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the perils of complimentary alternative medicine


CAM Fraud

Image by “Mike” on Wikimedia

Alternative medicine is unregulated and unsafe.”  From Lisa Szabo’s July 2, 2013 story in USA Today (Book Raises Alarms about Alternative Medicine)

“The scientific community has criticized alternative medicine as being based on misleading statements, quackery, pseudoscience, anti-science, fraud, or poor scientific methodology. Promoting alternative medicine has been called dangerous and unethical. Testing alternative medicine has been called a waste of scarce medical research resources. Critics have said “there is really no such thing as alternative medicine, just medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t”, and “Can there be any reasonable ‘alternative’ to medicine based on evidence?”  Found in Wikipedia’s definition of CAM

“Although conventional therapies can be disappointing, alternative therapies shouldn’t be given a free pass…. All therapies should be held to the same high standard of proof; otherwise we’ll continue to be hoodwinked by healers who ask us to believe in them rather than in the science that fails to support their claims.   The possibility of harm caused by natural products … isn’t theoretical. Blue cohosh can cause heart failure; nutmeg can cause hallucinations; comfrey, kava, chaparral, Crotalaria, Senecio, jin bu huan, Usnea lichen, and valerian can cause hepatitis; monkshood and plantain can cause heart arrhythmias; wormwood can cause seizures; stevia leaves can decrease fertility; concentrated green tea extracts can damage the liver; milkweed seed oil and bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) can cause heart damage; thujone can cause neurological damage; and concentrated garlic can cause bleeding….    There’s no such thing as alternative medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t.”    From Dr. Paul A. Offit’s (pediatrician) 2013 book, Do You Believe in Magic?

“Surveys show that more than 50 percent of Americans look to so-called “alternative” therapies for serious diseases as well as to ameliorate the effects of aging. In the United States, alternative medicine is a “$34-billion-a-year business.” It is a lucrative and thriving enterprise, and some of its most prominent promoters have prestigious pedigrees from schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Columbia.”  From Jerome Groopman’s October 19, 2013 article (The Quackish Cult of Alternative Medicine) on New Republic‘s website

“The jawbone of an ass is just as dangerous a weapon today as in Sampson’s time.”   President Richard Milhous Nixon

According to our own government’s National Institutes of Health, division of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, “Standard care is what medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and allied health professionals, such as nurses and physical therapists, practice.  Complementary medicine is used together with standard medical care. An example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.  Alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical care. An example is treating heart disease with chelation therapy (which seeks to remove excess metals from the blood) instead of using a standard approach.”  You’ll frequently see these two terms; Complementary and Alternative terms lumped together with the word “Medicine” and referred to as CAM. 

Although it’s nine months old, an interesting study by the Israeli Health Ministry (The Perils of Complimentary Alternative Medicine) came across my desk the other day.  The study starts out by saying that, “More than 11,000 articles lauding alternative medicine appear in the PubMed database, but there are only a few articles describing the complications of such care“.   It ends by saying, “These complications serve as a clarion call to the Israeli Health Ministry, as well as to health ministries around the world, to include complementary medicine under its inspection and legislative authority.”  Exactly how bad are things in the Natural Healthcare field that Israel’s government thinks that it should be universally regulated worldwide?
After combing through these eleven thousand studies for the harms of Natural Healing, Israeli researchers came up with two instances of people who were hospitalized due to said care in their country (the results appeared in the July, 2014 issue of Israel’s Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal).   “One patient developed necrotizing fasciitis after acupuncture, and the second developed an epidural hematoma after chiropractic manipulation.”  There are several problems with this paper, of which I will mention a few.

  • MEDICAL CARE IS DANGEROUS / ALTERNATIVES ARE SAFE:  The truth is the truth, and this should be fairly easy to grasp.  If you take a look at our EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE PAGE, and most particularly the information on the decade-old study called DEATH BY MEDICINE, you see real quickly that the practice of medicine is dangerous —- probably more so than you ever imagined.  On the other hand, alternatives ARE SAFE, even if they are not always effective.  But don’t kid yourself.  Medical care is not universally effective, and much of the time is nearly as effective as you have been led to believe by TV COMMERCIALS.  Sure, we may be living longer….  But the last decades of our collective lives are often spent in abject misery, taking tons of medications (HERE).  Exactly the scenario Big Pharma wants to see.


  • MORE REGULATION IS THE SOLUTION:  Really?  How is this working out so far in our government as a whole?  Hopefully you watched ROBERT KENNEDY’S SHORT VIDEO on this very subject — or read my article about the fun things that have been happening over at the FDA.  Putting “Complementary Medicine” under even more legislative authority would not be good for anyone except those who want to contain and destroy it (people LIKE THIS).  Both adverse events mentioned in this paper were by professions (CHIROPRACTIC and ACUPUNCTURE) that are already heavily regulated by governmental boards and agencies.  However, I still haven’t figured out how in the world a chiro caused an epidural hematoma.


  • DEFINITIONS OF THE WORDS “PERIL” & “LAUD”:  Two instances of problems that might be the result of “Complimentary Healthcare” is not exactly what I would call a crisis.  Webster’s 1828 defines peril as, “danger, risk, hazard, jeopardy; exposure of person or property to injury, loss, or destruction.”  All I tell you here is that they have things bassackwards.  See the first bullet point.  As for the definition of laud (“praise; high commendation; an extolling in word; honor; exaltation; glory“), this is a word of such magnitude that it is most typically used to describe Christian Worship.  Think about line from the the Christmas hymn, What Child is This?  “Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, the babe, the son of Mary“.  So; we have the authors (seven doctors) telling us that even though alternative healthcare should be lauded (only two reasons would warrant this; safety and efficacy), it’s actually a peril.  Huh?
Interestingly enough, the authors not only admit to some of these things, but they make excuses for them as well.  They acknowledge that standard medical practice has, “problematic consequences“.  Although I have never heard it put this way before (the medical word for this common phenomenon is IATROGENESIS), they have a wonderful explanation for it.  It has to do with the fact that medical providers, “practice under severe surveillance in an environment conducive to damage control.”   So; the practice of medicine is dangerous enough that its practice is considered conducive to circling the collective wagons any time something goes wrong, but alternative care that has been largely proven to be extremely safe is considered ‘perilous’ (HERE)? 

A good debater needs to be familiar with the dozens of “logical fallacies” that an opponent will try to slip past past them. One of the more common of these is called “The Red Herring”. Also known as Misdirection, False Emphasis, or Changing the Subject, this is a diversionary tactic that is used to distract the audience from the real problem(s) at hand.  This is exactly what is taking place in this paper, as well as in some of the quotes from the top of the page.  Circle those wagons, call ‘Damage Control”, put the spin doctors to work, find a convenient scapegoat, and start playing the blame game.  Best guess is that I’m not the only one who sees this thinly disguised “study” as more of a case of sour grapes than anything else.

The word hubris means, “a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power“.  It’s original (Greek) definition had to do with human pride that was so great that it offended the gods.  I would say that when it comes to raw and unadulterated hubris, this paper contains more than its fair share.


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