The documentary is excellent. However, it’s always cute when the people doing such projects broadcast a glaring ignorance in the technical knowledge of the subject. In a recent issues of Anesthesiology News, Peter Klein was quoted as saying, “I had never before thought of freedom from pain as a basic human right . . . I’ve come to realize it should be . . .” Does Mr. Klein also feel that recovery from pancreatic cancer is a human right? Or walking again after a paraplegic spinal cord injury? How naive and foolish. Changes in the central nervous system at present are beyond medical science to be ‘cured’, and this includes most chronic pain, which ultimately results in permanent alterations in CNS processing. On the other hand, the TREATMENT of pain is a basic right of every patient; it just may not always be successful and we must be cautious not to inadvertently overtreat with unsuccessful therapies. Mr Klein and his colleagues are to be commended on this project, but please- try to minimize the exposure of your technical ignorance before you can be educated.
PETER KLEIN RESPONDS TO DR. A. WINSTON:
Dr. Winston — Thank you for your note. While you rightly note that certain types of pain are chronic and difficult to treat, our project focused largely on treatable pain, the kind that is readily addressed with opioid analgesics in most of the developed world. The discussion about human rights is a direct reference to the interview in the Al Jazeera documentary where Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch specifically compares pain from torture with certain types of medical pain. As compares the two in that both situations cause terrible pain, but as he explains, at least the torture victim can sometimes stop the pain by confessing.
We went to great pains (no pun intended) to vet our work with numerous medical experts, and we even had a trained scientist on our reporting team. I hope you and the rest of the medical community found our reporting to be medical solid. That is very important to us.
While the video looks very professional I have some issues with how Dr. Sekagya’s view on Western Medicine was represented. I spent almost the entire last year in Uganda interning with the organization Dr. Sekagya founded, PROMETRA Uganda.
PROMETRA enthusiastically encourages collaboration with Western health clinics, and organizes and facilitates learning exchanges between traditional healers and Western health practitioners. In fact, their mission statement (found on the website below) states this goal of collaboration with other health systems: “To promote traditional medical knowledge and practices for improved health through mutual cooperation amongst health systems”, and one of their objectives further emphasizes this goal- “To strengthen collaboration between traditional and other health practitioners so as to increase information sharing on traditional medicine.”
At PROMETRA’s Forest School of Traditional Medicine the healers learn about when to refer patients to Western clinics. What they want is to be more fairly treated and supported by the Ugandan government, and for their very valuable role in their communities to be recognized and appreciated.
As anyone who has ever met Dr. Sekagya knows, he can speak very well for himself, but I just want to point out that he himself is a biomedical (or “western”) doctor! (as well as a traditional healer).
Of course he is concerned about protecting traditional medicine, but that does not mean that he is threatened by Western medicine.
I was there for the interview with Dr. Sekagya and much of the other filming around PROMETRA’s Forest School of Traditional Medicine and the Traditional Healer Village Group sites and I am surprised that after two days of filming this is what the end result was; I guess I expected a more balanced and comprehensive discussion about the role of traditional medicine in Uganda. I especially object to this statement “As Ugandans have greater access to western medicine…Dr. Sekagya fears that traditional medicine will be lost”. I don’t think that is what he said or implied.
Sorry to be so negative, I really do appreciate that you are trying to bring important issues like this to a larger community, but I would be doing a disservice to the people I worked with in Uganda if I did not voice my concerns.
Thank you very much for your comment and for sharing your perspective as someone who has spent time at PROMETRA.
Our goal with this video was to show the significance of traditional healing in Uganda when it comes to pain management, while also addressing an existing debate within the country about its level of efficacy.
It appears you are most concerned about how the role of traditional healing is portrayed in relation to Western medicine, specifically the sentence in the video that you mentioned. I’ve reviewed the transcript of the interview with Dr. Sekagya, in particular the sections where he speaks about the need to protect traditional healing from the influence of the Western world. In those parts he speaks about being forced to explain how traditional healing works within a Western medical perspective, which he says wrongly invalidates traditional healing in the eyes of others because such explanations don’t fit into what’s accepted by a Western framework. The intent with the line you mentioned was to address the influence of increased access to Western medicine and how its accompanying ideology in some ways undermines traditional healing.
This was a short initial sketch of what we reported regarding traditional medicine in Uganda. As you can imagine, there’s a lot that we did not include, such as some very strong criticisms from doctors and nurses in Uganda about concerns over traditional healing techniques. Some doctors, nurses and patients also shared stories of charlatans who pose as traditional healers and take patients’ money, but offer no pain relief or treatment of underlying ills. In such a short clip, it is impossible to give voice to all these concerns with enough depth and breadth. We are in the process of doing a much longer piece focused exclusively on pain treatment in Uganda, and that mini documentary will address some of these bigger issues from multiple perspectives.
Again, thank you for sharing your opinion and for helping advance this discussion on access to pain treatment.
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Copyright © 2012 University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. All rights reserved. Generous support provided by the Mindset Social Innovation Foundation and the MITACS Accelerate Project.