Screening Tests and Primum non nocere

Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase meaning “first do no harm.” It is commonly attributed to Hippocrates, but if he ever said any such thing, he certainly didn’t say it in Latin. He lived in ancient Greece from 430 BC to 370 BC and presumably spoke Greek. The phrase, in English and in Latin,

Zombie Criticisms of Conventional Medicine

Alternative medicine, by definition, is medicine that is not supported by good enough evidence to have earned it a place in mainstream medicine. Some people insist that modern medicine is not evidence-based either! Not long ago I got an email from a man who said that and tried to prove it with a series of

“Biomagnetism Therapy”: Pseudoscientific Twaddle

In a television interview, a practitioner of biomagnetic therapy claimed she had cured her own breast lump and the metastatic cancer of another person. I wonder how many viewers believed her. On the “official website” of biomagnetism therapy,, they claim it is “the answer to ALL your health problems… an all-natural, non-invasive therapy proven

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Didn’t Win a Nobel Prize, Scientific Medicine Did

Tu Youyou, a Chinese researcher, was awarded half of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery of , a malaria drug. This has been touted as a victory for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and herbalism. It is anything but. Treatment of malaria had become problematic; there were a number of effective medications, but

Smokey the Bear Medicine and Prevention

When I was an intern, we used to joke that we were practicing “Smokey the Bear” medicine: stamping out forest fires. Patients would wait until a spark of disease had developed into a dangerous flame, and then they’d expect us to deal with it. We were mostly doing disaster control, and we wished we could

Evidence: “It Worked for My Aunt Tillie” Is Not Enough

Evidence means different things to different people. Even quacks and their victims claim to have evidence that their treatments work. Sometimes that evidence consists only of testimonials from satisfied customers or from personal experience. “I tried X and I got better.” “I know Y works because it cured my Aunt Tillie’s arthritis.” I had a

Music Hath Charms But “Sound Healing” Hath Nonsense

There is no doubt that music has effects, both pleasant and unpleasant. We respond to music with emotion and with foot-tapping. As Congreve famously said, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast.” Cows produce more milk when music is played in the barn. Infants respond to lullabies. But music can be annoying, too. Many

Australian Mum Singlehandedly Defeats Sex Magnet Advertiser

Sandra Quincy writes from Australia to tell us about her successful anti-quackery activities “down under.” I thought that you might be interested in the success that I have had with getting a magnetic product removed from sale in Australia.  It all started when a Century Mail booklet fell out of my October 2008 Reader’s Digest.