Category: Medical Ethics

Academic Consortium plan: force medical residents to practice integrative medicine

“Integrative medicine” (IM) is an ideological movement within medicine driven in large part by those whose livelihoods depend on its continued existence. This includes both those with positions in academic medicine and individual practitioners who use the IM brand to attract patients. Despite IM and its antecedents (alternative, complementary, alternative and complementary, complementary and integrative) having been around for about a quarter...

/ April 14, 2016

Is it ethical to sell complementary and alternative medicine?

Complementary and alternative medicine may be legal to sell - but is it ethical to sell?

/ February 11, 2016

The fine line between quality improvement and medical research

As I’ve mentioned before, the single biggest difference between science-based medicine (SBM) and what I like to call pseudoscience-based medicine, namely the vast majority of what passes for “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or “integrative medicine” is that SBM makes an active effort to improve. It seeks to improve efficacy of care by doing basic and clinical research. Then it seeks to...

/ December 28, 2015

Worshiping at the altar of the Cult of the Brave Maverick Doctor

One of my favorite television shows right now is The Knick, as I described before in a post about medical history. To give you an idea of how much I’m into The Knick, I’ll tell you that I signed up for Cinemax for three months just for that one show. (After its second season finale airs next Friday, I’ll drop Cinemax until...

/ December 14, 2015

The Ethics of Prescribing Worthless Treatments

Is it ever ethical for a physician to prescribe a treatment to a patient that they know to be entirely without efficacy? Is it ever possible to do this without deceiving the patient to some degree? I think the answer to both questions is a clear “no.” Within the flipped reality of “alternative medicine,” however, it suddenly becomes acceptable to deceive patients...

/ December 9, 2015

To debate or not to debate: The strange bedfellows of Andrew Weil

Those who stand on the wrong side of science love public debates and frequently challenge science advocates to them. The reason, of course, is that public debates are almost never a good venue to argue science, and these debates almost never happen in a truly neutral venue. This time around, I got a bit of ego gratification when Andrew Weil apparently wanted...

/ November 9, 2015

Learning quackery for Continuing Medical Education credit

The Integrative Addiction Conference 2015 (“A New Era in Natural Treatment”) starts tomorrow in Myrtle Beach, SC. Medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, naturopaths and other health care providers will hear lectures on such subjects as “IV Therapies and Addiction Solutions,” given by Kenneth Proefrock, a naturopath whose Arizona Stem Cell Center specializes in autologous stem cell transplants derived from adipose tissue. Proefrock,...

/ August 20, 2015

Is Homeopathy Unethical?

“A gentle ethical defence of homeopathy” by Levy et al. was recently published in an ethics journal. A full-text preprint is available online. They say: Utilitarian critiques of homeopathy that are founded on unsophisticated notions of evidence, that adopt narrow perspectives on healthcare assessment, and that overstate the personal, social and ontological harms of homeopathy, add little to our understanding of the...

/ August 4, 2015

Placebo by Conditioning

Truly understanding placebo effects (note the plural) is critical to science-based medicine. Misconceptions about placebo effects are perhaps the common problem I encounter among otherwise-scientific professionals and science communicators. The persistence of these misconceptions is due partly to the fact that false beliefs about placebos, namely that “the” placebo effect is mainly an expectation mind-over-matter effect, is deeply embedded in the culture....

/ July 29, 2015

Don’t just stand there, do nothing! The difference between science-based medicine and quackery

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines science as: Knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation. And: Knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding. While this should distinguish science from pseudoscience, those who practice the latter often lay claim to the same definition. But one of the major differences between science and pseudoscience is that science...

/ May 22, 2015