Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dr. Robert Bazell on MSNBC

In "Mind-body medicine needs a check-up," posted today on MSNBC, Dr. Robert Bazell writes skeptically of the burgeoning field of alternative and complementary medicine. There is always plenty to be skeptical about, to be sure. Charlatans and quacks proliferate in the area of alternative medicine precisely because there is so little regulation and accepted certification. You can't simply say you're a medical doctor and begin practicing (well, you can, but you can be arrested for such things). In alternative medicine, you can do lots of things without any meaningful certification.

That said, Bazell is too high and mighty for his--or our--own good. While his language allows for the existence of creditable and helpful alternative medical practitioners, his arguments proceed as if they don't exist:

"As I have written before, many practitioners of alternative medicine either see no need for their claims to be tested with scientific studies, or simply ignore results if they don't like they way come out."

Ah, yes: "many"--not a very scientific assertion there, Dr. Bazell. This leaves the distinct possibility that "many" others do exactly the opposite and are actually helpful healers. But he can overlook that to imply, in a number of different ways, that the entire field is suspect precisely because traditional Western medical practice does not accept it.

As for ignoring results if they don't like the way they come out, alternative medical providers have not cornered the market on that particular attitude by any means. Western medical doctors likewise do this all the time--a fact that, I should note, routinely keeps alternative types of knowledge and understanding from getting anywhere in the traditional medical world. Take, for example, all the studies that have been done that show that back pain is by and large not dependent upon physical conditions. And then look at all the back pain clinics that are set up around the country, by good old accredited medical doctors, and tell me (or tell Dr. Bazell) that these doctors are not simply ignoring results that they don't like.

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