A wonderful article in the Guardian this week is discussing the ethics of alternative medicine1, which at best is seen as a placebo and harmless, however this article explores how these treatments can actually be more harmful than no treatment. This may seem surprising at first, after all, treatments like homeopathy don’t contain a single molecule of the drug, so how could taking this possibly be harmful? However, many alternative medicine practitioners do not give patients all the information, the information is often misleading or wrong, and they also fail to obtain informed consent, which is a basic requirement of ethical medical practice. Another interesting finding is that those receiving a treatment have the belief that it is doing something beneficial, and so are more likely to have increased risky behaviour, because subconsciously they believe that the treatment will be counteracting such actions, for example smokers given a treatment they were told was a detox and would improve their health, and those given this treatment increased the amount they smoked in comparison to the control group2.
E Markham (2011). Awful Alternatives Blogspot