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Woolly views on alternative treatments

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 01 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1339
  1. Geoff Watts (, freelance medical journalist
  1. London

    What the broadsheets said when a group of scientists took on complementary medicine

    The announcement that Prince Charles would be addressing the World Health Organization on complementary medicine didn't exactly send the thermometer of journalistic excitement soaring. So the 13 eminent scientists and doctors who retaliated by writing a preemptive letter to NHS trusts suggesting that complementary medicine was a waste of money did the prince a public relations favour. Their intervention—and the debate that ensued—guaranteed at least some rise in the hitherto cool temperature of his event.

    On 24 May three of the broadsheet newspapers devoted leader columns to the place of complementary medicine—but with sadly disappointing results. The views expressed were an amalgam of the inconclusive, the ill considered, and the contradictory. Least contentious of these papers, and least unsatisfactory, was the Times. Having told us what we already know—that treating patients' symptoms is not the same as enhancing their wellbeing—the paper went on to remind GPs that “they have may have much to learn from a homoeopath's ability to listen, empathise and consider the totality of a patient's condition.” Penetrating …

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