Sunday, 24 May 2009

David Colquhoun's Glossary Of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

There's a fantastic article in this weekend's Financial Times Magazine, and it includes Professor David Colquhoun's wonderful glossary of magical medicine (ie, complementary and alternative medicine).

David Colquhoun has kindly given me permission to republish the glossary here, and indeed I understand he is happy for it to be circulated as widely as possible.

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.

A rather theatrical placebo, with no real therapeutic benefit in most, if not all, cases.

An invention of a 19th-century salesman, based on nonsensical principles: shown to be no more effective than other manipulative therapies, but less safe.

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.


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
Invention 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
An agent of culpable homicide.

To which David Colquhoun has now added (improving greatly on my original suggestion):

A very expensive remedy, to be used only when you have no evidence. Appeals to alternative practitioners because truth is irrelevant.


David Colquhoun said...

Or how about this version?

Libel. A very expensive remedy, to used only when you have no evidence. Appeals to alternative practitioners because truth is irrelevant.

Jo said...

A few years ago I acquired a brochure for a festival of woo (spoon bending workshops, angel healing and the like) and I thought I'd go along for a morning, for entertainment purposes you understand.

I also thought I'd temper this with something a bit more sciencey to round the day off, and found a lecture on cloning and genetics.

Unfortunately I didn't do enough background investigation. I found myself in Steiner House in a room of only 15 people, too baffled to have to struggle to keep a straight face.

One of the delegates thought it was wrong to create clones in case one of them couldn't get into heaven if the other one had got there first, assuming some sort of 'soul conflict' I expect.

Yes it was a bit of a crap day out to be honest ;)


Anonymous said...

See the latest New Zealand Medical Journal, on David Colquhoun's ability to reference and research. Not very good would be a very polite comment, but it means that the article he wrote on Chiropractic has been absolutely discredited and eviscerated.
Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 21-August-2009, Vol 122 No 1301

Is this reference correct?

karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on alternative medicine. It should be very much helpfull

Karim - Positive thinking