Medicine and pseudoscience.
- What is Medicine?
- What are allied health professions?
- What is pseudoscience as opposed to science?
- Why oppose pseudoscience to treat illness?
- Why oppose pseudoscience courses in Universities?
- What are “Complementary & Alternative Medicines”(CAMs)?
- What are the principles subscribed to by CAMs?
- What is FSM’s position on CAM “principles”?
- How is CAM expanding into healthcare?
- What is the FSM’s position on research into CAMs?
- What is “good science in Medicine?;
- Is there a place for CAMs and traditional medicines in modern healthcare?
- Why people resort to CAMs
- There is no alternative to Medicine.
What is Medicine?
FSM agrees with the widely held view that modern scientific Medicine is focused on finding strategies for the effective prevention, amelioration and cure of ailments and diseases. This quest is an ongoing process which has emerged, through scientific research and experimentation, from pre-scientific medical interventions and beliefs.
Over the past two hundred years, Medicine, with its allied health sciences, has become part of the scientific process which is steadily increasing our understanding of the biological, psychological and social determinants of human health.
Modern scientific Medicine is largely responsible for today’s dramatic increase in quality and length of life.
Modern Medicine is an applied science firmly grounded in the scientific disciplines which emerged following the ‘Scientific Revolution’ of the 17th and 18th centuries. These include Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology, Biochemistry, Pathology, Genetics and newer evidence-based disciplines, such as Molecular Biology, taught in modern medical schools.
In parallel, therapeutic disciplines developed from the need to deal with different disease processes affecting different systems of the human body. Together, these modern clinical disciplines constitute scientific Modern Medicine.
Advances in scientific Medicine are based on fundamental scientific principles: careful, quantitative and objective observations, rational experiments and interpretation, and trials to determine effectiveness and associated adverse side-effects. This approach has culminated in the modern double-blind, placebo effect-controlled, randomised clinical trial which is the pinnacle of evidence-based-medicine.
Medicine involves obtaining evidence that certain diseases actually occur; that certain treatments actually work. Explanations are sought that are consistent with scientific principles (the laws of Nature) in order to develop better preventative and therapeutic measures. It discards ineffective or dangerous interventions where the risk-to-benefit ratio is unlikely to be beneficial.
The allied health sciences use similar principles to convert empirical or anecdotal evidence into scientifically validated evidence.
What are allied health professions?
Allied health professionals are invaluable partners for doctors and patients in the delivery of scientific modern Medicine. Their work is based on scientific principles and experimentation. Their practitioners include physiotherapists, nurses, pharmacists, midwives, optometrists, audiologists, occupational therapists, health social workers, health psychologists, clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, radiographers, podiatrists, dietitians and others, all of whom usually work in association with medical practitioners.
Theirs are practical sciences and truly ‘complementary’ to the care provided by medical doctors. They do not resort to alleged magical forces or to mysterious processes and powers.
The application of their skills within hospitals and other healthcare facilities greatly improves the prevention of, and recovery from, ailments and helps to maintain wellbeing.
What is pseudoscience as opposed to science?
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice presented as being scientific but not supported by valid scientific method or research. Pseudoscientific principles are implausible in Medicine because they are incompatible with our proven knowledge of physiology and pathology – how our bodies work and the disease processes which can affect them.
In short, pseudoscience is “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press). Practitioners of pseudoscience claim to possess knowledge of powers for which there is no evidence and which are based only on their beliefs. Pseudoscientists often sound scientific. They often adopt – but misapply – scientific terminology and concepts in an attempt to confuse and thus impress a non-scientific audience.
Humans have always searched for explanations of natural phenomena. Initial explanations attributed human- and animal-like properties to Nature. The personalising of Nature (animism) was based on superstitions, ie beliefs in mysterious unknowable agents (occult, natural or supernatural forces) which could perform worldly actions by magic means. These collections of ‘magic knowledge’ gave rise to many beliefs about the natural world. As a more commonsense (rational, logical) approach began to emerge, culminating with the Scientific Revolution around the 1700s, beliefs in occult forces and magical powers were superseded, becoming regarded as pseudoscience.
FSM agrees with the view that pseudoscience is well described as “claims presented so that they appear [to be] scientific even though they lack supporting evidence and plausibility” and that this contrasts with science, which embraces “a set of methods designed to describe and interpret observed and inferred phenomena, past or present, and aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation”. (Shermer M. 1997. Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company).
Why oppose pseudoscience to treat illness?
FSM contends that, no matter how appealing magical interventions and miracle cures might appear, accepting them as being credible is dangerous, often denying or delaying patients’ access to effective treatment. Reverting to pre-scientific beliefs will not advance human health; on the contrary, it prevents such advances.
The massive amount of misinformation being provided to the public causes significant problems.
It leads to poor health choices. People who believe that their symptoms are attributable to a diagnosis which is incorrect will pursue incorrect interventions. For example, a patient taking ever-increasing concoctions of herbal preparations to treat their symptoms while their anxiety disorder, or their underlying cancer, which is causing those symptoms, remains undiagnosed.
It threatens public health initiatives, as with parents deciding not to immunise their children, or worse, to use homeopathic ‘immunisations’.
It wastes scare resources such as public money and conventional practitioners have to undo this misinformation and explain to patients why pseudoscientific interventions cannot help them, wastes doctors’ consultation time.
It promotes disease mongering by telling people that they have diseases which they do not have – this has led to the apparent epidemics of ‘candidiasis’, ‘adrenal failure’, ‘amoebic infestations’ and others.
Why oppose pseudoscience courses in Universities?
Science-based health care has flourished in modern times mostly because scientific principles have been applied successfully to the prevention and treatment of ailments. Research continues to try to minimise the adverse effects of interventions and to ensure a balance of benefit over risk.
Modern Medical and Allied Health Schools have developed courses founded on science-based disciplines. The Australian Medical Council, an independent body, accredits and recommends improvements for Australian medical schools and post-graduate medical training; monitoring their courses, their content, their teachers and their standards. No comparable mechanisms exist to monitor, critique, approve and license courses run by universities or other tertiary institutions teaching the practice of pseudosciences. These courses benefit from the apparent imprimatur of the institution, giving them totally undeserved credibility and confusing the public.
AHPRA (The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) oversees the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme of a number of allied sciences and many CAMs-based practitioners, with the broad aim to ‘better protect the community’. AHPRA does not, however, evaluate the teaching of CAMs courses in Universities, nor the validity of its theories and interventions.
Any course or subject describing itself as science or scientific must obey, and be judged by, the well-established and accepted rules of the scientific method. Courses which adopt the name of science but defy its disciplined and accepted practices should not be offered as science in universities, which are regarded as important custodians and practitioners of true scientific enquiry. It is appropriate for tertiary institutions to teach the history of medicine, including the history of pre-scientific (traditional) medicines and of current pseudosciences. The emergence of scientific Medicine from pre-scientific medical interventions is an essential part of medical education. Learning about the extent to which pseudoscientific approaches are used in healthcare, as well as other approaches, not based on credible scientific evidence but used by the public, are important parts of medical education, as is the ability to scientifically critique the safety and efficacy of all types of interventions.
Some pseudoscience practitioners want their interventions taught in universities in order to claim that, since universities teach these courses, the interventions must be valid. FSM maintains that teaching such courses does not increase the reliability of the interventions; on the contrary, it decreases the academic standing of the universities involved.
FSM aims to discourage universities from teaching courses labelled as ‘sciences’, but which are, in fact, based on principles which contradict the rest of scientific knowledge and practice.
What are Complementary & Alternative medicines (CAMs)’?
A large diversity of procedures, products and professions, are clustered under this ‘umbrella’ term, making it, at best, vague and often misleading.
‘Complementary and alternative medicine’ interventions include naturopathy, homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, energy medicine, iridology, reflexology etc. They claim to be sciences, but most are based on principles incompatible with science and the laws of Nature, and are, therefore, clearly pseudosciences.
Traditional pre-scientific medicines from other cultures are often included under the umbrella of CAMs. They also often integrate sensible, general, healthy lifestyle counselling disguised as pseudoscientific advice promoting the purchase of their therapies.
‘Complementary and alternative medicines’ are promoted as offering a ‘gentler’ means of preventing illness and managing chronic conditions, in particular those associated with increasing longevity. Scientific medicine is sometimes belittled and misrepresented to promote the purchase of the alternative remedies
The term ‘CAMs’ refers not only to the actual products and interventions, but also to the practitioners using such products and interventions. A serious problem arises from the different implication of the terms ‘complementary’ and ‘alternative’ in relation to scientific medical interventions. ‘Complementary’ falsely implies that an intervention or a product ‘complements’, ie assists, scientific Medicine.
‘Complementary medicines’, however, which vary greatly, are usually unregistered products and ‘supplements’ lacking an evidence base for their use, and which are purchased freely without prescriptions.
Conversely, the term ‘alternative’ implies that patients should use ‘alternative medicines’ instead of relying on scientific Medicine.
The National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), the supposed peak body for CAM practitioners, has recently suggested dropping the term ‘Alternative’ (see Document of NICM at http://www.nicm.edu.au/content/view/31/35/ and The Auditor-General Audit Report No.3 2011–12 Performance Audit Therapeutic Goods Regulation: Complementary Medicines). “The term ‘complementary medicine’ is considered to be inclusive of historically used names such as ‘alternative medicine’, ‘natural medicine’ and ‘traditional medicine’”.
This deception is part of a strategy aiming at giving the impression that patients could be successfully treated by Medicine assisted by complementary interventions. This equating of ‘alternative’ with ‘complementary’ is highly misleading, as many of the proposed interventions are still intended to replace proper medical intervention.
FSM believes that it is not acceptable for tertiary institutions to teach ‘complementary or alternative’ interventions as if they were valid and scientifically based, thus perpetuating pre-scientific or frankly non-scientific practices. This multiplies bad practice and ‘qualifies’ graduates of non-scientically based courses to offer unproven and potentially dangerous interventions to the public without supervision or auditing of the consequences of their interventions.
What are the principles subscribed to by CAMs?
Most, if not all, CAM disciplines are founded in fixed systems of false beliefs. This adherence to dogma, which prevents them from assimilating new information as it is discovered, is the antithesis of science.
Proponents of CAMs identify four main ‘domains’ in which CAM operates: ‘Mind-Body Medicine’, ‘Biologically-based Practices’, ‘Manipulative and Body-based Practices’ and ‘Energy Medicine’.
The NICM’s position further distinguishes whole system medicines into western-based (eg homeopathy and naturopathy) and traditional (eg Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It does not comment on particular CAMs, such as reflexology, iridology and others. These are clustered under ‘clinical naturopathy’ (Jon Wardle and Jerome Sarris (2010). Clinical Naturopathy: An Evidence Based Guide to Practice. Churchill Livingstone).
A claim is made for each of these ‘domains’ that it represents a ‘unique’ approach, allegedly in contrast with ‘orthodox medicine’. The diversity of such a collection of alleged therapies gives the impression of there being some shared underlying principles. The opposite is true. Each of these pseudoscience-based interventions claims to be based on very different principles, usually inconsistent with one another and always in conflict with the laws of Nature.
What is FSM’s position on CAM ‘principles’?’
It is the view of the FSM that the clustering of all these interventions under an apparently common umbrella of Complementary Medicine (CM) is part of a deliberate strategy to make them more acceptable to the public. Some of the sensible advice given by some CAM practitioners about life style, exercise, nutrition etc are actually based on medical and social research which is beginning to determine the more general factors that determine health and disease.
Under the National Institute of Complementary Medicines (NICMs) ‘Mind and Body’ CAM ‘domain’, however, there is a strong implication that modern Medicine does not take into account links between mind and body. Since the development of the sciences of Experimental Psychology, Psychiatry in the 1800s and the more recent Cognitive Sciences, Psychosomatic Medicine and Neuroscience, the study of the complex relationship between mind, brain and body has been well researched on scientific principles. These are the proper sciences through which to address the relationship between mind/brain functions and body states in health and disease.
In Australia, scientific research into the relationship between mind, brain and body is among the most advanced in the world. In addition to many research groups in most Australian universities, several world-class research institutes are dedicated to this last frontier of science and Medicine (eg the Brain and Mind Research Institute in NSW, the Queensland Brain Institute, the Florey Institute of Neurosciences in Victoria and the Australian Neuroscience Research Institute in NSW).
The modern sciences of Counselling, Psychotherapy, Psychopharmacology and Clinical Psychology are increasingly effective interventions based on sound empirical and scientific principles.
Various activities and sensations, such as music, painting, aromas, good food, massage, relaxation and meditation, are increasingly accepted as personal choices to improve quality of life. Claims that these are actually useful in the treatment of diseases have seldom been accompanied by proper research.
Under the NICM’s ‘Biologically-based Practices’ CAM ‘domain’, it is claimed that CAM uses only substances found in nature as therapeutic agents (e.g. vitamins, foods, herbs and animal extracts). This allegedly ‘natural’ approach to health confuses some important issues.
Natural is not necessarily good. In the first place, this attitude irresponsibly identifies ‘natural’ as ‘good’. Many perfectly natural substances are highly poisonous, often fatally so. Strychnine, curare, spider, snake and scorpion venoms, many mushrooms and other plants – all natural substances – are highly poisonous.
Food is the essential fuel of life. The effect of different foodstuffs, how they should be prepared, stored and consumed etc is the field of the relatively recent science of nutrition. The evidence for the adverse effects of certain diets on the cardiovascular system and on health in general has been slowly but steadily accumulated by proper clinical studies performed by medical researchers, not by naturopaths or other CAM practitioners.
Vitamins are essential chemicals needed in tiny quantities by humans for normal functioning. They have been discovered by biomedical researchers through orthodox science. Further good science has established that diseases caused by a deficiency or an excess of vitamins are well known and mostly preventable or curable. It is both false and dangerous to portray vitamin deficiencies as causing other specific diseases as championed in the textbook of Clinical Naturopathy (Jon Wardle and Jerome Sarris (2010). Clinical Naturopathy: An Evidence Based Guide to Practice. Churchill Livingstone).
Herbal remedies ere the foundation of most pre-scientific traditional medicine. Since then, the scientific discovery of the active chemical principles of many herbs has become the province of modern Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology. These genuine sciences led to the discovery of many active molecules in plants and animals which can beneficially affect living beings, and reveals how some of these molecules may also, in excess, be toxic. Some, such as asprin, morphine, digitalis, atropine and curare, are used carefully in modern Medicine, but are extremely dangerous if misused.
The active molecules of herbal remedies from other cultures are progressively being identified by the discipline known as Ethnopharmacology, (the scientific research on unidentified and potentially useful substances extracted from plants and animals which were used in pre-scientific traditional medicines). This involves orthodox scientific research. An excellent journal is dedicated to its discoveries. The diversity of plants and animals on Earth is an enormous potential repository of potentially effective new treatments. Only science-based research can unveil such treasures.
Under the NICM’s ‘Manipulative and Body-based Practices’ CAM ‘domain’, there are a number of unscientific beliefs, mostly founded in the late 1800 by dubious, unqualified characters.
For example, the original concept of chiropractic was based on the belief of a universal ‘innate’ intelligence which flows as energy along the spine – when there is ‘a misalignment’ of the spine and a consequent ‘distortion of this energy flow’, various diseases may results.
Osteopathy is based on the reasoning that the bone, (osteon), is the starting point from which it is possible to establish the causes of disease states. Some modern osteopaths still claim that, based on this knowledge, they can aid natural self-healing by application of ‘manually guided forces’.
At their best, these CAM practitioners apply manipulations with some benefit to minor musculoskeletal ailments. There is no reason to use any of these pseudoscience-based interventions in place of Physiotherapy, one of the allied health sciences appropriate for minor ailments of musculoskeletal origin.
Under NICM’s designation of ‘Energy Medicine’ CAM ‘domain’, all the different variations on this theme propose the existence of mysterious magical or supernatural forces which determine our health. Worse, self-proclaimed ‘healers’ claim to be able to harness such forces to improve health. FSM dispute such claims, all of which are based on spurious explanations which not only contradict one another, but which totally contradict everything we know to be scientifically valid. “These ‘energies’ are figments of the imaginations of the healers” (Singh and Ernst, 2008,Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial).
How is CAM expanding into healthcare?
CAM practitioners are actively promoting a ‘whole person’ approach to healthcare under the rubric of ‘holistic’ or ‘integrative’ medicine.
This approach is used by practitioners who claim to provide the correct ‘glue’ to integrate a patient’s individual parts into a ‘whole’ human being. Proponents of ‘holistic medicine’ claim that ‘conventional medicine’ does not treat the ‘whole’ person.
The recently introduced idea of ‘Integrative Medicine’ is increasingly used to describe “the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing”.
The mission statement proposed at its inception in the USA in 1999 by the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine was:
“Core Values: Every individual has the right to healthcare that: Provides dignity and respect; Includes a caring therapeutic relationship; Honors the whole person – mind, body, and spirit; Recognizes the innate capacity to heal; Offers choices for complementary and conventional therapies.”
Behind this apparently acceptable ‘motherhood’ statement is a strategy to position the pseudosciences at the core of medical practice under the pretence of offering a more ‘holistic’ brand of medicine.
FSM is concerned that some GPs actively promote CAM therapies or describe themselves as ‘integrative medicine’ practitioners. It is estimated that up to 30% of Australian GPs accept CAM interventions as part of their practices.
For example, a GP might practise in the same clinic with a homeopath and a chiropractor or other pseudoscience-based practitioner. Frequently the doctors involved claim that they are merely responding to consumer demand.
One can legitimately question whether GPs who ally themselves with practitioners of pseudoscience in their group practice betray their Hippocratic duty of care to their patients and whether, in so doing, they fail in their commitment to offer the evidence-based and scientifically-based Medicine that society expects.
What is the FSM’s position on research into CAMs?
FSM supports scientifically valid research into any purported intervention for which there is a reasonable suspicion of efficacy but a relative lack of understanding of the possible underlying mechanisms.
However, there is concern that, under the umbrella of research on CAMs, believers in these pseudosciences gain undue credibility simply because they appear to be associated with so-called ‘research’. Much of this ‘research’ is not conducted according to rigorous scientific procedures; nor is it published in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific or medical journals. All research funded under the umbrella of CAM research should be scientifically and transparently evaluated.
Research should be aimed at the evaluation of the long-term safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of alternative and so-called complementary interventions; all trials should be pre-registered and all results reported in mainstream, scientifically, peer-reviewed journals. With the introduction of the Cochrane Collaboration based on evidence-based health care, clinical practice and Medicine, increasing numbers of Cochrane Reviews on CAMs have uncovered the poor evidence on which their claims are based.
CAM and conventional interventions either work or do not work. Valid scientific evaluation can identify those which work. Those that do not work, whether conventional or CAM, should be discarded.
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What is ‘good science in Medicine’?
Science is fundamentally a communal activity, motivated by deep curiosity about the natural world. It is based on shared experiences, imagination, experimentation, testing of validity and rational thinking which includes healthy skepticism. Christopher Hitchens’ definition of science as “dispassionate, objective enquiry” conveys the concept well.
Over the centuries, science has replaced magical and supernatural explanations. Science is a common-sense approach to understanding the world. Science has evolved, and still evolves, by a process of trial and error, but one that is bound by the strict disciplines and methodologies of scientific experimentation.
Many technologies we rely on every day have come about through the efforts of pure science. These include: electricity, telephones, computer, the Internet, mobile phones, automobiles, aeroplanes etc. Imagine a world without science having advanced our knowledge in every one of these fields.
Although biological science does not aim at absolute truth, further research, which is openly self-correcting, increases our confidence in what we know about the world.
Boiled down to its essentials, science involves:
- making careful observations of phenomena (where possible, quantitatively);
- distinguishing real phenomena from ‘illusionary’ phenomena, by applying healthy skepticism; formulating a proposal about how these phenomena might be related to one another and how they can be explained in a manner consistent with previous observations and valid explanations (making hypotheses);
- correlating new theories with the known laws of Nature, all of whose laws are inter-related; devising experiments to test new hypotheses;
- interpreting the experimental findings, and when possible using statistics and independent assessors to take into account the variability of phenomena and possible errors of observation;
- drawing conclusions which support or do not support such hypotheses; and sharing the results and conclusions to allow others to repeat the observations and experiments and to apply critical thinking to challenge the original experimenter’s interpretations (by publishing in scientific journals and communicating at scientific conferences).
The acceptance of new phenomena and new explanations occurs through open, critical evaluation of the thinking behind the conclusions (‘peer review’) and by repeating novel experiments. Science is not a collection of ‘arguable facts’, but a complex, growing system of validated explanations (often called ‘the laws of Nature’). It elucidates general principles which unite separate observations, giving scientists truthful insights into how Nature works.
The collection of general principles explaining most observations provides ‘scientific theories’. These are modified by subsequent observations and explanations, increasing the number and kind of phenomena which can be explained. Scientific theories not only explain observed phenomena, but can often also predict new phenomena.
Importantly, science can disprove hypotheses and previously held beliefs; as a result, interventions might not be introduced into, and some might be discarded from, clinical practice.
A particular weakness of many alternative interventions and therapists is that they ignore or misrepresent the weight of negative scientific data, often to protect their proponents’ financial interests or previously expressed incorrect opinions.
Science is an open process with no limits. No real knowledge about the natural world, which includes human beings, can be acquired without the slow, at times difficult, but also exciting, peer-reviewed, transparent scientific process.
Is there a place for CAMs and traditional medicines in modern healthcare?
‘Complementary and alternative medicines’ (CAMs) are the modern version of magical practices. They are mostly ineffective. At their worst, they are dangerous, either through directly harmful effects or, more importantly, by replacing appropriate medical management, thereby delaying accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. They are also expensive and wasteful, consuming millions of consumers’ and taxpayers’ dollars which would be better spent on treatments of demonstrable value. While being ineffective, many CAMs also contain chemicals which can interact with and distort the action of effective medications. Traditional medicines (see below) can present the same problems.
Many advocates and purveyors of CAMs make extravagant claims beyond their evidence base and scientific plausibility.
There is good proof that those very few CAM procedures which do work, work for minor ailments only and to only a small degree – most likely through the ‘placebo effect’. CAM practitioners might be aware of this, and some argue that is a valid reason for using such unproven procedures to treat patients. By contrast however, conventional Australian doctors would consider it unethical to deliberately use a treatment solely for its placebo effect.
‘Traditional medicines’ refer to health and healing practices, and the ideas behind them, which have developed in different cultures prior to modern scientific Medicine. There is no valid reason to accept any of them as part of a modern approach to healthcare unless they have been validated by sound scientific methodology.
Why people resort to CAM
Several important factors explain why so many people resort to complementary and alternative interventions. Some are alleged faults perceived in the orthodox healthcare system. Others relate to the temptations of pseudoscience.
Excessive expectations from Medicine
The successes of scientific modern Medicine, and some exaggerated media coverage of research which gives readers false hope, have resulted in recent years in excessive expectations of miracle cures for every ailment.
Excessive specialisation of Medicine
Commonly alleged reason for discontent with scientific Medicine is that individual patients do not feel that general practitioners, specialists or hospitals deal with them as ‘whole’ persons, and that insufficient attention is paid to their psychological wellbeing.
Scientific Medicine is slowly but steadily tackling the so-called ‘complex’ diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, rheumatic and immune diseases, allergies, cancers, mental diseases, dementia etc. Management of a number of these serious diseases by scientific Medicine is unavoidably accompanied by side-effects. Although these are usually much less serious than the disease being treated, many people expect their treatment to be free of unwanted effects. All interventions have side-effects. The challenge is to find interventions which do enough of the desired activity, without too much disruption to other bodily systems. The new science of pharmacogenetics might open the way to tailoring specific medications to specific patients, depending on their innate genetic ability to cope with the medication. But this is still some years away.
Lack of cures for some mild illnesses
There is often a sense of dissatisfaction with the relative lack of medical cures for common ailments which, although not life-threatening, interfere with the quality of life – such as the common cold, tiredness, feeling stressed and various aches and pains.
Lack of cures for some serious diseases
Scientific Medicine does not yet prevent or cure a number of serious life-threatening diseases. This leads patients and their relatives to seek ‘heroic’ interventions offered by practitioners of alternative interventions as being ‘miracle cures’. Conventional medical doctors adhere to the highest ethical standards. Amongst these is a commitment to honesty. Medical doctors will be honest when they have no cure or treatment for a particular disease. A common attraction of CAM interventions are the promises of cure for any and every illness, including many end-stage cancers.
Insufficient time of GPs for patient care
Patients increasingly complain about the short consultation times provided by their General Practitioner with little time to consider their personal histories and health issues in detail. This is a serious problem resulting from the chronic shortage of doctors over recent decades and some restrictions placed upon their consultations by funding authorities.
Scientific Medicine is expensive, sometimes beyond the patients’ budget. They can be tempted to try alternatives, especially when these are cleverly marketed. It should be noted that many alternative interventions, involving useless interventions or gadgets, are offered, with extravagant promises but no valid justification, at high cost.
Scientific Medicine is excessively linked to ‘Big Pharma’
Most research funded by pharmaceutical companies is based on the scientific principles adhered to by FSM. However, the potential for undue influence of these companies on medical practice is a well-acknowledged problem. FSM does not condone such influence. Pharmaceutical research is too important to Medicine to let anyone derail genuine processes of discovery of new, effective and safe medications. FSM is committed to support Government and regulatory bodies’ policies which aim to reduce undue influences from the pharmaceutical, medical instrument and prostheses Industries.
Alternative health interventions are not subject to the same regulation and supervision as Medicine and Pharmacy. They are free to advertise, often making outlandish claims which are demonstrably false. They often target vulnerable people.
There are no alternatives to Medicine
The progress of scientific Medicine continues, with tremendous advances in understanding the working of the human body and mind. Although we have, as yet, no full understanding and no effective cures of many diseases, scientific Medicine is our best hope for developing appropriate interventions or preventative measures. Science is the only valid tool for advancing our knowledge of complex human biology, psychology and sociology, and for improving human health. FSM opposes the exploitation of the public with pseudoscientific, unproven, costly and potentially dangerous interventions.