Uninformed Consumers Are Treating Their Flu Symptoms with Muscovy Duck Offal (Minus the Duck)

What if you bought a can labeled “beef stew,” and when you got ready to enjoy a hearty dinner you found there was nothing in the can but water? What if you discovered fine print on the label that said “Contains no beef stew”? You would be upset. You might think that anyone would be

Clear Thinking About Cancer

Book Review of This Book Won’t Cure Your Cancer. By Gideon Burrows. 
NGO media, 2015. ISBN 978-0955369599. 212 pp. 
Paperback. $15.79. Gideon Burrows has inoperable brain cancer that is slow growing but is inevitably going to kill him. He has written a remarkable book about his experience, This Book Won’t Cure Your Cancer. He is a

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, http://biomagnetism.net/, 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

A Scientist in Wonderland

Edzard Ernst is one of those rare people who dare to question their own beliefs, look at the evidence without bias, and change their minds. He went from practicing alternative medicine to questioning it, to researching it, to becoming its most prolific critic. I have long admired his work, and I finally met him in

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

Defending Science-Based Medicine: 44 Doctor-Bashing Arguments …and Their Rebuttals

Supporters of alternative medicine and purveyors of quack remedies love to criticize conventional medicine and science. They keep repeating the same tired arguments that are easily rebutted. This handy guide will help skeptics answer common criticisms from doctor-bashers. Doctor-bashing is a popular sport practiced by believers in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and purveyors of