Larry Nassar doesn’t define an entire profession

The Los Angeles Times recently published an article chronicling the beginning of disgraced Dr. Larry Nassar’s career up to his disgusting acts of molesting young Olympic gymnast women. The author egregiously states,

Osteopathic medicine focuses on the joints, muscles, and spine. Historically, though, osteopathy — its original name — was closely associated with a set of esoteric massage styles that some researchers now consider ineffective or worse. For its part, MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine still teaches these unusual manipulations — a special “benefit” unique to osteopathic medicine — describing them as a form of “hands-on diagnosis and treatment.”

Some historical context: Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathy, wrote of his medical discoveries in 1897: “I could twist a man one way and cure flux … shake a child and stop scarlet fever … cure whooping cough in three days by a wring of the child’s neck.”

Modern osteopathic medicine uses none of these techniques to treat infections — or anything else. But the specter of violence and child abuse that Still conjured in his early writings continues to haunt the fringes of osteopathic medicine. These practices include intravaginal manipulation. Fisting. This was the “medical procedure” Nassar performed on so many young girls …

… Just last year, the American Osteopathic Assn. released a statement to MLive.com, the Michigan news service, saying that intravaginal manipulations are indeed an approved, if rare, osteopathic treatment for pelvic pain.

She insinuates that osteopathic physicians are given treatment tools they could use as excuses to molest any patient they please. Being a third-year osteopathic medical student, I have not learned or even heard of a single intravaginal osteopathic technique, or any technique that would even border the line of inappropriate touching.

Sure, the American Osteopathic Association may say they are approved, yet rare treatment for pelvic pain, that doesn’t mean any morally sound physician would use it without appropriate consent and explanation to the patient first. Does she know what is an approved treatment for some psychiatric disorders? Electroconvulsive shock therapy: Yet that doesn’t mean doctors are lining up to shock the hell out of their patients.

I can be the first one to admit that osteopathic medicine was founded on rather questionable beliefs, but the author fails to mention that the field was created based off the rejection of practices of MDs which included arsenic, castor oil, and bloodletting as treatment options to their patients. Andrew Taylor Still himself was an MD.

The fact is osteopathic curriculum mirrors their MD counterparts besides taking an extra class focusing on osteopathic manipulative treatment, otherwise known as OMT. The majority of my classes were taught by MDs.

Osteopathic medicine was founded on a principle that many disease processes could be fixed by correcting musculoskeletal dysfunction.  We are taught many techniques to relieve muscle and joint aches through stretching a muscle out or using the patient’s own force to relax. I would hardly call them “massages” as the author states. She asserts research shows that OMT is ineffective, or worse harmful yet provides no evidence of her claims.

Where was this author’s outrage when an MD was caught masturbating on sedated patients? Does that mean every MD has the power to do the same with their medical knowledge? The author’s extremely naive assertions are dangerous to people needing medical help, who will now be dissuaded to seek care from osteopathic physicians based on lies and careless misinformation.

She fails to realize that a degree doesn’t make a physician who they are. Does she really believe if Dr. Nassar received an MD degree instead, he wouldn’t have committed these atrocities? In a time where “fake news” is infiltrating our society, it’s imperative to shed light on the truth instead of attempting to tear down an entire profession based off of one man.

Brandon Jacobi is a medical student.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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