PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 April, 2006, 12:00am

Q Should the Hospital Authority be more open to alternative treatment?

The Hospital Authority ought to be as open to alternative medicines as alternatives medicines are to the scientific method. Unfortunately, such alternative methods all too frequently rely on appeals to historical authority, societal pride, or spiritual metaphor.

While such appeals may yield a sense of emotional support and affirmed identity, they say nothing about whether a treatment is verifiably effective and safe. Practitioners also frequently confuse scientific method with western medicine.

Ironically, if one considers the state of western medicine prior to the post-Enlightenment introduction of the scientific method, one finds a medical practice which - much like its eastern counterparts - was rooted in ideas of balancing opposing bodily forces. For centuries, western doctors pointed to the authority of ancient physicians such as Galen or Hippocrates and their theories of bodily humours as the basis for their treatments.

Unbiased scientific method has forced western medicine to improve, whether through the application of germ theory, or through the testing and adoption of alternative perspectives, such as the value of antioxidants. Meanwhile, time-honoured western practices like leeching and pre-frontal lobotomies were tested and found wanting.

With millennia of accumulated knowledge, Chinese and other medical traditions can offer wisdom and treatments to extend human health and happiness, but until they submit to the same inquiries and experiments as their western counterparts, we cannot sort folklore from fact.

Yes, the Hospital Authority ought to open the door to various alternative treatments, but it must place scientific method at this entrance so patients can benefit - not from western medicine nor alternative medicine, but from effective, proven medicine.

Mark Mulkerin, Mid-Levels

Q How can rail travellers who jump on the tracks be stopped?

Some KCRC passengers jump onto the track out of convenience, especially during rush hours. They simply run across the track to get to the opposite platform.

Once the train has come, they are in danger. I propose a heavy penalty to stop travellers from jumping on the tracks, similar to the littering penalty system that is already in place.

Public education is another way to prevent tourists or local passengers from violating the regulations of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation. For example, announcements should be made on the platforms, and leaflets distributed to passengers, in order to remind them about the new penalty system.

Minnie Wong, Tsuen Wan

On other matters...

I recently rode Citybus' route E23 (airport bound) a couple of times, and I was very agitated by the force-feeding of television programming.

I can see why such programming is installed on buses. But on most other buses that I've travelled, the volume of the programme was set at a very low level, so that passengers could choose to ignore it. However, on Citybus's E23, it was so loud and clear that on both occasions I was forced to listen to it.

I pay to take the bus from point A to point B, not to be force-fed audio-visual programming. Can Citybus be more passenger-oriented, either by setting the volume at a very low level, or by turning it on only on one deck, so that passengers at least have a choice?

Andrew Lee, Tung Chung

In recent years, Asia's world city has started bouldering pavements in selected areas, such as Queen's Road Central and Lan Kwai Fong. While the idea is welcome, I wonder whether I am the only one who is surprised by the appalling quality of the job.

Not only do the cobblestones look very cheap and dirty, the workmanship of the bouldering is extremely poor. Compare this to other cities - including Macau and mainland cities - and Hong Kong would be at the bottom of the rankings.

Jorg Motel, Mid-Levels

Hong Kong's tourism authorities deserve an A+ for highlighting various cultural activities that are soon to take place on the outer islands, like Buddha's birthday celebrations at Po Lin Monastery, Lantau, and the Bun Festival on Cheung Chau.

To ensure balance, I suggest their next focus be the eastern New Territories. For instance, the splendid but largely unheralded knoll decoration programme at Sai O (just off Sai Kung Road, a few kilometres from Ma On Shan town) really merits broader attention.

Over the years, a dedicated band has worked tirelessly at festooning Sai O's otherwise nondescript shrubby hillock with red diamond-shaped paper ornaments. Each day, 20-odd unpaid volunteers set about replacing those lost to the elements (sadly, 20-25 per cent of the decorations 'expire' annually). The work involves more stamina than skill, but one has to admire the way in which the papers are systematically kited-in and then delicately plonked onto the highest branches.

Free shuttle buses from TST and Central need to be laid on. A TV commercial should be made. Perhaps Cathay Pacific will allow their old theme tune, the marvellously evocative 'I can fly', to be recycled as the background music. Critically, unlike the Cheung Chau bun tower climb, where only pros are allowed, everyone can join in. Bring granny, the kids, a couple of dozen red kites and 3-4km of non-degradable nylon line.

You'll have more fun than you could ever imagine.

Jason Ali, Sheung Wan

The Transportation Department's adoption of the slogan 'Zero accidents on the road; Hong Kong's goal' breaks almost every rule for goal-setting ever considered. It is not specific, attainable, realistic, believable or measurable (even if the timeframe is reduced to one second or one minute): the 'goal' has no deadline.

In any event, for the goal to make any sense whatsoever, the department would have to be committed to achieving the unachievable, and clearly they are not so committed.

I have a few suggestions for some measurable goals for the department to use in place of the current slogan. How about adopting a goal of reducing the number of vehicle accidents by x per cent year-on-year?

There should also be a goal of increasing the number of convictions by x per cent year-on-year for: using mobile phones (since these apparently cause accidents); not using seat belts and car seats with children (to reduce the number and extent of injuries from accidents that will inevitably occur); and not using headlights when required to do so by law (this has proven to be a cause of accidents). How about introducing laws requiring the use of signal lights when changing lanes and turning corners, and then enforcing them?

How about bringing in drink-driving laws that allow for random roadside tests, rather than waiting for accidents to happen before checking anyone for alcohol use? How about extending the definition of the hours of darkness, to extend the time during which headlights are required? Or, better yet, making it compulsory that headlights be used 24 hours a day? It works for motorcycles, so why not cars?

On another note, I am very surprised that RTHK, which is usually so careful about using bad words, broadcasts for the Hong Kong government an anti-drug ad that ends with something like this: 'Drugs screw up your life.' Does RTHK not know that 'screw' in this context can only be interpreted as a synonym for the 'F' word?

Jeffrey Sweet, Sai Kung