Simon Singh

The Harm of Alternative Medicine

A frequent point that comes up in most discussions of alternative medicine is- what’s the harm? So what if they don’t have any real evidence that they work? If people want to get a nice foot massage at a refloxology session or take homeopathic pills when they get a cold is that really so bad?

My general response to such points is that I agree that, generally speaking, most people in the West who make use of alternative medicine treatments aren’t really doing any harm. In fact I would go so far as to say that in a fair amount of cases the treatments are probably beneficial to the individual due to a combination of the placebo effect and relaxation. The problems come however when we look further afield than those using alternative medicine as a complementary system of medicine for minor health problems.

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Simon Singh vs. ‘The Chiropractors’

Simon Singh is a British science journalist who aside from being a great populariser of science also happens to be the co-author of one of my favourite books ‘Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial‘. He is also currently being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA).

The BCA took exception not at his book, wherein he discussed chiropractic medicine at some length- it’s history, it’s clinical evidence and it’s problems- but at an article (and in particluar one paragraph) he wrote in April 2008 for the Guardian’s website (ironically titled ‘comment is free’). The article has since been removed from the Guardian’s website, however, a copy is now being hosted on a Russian server here (and it makes a good read!).

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