Dec 17 2008

What’s the Harm?

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Comments: 28

This is a website I should have plugged before – it’s called whatstheharm.net. As the name implies, it is an answer to those “shruggies” who do not see unscientific or fraudulent medicine as a problem. The site catalogues cases of people harmed by so-called alternative medicine treatments. Most of the cases are due to refusing standard treatment as a result of misplaced faith in unconventional treatment.

For example, Jacqueline Alderslade was told by a homeopath to give up her asthma medication. She subsequently died of an asthma attack. This was a completely avoidable death.

I was reminded of this site by a recent case of a man who was convicted and will spend 6 month in jail for injuring his daughter. He decided to treat her with bogus supplements rather than seek appropriate medical care, resulting in her suffering heart and brain damage.

There was also this recent case of a couple convicted of abuse after their daughter died of complications of severe excema. They decided to treat her with homeopathic remedies rather than the recommended treatment – long beyond reason should have motivated them to seek medical care for their daughter.

Yes, these cases are anecdotal. Yes, there are plenty of stories of “medical misadventures” in standard medicine. These cases are not substitutes for scientific evidence regarding the safety and effectiveness of these treatments. But given that we can confidently conclude that homeopathy, for example, is worthless and without effect, these stories serve as legitimate cautionary tales. Eschewing proven standard of care medicine and placing unwarranted faith is dubious, implausible, and disproven therapies is not risk free.

Next time someone asks “what’s the harm,” point them toward this website.

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Remember, on Wednesday’s I also blog at science-based medicine.

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