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Thread: Alternative / complimentary medicine

  1. #1
    The dilemmas at the heart of 'alternative medicine'

    All forms of ineffective treatment, 'alternative' or otherwise, pose real dilemmas that are usually neglected.
    The definition dilemma
    Once any treatment is shown beyond doubt to be effective, it ceases to be 'alternative' and becomes just like any other part of medical knowledge. That means that 'alternative medicine' must consist entirely of unproven treatments.
    The lying dilemma
    Suppose that a treatment owes all its effectiveness to the placebo effect, e,g. homeopathy (even Peter Fisher almost admitted as much). But in some people, at least, the placebo effect is quite real. It may be a genuine physical response, though one that does not depend in any activity of the drug, or other treatment.
    If the placebo effect is real, it would be wrong to deprive patients of them, if there is nothing more effective available. For example, if terminal cancer patients say they feel better after having their feet tickled by a 'reflexologist', why should they not have that small pleasure?
    If the foregoing argument is granted, then it follows that it would be our duty to maximise the placebo effect. In the absence of specific research, it seems reasonable to suppose that individuals who are susceptible to placebo effects, will get the best results if there treatment is surrounded by as much impressive mumbo jumbo as possible.
    This suggests that, in order to maximixe the placebo effect, it will be important to lie to the patient as much as possible, and certainly to disguise from them the fact that, for example, their homeopathic pill contains nothing but lactose.
    Therein lies the dilemma. The whole trend in medicine has been to be more open with the patient and to tell them the truth. To maximise the benefit of alternative medicine, it is necessary to lie to the patient as much as possible.

    As if telling lies to patients were not enough, the dilemma has another aspect, which is also almost always overlooked. Who trains CAM practitioners? Are the trainers expected to tell their students the same lies? Certainly that is the normal practice at the moment. Consider some examples.
    The training dilemma
    If feet tickling makes patients feel better, it might be thought necessary to hire professional feet ticklers who have been trained in 'reflexology'. But who does the training? It cannot be expected that a university will provide a course that preaches the mumbo jumbo of meridians, energy lines and so on.
    A good example is acupuncture. It is often stated that one of the best documented forms of 'alternative medicine' is acupuncture. Certainly the act of pushing needles into to your body elicits real physiological responses. But recent experiments suggest that it matters very little where the needles are inserted. There are no 'key' points: it is the pricking that does it. But its advocates try to 'explain' the effects, along these lines.
    "There are 14 major avenues of energy flowing through the body. These are known as meridians".
    The energy that moves through the meridians is called Qi.
    Think of Qi as "The Force". It is the energy that makes a clear distinction between life and death.
    Acupuncture needles are gently placed through the skin along various key points along the meridians. This helps rebalance the Qi so the body systems work harmoniously.
    I suppose, to the uneducated, the language sounds a bit like that of physics. But it is not. The words have no discernable meaning whatsoever. They are pure gobbledygook. Can any serious university be expected to teach such nonsense as though the words meant something? Of course not. Well so you'd think, though a few 'universities' have fallen for this, to their eternal shame (e.g, Westminster, Thames Valley, Salford, Central Lancashire, Lincoln: see below for more).
    http://www.dcscience.net/quack.html



    Alternative medicine is something which pisses me off quite a lot in much the same vein as religion and it seems to be on the rise (to the extent that there are university courses teaching it and NHS funding is being pissed down the drain on it). Another recent example of its rise was the panorama programme which talked a lot of bullsh*t about electrosensitivity and has caused various schools to start withdrawing wifi and i believe missing opportunities for enhancing the teaching they provide. They've even got jasper carrott scaremongering ffs.
    Its all gone too far, the article quoted above is by Dr Colquhoun
    This week, for example, Professor David Colquhoun FRS - one of the most eminent scientists in the UK - has been forced to remove his quackbusting blog from the UCL servers where it has lived for many years, after complaints from disgruntled alternative therapists.
    To me this is so incredibly arse-backwards, his website is being forced offline by people selling witch doctor remedies!
    Generally I think the reason it annoys me so much is probably because my dad has started going in for it more and more and despite the fact that he has a medical degree (dentistry) he completely fails to see just how little sense most of it makes, it causes (good natured) arguments nearly every time i see him.

    Are there any believers here? Or anyone else who gets seriously peeved by it like me.
    Also I'd like to recommend www.badscience.net to everyone too btw, its a blog by a doctor who writes in the guardian newspaper. The focus is on bad medical science, but it does discuss other scientific subjects and has links to other websites on the net. All very educational and engagingly written

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    vidcc's Avatar there is no god
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    I suppose it all depends on which alternative one is talking about. There are some alternative medicines that show results. Some have been scientifically shown to be worthless. In china western medicine is alternative medicine.

    I haven't heard of a case where it actually cured an illness such as cancer, TB or such like but placebos, which is what you are basically calling alternative medicine, have had results. When it comes to medicine we do know that we don't have all the answers.

    If someone wishes to go with non western medicine that's their choice. I do however have reservations about that choice being made where children are the patients. Especially when there is an actual "conventional" medical cure.
    I say I have reservations and not objections in all cases because sometimes modern medicine cannot cure and if anyone tries other "cures" then all power to them.

    itís an election with no Democrats, in one of the whitest states in the union, where rich candidates pay $35 for your votes. Or, as Republicans call it, their vision for the future.

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    Quote Originally Posted by vidcc View Post
    I suppose it all depends on which alternative one is talking about. There are some alternative medicines that show results. .
    But can you actually give an example of this, it seems like most people think that some of alternative medicine works, but actually when you get down to the hard evidence, 'medicine' has basically accepted everything that can be proved (at least for any alternative practices that are at all well known).


    I don't 100% disagree with choice, but i think anyone who is offering a cure should have to rigorously prove it, otherwise all you get is a bunch of snake oil salesmen fleecing the gullible.

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    bigboab's Avatar Poster BT Rep: +1
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    Most alternative medicine is of a palliative nature. They do not cure. I know a few people who keep returning to the same person because they 'cure' their back troubles.

    When I was 35 I lost most of my hearing in my right ear and developed Tinnitus in both ears. I went through the usual N H S channels and was told that there was no cure.

    A friend recommended that I try a local acupuncturist. I went to the one at Troon Golf course who treats golfers. This person is now famous and has a string of clinics. He told me that he would cure me. He started of by sticking a thumb hard into my ear then pulling it out abruptly. Obviously trying to cure wax. He then tried the needle sticking. He told me it would take a few 'sessions' to work. Bloody rubbish! After 6 sessions he told me to go and see my doctor. On second thoughts it was maybe hay he was trying to remove from my ears.

    I still have the same symptoms over 30 years later.

    If all of these 'Chinese' cures work how come they have less life expectancy than the UK.
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  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    vidcc's Avatar there is no god
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigboab View Post
    Most alternative medicine is of a palliative nature. They do not cure. I know a few people who keep returning to the same person because they 'cure' their back troubles.
    Perhaps cure/relieve that particular bout of back problems. Go to a doctor with back pain and at best he will prescribe an anti inflammatory and pain killers and suggest rest. If someone finds acupuncture does the same thing then I see no difference.

    A lot of the argument could be over choice of words- cure / treat


    -----------------


    Much of modern medicine treats the symptoms not the disease as well. Take the common cold, there is no cure but people swear by their dayquil/daynurse or whatever thing they take that relieves the symptoms. So in that respect alternative medicines can be considered comparable.

    One has to look at what it actually is that the alternative medicine is treating and accept the treatment for what it is.



    Bottom line is that there are respected alternatives out there. Unfortunately there are also a lot of charlatans in what is basically an unregulated field. Do we dismiss the respected practitioners because of the quacks?

    I know plenty of people that will not visit a regular doctor because they believe they are all quacks.

    itís an election with no Democrats, in one of the whitest states in the union, where rich candidates pay $35 for your votes. Or, as Republicans call it, their vision for the future.

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    I've only ever used homeopathy mtself. I'ts worked on anything I've ever got. Which is pretty much nothing to be fair. Still I think it puts most western medicine to shame....


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    Quote Originally Posted by bigboab View Post
    Most alternative medicine is of a palliative nature. They do not cure. I know a few people who keep returning to the same person because they 'cure' their back troubles.

    When I was 35 I lost most of my hearing in my right ear and developed Tinnitus in both ears. I went through the usual N H S channels and was told that there was no cure.

    A friend recommended that I try a local acupuncturist. I went to the one at Troon Golf course who treats golfers. This person is now famous and has a string of clinics. He told me that he would cure me. He started of by sticking a thumb hard into my ear then pulling it out abruptly. Obviously trying to cure wax. He then tried the needle sticking. He told me it would take a few 'sessions' to work. Bloody rubbish! After 6 sessions he told me to go and see my doctor. On second thoughts it was maybe hay he was trying to remove from my ears.

    I still have the same symptoms over 30 years later.

    If all of these 'Chinese' cures work how come they have less life expectancy than the UK.
    'cos they live in what pretty much amounts to a dictatorship where the current regime shows little regard for human life and health, and is well content to have people working as much as 16 hours a day, seven hours a week?

  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snee View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bigboab View Post
    Most alternative medicine is of a palliative nature. They do not cure. I know a few people who keep returning to the same person because they 'cure' their back troubles.

    When I was 35 I lost most of my hearing in my right ear and developed Tinnitus in both ears. I went through the usual N H S channels and was told that there was no cure.

    A friend recommended that I try a local acupuncturist. I went to the one at Troon Golf course who treats golfers. This person is now famous and has a string of clinics. He told me that he would cure me. He started of by sticking a thumb hard into my ear then pulling it out abruptly. Obviously trying to cure wax. He then tried the needle sticking. He told me it would take a few 'sessions' to work. Bloody rubbish! After 6 sessions he told me to go and see my doctor. On second thoughts it was maybe hay he was trying to remove from my ears.

    I still have the same symptoms over 30 years later.

    If all of these 'Chinese' cures work how come they have less life expectancy than the UK.
    'cos they live in what pretty much amounts to a dictatorship where the current regime shows little regard for human life and health, and is well content to have people working as much as 16 hours a day, seven hours a week?
    True, but Chinese lived in Victoria and that other place*. I cant remember its name at this time in the morning.

    Can we not have a post without politics. It will just end up a slagging much again.

    * Macao.

    You are correct, the above two places had a higher life expectancy. Guess they did not have a cure/treatment for stress and overwork in the mainland.
    Last edited by bigboab; 06-14-2007 at 01:11 PM.
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  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    vidcc's Avatar there is no god
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snee View Post
    'cos they live in what pretty much amounts to a dictatorship where the current regime shows little regard for human life and health, and is well content to have people working as much as 16 hours a day, seven hours a week?
    Actually it has as much to do with trust in the medicine as it does with availability or quality of government supplied health care. A lot of the younger more urban Chinese do go with western treatments (where available). A lot of the older urban and rural Chinese actually have more faith in the traditional treatments, distrusting modern western treatments.

    I know a few people here working two jobs 7 days a week and not having health insurance......not sure what you were trying to say there

    itís an election with no Democrats, in one of the whitest states in the union, where rich candidates pay $35 for your votes. Or, as Republicans call it, their vision for the future.

  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
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    Working too much and never getting any rest is detrimental to your health, that's a fact. And in China any (possible) safeguards available to protect the blue-collar workforce from abuse or exploitation appear lacking, to say the least.*

    And it's not just about the hours either, an example is that lots of people make a living stripping used up electronics of gold and other recyclables using dangerous chemicals and virtually no protective gear. (I saw some documentary about that, a while back.)

    Things like that are bound to keep their average age down, alternative medicine or not.


    EDit: Obviously I was commenting on Boab's last line about life expectancy, if that didn't register.
    EDit: *I know people who work that way too, but it's not very common here. Whereas it appears to be much more widespread in China, and not always something people can elect not to do, it seems.
    Last edited by Snee; 06-14-2007 at 10:06 PM.

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