Ethics in Medicine

Alternative Medicine Article from the Economist

Kristen Sparrow • June 17, 2011

Here is the link from a recent article from the Economist about Alternative Medicine. It takes a hostile attitude towards alternative medicine, of all varieties, decries the money patients will spend on it, and then chalks it all up to placebo. Sigh. The article doesn’t differentiate between homeopathy, massage, yoga, acupuncture. Makes no mention of fMRI studies on acupuncture, nor the acupuncture research done on animals to demonstrate effects and the underlying physiology. I ended up writing a letter to the Editors, but way too late for admission into the magazine. But the the first letter in rebuttal to their articles I will copy in its entirety. He said it much better than I did. I may publish my letter in my blog in coming posts. (For more information about my practice, please click here.)

SIR – As a doctor who uses both conventional and complementary therapies in my practice, I read your leader on alternative medicine with interest (“There is no alternative”, May 21st). I agree with your assessment regarding the potential benefits of reforming the doctor-patient relationship, but I disagree entirely with your conclusion that alternative medicine is simply a sophisticated “placebo delivery service” that is “mostly quackery” and a “colossal waste of money”.

Too often heavily biased in-house scientific research performed by the medical industry for the purpose of demonstrating the supposed superiority of one medical product to another has been used by the industry to demonstrate a superiority to natural alternatives, which are less amenable to double-blind, placebo-controlled studies for technical reasons. More worryingly, such research is also used as a justification for the elimination of industrial medicine’s alternative competition by labelling alternative therapies as unfounded or even dangerous.

The growing popularity of alternatives to the drugs-and-surgery approach attests to an emerging awareness of the limitations of conventional medicine. The presence of alternative medicine in the medical marketplace provides more therapeutic options for patients and is an essential counterbalance that compels the medical industry to maintain its humanist foundations in the drive for corporate profits.

Dr Christopher Peine
Boise, Idaho