Tips to combat media misinformation about complementary and integrative medicine.

According to a new book out in the UK called “Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All” by Rose Shapiro, it is very easy indeed to spot a quack and here courtesy of Ms. Shapiro, are the ways that you too can spot one:


  • Treat only chronic conditions such as fatigue, backache and food intolerance.  Practitioners avoid competing with mainstream doctors, so you won’t find Chinese herbs or reflexology being used to treat a broken leg or heart attack.
  • Use disclaimers. It protects them from legal action when their methods fail.
  • Tell you that you may get worse before you get better. Mainstream medicine rarely causes the primary symptoms to worsen.
  • Claim that there is a cure for your condition, but your doctor won’t tell you because it will undermine their authority.
  • Say that the roots of the treatment lie in ‘ancient wisdom’. But this doesn’t mean that it works.
  • Have a success rate of around 80%.  It’s not too high a figure to be thoroughly unbelievable, yet high enough to find irresistible. But you won’t find details of who the people are in that 80% – they don’t even have to exist.
  • Be keen to stress your individuality.  He will tell you that even if a remedy is useless for others it might still work for you.

Before you run screaming round the room tearing your hair out in despair, I must explain that this piece is extracted from a double page spread in the UK’s most popular tabloid paper – the Daily Mail.  Sadly, it demonstrates that the author of this book understands nothing at all about the way that professional, ethical complementary and integrated medicine actually works and clearly she has not looked at any of the vast amounts of research that do exist in this field.  The problem is that the media are apparently happy to print this mis-information. 

So, what are we doing about it here in the UK?  Well, within The CMA we have an ongoing campaign to promote true and verifiable information about complementary and integrated medicine and have had great success in doing so.  It takes a lot of effort and a huge amount of time but we are gradually reaping the benefits of all our hard work and have had a number of very high profile stories covered in our most popular and best newspapers, magazines, television & radio shows including The Times, Metro, The Independent, LBC (London Broadcasting Company – radio) and on Five’s flagship television show The Wright Stuff. (Five is one of our main and most popular terrestrial television channels here in the UK.)

I am very aware that similar attacks on complementary and integrated medicine are happening in North America and further afield too – so please – a word to the wise: Get your points out to the media as soon as possible – positioning complementary and integrated medicine as professional, viable, ethical and a good treatment choice for patients.  However, please wherever possible also include any scientific evidence and full references that you can to support your claims. I believe that this is how we are to overcome the numerous hurdles in our way.

That’s it for now – I do hope that you found this article interesting – and remember, that what happens in Europe may, possibly, be reflected in the US in due course.  Do let me know what you think we should do about these attacks on CAM (and you can read about lots more of these on The Complementary Medical Association’s website).  You can email me at Jayney@The-CMA.Org.UK with your comments and questions. And, if you want to know a bit more about me you can read a brief bio here.

Ta ta for now (as we say in Jolly Olde England)


Additional articles by Jayney Goddard:

Jayney Goddard is President of The Complementary Medical Association and has recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.  She is considered to be among the world’s leading experts in complementary and integrated medicine.  Most recent publications include the highly esteemed book “The Survivor’s Guide to Bird Flu: The Complementary Medical Approach” and she recently edited “Complementary and Alternative Health: The Scientific Verdict on What Really Works” for Collins.  Both books are available for worldwide shipping from The CMA.