A Quick Note on Alternative Medicine
I have to admit that my recent forays into the world of alternative medicine have made me far more bitter towards the movement. Being repeatedly attacked will do that to you. But I'm not quite so bitter as, for example, Orac, who publishes a yearly compilation entitled "You Might Be an Altie" (Altie being slang for person who has a strong belief in alternative medicine). This year's edition is up to over 100 points, and is available for your amusement and/or aggravation here.
Those of you who know me know that I'm the last person to jump on any alternative-medicine-bashing bandwagon but more than a few of these hit home just based on my most recent experiences alone.
#3. If you accept without questioning vague and/or poorly documented anecdotes and testimonials as sufficient evidence for you that an "alternative" therapy can produce remarkable results "curing" cancer, heart disease, autism, Alzheimers, heart disease, etc., but routinely brutally nitpick and then dismiss well-designed randomized, double-blinded Phase III clinical studies for conventional medicine, you just might be an altie.
#7. If you make claims for a product or therapy like, "strengthens the immune system," "restores balance," "detoxifies the liver," "cleanses the colon," or "cleanses the blood," you may be an altie.
#14. If you are utterly convinced that autism is a "misdiagnosis" for mercury poisoning, despite the fact that epidemiological and basic scientific studies do not support this hypothesis, that the number of new autism cases in the U.S. has not shown a sign of falling since thimerosal was removed from vaccines three years ago (ditto Denmark, where thimerosal was removed in the early 1990's), and that autism does not share the symptomotology of mercury poisoning, you just might be an altie.
#20. If you believe that vaccines "don't work," that they "hurt the immune system," or that they are a major cause autism or other chronic diseases, you just might be an altie.
#24. If you underwent conventional therapy for cancer and then underwent alternative medicine treatment but attribute your survival and present cancer-free condition to the alternative medicine and not the conventional therapy, you just might be an altie.
#38. If you say your healer "is too busy people making people healthy" to conduct evidence-based trials but have never met a single person helped by them, you might be an altie.
#43. If you believe that chelation is a valid treatment for autism, Alzheimer's disease, coronary artery disease, or any medical condition other than heavy metal poisoning properly documented with appropriate symptoms and laboratory tests, you are well on the way to being an altie; that is, if you're not one already.
#51. If you talk about the pH of the "body," you're either an altie or have access to a very large blender.
#68. If you think natural is synonymous with good then you're probably an altie.
#69. If you tell me not to touch my apple because it's covered in pesticide while you're eating a Big Mac, you may be an altie.
#86. If you believe the plural of anecdote is data you are probably an altie
#87. If you believe alternative and complementary therapies cannot adequately be studied using randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trials because they miss the essence of the therapy, as was recently suggested in an article in the BMJ, you are almost certainly an altie.
#110. If you believe polio was not wiped out by vaccination, and that FDR in fact had EPV .. you're an altie ( and probably posting on whale.to)
Now clearly I don't agree with everything on the list (Orac clearly has no faith in the training or practice of naturopaths and chiropractors) it still was good for a giggle. I think that the majority of the disagreement between my way of thinking and his, however, is based in geography. I am above the Canada-U.S. border, he is below it. In Canada, there is one English-language school of chiropractic medicine and it is fairly conservative in it's teachings. The people who graduate from it are well-educated and will work wonders with low back pain and headaches and don't necessarily believe that they can cure your gallstones through spinal manipulation. In the US, a general rule of thumb seems to be the further west the school, the more radical the school of thought. There is much more variability in the quality of US-trained chiropractors.
It's the same deal with naturopaths. In Canada, the only nationally accredited school of naturopathic medicine is the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. It's graduates aren't all anti-medicine (although some are), and are incredible when it comes to complementary care. I think quite highly of them and admire their work. Again, according to Orac "you are considered a 'doctor' with a diploma-mill ND". Not true here, where to call yourself a naturopathic doctor you'd better be a CCNM grad.
Guess we do things differently up here.