There was a time, some thirty or forty years ago, when the elite medical schools and hospitals warned patients away from self-styled healers who lacked medical training. Then as now, “chiropractic,” “naturopathy,” “acupuncture,” and many others, were popular and offered their wares, but then they were rejected without equivocation by established medical authorities. But oh, how things have changed.
To give but one example, New York University’s Langone Medical Center now offers naturopathy, acupuncture, and herbalism among its treatments for a long list of ailments, including, yes, cancer. Unbelievable ? Click here to see for yourself.
The gradual change in attitudes by leaders of the medical profession is documented in a 2005 article by the sociologist Terri Winnick, “From Quackery to ‘Complementary’ Medicine: The American Medical Profession Confronts Alternative Therapies.” The article is as much a symptom of the change as a description of it, thereby offering some clues to attitudes that caused it.
To Winnick, changes in medical positions seem all to the good. Her narrative is mainly one of sordid political power plays by the AMA in the 1960’s, replaced by more reasonable positions now. Some fifty years ago, she tells us, the medical establishment had more power and could therefore fight off the claims of the rival “modalities.” Today organized medicine is constrained to be more reasonable, and, she suggests, has therefore come to see the light of cooperation with “CAM” (“complementary and alternative medicine”).
The striking shortcoming in Winnick’s article, and in the many similar books and articles on the subject, is absence any sort of hard-headed examination of the claims made by these “alternative” practitioners and of their scientific credentials.
As for the claims, the short answer is that, now as before, there simply is no evidence that any of these alternatives to scientific medicine have any merit whatever. This may seem a harsh and intolerant thing to say, but it is the conclusion reached, despite much pressure in opposite directions, by the very government agency set up to find any and every possible scrap of merit in these “alternatives,” namely the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health.
As for scientific credentials of the “alternative” practitioners, it is instructive to look at those of the man hired by NYU to cure cancer (among other ailments) by “alternative” methods. This is what we read
Dr. X, N.D., joins NYU Urology from the Center for Holistic Urology at Columbia University Medical Center.
Dr. X. holds a four-year naturopathic doctoral degree and a two-year acupuncture degree from the University of Bridgeport. His clinical practice and research focus on integrative, holistic appraches to urological conditions.
Readers should ask themselves how these credentials compare to those of Board-certified medical practitioners. And they should ask the people in charge of NYU and Columbia whether they themselves, personally, would entrust their health and that of their families to the man from Bridgeport.
To be sure, there still are clear voices of warning. Edzard Ernst has recently written a no-nonsense book, and then of course there is Quackwatch. But given the prevailing anything-goes attitudes of our elite medical institutions, these voices seem to be coming from the wilderness.