Clarifications on TCM treatment

An acupuncturist sticking needles into the stomach of a patient.
An acupuncturist sticking needles into the stomach of a patient.PHOTO: ST FILE

Recently, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner Lee Ming Chong was suspended for three years and fined $5,000 after his treatments caused a diabetic patient to lose part of his left leg to amputation (TCM practitioner fined after patient loses part of leg, March 15).

Initially, Mr Lee used heat lamp therapy on the soles of the patient's feet for the man's condition of general weakness and chills.

This part of the treatment was considered "appropriate" by the TCM Practitioners Board even though numbness of the feet in a diabetic patient is usually caused by neuropathy or ischemia, and neither situation should be treated with the application of heat.

When the patient later developed a high fever and had what appears to be infected burn wounds, he received acupuncture and "electric impulse" treatment.

The board said that Mr Lee failed to provide "an appropriate method of TCM treatment for the patient's burns", and that he should have advised the patient to "seek immediate medical attention".

The TCM Practitioners Board should clarify what the "appropriate method of TCM treatment" here refers to.

It should also indicate whether "immediate medical attention" means Western medical treatment.

And if so, at what stage of the treatment does the board favour a switch to Western treatment?

Ong Siew Chey (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2019, with the headline 'Clarifications on TCM treatment'. Print Edition | Subscribe