To Whom Do I Refer Patients?

Dr. Georgette Delvaux, DC

Should I need to refer a patient to another professional for more care, I have two networks to draw from. The first is my network of medical doctors whom I mostly know personally. They are homeopaths, naturopaths, and orthopedic surgeons. I also have a network of alternative practitioners, including acupuncturists and nutritionists.

I do not consider official medicine and alternative medicine to be opposing categories. In fact, I never think of one without the other. The term alternative is mistaken in my opinion. I insist that it be replaced by complementary.

Many of our contemporary Western medical approaches are very good at addressing problems at various levels. I am very glad that official medicine saves people from serious trouble. At the same time, there often are unavoidable consequences to this kind of medical treatment: fatigue, scars, less vitality, and dependency on medication, to name a few. Complementary medicine, for its part, helps people return to normal — truly as close as possible to the place they were before the disease manifested.

Good practitioners of complementary medicine are able to discern a “disturbance in the force,” so to speak. They can see that a person is not doing well before a condition has become clearly symptomatic.

I mostly recommend practitioners of traditional Chinese acupuncture. These practitioners stand on the shoulders of people who have been thinking about health for at least three thousand years. This approach is empirical—and empiricism is a venerable scientific method: If the same problems have been treated by different people in the same way and with the same successful results for thousands of years, that counts for something. These practitioners certainly should not be discounted because they practice without sophisticated imagery like scans and endoscopy and without modern pharmacology or endosurgery. I am very impressed by their powers of observation and their knowledge of botanical remedies.

I also very much like homeopathy, and I do recommend it. In my early thirties, I got very ill with an acute kidney infection. That is serious! I had a high fever. My MD, a homeopath, did not seem too concerned. Late at night I could not sleep; I was very hot, and I had a high fever. I called him, demanding that he come and bring me an antibiotic, pleading, saying I was afraid I was going to die. He did come. He even brought his wife, herself a well-known homeopath. He brought the antibiotic, placed the container on my nightstand and said, “Okay, here it is. You can take it. It will upset your digestive system, but we can take care of that later. We both think, however, that you are getting better and that maybe you should trust us until tomorrow morning. You will feel much better when you wake up.”

They were both elderly. Their wise heads bent over the bed to look at me. I thought: “I probably will not die by tomorrow morning. I guess I will trust them… “ I woke up the next morning hungry, with nothing but breakfast on my mind! This was one dose of one homeopathic remedy, one time!

I certainly am very happy about the discoveries of Western medicine, even if it takes years of studies and practice for medical doctors to learn how to operate all their sophisticated machinery and years to have an understanding of their ever-expanding pharmacology … and even if many approaches are very risky. Official medicine is not my field. That does not mean that I am not interested in finding out what they are up to. Their discoveries can be astonishing.

I recently learned about capsule endoscopy, a new method of exploring the most mysterious nooks and crannies, sphincters and varying inner surfaces of the small intestine. The capsule is a pill-sized camera that, after being ingested, can take images every few seconds or so and show us exactly what is wrong and exactly where. Wow!

I also assure you that I myself would not first see my acupuncturist should I have the bad luck to break a leg. I would, however, see him as soon as the plaster had dried, so he could help me get over the shock of the injury.

So whom do I recommend and for what conditions? It all depends on the gravity of the situation, of course. Because I’m a Rolfer, a chiropractor, and a cranio-sacral therapist, the people who come to see me are usually well enough to walk into my practice. I rarely see people who need emergency medicine. I do refer for medical exams when my hands discover a clear abnormality. I am well trained in clinical thinking. I will also refer if I do not see the result I expect from a treatment. If a patient speaks about a potential organ weakness I recommend acupuncture, or I might refer to an MD naturopath. (These are MDs who prescribe only herbs or remedies made with natural substances, if at all possible.) And if I saw a truly dangerous sign I would either call the ambulance or drive the patient to the hospital myself.