The deviousness that comes out of the mouths of forked-tongue practitioners of complimentary and alternative medicine is almost too shocking to believe. Yet there they are putting people’s lives at risk and emptying their wallets just so the alleged “doctors” can have a nice career with a great income. Academic researchers and unapologetic apologists for science and truth in medicine, Edzard Ernst & Kevin Smith expose the frauds in their 2018 book “More Harm Than Good? The Moral Maze of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine”. In this excerpt there are 15 blatant and underhanded tactics listed in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th paragraphs.
“In the domain of Complimentary & Alternative Medicine (CAM), truth is a frequent casualty. CAM practitioners, CAM researchers and CAM apologists – particularly when faced with critics who cite a lack of evidence of effectiveness – characteristically will not admit the manifest truth, but will instead strive doggedly to defend their beliefs, using more or less obvious untruths.
“CAM defences against the truth are manifold. They include disingenuous attempts to deny the validity of inconvenient evidence. CAM proponents will often claim that mainstream research is just as flawed as CAM research – as if this would somehow justify sloppy CAM research. They may even make the astonishing ‘postmodern’ claim that objective truth cannot exist. If none of these defences work, CAM apologists have plenty of other tactics to call upon. They may try to reverse the burden of truth, illogically insisting that it is the responsibility of the critic to prove that CAM does not work. They will often claim that a ‘paradigm shift’ is imminent, which will allow the truth of CAM effectiveness to be accepted by scientists – a tactic that reveals a profound lack of understanding of the process by which scientific theories are established.
“Many CAM proponents assert that normal methods of medical research are not applicable for CAM, and want to go back to the dark ages of research by giving priority to ‘personal experience’. They may introduce irrelevant claims to try to distract their opponents from the issue of ineffectiveness, such as the assertion that CAM is very safe compared with conventional medicine. And if none of the above works, then they can always fall back on making personal attacks against their critics, ranging from incompetence to corruption – seemingly unmoved by the fact that such allegations are rarely if ever evidence-based.
“It is in the financial interest of CAM practitioners to recruit and retain patients, and in pursuit of this goal, and the income it brings, the truth is often further manipulated. Patients will often be told that they need treatment for non-existent conditions, or placed on ‘health maintenance’ programs that are unnecessary, ineffective and in some cases potentially harmful. CAM practitioners will often employ falsehoods to deter patients from departing through a manifest lack of therapeutic effectiveness. Patients may be discouraged from returning to conventional medicine through the assertion that modern drugs have been the root of the patient’s medical problem in the first place. Patients may be persuaded that, in CAM, symptoms must get worse before getting better; or that a CAM cure will inevitably take a very long time. Many CAM practitioners will cite holism to excuse therapeutic failure, attempting to plant in their patient’s minds the false belief that other aspects of their health have been improved by the ineffective therapy. Finally, when pushed most CAM practitioners will resort to justifying their practice on grounds of the placebo effect – which is essentially an admission of the truth that their magic therapy is ineffective.
“Mangling of the truth is not restricted to the ‘coalface’ levels of CAM practice and research; proponents of CAM exist in all levels in society. This runs to the very top, where we have to endure Prince Charles publicly preaching in favour of homeopathy along with his other favourite anti-science superstitions. To knowledgeable rational observers, this spectacle is straightforwardly absurd; but because the heir to (and soon occupant of) the British throne is in a highly influential position, his pontifications do a disservice to the truth that is likely to have far reaching consequences.
“The subversion of the truth entailed by CAM is an affront to medical ethics in whatever guise it occurs. From a purely utilitarian perspective, lying is only acceptable where more utility is likely to accrue from so doing than from truth-telling: in medicine and science, this is as a rule certainly not the case. The consequences of derogation of the truth in the domain of CAM are indubitably negative in terms of the effect of utility. By misleading patients, CAM at the very least wastes their time and resources, and at worst damages their health.
“Beyond utilitarian considerations, subversion of the truth has additional ethical implications. Patient autonomy- a cornerstone of medical ethics – is undermined in line with the extent to which a practitioner uses falsehoods to induce the patient to submit to treatment.
“The CAM practitioner who promotes untruths has either failed to enlighten themselves as to the facts – this being a central requirement of professional ethics – or has chosen to deliberately deceive patients. Either of these reasons for promulgating falsehoods amounts to a serious breach in terms of medical ethics. According to almost all forms of ethical theory, the truth-violating nature of CAM renders it both immoral in both theory and practice.”
Edzard Ernst & Kevin Smith, “More Harm Than Good? The Moral Maze of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine” Springer International Publishing, 2018
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