- Evidence-Based Medicine (the real stuff)
- Anecdotal Medicine
I think these terms are clearer than: alternative, complementary, traditional, Western, etc. These current terms are too euphemistic for me plus the terms come with baggage that I believe favour the Woo factor.
Why now? You’ll see some posts for me re: health care and use of Anecdotal Medicine (have to use my own terms now) based on recent experiences. Plus, I’ve been marking essays from a course that includes topics on ‘Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)’ so it stirred up the issue for me.
Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) is so much more than traditional or Western medicine. Traditional implies tweed jackets and things that haven’t changed for centuries = a stagnant feel. There are lots of new therapies that work and are based on science. Sometimes they aren’t super sexy but can have a huge impact on patients (e.g. antibiotics for ulcers). Of course, using the term Western medicine is actually saying not-Eastern, suggesting that mysticism of the East is better than evidence.
My main issue is the words used to describe CAM or Anecdotal Medicine. My rant will be far too long if I write about the treatments but many others have written about ‘woo’ treatments including Respectful Insolence and Science-Based Medicine.
Anecdotal Medicine is just that – a collection of stories. It worked for my neighbour or I feel it in my gut (Jenny McCarthy but I just can’t link to her). I know that many people won’t want me to include the word medicine in the term but it allows a direct comparison between science-based and story-based treatments.
Why don’t I like the words used for Anecdotal Medicine? Alternative is used a lot and it implies that the user is on the cutting edge, knows something that others haven’t figured out. We like to think we are different – how many people describe themselves as loners or high school losers? [There is research on how we all think we are unique – if you know where it is, please let me know]
Complementary is a type of accomodist approach – you are enhancing Evidence-Based medicine. If patients tell health care providers about all treatments, there are no interactions, and patients aren’t losing their house to pay, I can be OK with it – people can choose how to spend their money. My issue is that Complementary medicine is often lumped together with Alternative = CAM and my caveats aren’t followed. Complementary and Alternative should not be equalled (as is done in this course) and evidence should always come first.
And this might be silly but I think using the term Complementary could be confused with Complimentary. And that’s such a nice, positive word. When I think about the words to describe Anecdotal Medicine, I get a picture of a nice, pleasing woman who notices when you get your hair cut.
Contrast to: The terms associated with Evidence-Based Medicine make me think of a frowning old man in a tweed coat. In general, the grumpy version has a harder PR battle even when they’re right.
So, I’d like to start a movement where we don’t use loaded terms and describe treatments properly:
What do you think? Will you join me?