Medical Doctors Practicing CAM in Buenos Aires: Taking Advantage of Market Opportunities and Carving out Niches of Integration into the Health System

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:36
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Betina FREIDIN, CONICET and University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cross-national research in the social sciences has documented the rising interest of medical doctors in alternative medicines and emerging forms of integrative care. Centered mostly in the global north, the theoretical debates have focused on co-option dynamics between biomedicine and unorthodox health approaches on the epistemological level as well as on the institutional and the interactional ones where doctors and CAM practitioners interact, and only little empirical research has addressed the actual work of physicians who practice CAM. Based on in-depth, semi- structured interviews with 42 female and male physicians who practice Homeopathy, Ayurveda and Acupuncture in Buenos Aires, in this paper I examine the opportunities and constraints they have faced to practice CAM given the marginal position of unconventional modalities of care in the medical profession and in the Argentinean health system, where most CAM remain unregulated. The study shows that although the private health market does create incentives for medical doctors to work at the margins of the health system in terms of income and the recovery of autonomy in their work, some physicians have also mobilized to create spaces for integrative care in mainstream health services. In this way, they have been agents for institutional and cultural change by incorporating some CAM modalities into post-graduate medical education imparted in hospital settings and by delivering unorthodox medical treatments. Fieldwork was carried out in Buenos Aires City from 2009 to 2012.