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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Australian authors berate academic medicine for not calling the absurd "absurd"

A 2005 Medical Journal of Australia article pulls no punches as it decries the rise of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) in academia.

The authors,Wallace Simpson and Kimball Atwood iv,discuss how something as absurd as much of CAM has gained an alarming degree of respectability in medical schools. They speak of :

"The guardians that usually keep the institution of medicine from reeling off into irrationality are social contracts built into medical science and ethical behavior. The academic community guards the contractual borders of science, while laws and regulations encode our ethical system. For the Absurd to have advanced, there must have been some breakdown of these social guardians."

So, why did the medical academics (collectively) fail in this role?

The authors suggest that the rise of Postmodernism is a factor. I cannot help but think that the availability of federal and foundation research money to " investigate"- or more commonly promote-CAM has to also be a major factor. Why else would medical schools sponsor CAM clinics and conferences?

For whatever reasons, it seems that medical schools ( many of them ) have lost their way. It used to be about teaching the science and art of medicine not the science, pseudoscience and art of medicine. What is the compromise between science and pseudo science? There is none.


Sid Schwab said...

In the State of Washington, law requires medical insurance to cover chiropractic, naturopathy, massage therapy, etc. This was a result of the work of a previous insurance commissioner. It was hailed triumphantly by the public. Most of it, anyway. Is mainstream medicine so neutered that it's afraid to call a spayed a spayed?

: Joseph j7uy5 said...

I've heard speculation that it is the lack of insurance coverage for CAM that is making it popular in some academic centers. The patients pay cash. There is no overhead for billing a third party. So it is highly lucrative to offer CAM services.

I'm not saying this is true; I have no way to prove it, and it sounds awfully cynical. But it is something to think about.

Wallace Sampson MD said...

I just came across your blog in a search, and thank you for taking notice of our article of Dec. 05 in Med J Australia.

To clarify, I am not Australian, being separated from the continent by 7,000 miles of ocean, but a war-mongering, rich, uncouth American born and raised in California, who happened to have rational tendencies that became sharpened in a modern society. I was privileged to practice and teach medicine for 40 years.

I formed and edited the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (SRAM.org) in retirement. My co-author, Kimball Atwood is a practicing anesthesiologist in Boston, Mass., USA and an associate editor, assuming the editorship.

The Med J Australia article was invited following my commentary in New Engl J Med showing that contrary to claims, Echinacea was never used specifically for URIs by Native North Americans - we simply looked it up in herabl texts - but was claimed to have been by a tourist guide in South Dakota in the late 20th century (discovered by our Dutch colleagues JW Nienhuys and M Prins.) The most popular herb in sales is a ghost remedy by fiction and promotion? Yes, and solved not by complex science, but by simple scholarship.

We examined the CAM/Postmodern relationship in "Flight from Science and Reason," Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1997 and in an issue of Scientific Review in 2001.

Because of our antipathy to sectarian medical systems (CAM) and false claims therein, we have been shunned by Pubmed of the National Library of Medicine and by every national commission on "CAM."

Teaching of false material continues in US medical schools, now funded by both Congress ($110-120 million/year) and private foundations (Uncounted $
millions and endowed professorships.)

Some record. Political correctness and postmodernism live and have real world effects. They are not "games."

Wallace Sampson MD
Los Altos Calif.

james gaulte said...

Dr. Simpson-Thanks for your comments.I should have said "authors in an Australian journal said..."Also thanks for your efforts.