Beware of alternative therapies

Re: Many paths to healing,  Dec. 29.

Largely as a result of such "positive" media
treatment, physicians are finding themselves under
ever-increasing pressure to endorse their patients'
desires to undergo unproven and often irrational
"alternative" therapies such as therapeutic touch and
homeopathy (not to mention "psychic" healing and
"past-life" regression).

This physician trend, necessitated by the demands
of the marketplace, is the medical equivalent of
teaching Ebonics in school. While it offers short-term
gratification to the illiterate (in medicine/science)
patient, and perhaps thereby enhances the prospect of
a psychosomatic benefit, it is every bit as cynical and
condescending as the propensity for doctors to
dispense antibiotics on demand for colds and flu. (This
latter practice, which also accomplishes nothing
positive other than "patient-pleasing," is projected to
result in scores of thousands of deaths from resistant
bacterial infections in the coming decade.)

The Tampa Bay Skeptics has a $1,000 offer
outstanding for proof of any paranormal phenomenon,
including the medical efficacy (other than placebo) of
therapeutic touch, homeopathy, acupuncture and the
like in "healing" disease. Similarly, James Randi
sponsors an international challenge that is currently
worth more than $970,000. Until such proof is
forthcoming, the public would be wise to be wary of
such "alternative" therapies. And the media ought to
be ashamed of their uncritically positive coverage of

Gary P. Posner, M.D., founder
Tampa Bay Skeptics, Tampa

(published in the St. Petersburg Times on 1/9/97)

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