Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Responsible Article on Alternative Medicine

I must be dreaming.  There is a piece up on CNN's website extoling the scientific method and peer review, and explaining why promoting alternative medicine is dangerous. 

Dr. Otis Brawley, writing for CNN, wrote this piece on Suzanne Somers' advice to avoid conventional treatment for cancer, and instead embrace alternative medicine (i.e., quackery):

She is a wonderful actress, and I wish she would stick to her first chosen profession. I know some people will hear her message, follow her advice because of her celebrity status and be harmed. Her medical advice may even cause death.

Dr. Brawley goes on to explain why the peer review process in real scientific medicine is so important and effective:

Peer review is a central tenet of conventional medicine. In conventional medicine, one must allow experts in ones field to independently review one's data. The fact that a few patients give testimonial to a treatment is not adequate evidence of benefit. Because malignant disease can vary so widely from person to person, randomized controlled phase 3 trials comparing two treatments are often needed to demonstrate that a treatment works.

What's discouraging to me is that ideas like this so rarely get printed by the mainstream media.  There's nothing in this piece that is profound or particularly difficult to understand, and the dangers of foregoing real treatment are so obvious.  It is alarming that so many people don't seem to understand why testing our ideas objectively is so important.  I'm glad to see that a responsible piece like this one, but its also a reminder how rare it is to see responsible reporting and writing about science and medicine.  I am less than optimistic about this becoming a trend.

1 comment:

  1. I will check this blog daily, and expect equally frequent posts.