Alternative Medicine and Cancer
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Why, In Medicine, is the Onus for "Proof" Always on the Claimant?
This question crops up all the time.
The answer lies in the practicalities. There is very
little benefit to mankind from a good treatment if you cannot convince others
of its worth. And there are a zillion possible medical claims,
but little time,
and finite resources.
The very question also reveals a serious misunderstanding of how medical
knowledge advances. I
have put "proof" in quotation marks,
because "building up the evidence" is
a far better expression. In medical science we only approach true "proof" when
findings are found to be replicable i.e. others get the same results. So in
the first instance the evidence merely needs to be enough to make others take an
interest in the proposition and test it out for themselves.
If the evidence is not enough to achieve that, then it is by definition not enough. Allegations of bias, closed-mindedness or conspiracy do nothing to firm up the evidence, while inhibiting productive dialogue. Worse, such allegations have been allowed to become a convenient cop-out for every charlatan and fraud in the health business.
History shows that nothing can for long withstand the
inevitable and relentless accrual of evidence that attends the valid claim - not even the dogma
of a powerful religion, in the case of Galileo's. This would
apply in triplicate to a cancer cure. Little more than rumour and a few
claims have been enough to provoke intense media interest and public hysteria,
and even force Government action in relation to some cancer "cures". Examples are Laetrile, the Di
Bella treatment in Italy, and recently the Holt treatment in Australia..
Imagine the impact of even a handful of genuine cures of serious cancers.
Another consideration can arise with some medical claims. That is that the question may be of too little practical medical importance to arouse much interest. We don't necessarily need a dozen different ways of treating anxiety or tiredness, for example. And we know that people like being treated. They value and respond positively to any kind of medical nurture, whether it really does anything physiologically or not. We don't need to be investing resources into researching that over and over again, but it seems we often are with alternative methods seeking vindication..
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