MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Regular readers of this blog will find plenty of things that are familiar to them in my new book ‘SCAM’. Many of the thoughts in there were originally conceived on this blog; and quite a few ideas might even be inspired by your comments. In this way, SCAM can be seen as a big ‘thank you’ to all of my readers.

SCAM, of course, stands for ‘So-Called Alternative Medicine’ which might be the name best suited to my field of research. In the book, I explain why I chose this terminology:

Why do I call it SCAM? Why not just ‘alternative medicine’ or one of the many other possible names for it? … Mainly because, whatever it is, it is it is not an alternative:

  • if a therapy does not work, it cannot be an alternative to medicine;
  • if a therapy does work, it does not belong to alternative medicine but to medicine.

Therefore, I think, that so-called alternative medicine or SCAM is not a bad term to use.

I would be lying to you, if I said I did not want you all to buy my new book – which author does not want people to purchase his product? So, to entice you to do exactly that (and while you are at it, get one for your sister, cousin, grandma, etc. as well), here are two tiny snippets from ‘SCAM’, the preface and the postscript:

PREFACE

I should perhaps start with a warning: this book might unsettle you. If you are a true believer in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), you may find the things I am about to tell you disturbing. My book was not written for true believers. In my experience, they often are emotionally or intellectually unable to rationalise and to change their minds. Any attempt at opening their eyes and making them think critically might therefore be a waste of time.

This book was written for everyone who has an interest in SCAM and is open to consider the evidence. Yet it is not a guide-book that tells you which SCAM can be employed what condition. It is a compilation of 50 essays about SCAM in more general terms. I ordered them loosely under seven headings and have tried to write them in such a way that they can be read independently. This necessitated a certain amount of repetition of crucial themes which, I hope, is forgivable. My main aim in publishing this book is to stimulate your ability to think critically about healthcare in general and, of course, about SCAM in particular.

The book is based on my 25 years of research in SCAM. It quotes numerous investigations by my team and by other researchers. It also discusses many recently published examples of pseudo-science, misleading information and unethical SCAM-promotion. The text avoids technical language and should be easily understood by anyone. The ‘glossary’ at the end of the book provides additional explanations of more complex issues and terminology. Throughout the book, I use hints of irony, touches of sarcasm, and sometimes even a degree of exaggeration. This makes certain points clearer and might even make you smile from time to time…

POSTSCRIPT

Some people say that I am fighting a losing battle and insist that SCAM cannot be defeated. It will be around for ever, they say.

I quite agree with the latter parts of this statement. Humans seem to need some degree of irrationality in their lives, and SCAM certainly offers plenty of that. Moreover, conventional medicine is never going be totally perfect. Therefore, disgruntled consumers will always search elsewhere, and many of them will then find SCAM.

However, I disagree with the first part of the above assumption: I did not write this book with the aim of fighting a battle against SCAM. I can even see several positive sides of SCAM. For instance, the current SCAM-boom might finally force conventional healthcare professionals to remember that time, compassion and empathy are some of their core values which cannot be delegated to others. Whatever the current popularity signifies, it is a poignant criticism of what is going on in conventional healthcare – and we would be ill-advised to ignore this criticism.

In the preface, I stated that my main aim in publishing this book was to stimulate my readers’ ability to think critically about SCAM and healthcare generally. My book is therefore not a text against but as a plea for something. If reading it has, in fact, made some of my readers a little less gullible, it … could improve both their health and their bank balance.

23 Responses to SCAM

  • What a scam!
    The book’s not out until June!
    No doubt essential reading thereafter – and for under a tenner.
    A veritable homeopathic price!

    Best wishes!

  • Just a question: Do you mention visceral osteopathy? transgenerational osteopahy? Cranial osteopathy and osteopathic distance healing? Biodynamics in osteopathy and energy cysts in the tissues a nonsense of osteopathic trauma healing all of this promoted by Dr. med./physicians PhD and US osteopathic physicians D.O.? 🙂

  • Since various kinds of foods cure illnesses, which conventional medicine cannot cure, does food come under a SCAM or medicine?

    Since doctors receive extremely little education at medical school about nutrition, it would seem inappropriate to call curing through food “medicine”.

    In view of the furious reactions here to my previous comments about foods curing illnesses, I expect that the response from readers here will be that it is impossible for food to cure an illness. For those who give the usual reply of “Where is the scientific proof that food has ever cured an illness?”, would you kindly just type in the illness of your choice at http://www.nutritionfacts.org and read the research. Diabetes would be a good place to start for the doubters.

    My warmest regards,

    Peter

  • If various foods lemon juice,vitamin C in general, willow bark etc) have been shown to have a healing effect, then they are used as medicine.
    What exactly are they an ‘alternative’ to?
    If it’s proven to work, then it’s taken on board( ( pun not intended).
    Lime juice in the British Navy to combat scurvy.( hence ”Limeys’ is a good example.’.
    If not, it remains a religion, whose best proof is ‘testimonies’ and comical, lying Youtube videos.

  • Book pre-ordered,looking forward to reading it!

  • Sounds like a great book. Scientific ignorance, gullibility, and idiocy in general are all legal however; if they weren’t, the prisons couldn’t accommodate them all. You’ll end up preaching to the choir, and otherwise falling on deaf ears.

  • The biggest scam in the country right now is the high cost of medical care and pharmaceuticals as basic as insulin and albuterol. Add to that the government forcing people to pay for it and the scam is almost as bad as American politics.

    If real medicine were not such a scam, people would not be looking for an alternative scam that costs less.

    • perhaps
      but there is a slight difference, even if in your country (presumably the US) real medicine were a SCAM: real medicine generates more good than harm, while so-called alternative medicines does not.

    • The biggest scam in the country right now is the high cost of medical care and pharmaceuticals as basic as insulin and albuterol.

      What you describe is gouging, not scamming. It is the logical result of an economic system that exalts profit above anything else. Americans should be orgastically happy. They are getting exactly what they voted for, a rare occurrence in politics.

      If real medicine were not such a scam, people would not be looking for an alternative scam that costs less.

      Why look for a scam at all? The no-treatment option will achieve the exact same results for a lot less money.

  • SCAM, of course, stands for ‘So-Called Alternative Medicine”…

    I thought it was “Supplementary, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine”.

  • 50 percent of what is bring done today as “medical -non-scam – FDA/big pharma/wall street approved therapies” will be proven to be useless in 10 years.

    Therefore actual medicine is 50 percent SUPER EXPENSIVE scam…

  • I just got word from Amazon that my pre-ordered copy of SCAM has shipped!

    Can’t wait to lay my eyes on it.

    But before I start reading it, I’ll have to finish reading “More Harm than Good?: The Moral Maze of Complementary and Alternative Medicine” over again, this time slowly and with deliberation. I have it both in paperback and Kindle versions.
    More Harm than Good is perhaps Professor Ernst’s most important book. It is the book I would have liked to write myself. I am glad I didn’t try. I lack the profound insight and experience that the professor has.
    More Harm than Good? deals with one of two enigma’s that have for years fuelled my interest in so called alternative medicine, that of whether the promotion and practice of SCAM can ever be defensible or ethical. (The other deals with the personalities and moral qualities of those who practice CAM)
    Professor Ernst and co-author Kevin Smith have in my opinion confirmed my own suspicion, that CAM is by definition never defensible -if it were, it would no longer be CAM, it would be useful medicine.
    Or as Tim Minchin put to verse in his satyrical short-film “Storm”, what has become known as Minchin’s law:

    “By definition”, I begin
    “Alternative Medicine”, I continue
    “Has either not been proved to work,
    Or been proved not to work.
    You know what they call “alternative medicine”
    That’s been proved to work?
    Medicine.”

  • A note on naming and an apology.

    I noticed that for some reason, perhaps the effect of advancing age, I have happened to entered my name using the surname “Leifsson” instead of my second name in my iPad, so there are different versions of my nameplate on my comments lately. This is not an attempt at obfuscating identities, only different conventions. In daily use we Icelanders seldom use the (most often patronymic) surname, mostly the first or first and second names, as in Björn Geir, which is the version I prefer here. Even the telephone catalog is sorted by first name.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_name

    An example of this convention: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltasar_Korm%C3%A1kur

  • just was alerted to this unexpected review (https://nenequirer.com/2018/06/07/the-healing-power-of-working-your-brain/):
    “SCAM” is a fascinating and exhaustive study of So-Called Alternative Medicine (which is where the title SCAM derives). Professor Edzard Ernst has spent many years evaluating the effectiveness of alternative therapies and all this information can be yours, via Imprint-Academic, at just £14.95. And it is worth every single penny!
    Professor Ernst believes that most alternative therapies bear a close resemblance to a cult. He lists them from homeopaths to reiki to bach flower therapies, all of whom follow the received wisdom of their masters. He even lists Rudolf Steiner as a cult leader who dreamt up his mystical illusions of anthroposophic medicine.
    The important thing about this book is that it is also extremely entertaining. The fact that recently GP’s have been banned from suggesting homeopathic practices on the NHS is a sure-sign that the Nation is coming to its senses.
    In this often indecipherable and frightening world it is all too easy for scam artists to make money out of our bewilderment. We look for answers where there are none and so we are all too willing to believe the gurus who tell us that our lives will be transformed by such as “positive thinking”. There are lots of books and teachers telling us that thinking positively will bring us contentment, riches and even love. Let me confess that I am probably the most positive thinker you will ever find – and I still often feel despair, particularly at proponents of so-called alternative medicine!
    Please, buy this book and have responses at your fingertips when you are offered reiki, taigchi, acupuncture, aromatherapy, etc. by either well-meaning fools or avaricious charlatans.

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