SCIENCE: Alternative medicine is not an answer
With all the advances in science, perhaps the most useful, yet least celebrated, are the advances in medicine.
A new surgical procedure may not be as exciting as landing a probe on a comet, but the practical benefits have been enormous. Some of the deadliest diseases in history, such as smallpox, are irrelevant today thanks to medical discoveries. However, not everyone chooses to listen.
Homeopathy is a common practice whereby certain chemicals related to the illness are diluted in water, then consumed, and this helps cure the problem. However, this practice has no effect. Professor Paul Glasziou of Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council concluded that, “Fifty-seven systematic reviews (of homeopathy) (on 68 conditions), which contained 176 individual studies and finding no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo.”
When Dr. Edzard Ernst criticized Prince Charles of England for the royal’s support of alternative medicine, the doctor was publicly condemned for alleged ethics violations, forcing him into early retirement.
Of course, homeopathy ignores common sense. What would be more dangerous: a glass of pure bleach, or bleach diluted with 10 times as much water? According to homeopathy, it’s the diluted bleach, but that is obviously nonsense. Also, consider how much water has run through people’s bathrooms removing human waste. If water retains a memory of what it has held as homeopathy claims, then it would retain all the feces that has flowed through it. But we don’t drink fecal water. Again, homeopathy’s claim is obvious nonsense.
Conversely, one of the most effective new treatments is the HPV vaccine.
“A vaccine introduced a decade ago to combat the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer has already reduced the virus’s prevalence in teenage girls by almost two-thirds,” he said.
However, despite the evidence that it works, a minority of girls and women receive it. This is because of the taboos on sexuality — especially regarding teens and females. The idea that our daughters are fragile and must remain pure endangers them by preventing them from receiving beneficial medical care.
These aren’t abstract ideas. Lives are affected by these debates. When Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, was diagnosed with cancer, he turned to alternative medicine instead of typical cancer treatment. It had no effect, and he would die from it at only 56 years old. Many doctors, however, believe scientific medicine would have greatly increased his chance for survival, and Jobs allegedly regretted not using it.
Proper evidence-based medicine should be open to trying alternative options. That way, if they succeed, we can make them part of standard medical treatment. For example, many people believe that medieval doctors successfully avoided the plague by treating themselves with essential oils, which are available at many drug stores today.
Let’s test it! If essential oils prevent outbreaks, then let’s use them more often. If they fail, we move on to more promising solutions.
2014 saw a horrific Ebola outbreak. Today, the Zika virus is spreading. If we want to stop the damage that diseases like these can cause, we need competent, evidence-based medicine. Medical science is a victim of its own success. We rarely understand how dangerous disease, infection and other health hazards can be. If we ignore proper medical science, we’ll relearn that lesson that hard way.