DC's Improbable Science

Truth, falsehood and evidence: investigations of dubious and dishonest science

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Patients’ guide to Magic medicine

This is a short guide, adapted and expanded from the list published here. It isn’t exactly a scientific review. but it seems to me to sum up most of what a patient needs to know.  At least it is more accurate than HRH’s guide.

The guide has now been reproduced in the Financial Times (apart from the new last item). Perhaps it will even be read by more people than the original.

  • Homeopathy: giving patients medicines that contain no medicine whatsoever.
  • Herbal medicine: giving patients an unknown dose of an ill-defined drug, of unknown effectiveness and unknown safety.
  • Acupuncture: a rather theatrical placebo, with no real therapeutic benefit in most if not all cases.
  • Chiropractic: an invention of a 19th century salesmen, based on nonsensical principles, and shown to be no more effective than other manipulative therapies, but less safe.
  • Reflexology: plain old foot massage, overlaid with utter nonsense about non-existent connections between your feet and your thyroid gland.
  • Nutritional therapy: self-styled ‘nutritionists’ making untrue claims about diet in order to sell you unnecessary supplements.
  • Spiritual healing: tea and sympathy, accompanied by arm-waving.
  • Reiki: ditto.
  • Angelic Reiki. The same but with added “Angels, Ascended Masters and Galactic Healers”.  Excellent for advanced fantasists.
  • Colonic irrigation: a rectal obsession that fails to rid you of toxins which you didn’t have in the first place.
  • Anthroposophical medicine: followers of the mystic barmpot, Rudolf Steiner, for whom nothing whatsoever  seems to strain credulity
  • Alternative diagnosis: kinesiology, iridology, vega test etc,  various forms of fraud, designed to sell you cures that don’t work  for problems you haven’t got.
  • Any alternative ‘therapist’ who claims to cure AIDS or malaria: agent of culpable homicide.
  • Libel: A very expensive remedy, to be used only when you have no evidence. Appeals to alternative practitioners because truth is irrelevant.

The last of these was inspired by Jack of Kent, the Prince among lawyers.

There is a translation into Spanish here.
And a translation into Flemish here.

The guide appeared as a sidebar in an article in the Financial Times

sidebar, page 4

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