27 August, 2019

Medical Board of Australia overwhelmed by public submissions

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Over 12,000 Australians have responded to the call to provide the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) with submissions sharing their positive experiences of integrative medicine and protesting proposed changes to MBA guidelines targeting medical practitioners who offer patients ‘complementary and unconventional’ treatments.  

We wish to thank everyone who took the time to have their say on this important issue. This is a resounding public response that has overwhelmed the MBA, who are currently in the process of reading the submissions. 

Some typical examples of the many thousands of submissions sent to the MBA are provided at the end of this article. 

The MBA is currently in the process of reading these submissions. As a group, the MBA do not have any understanding of, or experience with, integrative medicine: this is why submissions from GPs that offer integrative medicine and members of the public that benefit from their services is crucial in educating the MBA about the many benefits integrative medicine offers patients, the health system and the community. 

In February/ March 2019 the Your Health Your Choice campaign inspired over 13,000 people to write to Health Minister Greg Hunt and Liberal National Party politicians protesting removal of Private Health Insurance rebate for natural therapies. This action directly resulted in the Government bowing to public pressure and announcing new reviews into natural therapies to determine which ones should again be eligible to receive the subsidy. 

The MBA is similarly obliged to take heed of the overwhelming weight of public opinion opposing their proposed guideline changes and to maintain current guidelines, which have worked well for years and do not target doctors that ‘do not toe the line’.

The proposed changes if adopted will restrict medical practitioners’ scope of practice and clinical autonomy and directly impact patient right of choice. 

While the MBA claims it is looking to tighten its guidelines on the basis of ‘addressing risk to patients’, it has been unable to substantiate this with any actual evidence of real-world risk. There are also undisclosed conflicts of interest on the Medical Board, which Your Health Your Choice will provide more details about soon.

As the 12,000+ public submissions the MBA has received clearly evidence, integrative medicine is not only safe, it often decreases risk to patients by offering them less toxic and in many cases life-changing treatment options, where ‘conventional’ methods offer patients no options or success. 

Following are just a few of the thousands of submissions sent to the MBA supporting integrative medicine and right of choice.

Examples of public submissions to the MBA:

Stephanie, Victoria

“I have had a rough few years. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Hyperthyroidism about 4 years ago. I had been medicated and had gone to my GP and endocrinologist several times not feeling great. I decided to go and see an integrative GP, as I was fed up with not having any answers, and it was the best decision I have ever made. They were thorough and looked at me as a whole not just my thyroid issue, which was not the main cause of my fatigue. I find the medical system to be far too siloed to be effective in the treatment of complex autoimmune conditions. It’s been really frustrating for me. They just looked at my thyroid rather than the cause of the issue. I would be really disappointed to see a change or restriction in functional medicine. In my experience they are extremely considered in providing treatment, far more so than a normal GPs. It’s about taking away patient choice. Unfortunately until the medical system becomes more open minded and less reliant on pharmaceuticals, people will be turning to functional medicine to ensure that our bodies can be the best they can be. I should say I also rely on pharmaceuticals, but my life has really turned around since seeing a functional dr”

Taylor, Queensland

“I have been living with a Chronic illness for 10+ years. My bones ache, my head spins, my eyes are foggy, my memory poor. I wake up, walk to the kitchen, make myself a tea and in return, I have a completely numb face and full of exhaustion. I have received many years of “conventional” medical practices throughout my life and I have never received a positive result. Every conventional pharmaceutical treatment I would receive, I would be greeted with a new worse symptom. I don’t say this for sympathy. I say it for understanding. It is only this year (2019) I have felt a positive shift in my illness. The only thing different to my many years of treatment from numerous of “conventional” doctors, was my change to Integrative medical approaches. Previously, I was unable to work, I was greeted with everyday pain and issues that not only affected me physically but also mentally. I am 24 years old – “the best years of your life are in your 20s”. Mine have been the worst. It is now I can say I am on a positive incline in my health – something I did not expect. This is because I have received treatment from an Integrative Medical practitioner. I can now start the journey of having ” the best years of my life” thanks to these doctors. Although I have a long way to go to reaching my full potential; it is the most “alive” I’ve felt in my whole 24 years. So I ask you this? What if this was your daughter, or son, partner, family member or friend. Would you feel comfortable taking away treatment that has a positive effect on them? What if it was you?”

Isabella, NSW

“The Freedom to select whom we turn to for medical support and advice, and the right of choice of medicine to assist the healing process, is in my consideration, a basic human right. It is an injustice to rob me of this right of choice and to segregate those medical practitioners who offer this choice. I have found alternative options to conventional medicine have helped both myself and my son up until now with a range of different ailments. The first time I encountered how successful alternative medicine could be, filled me with wonder, when, after rounds of ever increasing strength of antibiotics were unsuccessful in combating an infection, on the advice of a friend, I tried homeopathy and found an immediate change in the situation leading to a rapid and complete overcoming of the infection. I feel deeply grateful to medical practitioners who in the face of the opposition we are now addressing, continue to offer their services. Thank you for considering my submission”.

Diane, Victoria

“I and my family have been using integrative medicine for over 40 years. When people are prepared to take responsibility for their health they should have the right to choose, be it Natural or Conventional. If the rights of individuals are ignored or worse, taken away, there will be a much bigger burden on the medical and hospital system. We educate ourselves to make healthy choices in our lifestyle decisions. This should be applauded, not penalised. There is a place for both forms of health care and one should not be eroded at the expense of the other. Personally, I am on no prescription medication and for my age am considered to be very fit and healthy. The bottom line is: everyone is entitled to FREEDOM OF CHOICE”

Judith, NSW

“Please retain all manner of Integrative health care options available to all Australians. Allopathic medicine has its place alongside all other healing modalities. I have personally benefited from alternative healing such as osteopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy, reflexology, acupuncture amongst other healing methods. It seems retrogressive to blindly insist that only a certain form of medicine is reliable. Please consider the need for wholistic healthcare. Thank You”

Jenny, SA

“I am suffering a long-term, chronic illness. I rarely leave the house and I can do very little each day. In my years of searching for answers I have not been helped at all by regular doctors. In fact most of them eroded my confidence as a person – for a while – by telling me I’m fine, it’s all in my head, and a range of other “go away you are too hard” excuses. The first time I saw someone practicing integrative medicine I felt overwhelming relief at being believed. Their methods of testing showed some of my issues which were successfully treated. Unfortunately I still have symptoms that have not been treatable but even when nothing shows up on a test an integrative professional will believe what you tell them. This is HUGE! I’m unable to keep searching for answers because integrative services do not get government subsidizing. How can someone who is too ill to work, but not believed by a doctor so as to possibly receive any sickness benefit, afford to see a costly Integrative Professional?”

Dianne, Victoria

“Having experienced a lifetime of chronic illness, the only way I have regained optimum health is by using integrative and complementary medicine. I was sent home from hospital dying, and complementary medicine saved my life.
I disagree to imposing restrictions on integrative practitioners. All the doctors I have seen are professional medical practitioners with care and respect for their patients. They go out of their way to find answers for their patients when other doctors do not have the time or inclination to do so”

Christina, WA

“For the past thirty years I have used integrative and complementary medicine as a means to heal my body, and mind with great success. I have been fortunate in having the services of a GP who is also qualified in Nutritional and Environmental medicine, and this has been my choice. I sincerely hope that the MBA retains Option 1 giving patients the flexibility and choice of choosing practitioners providing integrative treatments”

Cazz, NSW

“I am writing to state my absolute objection to the proposed guidelines that are being considered by the MBA which will threaten some doctor’s abilities to offer patients complementary, innovative and emerging treatment options.. Integrated medicine addresses the root of an illness and a good practictioner encourages changing habits and issues which lead to the problem. With this holistic approach the patient is encouraged to become a partner in the healing process. Of course this type of appointment takes longer than the conventional 10 minutes as good health often requires individualised treatment plans and good communication should not be hurried. I am a very healthy 67 year old woman and it’s not by luck that I’m this way. I’ve been going to Holistic doctors for at least 30 years and my health has improved out of sight. I take the vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements, natural therapies and diagnostic testing they suggest.. In my mind, conventional doctors don’t have nearly as much to offer and that is why I’d be mortified if my right to choose the type of doctor I want to see was taken away from me. I sincerely hope that you decide on Option 1 – No change to the current guidelines”

Saara, NSW

“I am a person that suffers from an autoimmune condition that is not responsive to medical therapies. I rely on complementary medicines and therapies to manage my condition and am overwhelmed at the thought that this therapy may become unavailable to me. My current (integrative) GP and naturopath have helped and supported me to reach goals I would not have previously thought possible. I trust that many people experience similar outcomes and that we can continue to work in harmony, both within the medical industry and complementary medicine industry, to help people to be their best – physically, spiritually, mentally”

Diane, SA

“As a 75 year old female I have seen great changes and advances in medicine in my lifetime. Until the birth of my children I used only the conventional medical model. I wanted to give my children the best start in life. During their early years my children were often on antibiotics and I was very concerned at the evidence that was emerging in regard to the damaging side effects of continual use of these medications. I began to look into alternative health practices that were drug free and found them to be health enhancing and less traumatic in their effects. Since this time I have worked with Doctors who have used integrative and complementary medicine as I like to have the benefit of all perspectives on health. Integrative and complementary approaches:
• Consider a whole body approach and address the imbalances therein.
• Traditional medicine has become so specialised that the body systems are looked at individually rather than as working together to produce balance in the body and increase health. .integrative and alternative approaches educate their patients and encourage responsibility in one’s health and lifestyle changes.
• Spend more time in getting to the source of problems.
• Allow me to make informed choices on my health care.
• Enable me to work with the same practitioner . (at a clinic it is increasingly difficult to see the same doctor.)
In latter years I have developed autoimmune diseases and traditional medical practices have offered no help in this area. From the age of 43 doctors did not know how to treat these diseases and so I made other choices that have been helpful and life giving. More recently, since the retirement of my long term Doctor and health professional , it has been increasingly difficult to access remedies that I know make a difference to my health. My search for another Doctor who works in an integrative way has been hampered by :
• a refusal to prescribe bio identical hormones .
• a refusal to order blood tests ( vital in treating the MTHFR gene)
• not having time to read notes from other practitioners.
• doctors moving on ( locum doctors seem to be more open to alternatives. )
And now? The doctors who practice integrative medicine and alternative therapies that I have worked with have been restricted in their practice and ability to prescribe what I need and are under pressure to conform or be removed from the medical register . I am appalled by this situation . The present system allows for a more balanced approach to health management and is to be endorsed”

Michael, Victoria

“Over the last 40 years I have worked within the medical community as an ambulance officer and along side the medical community as a chiropractor. I have always recognised and appreciated the vital role of conventional allopathic medical practice in circumstances of severe injury and life threatening illness. I have also seen the vital supportive role of complimentary therapies and practices, as part of an integrative approach to support an injured or unwell patient in their recovery and to help rebuild their constitutional strength.
Just over two years ago my wife was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and we chose an integrative management plan for her health management. Because of the acute and aggressive nature of her cancer, we accepted the recommendations of her oncologist and followed through with the recommended chemotherapy and surgery. While on this management plan we also followed the recommendations of two other medical doctors. The first was a retired oncologist/surgeon who now worked in complimentary medicine. He recommended non-pharmaceutical treatments that complimented the chemotherapy effects. The other doctor we consulted with was a medical surgeon who was also fully trained in traditional Chinese medicine. His management was to provide herbal remedies. These were not intended to fight the cancer but rather support my wife’s body during the chemotherapy to reduce the negative side effects and after the chemotherapy to help rebuild her natural immune resistance. It was interesting for us to note that once the chemotherapy and surgery were finished, her oncologist offered no further health management recommendations and took a very much “wait and see” attitude towards future management of her condition. Our other two doctors, however, took a far more supportive, proactive and to us logical approach in recommending an ongoing general health management plan with a goal of strengthening her body’s own natural ability in order to reduce future health problems of any sort. Not only has this helped her physically with her recovery but mentally as well, for both of us, as we have a strong feeling of having more control over her future health. This feeling of self determination would not be the same if we had just sat back to “wait and see what happens”


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