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Why do you believe in this treatment?

Imagine someone asked you 'why do you believe in aspirin?' What would you say?

Imagine someone asked you 'why do you believe in aspirin?' What would you say?

I imagine you might first clarify the meaning of the question and then respond by explaining how it works or what the trial evidence shows.

I recently read a series of published interviews with 'leading practitioners' of various forms of complementary medicine {Cuellar, 2006 9438 /id}. Variations of the above question came up repeatedly. Here are five examples:

Q: Why do you believe in biofeedback?

A: I believe in it because the patients believe in it…

Q: Why do you believe in massage therapy?

A: I believe in massage therapy from my personal and professional experience…

Q: Why do you believe in acupuncture and acupressure?

A: From personal experience… I have objective experience that Oriental medicine is effective…

Q: Why do you believe in Reiki?

A: I believe in Reiki because of the results I have seen, the experiences I have had giving and receiving Reiki, and the experiences that people have reported to me…

Q: Why do you believe in Therapeutic Touch?

A: I believe in Therapeutic Touch because I've seen it work…

One theme comes out loud and clear: complementary medicine is based on personal impressions and experience. These generate belief. Scientific evidence does not come into it! We are faced with a huge gap: evidence on the conventional side, belief on the alternative side.

In essence this describes a form of healthcare that is stuck in the ethos of the pre-scientific era. I find this a worrying thought.

Professor Edzard Ernst Professor Edzard Ernst

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