Arguments over the status of alternative and complementary medicine are heating up. Over the weekend Logan at Gizmodo reported on the founding of Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM), and now a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia calls for universities to be more stringent about the kinds of courses they offer.
While you can’t call yourself a doctor after doing an alternative medicine course, the authors of the paper (members of FSM) argue that universities offering qualifications such as Master of Health Science (Herbal Medicine) gives the sector a credibility it doesn’t deserve:
Subjects such as acupuncture and chiropractic are claimed to treat a broad array of afflictions and are taught as such. The levels of evidence supporting these alternative beliefs are weak at best, and such randomised controlled trials of these therapies as exist mostly do not support their efficacy (with the exception of acupuncture for some types of pain).
As that last quote suggests, the FSM group (which has 460+ members) isn’t opposed to any form of medicine other than pharmaceutical and surgical treatments, but only to those which can’t demonstrate their effectiveness:
FSM supports research into alternative and complementary approaches when this is justified and accepts that modern medicine has more to do in championing an evidence-based approach to all types of care. Our educational institutions, the government and consumers should understand that pseudoscientific health treatments based on unvalidated beliefs are not compatible with the provision of sustainable quality health care.
This makes sense to me. Choosing a medical treatment which evidence doesn’t support simply doesn’t seem rational, especially if you simultaneously reject one that has been underpinned by repeatable, clinical testing. But I imagine that many people will disagree, especially given the fervent anti-science mentality evident in some sections of Australian society. What do you think?