A substantial proportion of consumers now use healthcare options known as so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). But why? This study aimed to understand the processes and decisional pathways through which chronic illness patients choose treatments outside of regular allopathic medicine.
It employed Charmaz’s constructivist grounded theory methods to collect and analyze data. Using theoretical sampling, 21 individuals suffering from chronic illness and who had used SCAM treatments participated in face-to-face in-depth interviews conducted in Miami/USA.
Seven overarching themes emerged from the data to describe how and why people with chronic illness choose SCAM treatments:
- being averse to allopathic medicine and allopathic medical practice,
- curiosity and chance,
- ease of access,
- institutional help,
- trial and error.
The author concluded that in selecting treatment options that include SCAM, individuals draw on their social, economic, and biographical situations. Though exploratory, this study sheds light on some of the less examined reasons for SCAM use.
There already is a plethora of research on the reasons why people elect to try SCAM. Our own systematic review of 2011 was, in my view, more informative. Here is the abstract:
The aim of this review is to summarize the published evidence regarding the expectations of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) users. We conducted electronic searches in MEDLINE and a hand search of our own files. Seventy-three articles met our inclusion criteria. A wide range of expectations emerged. In order of prevalence, they included:
- hope to influence the natural history of the disease;
- disease prevention and health/general well-being promotion;
- fewer side effects;
- being in control over one’s health;
- symptom relief;
- boosting the immune system;
- emotional support;
- holistic care;
- improving quality of life;
- relief of side effects of conventional medicine;
- good therapeutic relationship;
- obtaining information;
- coping better with illness;
- supporting the natural healing process;
- availability of treatment.
It is concluded that the expectations of SCAM users are currently not rigorously investigated. Future studies should have a clear focus on specific aspects of this broad question.
As our conclusion stated, the issue is too broad to be easily researchable. The question might need to be narrowed down. And even then, I ask myself, what might such investigations, even if done well, amount to? In what way would the results of such studies benefit anyone? How would they improve the healthcare of the future?
Perhaps someone can help me by suggesting some answers to these questions?