Loretta Marron reviews “Don’t believe what you think” by Edzard Ernst

Don’t believe what you think
by Edzard Ernst

(UK, Imprint Academic, published 2020, Edition 1, 261 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1788360081)

It would be a rare individual who could claim they have never held an irrational belief. When it comes to ‘So-Called Alternative Medicine’ (SCAM), we live in a world swamped with false and misleading claims for interventions for just about every disease and disorder, both real and imaginary.  

More than 50 million websites and 50,000 books (listed on Amazon) promote SCAM. That is just the tip of the misinformation iceberg. So it is not surprising that many believe that natural interventions offer a safe, effective and cost-effective alternative to proven medical treatments. Australians spent AUS$3.9bn on SCAM in 2016, Britons UK £4.5bn in 2008, and Americans US $30.2bn in 2012 (latest available figures).  Is everyone using them misguided? Are they being fooled or are they fooling themselves? If it “works for you”, does it really matter?

Emeritus Professor Ernst is the world’s most eminent authority on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). He is a dedicated academic physician, researcher and blogger. Early in his career, he saw patients benefitting from natural therapies and wanted to find out more about them. Moving to UK’s Exeter University, he was appointed to the world’s first chair of Complementary Medicine. This enabled him to study and conduct trials of these interventions. Finding little evidence to support most of them, his dedication to evidence-based medicine eventually led to his losing his job.

Ernst is now considered one of the top 100 most influential scientists in the world, and the only one in this group who researchers SCAM.

His new book Don’t believe what you think is a collection of 35 easy-to-follow concise essays about SCAM. Each addresses one commonly held belief. The four themes are: “Don’t believe what you think about … ‘yourself’, ‘SCAM’, ‘practitioners’ and ‘research’”. Subtitled “Arguments for and against SCAM”, the book both exposes and challenges popular arguments supporting unproven or disproven interventions with facts, figures, plenty of real-life examples and several role play discussions. 

If you want to reduce your chances of making poor health care choices or you want to improve your critical thinking skills, this aptly named book has much to offer.  

Loretta Marron  OAM, BSc

Click here to order the book from Amazon.