Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Monday, November 01, 2004

How a Medical Practice Should be Run?

An interesting thread.

Used by permission.

Subject: Re: [healthfraud] How a Medical Practice Should be Run?

From: Harriet Hall
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2004 16:50:30 -0800

You have asked THE question. Why do smart people fall for dumb
ideas? There is no idea so crazy that you can't find an MD or a
PhD to support it. I see two major problems here:

1. Some doctors perceive that patients WANT alternative medicine
and are willing to go along to keep them happy. They are bowing to
consumer pressure instead of doing what is ultimately best for the
patient. This should be considered unethical, but there is a very
human temptation to use altmed as a placebo for conditions that
science has no cure for, as well as to pacify demanding patients and
hypochondriacs. "Difficult" patients are frustrating and time-
consuming, and sometimes condoning altmed will get them off the
doctor's back, at least temporarily.

2. A semi-religious belief in vitalism underlies most alternative
medicine thinking. These people are not willing to stick to our
shared external material reality that can be accessed by science.
They insist there is a supernatural or other-dimensional realm of
"energy," "quantum connectedness," "the Innate," or some other
imaginary force that can't be detected with any instruments but
that their intuitive mind can somehow access. Vitalism is like Santa
Claus - you can't PROVE those forces DON'T exist. This kind of
irrational thinking is impervious to logic.

I think the ultimate solution is to teach critical thinking to children
from an early age, and to make them aware of how human
psychology can lead us into error. Science education "about" science
doesn't do much good by itself. We need to challenge students to
"think" scientifically by figuring out how they could test a hypothesis
and by figuring out what could go wrong and how to rule out
alternative explanations for results. We should be teaching them
about how experiments have gone awry (N-rays, cold fusion, etc.)
and how to distinguish good science from pseudoscience.

Harriet Hall, MD