The Department of Health's (DoH) plan to incorporate Traditional Health Practitioners (THP) into the formal health system is not going ahead unchallenged.
Doctors for Life International (DFL) made submissions to the DoH, calling for the prohibition of African Traditional Medicine that cannot be subjected to transparent and objective scientific tests. "The proposed Policy on African Traditional Medicine of the Department of Health must ensure the safety and efficacy of health care for all South Africans," read's a statement by DFL.
The draft policy refers to a document by the DoH providing a framework for the institutionalisation of African Traditional Medicine into the South African healthcare system. This draft policy was published in the Government Gazette of 25 July 2008 and is open for scrutiny and objection by the public for three months.
Religious beliefs shouldn't be included
Furthermore the DFL insists that religious belief systems (such as ancestral worship and consultation of spirits) must be excluded from integration into public healthcare as it is based on individual beliefs and discriminates against all South Africans who do not share that belief system.
Poisoning a great concern
"The recent tragic deaths of thirteen members of one family due to the use of medicine from a trainee traditional healer in the Port Shepstone area, highlights the urgent need for mechanisms and protocols to ensure safe and efficacious health care," the DFL says in a statement.
In a study that analysed cases of acute poisoning over a 5 year period admitted to Ga-Rankuwa Hospital in Pretoria, poisoning by traditional medicines resulted in the highest mortality, accounting for 51.7% of all deaths that were due to acute poisoning. Another study analysed the Johannesburg forensic database and found that African Traditional Medicines were involved in 43% of all poisoning cases.
Medicinal plants are useful
"DFL is not ignorant of the role that plants and herbs have played and still play in the development of useful, safe and effective medication. South African research institutions such as the Medical Research Council (MRC) are starting to document and conduct scientific tests of indigenous plants and herbs traditionally used for medicinal purposes. This is a step in the right direction.
‘Doctors for Life International’ represents more than 1500 medical doctors and specialists. Since 1991 DFL has been active in promoting the safety and efficacy of health care for all South Africans. – ( Health24, November 2008)
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