Views & Reviews Review of the Week

It’s tough on the sharks

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 05 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1311
  1. Charles Essex, consultant neurodevelopmental paediatrician in Coventry
  1. charles.essex{at}

If most complementary and alternative medicines work as a placebo response, is that so bad? All in all, it is, find two new books reviewed by Charles Essex

I often advise students who want to earn easy money: offer to cure crying babies. The cry-fuss behaviour which peaks at age 6 weeks and, if severe, is often called colic resolves by 12 to 16 weeks. Offer anything—massage, crystals, feng shui—and it will get better. You get the kudos and the money. Even if it is something serious like an intussusception or meningitis, the parents will blame the doctor(s) for late diagnosis. When was the last time you saw a headline like “£2 million payout because of blunder by reiki therapist”?

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapists pick conditions that are relatively minor, sometimes creating a disease that does not exist, such as subluxations of the spine, or they find a recognised one such as food allergy or nutritional deficiency and then “cure” it, often with expensive health supplements that they sell, even though it was never …

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