‘Healing, hype or harm? A critical analysis of complementary or alternative medicine’ is the title of a book that I edited and that was published in 2008. Its publication date coincided with that of ‘Trick or Treatment?’ and therefore the former was almost completely over-shadowed by the latter. Consequently few people know about it. This is a shame, I think, and this post is dedicated to encouraging my readers to have a look at ‘Healing, hype or harm?’

One reviewer commented on Amazon about this book as follows: Vital and informative text that should be read by everyone alongside Ben Goldacre’s ‘Bad Science’ and Singh and Ernt’s ‘Trick or Treatment’. Everyone should be able to made informed choices about the treatments that are peddled to the desperate and gullible. As Tim Minchin famously said ‘What do you call Alternative Medicine that has been proved to work? . . . Medicine!’

This is high praise indeed! But I should not omit the fact that others have commented that they were appalled by our book and found it “disappointing and unsettling”. This does not surprise me in the least; after all, alternative medicine has always been a divisive subject.

The book was written by a total of 17 authors and covers many important aspects of alternative medicine. Some of its most famous contributors are Michael Baum, Gustav Born, David Colquhoun, James Randi and Nick Ross. Some of the most important subjects include:

  • Compassion
  • Quackademia
  • Impartiality
  • Ethics
  • Politics
  • Holism
  • Vitalism
  • Placebo

As already mentioned, our book is already 6 years old; however, this does not mean that it is now out-dated. The subject areas were chosen such that it will be timely for a long time to come. Nor does this book reflect one single point of view; as it was written by over a dozen different experts with vastly different backgrounds, it offers an entire spectrum of views and attitudes. It is, in a word, a book that stimulates critical thinking and thoughtful analysis.

I sincerely think you should have a look at it… and, in case you think I am hoping to maximise my income by telling you all this: all the revenues from this book go to charity.

5 Responses to Healing, hype or harm?

  • Sounding a little needy there, Prof. I don’t know what you are complaining about. Of the top 100 books on Amazon, yours is ranked at 125,669.

    Perhaps if you and Blue Wode buy a few more copies to give as Christmas presents, I am certain that you can boost your sales ranking to 125,668.

    BTW, what charities benefited from the “sales” of your book?

    • needy? no! but as I said: this book was almost completely over-shadowed by ToT.
      BW does not need the book but you might want to read it; this would broaden your horizon enormously, I am sure.
      which charity? It is one that you would certainly not approve of.

      • @ SkepdocProf

        What’s important is the influence and reach of people who read books like Healing, Hype, or Harm, not their Amazon rankings.

        Also, it’s worth remembering that there are other ways of getting the word out about the deceptive behaviours of alternative medicine providers without actually *buying* a book. For example, at my request, my library has stocked books by authors grounded in science which expose Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for what it is – i.e. mainly quackery and not without hidden dangers. Last time I checked, they had been loaned out dozens of times and appeared to be well-thumbed. Now contrast that with a book published in the USA in 2011 by a chiropractor called J.C. Smith. The book, The Medical War Against Chiropractors: The Untold Story from Persecution to Vindication, was requested by Harriet Hall MD (one of the authors at Science Based Medicine) from her public library through Interlibrary Loan. Apparently the library…

        “…had to search far afield for a copy, and they eventually located one in a library 2,370 miles away, the Texas Chiropractic College Library. From the date due sticker, it appears to have never been checked out.”


        NB. In a recent international web survey of chiropractic students, of the 9.4% who bothered to respond only 11% read medical/healthcare literature every week and 21% did not read literature at all.


        Returning to the topic of this blog, the book ‘Healing, Hype, or Harm’, I suggest that you heed Professor Ernst’s advice and read it. Not only is it a treasure trove of accurate and enlightening information, but there’s also a chapter on chiropractic which concludes:

        “Since the chiropractic profession has never been able to demonstrate that their treatments, real or imagined, have contributed to the bottom line, except for a possible reduction of time and lost wages for low back pain, how can this charade continue without the people taking charge and demanding accountability?”

        IMO, the day of reckoning will come for chiropractic, and other CAMs – i.e. consensus will dismiss most of these ‘treatments’ as expensive theatrics enhanced by psychobabble, and books like Healing, Hype, or Harm? will have contributed to the message finally getting through.

  • In the chaper on ethics, a newspaper article is mentioned, where a journalist pretending to have cancer consulted 6 alties to test if they would behave responsibly.

    Does anyone have a link to that article (if it exits online)?

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