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Why I lost interest in alternative medicine

When the Jobbing Doctor was younger, he was interested in all types of medicine and that included alternative medicines.

When the Jobbing Doctor was younger, he was interested in all types of medicine and that included alternative medicines.

I remember going on a homoeopathic weekend course with a colleague to try and find out what it was all about.

I must stress that my interest started well before the evidence-based bandwagon started rolling, and was largely fired by the enthusiasm of the proponents, and the individual stories of people who were, apparently, catastrophically failed by conventional medicine, and were cured by alternatives.

Over the years, my interest has waned, now to such a degree that I would now largely eschew any interest or support. This is based on years of clinical experience, and whether we like it or not, our own experiences do shape the way that we think.

When Jobbing Doctor was a junior doctor, I had the priviledge of working at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, and was influenced by a really caring and clever oncologist who was asked to compile an expert report for the Government on an ‘alternative' cancer centre that relied on ‘natural' ways of treating cancer. His report was damning - as a result he received a lot of criticism, became depressed and committed suicide.

That episode affected me a great deal. It made me look into the ‘alternative' ways of dealing with cancers, and it seemed to me that the alternative to orthodox treatment is death.

Over the years, other experiences with alternatives have seemed to me to be largely pointless, and simply a way for ‘practitioners' to relieve people of their money by promoting largely bogus therapies.

Can anyone seriously believe reflexology? It makes you feel good because you are massaging somebody's feet. Aromatherapy is nice because of the lovely smells, but buying a bunch of freesias would be equally effective. Acupuncture is, for the Jobbing Doctor, little more than a theatrical placebo dressed up in mumbo-jumbo. You might just as well believe the ancient theories of the four humours - melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic and sanguine.

There is a debate going on about the regulation of alternative practitioners. This is currently going out for consultation, and there are suggestions that we should be regulating herbalists and other alternative practitioners. The model is the one that has been set up for chiropractors in the General Chiropractic Council. This whole thing fills me with unease. Chiropractors can, apparently, call themselves 'doctor' if they have the appropriate qualifications. There is one who calls himself 'doctor' on the Jobbing Doctor's patch and there isn't anything we can do about it. He is able to use spinal manipulation to treat infantile colic and asthma.

Alternative practitioners will always be around because there are always fools out there prepared to part with their money. That is their right. However, we need to be careful, as a society, that we do not condone all this nonsense.

I understand that all the alternative medicine courses put on by universities such as Central Lancashire and Westminster have now been closed down. This has been as a result of some sterling work by a small number of scientists, who have pointed out all the absurdities in these courses.

So, if you are asked to give an opinion on regulating the majority of ‘alternative' therapists, I would suggest that you stick to proven and validated science and not anecdote and pseudo-science. There is no place for regulating such practitioners. There is no science or medicine underpinning it.

You might just as well try to regulate comedians.

Jobbing Doctor Jobbing Doctor

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