Buttle's World

5 October, 2008

Is Your Doctor For Real?

Filed under: Posts — clgood @ 13:10

There are so many practitioners of “CAM” (Complimentary/Alternative Medicine) out there now that it really pays to know what kinds of questions to ask your doctor to make sure he’s not a quack. Just going to a hospital is no guarantee anymore, alas. There are actually nursing schools teaching “therapeutic touch” now. But how is the lay person to know all the scientific and medical details to evaluate a treatment? Fortunately the answer is that it’s not necessary. There are some red flags you can watch for, all of which are nicely explained in this article on Psychology and Alternative Medicine.

If the practitioner is ignorant of, or openly hostile to, mainstream science and cannot supply a reasonable scientific rationale for his methods, the would-be buyer should proceed with caution. If the “doctor’s” promotional patter is laced with allusions to spiritual forces or vital energies or to vague planes, vibrations, imbalances, and sensitivities, suspicions should also be aroused. Likewise, if the treatment provider claims secret ingredients or processes (especially if they are named after him- or herself), extols ancient wisdom and “other ways of knowing,” or claims to “treat the whole person, not diseases,” there is also good reason to question his or her legitimacy. If the therapist claims to be persecuted by the medical establishment, encourages political action on his or her behalf, and is prone to attack or even sue critics rather than answering their criticisms with valid research, alarm bells should begin to ring. Practitioners who sell their own supplements and other proprietary concoctions in their offices and stress the need for frequent return visits by healthy people, “in order to stay healthy,” are also a cause for concern. The presence of any pseudoscientific or conspiracy-laden literature in the waiting room ought to set a clear thinker looking for the nearest exit. And above all, if the promised results go well beyond those offered by conventional therapists, the probability is that one is dealing with a quack. In short, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

When people become sick, any promise of a cure is especially beguiling. As a result, common sense and the willingness to demand evidence are easily supplanted by false hope. In this vulnerable state, the need for critical appraisal of treatment options is all the more necessary, rather than less. Potential clients of alternative therapists would do well to heed the admonition of St. Paul: “Test all things; hold fast to what is good” (I Th. 5:12). Those who still think they can afford to take a chance on the hawkers of untested remedies should bear in mind Goethe’s wise advice: “Nothing is more dangerous than active ignorance.”

To all of his fine advice I’d add one thing: In my experience anything with the word wellness attached to it is at least 50% bantha poodoo.

Read the whole thing. Yes, it’s fairly long. How healthy did you want to be, again?



  1. […] Howard Jamison wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThere are so many practitioners of “CAM” (Complimentary/Alternative Medicine) out there now that it really pays to know what kinds of questions to ask your doctor to make sure he’s not a quack. Just going to a hospital is no guarantee … […]

    Pingback by Is Your Doctor For Real? — 5 October, 2008 @ 13:44

  2. This is funny. Apparently one of those automatic link generators identified me as “Howard Jamison” and linked this article to a site belonging to a CAMmie – one who does “certified” rolfing. Best I can figure, this Jamison is one associated with supplements like “Amazon Thunder,” an acai berry juice that is the latest snake oil.

    If this link results in just one person doubting the whole CAM scam it’ll make my day.

    Comment by buttle — 13 October, 2008 @ 21:41

  3. you had me at “bantha poodoo.”

    I appreciate that CAM can be evidence-oriented, and I’ll welcome the day that all the exploiters of wellness (making money off of therapies that are untested and possibly unsafe) are filtered out. Until then, I’m going to keep suggesting that regulation is key, and will rather that we physicians continue to hold the monopoly on recommending prescription meds (http://drottematic.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/should-naturopaths-write-western-prescription/)

    Comment by jaotte — 24 February, 2009 @ 17:17

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