Add new comment

Reply

Benjamin Mazer on May 1, 2016

Acupuncture has indeed been studied extensively. In nearly every study it has been found to be ineffective. Given simple probability and poor study design, even an ineffective treatment can appear effective in isolated studies. Acupuncture is nothing more than placebo, as described in this excellent article: http://www.dcscience.net/Colquhoun-Novella-A&A-2013.pdf. (Placebos can also be very effective, after all.) Yet despite all these primarily negative studies, acupuncture is still widely practiced. This is further proof that alternative practitioners operate mainly on faith rather than evidence. And while some alternative practices are quite old and quite popular, I have no doubt that humans are capable of holding onto a bad idea for over 3000 years. Physicians have cast aside hundreds of treatments later shown to be ineffective or replaced by better methods. Alternative practitioners never seem to give up on any idea, no matter how bad it is.
Patients should ask whether alternative practitioners completed 4 years of rigorous medical school, followed by a mandatory 3-8 years of 80 hour per week of residency training. Patients should ask whether the practitioner is obligated to follow the AMA Code of Medical Ethics or undergo oversight by a state medical board. They should ask whether their practitioner carries millions of dollars of medical malpractice insurance, as all physicians do, so that if a patient is harmed by negligence he may at least recoup his losses.
Physicians are not perfect. We could all stand to be more evidence-based in our practices. But we are bound by complex ethical and legal doctrines that place the patient’s health as our first priority. Alternative practitioners practice largely outside of this protective framework, despite the non-rigorous "licenses" and "degrees" that some now possess in order to bestow an air of legitimacy.
This is why I describe the health advice in this article as fraud. Alternative practitioners are not bound to evidence-based treatments and informed consent as physicians are. I hope most people can see this exemplified in ideas such as "broadcast energy treatments" promoted in the article, which are absurd and violate our fundamental knowledge of physics and biology. (At least according to the science courses I took at Swarthmore.)
Benjamin Mazer, Swarthmore Class of 2010.