MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

I know, it’s not really original to come up with the 10000th article on “10 things…” – but you will have to forgive me, I read so many of these articles over the holiday period that I can’t help but jump on the already over-crowded bandwagon and compose yet another one.

So, here are 10 things which could, if implemented, bring considerable improvement in 2015 to my field of inquiry, alternative medicine.

  1. Consumers need to get better at acting as bull shit (BS) detectors. Let’s face it, much of what we read or hear about this subject is utter BS. Yet consumers frequently lap up even the worst drivel like it were some source of deep wisdom. They could save themselves so much money, if they learnt to be just a little bit more critical.
  2. Dr Oz should focus on being a heart surgeon. His TV show has been demonstrated far too often to be promoting dangerous quackery. Yet as a heart surgeon, he actually might do some good.
  3. Journalists ought to remember that they have a job that extends well beyond their ambition to sell copy. They have a responsibility to inform the public truthfully and responsibly.
  4. Book publishers should abstain from churning out book after book that does little else but mislead the public about alternative medicine in a way that all to often is dangerous to the readers’ health. The world does not need the 1000th book repeating nonsense on detox, wellness etc.!
  5. Alternative practitioners must realise that claiming that therapy x cures condition y is not just slightly over-optimistic (or based on ‘years of experience’); if the claim is not based on sound evidence, it is what most people would call an outright lie.
  6. Proponents of alternative medicine should learn that it is neither fair nor productive to fiercely attack everyone personally who disagrees with their enthusiasm for this or that form of alternative medicine. In fact, it merely highlights the acute lack of rational arguments.
  7. Researchers of alternative medicine have to remember how important it is to think critically – an uncritical scientist is at best a contradiction in terms and at worst a pseudo-scientist who is likely to cause harm.
  8. Authorities should amass the courage, the political power and the financial means of going after those charlatans who ruthlessly exploit the public by making a fast and easy buck on the gullibility of consumers. Only if there is the likelihood of hefty fines will we see a meaningful decrease in the current epidemic of alternative health fraud.
  9. Politicians should realise that alternative medicine is not just a trivial subject with which one might win votes, if one issues platitudes to please the majority; alternative medicine is used by so many people that it has become an important public health issue.
  10. Prince Charles need to learn how to control himself and abstain from meddling in health politics by using every conceivable occasion to promote what he thinks is ‘integrated medicine’ but which, in fact, can easily be disclosed to be quackery.

As you see, my list almost instantly turned into a wish-list, and the big questions that follow from it are:

  1. How could we increase the likelihood of these wishes to come true?
  2. And would there be anything left of alternative medicine, if all of these wishes miraculously became true in 2015?

I do not pretend to have the answers, but I do feel strongly that a healthy dose of critical thinking in all levels of education – from kindergartens to schools, from colleges to universities etc. – would be a good and necessary starting point.

I know, my list is not just a wish list, it also is a wishful thinking list. It would be hopelessly naïve to assume that major advances will be made in 2015. I am realistic, sometimes even quite pessimistic, about progress in alternative medicine. But this does not mean that I or anyone else should just give up. 2015 will be a year where at least one thing is certain: you will see me continuing me my fight for reason, critical analysis, rational debate and good evidence – and that’s a promise!

8 Responses to 10 things that would improve alternative medicine in 2015

  • I wish you a happy new year and thank you for being a source of reliable information. I am encouraged to continue speaking out whenever I hear nonsense spouted. While I have little hope of persuading “true believers”, there are usually others around who may benefit from my questions.

  • As long as people believe in gods, they will also believe almost anything else. CAM follows the same path as religion. In fact, at my age I’ve noticed that a great many people who have quit going to church, now get their “spiritual” needs met thru CAM.

    • Yes, this sums up my view of the world.
      Considering this need for a allmighty thing that makes further thoughts and doubts unnecessary, the question is: “What will those people do once they freed themself from CAMS?”. Other sects always welcome shaken people in the need of answers, doesnt take much to replace bioresonance with e-meter.

  • 11. Serious studies of “Herbal Medicine” and legal and illegal highs. Drug interaction data bases contain material
    on alcohol, nicotine and St.John’s wort. Educating the public can cut harm, but politics often forbids research
    even though there is no evidence that the harms of job loss, arrest, or incarceration exceed harm done by the drug.

    Your points 1,3, and 9 are valid here, but (4) books on hallucinogens and new style legal highs are conspicuous by their
    absence. I would like to see text books on neurotransmitters made widely available to the general public. The trouble
    is that much of this material seems to change quite fast.

  • I just realized that blind trials aren’t always possible!
    http://xkcd.com/1462/

    Perhaps that’s why AM research uses them so poorly 😉

  • #8 is good, but a bit of jail-time for fraud might just concentrate minds.

  • I’d add to this list a more concerted effort from authorities in the most polluted areas – nutrition, vaccines, cancer – to speak out in unison against the most common misconceptions. For example, if the Bulletproof Coffee guy had his website overrun with people pointing out how absurd his claims were, he’d probably go away, or at least tone down the garbage. As the guy who runs this blog probably realizes, it’s a lot harder to discredit the skeptical argument with personal attacks when it is no longer a single person making it.

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