Ethical Considerations in African Traditional Medicine: A Response to Nyika
Van Bogaert, Donna Knapp
Developing World Bioethics 2007 April; 7(1): 35-40
Like other so-called 'parallel' practices in medicine, traditional medicine (TM) does not avoid criticism or even rejection. Nyika's article 'Ethical and Regulatory Issues Surrounding African Traditional Medicine in the Context of HIV/AIDS' looks at some of the issues from a traditional Western ethical perspective and suggests that it should be rejected. I respond to this article agreeing with Nyika's three major criticisms: lack of informed consent, confidentiality and paternalism. However, as traditional healers are consulted by over 70% of South Africans before any other type of healthcare professional, a blanket negation of TM is not possible, nor is it politically feasible. A pragmatic approach would be to work within the current structures for positive change. I point out that, as all cultural practices do, TM will change over time. Yet, until some regulations and change occur, the problem of harm to patients remains a major concern.