complementary role (do no harm ,why not try) sort of thing from the beginning.

    Placebo effect. As it is, the issue is that if the patients are aware it isn't proven to work, and still want to use it, and check with their doctors to make sure it does not harm, then really.....why not?

    This problem isn't so much about doctors and TCM physicians as it is with society and the beliefs of people in general.

    It's just the direction we are moving in. Like it or not. What to do?

    By Blogger Dr Oz bloke, At November 07, 2007 8:09 pm  

  • Hi angrydoc,

    I remember when I first started reading your blog, we had a bit of debate about alternative medicine.

    And among the things, "nutritional medicine" was one of the things you placed under the category of alternative medicine.

    I then gave some links to studies regarding nutrition. What do you make of "nutritional medicine"?


    By Blogger Dr Oz bloke, At November 07, 2007 8:54 pm  

  • Oh yeah and what about that recent study by NUH that found 1 in 3 patients admitted to NUH "malnourished".

    In first world Singapore?


    By Blogger Dr Oz bloke, At November 07, 2007 8:55 pm  

  • "What do you make of "nutritional medicine"?"

    I don't recall calling it alternative medicine, but I may be wrong. I remember reading the link you posted though and they looked OK - nothing outrageous like saying food is all it takes to cure cancer, right?

    "Oh yeah and what about that recent study by NUH that found 1 in 3 patients admitted to NUH "malnourished"."

    Didn't read the study, but I guess a lot depends on their definition of 'malnourished'. I am sure some of the patients are not sick because they are malnourished, but malnourished because they are sick.

    Certainly malnourished sick people don't surprise me, nor sick malnourished people.

    By Blogger angry doc, At November 07, 2007 9:27 pm  

  • Hi angrydoc,
    Many of my renal patients do try alternative therapies before accepting dialysis. So the Specium ray doesn't always work, unfortunately.

    By Blogger Hua Jern, At November 07, 2007 10:31 pm  

  • To Angry Doc:

    Great article, love the illustration!

    I don't remember much about Ultraman except for his salted-egg eyeballs and funky hand positions - which you just reminded me is needed to fire the Specium Ray.

    Of course from a story-telling perspective it's more compelling to let the hero sweat it out for a while before the Deus ex machina solves everything.

    In the real world things are different. It is important to use the most effective, well-understood and reliable tools first to solve a problem.

    By Blogger Lim Leng Hiong, At November 08, 2007 2:23 pm  

  • I guess when your target audience are pre-teen kids, it really didn't matter. :)

    By Blogger angry doc, At November 08, 2007 6:04 pm  

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