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Modern Desires, Knowledge Control, and Physician Resistance: Regulating Ayurvedic Medicine in Nepal

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Forms of medical regulation in Nepal are shown to limit health knowledge transmission in the name of protecting the people from health care providers both familiar and trusted. Within the last four years Nepal's Ministry of Health implemented controversial legislation requiring Ayurvedic medical practitioners to register with the government in order to practise medicine and to prepare plant-based medications. Traditional practitioners find the age and lineage requirements for those not holding medical certification in Ayurveda potentially devastating to their profession, and they have launched an active campaign resisting the new professionalisation requirements. These actions can be seen to result from the convergence of a rising modern Nepali state bureaucracy, the people's desire for a country free of high rates of morbidity and mortality, and the powerful ideology of Western-based health care modernisation guiding health development. I draw on recent research in Kathmandu and in two rural communities to summarise the role of Ayurveda in Nepal's health care, to analyse the politics behind the legislation and the traditional healers' response, and finally to suggest the legislation's impact on health care.


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