“Alternative and complimentary therapies”. They sound so nice. So warm and fuzzy. Surely they augment the cold clinical scientific approach to regular medicine, and have a more holistic approach catering to the soul and spirit as well as the flesh?
I argue not. Hear out my logic…
Any treatment that has proven to provide reliable benefit, is automatically added to the canon of ‘western’ medicine. Therefore the only treatments left available for ‘alternative’ to claim, are those that are unproven, or worse, treatments known to be actively harmful.
Promoters of alternative medicine will argue that western medicine is still woefully weak, and not tuned into holistic and spiritual matters and that such things defy proof. This is clearly claptrap. If you do a well designed double-blind, placebo-controlled test of an ‘alternative therapy’ and the outcomes are no better than for the placebo, then the participants who got the treatment are no better off, spirit or no spirit.
I personally prefer the sort of benefits that can be detected!
How did this situation come to pass, where unproven medications have such a grip?
I think there are three main ingredients:
- People make money from other people’s fear (in both western and alternative medicine) and that causes folks on both sides to hide or twist the facts – and also erodes the public’s trust.
- The fact that complimentary medicines do actually offer benefits – the well-known benefit of care and attention and also the benefit of the placebo effect – muddies the waters.
- It is however the human weakness of putting far too much value on anecdotal evidence that assures the future of unproven medicine.
I think that people who understand this do a disservice to our communities by giving this bad medicine the label ‘alternative’ or ‘complimentary’, so I would like to propose the term ‘unproven medicine’. I would however welcome some more lyrical suggestions!