Quackery, superstition and the healing arts@2x


Is Your Doctor’s Treatment Scientifically Proven?

Much more quackery exists in the Western world than most people realize. Perhaps you wouldn’t think so either. Nothing to the detriment of the doctors in our country who are truly experts in the art of medicine, but unfortunately there are an extraordinary number of (general) practitioners in mainstream medicine who are, by definition, quacks. Not without reason, in the US, a country with comparable quality of care to other western countries, death from physician error is the number three cause of death. How is that possible?

By C.F. van der Horst
11 August 2015, updated 21 October 2022

Mainstream Medicine: Scientific Basis Very Limited

The scientific basis for regular medical treatments is meager. Only 11% of about 3,000 medical treatments have been unequivocally demonstrated to be beneficial. 24% of them probably are beneficial. The remaining 65% is guesswork. As a result, the chances of a doctor making mistakes are very high.

Dutch Journal of Medicine- only a small percentage of medical treatments have a solid scientific foundation@3x

Dutch Journal of Medicine: only a small percentage of medical treatments have a solid scientific foundation

Whereas the above figures are based on research by the British medical journal The BMJ, American figures were cited in the Dutch Journal of Medicine (NTvG). In 2010, the journal reported: “Some assume that most of our medical practice is evidence-based. The opposite is true. This also applies to sub-domains. In cardiovascular disease, for example, there is a strong tradition of epidemiological research. However, an analysis of American guidelines showed that of all recommendations, only 11% were based on strong epidemiological evidence. Half were barely even supported by epidemiological research.” The authors referenced a study published the previous year in the American medical journal JAMA.

Note that the article in the Dutch Journal of Medicine also mentioned the above 3,000 medical treatments. The article cited 13% as the rate for evidence-based medical interventions. Since the publication date of the article (2010), the percentage of evidence-based interventions has decreased. In 2013, the clinical evidence website of The BMJ showed a drop to 11%, a very worrying trend consistent with US figures. Possibly because of the declining rate, they stopped showing this registration in 2017.

Mainstream quackery: not much has changed over the centuries

Mainstream quackery: not much has changed over the centuries

There are other factors that make your (general) practitioner a quack. How about chronic medication or dispensing multiple medications at once (polypharmacy)? There are no scientific studies that have shown their effectiveness or safety. Just ask your doctor on what basis he prescribes such medication.

Should One Justify Medical Failure?

If one has been working in any profession for some time and achieves little or no results in certain cases, chances are that one becomes increasingly desperate to yet obtain a result. One reaches for heavier and heavier tools like a child who can’t get something open starts pounding on it. Not only does one observe in such a case that the desired result is not achieved, but at times such an approach may backfire. Especially within psychiatry, but also oncology, this is an observable phenomenon. Why else would people turn to electroshock or chemotherapy, in other words, electrocution and poison)? The outcomes of both are often disastrous.

In the case of physicians, a backlash means that the patient deteriorates or even dies. One must justify why one has acted in this way, whereby the more a person has to justify himself, the more he knows deep down that he has done something wrong. A fixation in which one can no longer change one’s point of view then quickly arises. Consequently, dissenters are wrong. It must be so in their reasoning, otherwise they would have to admit that they themselves did wrong things.

You surely have seen examples of this in the corona crisis.

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

The majority of physicians have integrity and will continually update themselves on effective treatments. One problem with this is that the information on which treatment choices are based comes largely from professional journals and continuing education. Deadly Lies: How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived, documents, among (many) other things, how this provision of information is largely driven by the pharmaceutical industry and how scientists are used to turn research into marketing. That fact makes it extremely difficult for a doctor to separate the wheat from the chaff. Experience, observation, patient feedback and common sense can help.

"Deadly Lies. How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived" describes the conflicts of interest of government officials and scientists, the mass marketing of the pharmaceutical industry, and the lies used to deceive both physicians and you.

“Deadly Lies. How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived” describes the conflicts of interest of government officials and scientists, the mass marketing of the pharmaceutical industry, and the lies used to deceive both physicians and you.

Quackery Even Among Doctors of Repute?

A physician, however, who pre-emptively prefers mainstream treatments while rejecting and condemning “alternative” treatments is on the slippery slope of quackery. There are doctors of repute, even medical school professors, who fundamentally dismiss alternative treatments as quackery. How long have they been on that slippery slope?

How slippery that slope is is documented in detail in the book Deadly Lies: How Doctors and Patients Are Deceived, by C.F. van der Horst, as well as in his new work, The Hidden Horrors of Psychiatry: Infiltrating the School System, Businesses and Your Home.

World Health Organization (WHO) Recognizes Traditional Chinese Medicine

As an example of ‘alternative’ treatments, we take Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM boasts 5,000 years of research and the resulting knowledge of nature and its influences on humans. Its treatment methods were obtained mainly empirically (through practical experience and observation). Although an observational study is less reliable than an experimental study in which one controls for parameters, it is going too far to say that remedies obtained from this type of study are unreliable. A physician whose own treatments are only 11% truly proven (with randomized, controlled trials) should certainly refrain from making that kind of statement.

In June 2018, WHO included diagnoses according to the TCM for the first time in the latest edition of its diagnostic book, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, ICD-11. This is an interesting development, as TCM has a very safe history compared to pharmaceutical medicine. For example, Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News wrote : “Traditional Chinese herbal medicine has been practiced for millennia and adverse events have been documented in China through their Food and Drug Administration since 1999. There were 230,069 (16.6 per 100,000) reported adverse events due to Chinese herbal medicine in 2017 in China, in contrast to 1,183,212 (85.2 per 100,000) drug adverse events. [farmaceutische] The United States had 1.3 million (399.1 per 100,000) emergency room visits by adults due to adverse drug events, and an additional 200,000 (61.4) by children under 18 in 2017; the total of which was 1.5 million events (460.5 per 100,000). Based on these figures, an American has an incredible 28 times greater chance of harm due to pharmaceutical drugs than from Chinese herbal medicine.”

World Health Organization on Alternative Medicine: It Is Not Quackery

An expert review on the use of traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of COVID-19 took place from Feb. 28 to March 2, 2022, under the auspices of WHO. These WHO experts agreed that an appropriate and rigorous methodology had been applied to assess the clinical efficacy and safety of the TCM interventions used in the trials. They found that the results, in addition to routine treatment, based on clinically relevant outcome measures suggest that the TCMs studied are beneficial in the treatment of COVID-19, especially in mild to moderate cases. Furthermore, there were promising data suggesting that TCM is beneficial in reducing the risk of progression from mild to moderate cases to severe COVID-19. WHO experts therefore recommended that member states consider the use of TCM to treat COVID-19 in the context of their health care systems and regulatory frameworks.

World Health Organization: Herbal Medicine Is Safe and Effective

Traditional herbal medicine is another example of an alternative approach. In an official WHO report on herbal medicine, the World Health Organization affirmed the efficacy of herbs: “Herbal medicines include herbs, herbal materials, herbal preparations and finished herbal products, that contain as active ingredients parts of plants, or other plant materials, or combinations. Traditional use of herbal medicines refers to the long historical use of these medicines. Their use is well established and widely acknowledged to be safe and effective, and may be accepted by national authorities.” So there is no reason to portray herbal therapy as quackery.

Just as in Western medicine, there will be treatments in TCM and herbal medicine that are not very effective or proven. However, a medic who is vehemently opposed to alternative treatments in advance has spiraled off as described above. He has to justify himself for his own quackery by accusing others of it. The pot calls the kettle black.

The Patient Always Comes First

What does the patient consider important? In the end, what matters is the result he gets. Who cares how and with what he or she gets better? The patient benefits from the best of all medical worlds coming together. In both mainstream and alternative treatment methods, one finds good and bad and gradations in between. It is up to the attending physician to filter them out.

Unfortunately, there are doctors or specialists who believe that all mainstream medicine would be scientific and all “alternative” would not. From the above account, you can see that such a health care provider has a very black and white view that is far from the truth.

Fortunately, more and more medical practitioners are open to using the best of both mainstream and alternative. It is called integrative medicine. If you need a doctor, find such a physician.

Want to Know More?

Where does the “tunnel vision” of some doctors come from? Is there any conflict of interest? Why is it that only a small percentage of medical interventions have a hard scientific foundation? What does a physician learn in their training or continuing educationor perhaps more importantly, what exactly do they not learn?

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Copyright © 2015, 2022 C.F. van der Horst, Per Veritatem Vis. All rights reserved. Photo plague doctor: Juan Antonio Ruiz Rivas; Enciclopedia Libre en Español, CC BY-SA 3.0, www.commons.wikimedia.org

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