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Chinese Medicine Favored by Germans
Angelika Affeldt, a mother of two children, had seen many doctors for her iritis and severe headache caused by it before she came to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Clinic in Koetzting in southern Germany, as "the last resort" at the end of last year.

Some doctors had suggested that she might have to live with the suffering for the rest of her life.

Yet after six months of treatment by Chinese medicine, Affeldt found the illness has been drastically alleviated. "I can read and drive again," she said. She was even expecting to return to the job she had to quit because of the illness.

Hahcbrock, a classical medicine doctor, who only wants to be known by his family name, also went to the TCM Clinic for the pain in the right thigh which he had suffered for years. The doctor was a bit embarrassed when talking about the reason why he came to seek help from Chinese medicine. "I am ready to be hospitalized here," he said.

Since classical medicine has limitations in many chronic and difficult illnesses and could generate grave side-effects, more and more German patients have come to choose Chinese medicine clinics in recent years. A series of therapies by traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture, Tuina and herbal medicine, are easing sufferings of millions of Germans.

Statistics of German TCM institutions show that Germany has 50, 000 doctors who treat patients with Chinese medicine, accounting for one-sixth of the total in the country, and more than 2 million patients see Chinese medicine doctors every year.

The ever increasing demand for Chinese medicine in Germany is pushing German colleges and universities to do more in TCM research.

The well-known Charite Hospital in Berlin, attached to the Medical School of Berlin Humbolt University, will set up a TCM professorship in the coming winter semester. The professor, enjoying a five-year tenure, will teach Chinese medicine and lead TCM research work in the hospital as well.

"This will be the first TCM professor in German and in European history," Dean Charite Joachim Dudenhausen told Xinhua. "It reflects the high recognition of TCM in Germany."

The establishment of a TCM professorship is aimed at making the "medical science from the Far East academically presentable," the mass-circulation Spiegel magazine commented.

Although millions of Germans favor the traditional medicine from China and TCM has been proved effective in treating many chronic and difficult illnesses, government authorities and national health care insurance funds are still reluctant to give TCM a parallel status with classical medicine and it is basically excluded from Germany's health care insurance system.

Because of high medical costs, German patients have to depend on insurance for covering their medical bills. The exclusion of TCM from the insurance system holds back many patients who wish to see TCM doctors.

As patients demand more recognition of TCM, German authorities and sick-funds are gradually paying more attention to Chinese medicine. The German government is carrying out a pilot project of medical insurance for some TCM indications such as migraine, which will cost medical insurance institutions 300 million euros (US$300 million) a year.

Besides, a large-scale study on the curative effect of acupuncture is being conducted nationwide. The study will cost some 10 million euros (US$10 million) and involve thousands of TCM doctors and patients, said the German Society of Acupuncture Doctors (DaeGfA).

The study will be completed in two years. But initial results have already shown the positive effect of acupunctural treatment, said Stephan Hager, participant of the study and head of the Koetzting TCM Clinic.

"The positive results will surely make sick-funds pay more for TCM indications in the future," he said. "I am very optimistic about this."

Besides, many TCM-related institutions including DaeGfA and the Scientific Society of Chinese Medicine are lobbying policy-makers, urging them to give TCM more attention and investment.

"The major reason for the rapid development of TCM in Germany is the powerful support and struggle by the patients," DaeGfA President Walburg Maric-Oehler said to Xinhua.

She expressed her confidence that TCM would become a parallel treatment method as classical medicine in five to 10 years. "TCM is effective and sick-funds can't ignore it all along," she said.

At present, more and more German hospitals and clinics are using TCM methods, mainly acupuncture, to attract patients. Doctors of classical medicine are abandoning their previous prejudice to Chinese medicine and beginning to learn it actively, Maric-Oehler noted.

Because of an economic slump and lack of medical insurance funds, German hospitals of classical medicine are reducing the number of beds and patients have to cut down on hospitalization, said Stephan Hager of the Koetzting TCM Clinic.

"On the contrary, more and more patients are coming to TCM clinics. Some even pay for the TCM treatment themselves although it is very expensive," said Hager.

(eastday.com July 16, 2002)

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