Differing Views on Alternative Treatments

cherriesThe New York Times Magazine published an article called “The Boy With a Thorn in His Joints”. In it, a mother describes how she went from traditional medicine to alternative medicine to treat her son’s condition. On Slate, there is a response to that article that discusses reasons not to use alternative medicine. Together, the two articles give a wide range of views about choices of treatment.

An article called “The Boy With a Thorn in His Joints” was recently posted to the New York Times Magazine. It is six pages long, and was written by Susannah Meadows. It is about her son, Shepherd, who was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when the was three years old. His twin brother, Beau, did not have it.

When people mention that someone has arthritis, we typically think of an adult. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, however, refers to a group of conditions that involve joint inflammation that appear before the age of 16. It is estimated that the condition affects 4 to 16 out of every 10,000 children in North America and Europe. JIA is an autoimmune disease, and can be very painful.

Susannah Meadows writes about how the doctor who diagnosed Sheppard put him on naproxen. Later, when the naproxen became ineffective, they switched to methotrexate. Susannah worried about if the drugs had side effects that would cause harm to her son.

Eventually, she switched to alternative medicine that includes supplements with pleasant sounding names, and feeding her son a gluten free diet. The story ends happily. Sheppard seems to have recovered, and can once again run and play with his brother.

Slate has an article that was written in response to the one written by Susannah Meadows. It is titled “Curing Chemophobia: Don’t buy the alternative medicine in ‘The Boy With a Thorn in His Joints’”.

It was written by Michelle M. Francl, who is also a mother with a son who was severely sick and a “frequent flyer” at the ER. She points out that one of the supplements Shepherd was taking was called four-marvels powder, which she notes is a traditional Chinese medicine, and that he was also taking Montmorency cherry juice. Michelle says:

The regimen sounds warm and friendly – like something a Disney princess would use – and above all, safe. In contrast, naproxen and methotrexate sound harsh and forbidding.

Michelle’s article warns parents against being fearful of medications based upon little more than their own “chemophobia”. Together, these two articles give parents of children who have a severe illness or condition plenty to consider.

Image by David Wright on Flickr