Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Letters Teach CAM in medical school?

Teach evidence based, not alternative, medicine

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 19 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3218

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Re: Teach evidence based, not alternative, medicine

In rebranding CAM to "integrative medicine"< advocates seek to finally bury the toxic "alternative" brand. Their reasons for wanting to do this are understandable but of course invalid.

Valid complementary therapies were always part of medical care, and always will be. Physiotherapy, diet, exercise and the like are firmly within the realms of medical care, and if I were a dietician or a physiotherapy I would strongly resent the attempts of alternative practitioners to suborn my field in order to impart a n undeserved halo to their alternative therapies.

As to alternative therapies, here we should be guided by Minchin's Law: "By definition”, “Alternative Medicine” has either not been proved to work, or been proved not to work.
You know what they call “alternative medicine” That’s been proved to work? Medicine.”"

You do not improve an apple pie by "integrating" cow pie. Integrative medicine is blatant special pleading, a cynical attempt to weasel unproven and often utterly implausible treatments through the back door. Of course we should always keep an open mind to challenging ideas, but not so open that our brains fall out. Any therapy based on the existence of meridians, the flow of qi, prana, innate or any other name for the mythical "life force", any therapy based on discredited theories such as sympathetic magic or the four humours, has, quite simply, no place in a modern hospital, especially a teaching hospital.

Allowing the teaching of anything other than strictly reality-based, science based therapies in medical schools is precisely analogous to allowing the teaching of Biblical creationism in science classes.

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 June 2014
Guy Chapman
Reading, UK