What attitude should we take toward traditional medicine? There have been three types of policies in this regard all over the world. First, the excluding policy prohibits practicing any traditional medicine. Traditional physicians are not qualified to possess the title of physician, and their practice is illegal. Second, the tolerating policy does not make illegal traditional medical practice, but it does not formally affirm the practice. Third, the paralleling policy allows both traditional and modem medical practices, but their use may not overlap. For example, traditional physicians may not use modem medical facilities.
Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, a unique policy of integration has been adopted in China. This policy assumes that both traditional Chinese medicine and modern Western medicine have strengths and weaknesses. It requires that both types of medicine be integrated so as to develop more effective methods in treating diseases and preserving health.
There are two senses of the integration of traditional Chinese and modern Western medicine. The first sense refers to the integration of the two types of the physicians, i.e., the cooperation between traditional Chinese practitioners and modern Western medical professionals. The second sense refers to the integration of the two disciplines; i.e., to use both traditional Chinese and modern Western medical theories and practices to create new forms of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches and means. The hope was to have the perspectives, methods, and solutions of both types of medicine complement each other.
Under the integrating policy, traditional Chinese medicine has been developed tremendously in mainland China. 30 traditional Chinese medical colleges, 2457 traditional Chinese medical hospitals, and 170 traditional Chinese medical research institutions have been established. A number of well-known medical achievements, such as acupunctural analgesia and anesthesia, the discovery of a new type of anti-malaria drug - Qinghaosu (artemisinin), and the study of blood stasis syndrome, have been made by following the integrating strategy.
With the rapid growth and development of the diagnostic and therapeutic technologies in modern Western medicine, some individuals are doubtful of the prospect of traditional Chinese medicine and of the necessity of China’s integrating strategy. However, no matter how advanced modern Western medicine as a form of medicine has become, it will not be able to handle all diseases or medical problems effectively and appropriately. The human body and medical reality are too complicated to be fixed by modern medicine once and for all. For instance, in the present time, chronic and geriatric diseases pose perplexing challenges to modern medicine. Possibilities are always open for traditional Chinese medicine as well as the integrated traditional Chinese and modern medicine to make their valuable contributions.