Evidence Based Medicine

Is it just me or is this statement a tautology? After all, what other kind of medicine is there? Medicine for which there is no evidence? What sort of fool would be interested in that? The sort of fool who believes water has a memory and a potion can still be effective after being diluted to the point where it contains the equivalent of one molecule of active ingredient dropped in the Pacific Ocean. Homeopathy. Despite being a voracious reader of scientific journals for the past twenty years I have not seen one article proving the effectiveness of homeopathy. Oddly enough I don’t recall any articles disproving it either. Could this be because the premise is so absurd?

Every antibiotic, analgesic, anaesthetic or other drug needs to pass a series of tests demonstrating that it is safe and does what it claims to do. While not perfect the process is so rigorous that it can take years before a pharmaceutical is deemed ready for release onto the market. This way the consumer can have some faith that it will behave as described. Not so with homeopathy, which does not appear to require any form of testing or evidence that it actually works. Like god, it appears to rely solely on faith.

Science and conventional medicine is more than willing to accept the fact that it cannot cure all mankind’s ills. Mankind, however, refuses to accept this and, when conventional medicine fails, it turns to charlatanism. Interestingly the same people, when faced with a life threatening bacterial infection or fractured bone, will readily embrace conventional medicine because they have seen evidence that it works. Some time ago the veterinary practice where my wife worked was presented with a pigeon with a broken wing. It was brought in because the lady, who practiced “alternative” medicine had tried distance healing (whatever that is) and, oddly enough, the bone had stubbornly refused to heal. Amazingly it needed conventional medicine to restore the bird to flight.

People need to realise the limits of conventional medicine. It is not possible to cure everything, especially those afflictions that arise because of the ravages of time. Even though they can only be treated palliatively it is important not to give in to superstition. The term “evidence based medicine” is superfluous and unnecessary. Without evidence it cannot be medicine. It is quackery and should be called as such.

Dr. F. Bunny

If you’re still not convinced seven “alternatives” to evidence based medicine were published in the British Medical Journal in 1999. You can find them at http://www.bmj.com/highwire/filestream/393069/field_highwire_article_pdf/0.pdf

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