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A Continuing Trial of Treatment: Medical Pluralism in Papua by Stephen Frankel, Gilbert Lewis

By Stephen Frankel, Gilbert Lewis

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Extra resources for A Continuing Trial of Treatment: Medical Pluralism in Papua New Guinea

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Illnesses that need their own Kaliai treatments, the cure of sorcery, may take long to work; they are uncertain of success and treatment may be costly. It is not surprising that people grow more confident about introduced health care and more ready to trust Western medicine if in fact the quality of the services near them is good. It takes time to build this up, and time for the people involved to gain sufficient experience of what can be done. The quality and accessibility of services vary greatly, and in many places a mixture of local, traditional methods of treatment with a few bits and pieces of introduced medicine is the actual prospect for most people.

Antibiotics, injections and many other introductions of Western medicine are obviously outside their own control. Practical issues of distribution, distance and transport, availability, accessibility and cost may become PATIERNS OF CONTINUITY AND CHANGE 25 the overriding determinants of whether someone receives the treatment he or she might like to have. Roscoe's paper draws these issues clearly to our attention. The distance and cost of getting to an aid post or a health centre or a hospital may pose difficult questions in actual situations and raise much uncertainty about what is really worth doing in the circumstances.

But overall, he notes, the provision of medical services played a very small role in strategies of evangelization and "civilization". Health measures were introduced for humanitarian reasons and did not form the strategic part of the missionaries' endeavours to alter and improve the moral and religious consciences of converts. The irony is, he writes, that Maisin today as in the past strongly associate health and sickness with matters of religion, morality and politics. But in many other places, often enough people say they have tried the whiteman's treatment and it failed; the powers at work in the illness were New Guinean ones beyond the competence of Western medicine.

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