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Questioning Quackery PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

From reader Nathan Grange in New Zealand comes news that there is concern in New Zealand about more extensive government spending on what's now called "Complementary and Alternative Medicine" [CAM], a situation that is currently being reviewed, along with appropriate concerns about the efficacy of the treatments. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) reports that it spent NZ$37 million [US$20 million] on CAM in the 2007-2008 year up from NZ$18.4 million [US$9.8 million] in 2003-2004. It was decided that there were "legitimate questions" about the effectiveness of some alternative treatments, and the issue is being looked at as part of a broader ACC review. In the past year, the ACC spent $14 million [US$7.4 million] on acupuncture alone, and NZ$12.7 million [US$6.8 million] on chiropractic treatment.

New Zealand doctors have wisely said that any treatment receiving government funding should be subject to the same rigorous standards as conventional medicine, though some alternative therapies for disability-allowance clients are approved by "registered medical practitioners," which includes chiropractors. One NZ MD, Dr. John Welch, said the idea of integrating conventional and complementary medicine was a

...fake proposition. There can only be one sort of medicine that's shown to be effective and works and should be publicly funded.

Even Ministry of Health chief adviser on integrative care Dr. David St. George said that the ministry was "exploring options" for integrating Cam into mainstream medicine but any suggestions of government funding were premature. He said:

There needs to be sufficient evidence of efficacy and effectiveness before a therapy can be considered for public funding.

This all sounds perfectly sensible, but rather trite and unneeded, to me. These requirements should be obvious, and an integral part of any decision about government funding. But New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists president Paddy McBride says that Chinese medicine could not be tested

...using the same limited controlled trials Western medicine would like us to use.

May I ask, why not? Yes, the scientific method may be - to quacks - "limited," because it requires direct evidence, and the word "controlled" is repellent to these folks, but those methods work!

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Political Correctness
written by MikeF, January 25, 2009
It seems from what I've read in the media here in New Zealand that much of this funding is going on traditional Maori 'medicine' and 'healing'. This just smacks of political correctness and an inability on the part of our decision makers to stand up to these quacks and make them prove that their 'medicine' works. I can imagine the outcry now were such a challenge to be issued!
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BC government soft on AltMed
written by Newcoaster, January 25, 2009
The government of British Columbia has recently started softening up to so called Alternative Medicine. Last year it was making acupuncture covered for low income people. Now it is proposing to allow Naturopaths to call themselves doctor/physician, order blood and diagnostic tests, do minor surgery and compound and dispense drugs. They have done this without any consultation with physicians in the province, and introduced the latest proposal just before Xmas when parliament was no longer in session.
Governments don't seem to be applying the same standards to alternative healers as they do to medical science.
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It sure does work ...
written by MadScientist, January 25, 2009
If CAM didn't work, it wouldn't be so popular - ask any practitioner (as opposed to their victims). CAM is great at depriving suggestible or desperate people of their hard-earned money.
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...
written by BillyJoe, January 26, 2009
The terms conventional, mainstream, alternative, complementary and integrative medicine have outlived their usefulness and should be consigned to the waste disposal unit.

There is only Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) and treatments without evidence of efficacy. The later category should not only not be funded by governments and insurance companies, they should also be outlawed.


A slightly better term than EBM is Science Based Medicine (SBM) which, in addition to evidence considers also the question of plausibility. The significance here is that a treatment that has an implausibility rating of zero (eg homeopathy) should not only be outlawed but no money should even be wasted on clinical trials to assess efficacy.

BJ
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...
written by BillyJoe, January 26, 2009
Okay, that should have been "plausibility rating".
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...
written by bosshog, January 26, 2009
The Fundamentalists are missing a good bet.
Instead of "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design" they should be pushing for "Complementary/Alternative Cosmology" to be taught in our schools. It seems to work for the voodoo community.
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...
written by jensfiederer, January 26, 2009
The Fundamentalists would be mistaken to make such an attempt. This would only open the door for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and they fear that far more than a little bit of science.
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Not suprised, and that worries me...
written by zaphod, January 26, 2009
I used to get angry at these people because I used to think that the advocates for these sorts of things were obviously a load of hucksters and snake-oil salesmen trying to land the ultimate of all slacker income: government funding. After all, why waste time trying to bilk people on a per-person basis when you can make one concerted effort to fool ONE government charlie and end up bilking the entire tax-paying public out of their money?

But I have come to realize that practitioners and advocates of this garbage are not all scammers trying to take the easy paycheck. Most of them probably do believe this to be a legitimate practice. The irony being that they argue it should be funded by the government if it works, and if you manage to get your foot in the door, argue that since it is being funded by the government, it HAS to work. I mean, no government ever sank tons of capital into something that didn't work, have they?

Ah government: the epitome of illusionary legitimacy.
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 26, 2009
In the US the Com/Alt bull has built a market the old fashioned way, by lobbying local, state, and federal politicians.
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Thoughts...
written by LindaRosaRN, January 26, 2009
I don't know what the newest excuses are, but placebo needles have been developed for testing acupuncture. Predictably, studies employing them aren't providing sCAMsters the results they like.

"Acupuncture for the poor..." Yes, for years, authorities have been looking to sCAM practices to provide a solution for the rising costs of health care. We are seeing move towards a two-tiered health care system.

"Evidence-based medicine" is now a favorite term of the sCAMsters. Of course, they have a different idea of what constitutes evidence than we do.
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written by Caligo, January 26, 2009
Ah government: the epitome of illusionary legitimacy.


I call that one the argument from authority. I've seen many people use it and not all of them were quacks. I've talked to people in my University who sometimes use an alternate version of that argument relying on what Einstein or Kant said on a particular topic.

It is not important who says it, it is important why it is being said. Too many people think that way. "The government said so and so, therefore it is true." Or if you will "the government said so and so, therefore it is a lie." Arguments such as those are none starters and lead no where.
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written by BillyJoe, January 26, 2009
"Evidence-based medicine" is now a favorite term of the sCAMsters. Of course, they have a different idea of what constitutes evidence than we do.

The only solution to this problem that I can think of is to set up a "trial registering authority" made up of experts in trial design. The idea would be that you must first register your trial design with this panel of experts who must approve your trial design before you are allowed to proceed with the trial. And any self-funded trials, would be required by law to state that the trial has not been approved and therefore cannot be relied upon for accuracy of results.

BJ
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written by BillyJoe, January 26, 2009
...and, of course, there is the question of plausibility - hence the better term Science Based Medicine or SBM which includes this criteria.
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