Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Problem with Holistic Medicine

Originally posted on March 20, 2015

Holistic and alternative medicine has been largely coopted by quacks. This is not to say that some of its approaches are valid. I suspect they are, and indeed that they will induce a revolution or two in the field. However, there are 1000 alternative holistic approaches out there and 950 are probably not valid, in light of the general ratio in the last century and a half. Any study of the larger field that includes alternative ideas reinforces this.

Let’s say that 50 are good, or at least show promise; indeed, 14 of those are right on, absolutely; and another 36 have elements that promise benefits. The trouble is that we don’t know how to tell the 14, 36 from the 950. They all seem to feel entitled to marketing before really rigorously testing their cures.

A friend wrote about the need to integrate approaches, and in a sense, this, too is holistic, but addresses more established methods or medicines. She notes that some doctors don’t bother to really coordinate with others in the care of their patients, as if people could be managed by specialties working separately. Her point is that integration is really needed, and it’s a good point. But words, semantics, overlap: holistic, alternative, integrative. So words can suggest different things.

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