Michael Kruse on Naturopaths in HuffPo Canada

Michael Kruse wrote an article cross-posted to Skeptic North and Huffington Post Canada on the move in Ontario to allow naturopaths to prescribe restricted medications. As you would expect, most of the comments at HuffPo are very pro-naturopathy and anti real medicine. I started to write a comment on the site, but 1,000 words later, I decided it needed to be a post

The comments can be collected into several groups.

Modern medicine kills people, therefore we must use CAM

If a specific treatment is found to be ineffective, it  says absolutely nothing about the effectiveness of any o the treatment. Laetrile has been proven to be useless, that does not mean a homoeopathic treatment with dilute Conium Maculatum (poison Hemlock) would be effective. It just means Laetrile is ineffective. Each treatment must be studied either on its own, or in direct comparison with another.

CAM treatments have been used for thousands of years and are therefore better.

Modern medicine is not perfect, but it is ultimately self-correcting. Old medications and treatments that are proven NOT to work are dropped, those where improvements have been made are replaced.
CAM does not respond to research at all. If a treatment is studied and no positive effect determined, the response is to say that the tests are flawed.

Acupuncture has been studied and studied and no effects have been found beyond the placebo effect (which, by the way, you don’t need to believe in for it to have an effect). Is there any chance that CAM advocates will drop it? Not bloody likely. Pop over to Science Based Medicine and read up on how medical science works from the prospective of people who actually work in the fields they write about.

Physicians are all in the pockets of Big Pharma

In most jurisdictions, physicians are forbidden from receiving benefits from pharmaceutical companies and definitely forbidden from selling the medications they prescribe.They can be censured in different ways from warnings to loss of licence.

CAM practitioners, on the other hand, recommend products that they sell from their own shops. Who is in a conflict of interest situation? Pretty obvious, don’t you think.

Pharmaceutical companies, like many large corporations exist primarily for profit and also like many work to bypass rules and regulations. It is important to note that the fight against these unethical and/or illegal actions is led by physicians. Ben Goldacre is a physician who has written a book entitled Bad Pharma in which many of these activities are brought to light. He is also spearheading a campaign to correct the situation that has allowed this to happen.

Big Natural also exists and campaigns very strongly against any regulations whatsoever for their products. Many of the products sold by naturopaths and homoeopaths are manufactured and distributed by multinational corporations such as Boiron, who have very deep pockets. The CAM practitioners can also get very indignant if any of their profitable products are removed from market.

Physicians all want to give you a pill and send you on your way, CAM practitioners treat the whole patient.

For many years, physicians and others who practice modern medicine have been promoting improvements in diet and lifestyle as both preventative and treatments. Nearly all of the information you learn from organizations that focus on diseases and disorders such as heart and stroke, cancer, kidney disease, mental illness, etc etc are based upon the latest available science. Besides publicizing warning signs and suggesting when you should seek professional help, they all recommend a healthy lifestyle. This is something that CAM practitioners have attempted to co-opt as their own, but anyone who thinks about it for even a minute or two will realize that they certainly do not have a monopoly on it.

Many physicians are too busy to spend very much time with each patient, and that is a difficult problem with no easy answers. However, it is important to remember that most of them will refer you to an appropriate professional who also practices science based medicine within their own field such as dieticians, occupational or physical therapists, psychotherapists etc.

CAM practitioners get to spend much more time with clients and can provide a greater level of emotional support. However, they will also sell you a homoeopathic pill or nutritional supplement before they send you on your way.

Naturopathy is Science Based

Michael responds to this in the original article

Naturopaths are alternative medicine providers who present themselves publicly as science-based health professionals. However, naturopathy is actually a belief system based on the pre-scientific belief in”vitalism,” which proposes that there is a “life force” or “vital force” that can be shaped by “naturopathic” treatments. Naturopaths offer a variety of treatments can range from reasonable health advice (diet and exercise) to treatments that may be useless (homeopathy or acupuncture) to questionable (intravenous vitamins, supplements, and herbalism) to the dangerous or inappropriate (chelation and various forms of “detoxification”).

And of course, this is totally ignored by the commenters who really don’t understand how science works, or else refuse to accept that their pet beliefs are not validated.

We deserve a choice in our own health.

Yes, we do deserve to make choices in our own health care. However, we also need accurate information from experts in order to make an informed choice. There is absolutely no possibility that homoeopathy can treat or cure anything, but you will not hear that from a naturopath. They promote these treatments as risk free, and of course they are; they don’t do anything—they are completely useless.

Acupuncture has been proven time and again to be as effective as placebo in treating pain or anything, and it most certainly is not risk free. Dietary and nutritional supplements are also a favourite of naturopaths. Again, there are very few reasons for a person to actually need any of these, as the nutrients we require are all found in a well balanced diet. These products are also not well regulated, thanks to lobbying by CAM advocates and Big Nutra.

A choice is only valid if we have all the information, both positive and negative, about the options. Medications scare many people because pharmaceutical advertisements must include both positive effects and potential negative side effects about the products. CAM products by have managed to avoid almost all of this sort of restriction by carefully wording claims and using disclaimers. Honesty is not a big concern to CAM advocates.

Naturopaths and other CAM practitioners may make you subjectively feel better, but they really don’t cure or effectively treat anything, despite what the commenters on HuffPo claim.

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