The Clinical Medicine Guide: A Holistic Perspective
Dr Stephen Gascoigne Jigme Press, 2001
(Reviewed by Lyndon Pang, EJOM Vol. 4 No. 3)
The Clinical Medicine Guide is the author's update on his seminal text, The Manual of Conventional Medicine for Alternative Practitioners. Dr Stephen Gascoigne qualified in medicine at Liverpool University in 1976. He worked in hospital and general practice for over 6 years during which time he became interested in holistic medicine as a means of attaining and maintaining health. His interest in cancer was established when he worked as a medical advisor to the Morecambe Bay Cancer Help Centre. He trained in acupuncture in Shanghai, China and subsequently Chinese herbal medicine in London. He is a well-recognised lecturer in conventional medicine to holistic practitioners, and has written several books, including The Chinese Way to Health: a self-help guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and The Prescribed Drug Guide: A Holistic Perspective.
The Clinical Medicine Guide continues the aims of The Manual of Conventional Medicine in providing a clear and concise conventional medicine reference text suitable for holistic practitioners. It is assumed that the reader has a basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and has access to a standard medical dictionary. These two points are sensible since it would be impossible to produce a reasonable sized book if every basic principle had to be covered.
The layout of the book follows a typical conventional medical text format in that chapters are divided into 'systems' of conventional medicine i.e. respiratory, urinary etc. Each chapter has an introduction with an energetic outline of the system in terms of traditional Chinese medicine. Conventional anatomy and physiology are then discussed, followed by emphasis on individual diseases. Each disease is described conventionally in terms of symptoms, investigations, complications, treatment and holistic management. At the end of each chapter useful sections on how to recognise serious pathology and a summary are to be found. This type of layout is logical and easy to navigate, following well-tried and tested principles. The information in terms of conventional medicine is indeed clear and up-to-date. There are appropriate tables and charts; however, there are no photographs – often a picture conveys more than any description could portray.
The holistic management sections have a clear emphasis on TCM and, to a lesser degree, homoeopathy. However, there are occasional references to other holistic systems such as visualisation, massage, Ayurvedic medicine etc. Case studies occur intermittently. These are well written but details of actual TCM herbal formulae and acupuncture points are not elucidated. Only the TCM diagnosis is given, and this is a major difference compared to Maciocia's The Practice of Chinese Medicine, where tips and 'gems of experience' can be found in his case histories. This can lead to the impression that Gascoigne's experience is less extensive, but once again it is pertinent to remember that the main remit of the book is to impart conventional medical knowledge rather than being a textbook of TCM. Therefore, The Clinical Medicine Guide does fill a niche and does fulfil its aims.
Apart from the core 'systems' sections there are a few interesting chapters that give an insight into the author's ethos and pet interests. Chapter Two on 'Philosophy' brings over the notion of materialistic ideology in western science and of conventional medicine acting primarily at the physical level. This is opposed to holistic medicine which is energetic and considers all levels, and this is illustrated succinctly in a comparison table. He then goes on to illustrate ideas of health in terms of TCM and homoeopathy. He rounds this chapter off by explaining the fallibility of randomised clinical trials. Chapter Four is dedicated to investigations. This is comprehensive and clearly presented. He gives both pros and cons, and usefully lists things in the order of increasing invasiveness/risk. In Chapter Five on infectious disease there is extensive thought provoking information about vaccinations, backed up with hard evidence. There is a whole chapter dedicated to discussing cancer and further information on specific cancers in their respective 'systems' chapters. Throughout the book there is emphasis on side effects of various conventional drugs. An explanation of these in terms of TCM energetics is summarised in a section on pharmacology in the appendix. All the above notions can be found expanded in his other books and requisite seminars.
The Manual of Conventional Medicine was first published in 1993. A question burning in the minds of owners of this book is whether to purchase The Clinical Medicine Guide. In fact, the difference between the two books is minimal. The text and general layout of the book are clearer but the content has not changed substantially. There are more case histories; however, these additions are homoeopathically treated (interestingly, he does give out the homoeopathic remedies!). There are additions to various chapters such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children's health, and updates such as on AIDS. This reflects the changing nature of medicine as a whole.
In summary, The Clinical Medicine Guide is an essential reference text, useful to holistic practitioners at all levels, but especially to those in the fields of TCM and homoeopathy. It is clear and concise in content and the information provided is appropriate. It is clearly well researched, and would be a worthy addition to your bookcase.
Lyndon Pang Lyndon Pang is a medically qualified doctor who studied acupuncture at the British College of Acupuncture in London, and Chinese herbal medicine at the London College of Traditional Acupuncture in London. He worked in the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital for seven years and is presently a part time GP, also practising acupuncture and homoeopathy.