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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

DFL - You're Not Helping

In response to the moronic statement issued by our (apparently) retarded Minister of Health regarding the fact that African traditional medicine should not be subject to scientific testing, an organisation named Doctors For Life (DFL) had this to say:

“Being inconsequent with scientific safeguards will leave ample loopholes to make it virtually inevitable for the general public who use untested traditional medicines to ingest substances from scavenged body parts that are mixed with some of these medicines...From the extremely high incidence of muti-killings, it is clear some potions sold as traditional African herbal medicine contain these human body parts. The DFL has testimonies of traditional healers using human body parts in herbal mixtures, and poisoning is often a consequence.”

I think they're missed the boat here.

While I suppose it's a legitimate concern that some or other murder-victim might end up in the muti (African traditional medicinal preparation) you buy at your local sangoma (witchdoctor African traditional medicine practitioner) I am sceptical that the probability of that is very high.

The South African Police Service don't exactly have a good track-record on releasing specific crime statistics, but several statements by the SAPS Occult Unit have implied that apparent muti-related crimes are on the increase. Be that as it may, I still find it hard to believe that there is such a high incidence of this that there is a real danger of any given sangoma client receiving 'Extract of placenta' in their cold-and-flu remedy. But I suppose it is still greater than zero, which is unacceptably high.

I feel (and I suppose this is a matter of opinion in the absence of data) that the far bigger danger here is in perpetuating the myth that alternative therapies quackery should be exempt from scientific scrutiny and proper regulation. This tendency would lead not only to the possibility of your neighbour ending up in your medicine, but of any number of other toxic additives, contaminants who knows what else being sold to the general public as therapeutic interventions. And since the general public tends not to know enough about it to question, they will happily assume that some sort of quality control has been enforced when no such control exists.