National Institutes of Health

In 1992, however, and in a major break with past policy, the U.S. Congress voted to establish within the National Institutes of Health a unit now known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The major impetus for this legislation came from former California Congressman Berkley Bedell, who had experimented with alternative therapies after his doctors diagnosed him with terminal cancer. His apparently successful experiences convinced him that such treatments warranted wider study and use. Bedell’s success in getting this legislation passed reflects legislators’ recognition of both the soaring costs of mainstream medical care and the growing public interest in alternative health care.

Interest in alternative healing is growing not only among American consumers but also among allopathic doctors. Most medical schools now require some course- work in alternative medicine—often called integrative medicine in the medical world—and many students choose to take electives in the area as well. In addition, growing numbers of doctors attend conferences and workshops on alternative therapies or even run alternative therapy centers at major hospitals and medical schools.

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In the rest of this chapter, we examine four alternative health care occupa- tions. The first two, chiropractic and lay midwifery, at least sometimes use the lan- guage of science to justify their work. The other two occupations, curanderismo and traditional acupuncture, draw on traditional beliefs unrelated to the Western scientific worldview.

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