Uproar in Togo
The relationship between traditional medicine in Africa and bioethics is sensitive. On the one hand, respect for culture seems to demand that the importance of traditional medicine in the life of Africans be acknowledged, particularly because it involves a gamma of longstanding, physical and spiritual healing practices. On the other hand, when clients are offered herbal remedies whose efficacy and side effects have not been tested, and when informed consent is considered a challenge to the authority of the healer, bioethicists (no matter where they are located) should raise objections. The more serious the ailment, and the more extravagant the claims made by the healer, the more responsibility the bioethicist (and lawyer, minister of health, and so on) has to advocate for the protection of patients. Aceme Nyika wrote a good article on this in Developing World Bioethics recently, though it makes you wonder whether traditional healers will survive being regulated by ethics committees and medical boards.