Warning Signs of Quackery and Fraud – Part 3

Here’s Part 3 of an excerpt from my and Donal O’Mathuna’s book, Alternative Medicine: The options, claims, evidence, how to choose wisely. You’ll find out more about the book here. Next week, I’ll post another five warning signs.

11. Does the proponent of the therapy claim to be criticized unfairly? Some proponents of CAM portray themselves as martyrs, persecuted by the government, the medical establishment, or some other organization with a stake in keeping you unaware of their breakthrough.

Conspiracy theories may be brought up, that the medical and pharmaceutical establishments are protecting their lucrative territory by keeping people sick. A physician may claim his license to practice medicine was revoked in order to silence him. Check the facts. His license may have been revoked because of behavior that endangered the health and lives of patients. He may have been censured in the public interest, not against it.

Kevin Trudeau has said, “You know, I have been attacked by the FTC and the FDA for making statements that are true.” However, this claim is not accurate. He was found guilty of making statements that were false. According to QuackWatch.org, “In fact, he made so many [false statements] that the FTC finally got a court order making it illegal for his [sic] to sell any products except publications.

When challenged by the FTC, Trudeau had the opportunity to defend himself by presenting evidence that his product claims were true. Instead of doing this, he agreed to go out of the ‘natural cures’ business. If he had facts to back him up, do you think he would [have] agreed to stop selling products whose sales totaled hundreds of millions of dollars?”

12. When challenged, do defenders attack the critic instead of responding to the challenge? Be wary of those who attack the messenger to avoid dealing with the message. Proponents of a therapy with sufficient evidence to back up their claims do not need to attack the challenger. They respond by giving the evidence to support their claims.

13. Do proponents claim that research will prove their therapy is effective as soon as studies are conducted? That might be the case, but a lack of evidence means there is no support for effectiveness. In legal arenas, ignorance of the law is no defense. In science, a lack of data never supports a conclusion.

14. Is training to provide the therapy offered only at obscure private institutions instead of accredited professional schools? Can anyone, with payment of a sizable tuition or fee, become a practitioner after only a few hours or days? That might be all it takes to learn about the therapy or remedy. But it takes years of training and experience to be able to properly diagnose people’s conditions.

15. Do proponents use expertise in other areas to lend weight to their medical claims? A Ph.D. might mean someone knows a lot in some area, but not necessarily anything related to health care. Just because someone is very caring and concerned doesn’t mean they know how to best treat your body (or mind or spirit). Find out if the “expert” has any training in medicine or a related health care field.

You can find more information in my book, Alternative Medicine: The options, claims, evidence, how to choose wisely.

Here’s the entire series:

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