Fix or Fraud: A Debate on Alternative Medicine


Meditating Doctor

For years, the medical profession kept a cool distance from alternative medicine, which most doctors dismissed as the province of hippies and snake oil salesmen. Now that's changing, as David H. Freedman explains in a new Atlantic article. More and more physicians are recommending alternative therapies to their patients and many now say that acupuncture and meditation work better than expensive drugs at treating major chronic diseases.

Is alternative medicine really ready to claim a place in the mainstream? And what does the popularity of alternative treatments tell us about the weaknesses of modern medicine? To answer these questions, we asked seven leaders in the field as well as vocal skeptics to comment on Freedman's essay. We’ll be posting one response each day over the next couple of weeks.


Reid Blackwelder, M.D.

The Family Physician of the Future

The landscape is shifting, but what does this mean for day-to-day practice? One doctor offers his colleagues a new road map.

David H. Freedman

What's Eating the Small, Loud Band of Alt-Med Critics?

The author speculates on why a tiny but outspoken group of scientists continues to detest alternative medicine

David Colquhoun, Ph.D., FRS

America, Land of the Health Hucksters

A British doctor laments the rise of alternative medicine on American soil

Vasant Lad, M.A.Sc.

Why Traditional Medicine Matters

Ancient health care systems might not be backed by modern research, but that doesn't mean they aren't scientific

Mimi Guarneri, M.D.

First, Do No Harm

A doctor who wants to stay true to the Hippocratic Oath must often turn to alternative medicine, not just convention

Dean Ornish, M.D.

Why Health Care Works Better Than Disease Care

When it comes to our deadliest diseases, "alternative" approaches are measurably more effective than drugs or surgery

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Changing Times Call for Smarter Doctors

Whether a treatment is conventional or alternative, the medical profession should be doing what works

David H. Freedman

Evidence, Not Anecdotes

The author responds to Steven Salzberg's argument about the dangers of accepting alternative medicine

Steven Salzberg, Ph.D.

A 'Triumph' of Hype Over Reality

Alternative medicine is unscientific at best and dangerous at worst

David H. Freedman

Placebo or Not, These Treatments Work

The author replies to the directors of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Josephine Briggs, M.D., and Jack Killen, M.D.

Don't Dismiss These Treatments as Placebos

Taxpayers are funding studies on acupuncture, yoga, and other forms of alternative medicine—and for good reason

Panelists