David Gorski: Quackery, Limitless in Abundance

What on earth is going on in academic medicine? From David Gorski’s presentation today, I learned that an association of schools with fake-medicine facilities exists, the Academic Consortium of Integrative Medicine, has over 70 member academic medical centers, which is up from only eight in 1999. What?

Gorski recounted a long list of deeply troubing developments in “quackademic medicine,” such as the recent $200 million gift to UC Irvine for the construction of an inegrative medicine research facility, Harvard students learning about meridians from an acupuncturist, and the Cleveland Clinic’s wide array of offenses against science, which includes nonsense treatments like reiki.

Reiki. Man, that’s a real humdinger, that one. The Cleveland Clinic’s website boasted that reiki involves a “universal life force that is limitless in abundance.” As Gorski clarifies, “Reiki is just faith healing with Eastern mystic religious beliefs.”

It’s maddening. So many resources and so much time and energy directed toward these unscientific non-disciplines. Those $200 million could certainly be better used to pursue real medical breakthroughs rather than making the supporters of homeopathy feel validated.

Part of the problem is how the quackademics muddle their claims with sciencey sounding terms, and layering it all with heaping dollops of self righteousness. Alt-med, CAM, integrative medicine, functional medicine, all of these in one form or another assert that they “treat the whole person,” the exclusively “treat the root cause of disease, not just symptoms,” and only they emphasize prevention of diseases (which is a surprise to, well, real doctors. But it’s okay, because these alt-med types are using “the best of both worlds.” This leads Gorski to ask, “How can you use the ‘best’ of quackery?”

Clearly, though, the reality-based community and the champions of integrative medicine are having different conversations. If you doubt that, note the quote from Dr. David Katz, who insists that homeopathy works, and that medical science needs to embrace “a more fluid concept of evidence.”

If your head has exploded over this, perhaps you’d like to check in with the Cleveland Clinic, and see if your unlimited life force energy an heal your freshly detonated skull.

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