Observations Reality Check

Assaulting alternative medicine: worthwhile or witch hunt?

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e1075 (Published 15 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1075
  1. Ray Moynihan, author, journalist, and conjoint lecturer, University of Newcastle, Australia
  1. Ray.Moynihan{at}newcastle.edu.au

Campaigns to cleanse complementary medicine courses from universities go global

Fresh from its successes in the United Kingdom, the campaign to close down complementary and alternative medicine courses at universities is moving down under. A new group called the Friends of Science in Medicine wants to stop what it calls “pseudoscience” on campus, and vice chancellors at many of Australia’s universities are in its sights. So is this a reasonable reassertion of scientific principles or a bellicose, tribal attack on the competition?

The campaign is targeting many modalities, from acupuncture, naturopathy, and chiropractic to energy medicine, homeopathy, and tactile healing. While saying that it supports research, Friends of Science in Medicine argues that “universities involved in teaching pseudoscience give such ideologies undeserved credibility, damage their academic standing, and put the public at risk.” Vice chancellors are being urged to discuss with science faculties the “withdrawal of these courses,” and further campaigns aimed at insurers are being flagged.

“It’s a witch hunt,” says Southern Cross University’s Stephen Myers, a leading complementary medicine researcher and trained naturopath, a medical doctor, and author of government funded reports urging the integration of traditional Chinese …

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