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By Dan'an Cheng

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Palpation involves checking the patient's pulse: importantly, acupuncturists claim to be able to discern far more information from this process than any conventional doctor. Inquiring, as the n a m e suggests, m e a n s simply interviewing the patient. Claims by the Chinese that acupuncture could successfully diagnose and miraculously cure a whole range of diseases inevitably aroused interest from the rest of the world. T h e first detailed description by a European physician was by Wilhelm ten R h y n e of the Dutch East India C o m p a n y in 1683, w h o invented the word acupuncture in his Latin treatise De Acupunctura.

O n e final story illustrates exactly how scientific evidence c a n m a k e the world sit u p , listen and act regarding health issues - it concerns the research that dramatically revealed the previously u n k n o w n dangers of s m o k i n g . This research was c o n d u c t e d by Sir Austin Bradford Hill and Sir Richard Doll, w h o had curiously mirrored each other in their backgrounds. Hill had wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and b e c o m e a doctor, but a b o u t of tuberculosis made this impossible, so instead he pursued a more mathematical career.

Budding practitioners could n o w sign up to courses with confidence, safe in the knowledge that this w a s a therapy that genuinely w o r k e d . Similarly, the n u m b e r of patients waiting for treatment began to rise rapidly, as they became increasingly convinced of the p o w e r of THE TRUTH A B O U T ACUPUNCTURE 51 acupuncture. For e x a m p l e , by 1990 in E u r o p e alone there w e r e 88,000 acupuncturists and over 20 million patients had received treatment. M a n y acupuncturists were independent practitioners, but slowly the therapy w a s also b e c o m i n g part of m a i n s t r e a m m e d i c i n e .

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