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Integrative Medicine Sprinkles Fairy Dust Over Medical Treatments

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Breaking News – Some alleged “doctors” have signed a multi-million dollar contract with Tinker Bell, a fairy falsely assumed to be fictional, to sprinkle fairy dust over the complex world of modern medicine. This has resulted in what some call “integrative medicine”, treating mostly unsuspecting patients with unproven remedies and mystical approaches. The latest reports from major news sources is that Tinker Bell is having an attack of conscience and has asked her lawyers to examine the “opt out” part of the contract. Following is just a small sample of what is troubling Tinker Bell so much.  

“Integrative medicine, as a specialty, has a huge problem that makes it very difficult indeed to ever consider it as science based. The reason is simple. Many of the ‘outside the mainstream’ treatments being ‘integrated’ rest on principles that, from a strictly basic science standpoint, range from highly implausible to virtually impossible, even violating well-established laws of physics and chemistry, prime examples include homeopathy and Reiki, both of which are based on ideas rooted in prescientific vitalism. There are CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) modalities that are based on anatomical structures or abnormalities that do not exist, such as acupuncture ‘meridians’ or chiropractic ‘subluxations’.

“Other CAM modalities seek to correct abnormalities in nonexistent physiological functions. Particularly silly examples of this phenomenon include craniosacral therapy, which seeks to correct the ‘craniosacral rhythms’ of the cerebrospinal fluid by manipulating joints in the skull, and reflexology, which claims a nonexistent connection between organs and specific points on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands. Yet one can find reflexology offered in academic medical centers as more than just a pleasant foot massage, and craniosacral therapy is offered in academic medical centers as varied as Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, the University of Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Clinic, and the Beaumont Health System.

“Perhaps the most disturbing development in integrative medicine is how whole medical systems based on pseudoscience or prescientific ideas are becoming not just respected, but perceived as essential parts of an academic medical center. Consider the case of traditional Chinese medicine, clearly one of the most popular whole medical systems, if not the most popular. While it is certainly possible that herbal medicines used by TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) practitioners might have substances with useful pharmacological activity that might be used as drugs, many arguments in favor of TCM cite its ancientness, as though being hundreds or thousands of years old somehow indicates that a medicine works.

“Appeals to antiquity aside, simply put, TCM postulates links between specific organs and anatomic structures similar to links between locations on the soles of the feet and hands and specific organs that form the basis of reflexology. For example, ‘tongue diagnosis’ links areas on the tongue to specific organs. In addition, TCM ascribes illness to the six ‘pernicious influences’ of wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness, and summer heat and/or imbalances in the ‘five elements’, earth, fire, metal, wood and water. One notes that these ‘influences’ strongly resemble ideas at the core of ancient European medicine dating back to Hippocrates, who postulated imbalances in the ‘four humors’ as the cause of disease. Integrative medicine practitioners enthusiastically accept TCM’s ancient concept of ‘imbalances’ in the five elements, while at the same time being appropriately skeptical of the ancient concept of imbalances in blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Yet the Cleveland Clinic Foundation is far from alone in having TCM practitioners in its integrative medicine program.”  

Source:   David H. Gorski, “Integrative Medicine: Integrating Quackery With Science-Based Medicine”, Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2018  

Andrew Weil is one of the foremost propagators of integrative medicine:

“Today, Weil mixes scientific medicine with Ayurvedic and other forms of quackery and calls this practice ‘integrative medicine.’ One of his main tenets is: ‘It is better to use natural, inexpensive, low-tech and less invasive interventions whenever possible.’ However, there is no scientific evidence for the claim that natural interventions are always superior to artificial ones. Millions of people use herbs and natural products for a variety of conditions, such as calcium, Echinacea, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, glucosamine, saw palmetto, shark cartilage, and St. John's wort. All of these, when tested scientifically, have failed to support the traditional wisdom regarding their healing powers. Pharmaceuticals and other treatments are much superior to most herbal remedies. If a plant has been shown to be effective as a healing agent, the active ingredient has been extracted and tested scientifically and is part of scientific medicine. Otherwise, any beneficial effect following use of the herb or plant is probably best explained as due to the placebo effect, natural regression, the body's own natural healing processes, or to some other non-herbal factor.”

The psychology of why some people believe in nonsensical and unproven remedies is tackled by a scientific skeptic and professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia:

“Why so many people—including many highly educated and medically trained people—believe in the efficacy of quack remedies is a complex issue. As Barry Beyerstein has pointed out in his most thorough analysis of this phenomenon, there are a ‘number of social, psychological, and cognitive factors that can convince honest, intelligent, and well-educated people that scientifically-discredited [or untested] treatments have merit’ The typical believer in untested or discredited medical treatments accepts uncritically the apparently clear messages of personal experience that such treatments are effective. To the uncritical thinker, many worthless or harmful treatments seem to ‘work’ (the pragmatic fallacy). Such people are either unaware of or intentionally ignore the many perceptual and cognitive biases that deceive us into thinking there are causal relationships between quack treatments and feeling better or recovering from some illness or disease. They uncritically place ‘more faith in personal experience and intuition than on controlled, statistical studies’.”

This classic 1999 piece by Beyerstein is 100% relevant today and gets right into the core of why people get duped:

----Social and judgmental biases that make inert treatments seem to work.
----Social and cultural reasons for the popularity of unproven therapies.
----Psychological reasons for the popularity of alternative therapies.
----Why might therapists and their clients who rely on anecdotal evidence and uncontrolled observations erroneously conclude that inert therapies work? 

A sampling of therapies offered by integrative medicine clinics:

Amatsu therapy
Autogenic training
Bowen therapy
Guided imagery
Hormone balancing
Hot stone massage
Indian head massage
Koryo hand massage
Laser therapy
Lomi massage
Lymph drainage
Traditional Chinese medicine

Additional Resources

Credible Complementary and Alternative Medicine Websites https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4093414/

“Integrative” oncology: Trojan horse, quackademic medicine, or both? https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/integrative-oncology-trojan-horse-quackademic-medicine-or-both/

Be Wary of "Alternative," "Complementary," and "Integrative" Health Methods https://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/altwary.html

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Photo (GIF): https://giphy.com/gifs/disney-peter-pan-tinkerbell-Txtxz9k9kGolW

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


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