MediaAtlantic’s “Triumph of New Age Medicine” raises storm of debate over science and practice of medical alternativesDavid Freedman’s feature, The Triumph of New Age Medicine (Atlantic, July August 2011) has stirred the most significant debate in years over the
David Freedman’s feature, The Triumph of New Age Medicine (Atlantic, July-August 2011) has stirred the most significant debate in years over the science and use of what Freedman prefers to call “alternative medicine.” Freedman stirs the dialogue by wading into the chasm between the failure of large clinical trials of single agents and yet the growing respect, even among clinicians at the Mayo Clinic, for the value patients find in the whole person approaches of alternative medicine practitioners. Atlantic’s e-version quickly generated a storm of responses. The magazine then hosted a series of response columns. Authors ranged from anti-CAM bloggers to integrative care leaders Mimi Guarneri, MD, Andrew Weil, MD and Dean Ornish, MD to NIH NCCAM’s Josephine Briggs, MD and Jack Killen, MD. The Briggs/Killen piece is entitled Don’t Dismiss These Treatments as Placebos. Meantime, Freedman fairly takes apart the antagonists in Evidence, not Anecdotes. Two columns in the Integrator review Freedman’s work from a largely positive perspective. Taylor Walsh pulls an extraordinary set of quotes that reframe how “alternative medicine” is being viewed.
Comment: After Walsh alerted me to the original story, I weighed in with David Freedman’s Atlantic Monthly Feature on Alternative Medicine and the Holy Trinity of Patient-Centered Outcomes. In showing the failures of reductive science to capture alternative medicine’s value as felt by consumers and from a cost perspective, Freedman walks right up to a huge question. He doesn’t quite ask it. And that is: Is US healthcare damaged by allowing decisions on valuation of research methods, on research funding, and on publication decisions, to be controlled by professionals who do not respect the synergies from multi-modal, patient-centered, healing-oriented approaches? Freedman may just be the journalist to do take this on. Personally, I consider this suppression of research on whole-person, healing approaches a kind of paradigm water-boarding.
Two significant CAM features headline the July issue of the Jackson & Coker Industry Report. The report from the physician employment consulting firm, entitled The Mainstreaming of Complementary Medicine, begins with reference to a Jackson & Coker 2008 feature entitled : “In the last three years, the influence of CAM has grown significantly. In this issue we take another look at the mainstreaming of non-traditional approaches to improving patients’ health and well-being. This time, we focus on how widespread CAM is being incorporated into medical service offerings at major hospitals and in medical education programs.” The feature also includes a useful, well-referenced survey of academic programs for training medical doctors in integrative medicine. Written by Integrator columnist Taylor Walsh, the report is entitled The Evolving Role of CAM Integrative Medicine in American Medical Education. These two reports were electronically mailed to over 200,000 conventional doctors.