Samuel Neff, MD
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Neff S. Complementary and Alternative Medical Education. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140:67. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-140-1-200401060-00019
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(1):67.
TO THE EDITOR:
I disagreed with the first sentence of the abstract of “Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies: Implications for Medical Education” (1) and with most of the rest of the article as well. Although we try to limit ourselves to evidence-based approaches for medical treatment, the authors would have medical education become a scientific “free-fire zone” for every unvalidated whim, notion, and economic and political agenda in our diverse society. Instead of making an eloquent argument that we should drop our standards for the medical curriculum to below those for medical practice (and publication), the authors would have made a more convincing case for inclusion if they had presented more than a handful of examples (perhaps even a table or list) of known important interactions between unproven and conventional therapies. Although we try to strictly adhere to scientific standards ourselves, we must remember that the vast bulk of the business of “alternative medicine” actually consists of entrepreneurs promoting and selling (for profit) substances with no proven benefit. These entrepreneurs have no responsibility to the patient and work in a world (business) where exaggerated claims and misleading advertising are considered ethical. The fact that a credulous public finds their promotions efficacious (they do test their advertising scientifically) is not itself a justification for altering the medical curriculum. Rather, we must face them on their own ground and ours, and demand the same level of scientific proof of efficacy (and safety) for everything our patients use. This will not necessarily be easy, but the alternative to leadership is a gradual “dumbing down” of medical education to the point where the promoters of every fad and trend will demand a place in the curriculum.
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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