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Copyright (c) 1998 Boston University School of Law
American Journal of Law & Medicine

ARTICLE: Western Medicine Opens the Door to Alternative Medicine


24 Am. J. L. and Med. 185


Kathleen M. Boozang +



Physicians have struggled to defeat alternative medicine, 1 and to obtain a monopoly over the health care of their patients, 2 since physicians began systematically organizing in the United States. They claim to oppose alternative medicine because it lacks efficacy, may waste precious health care dollars and may harm patients. Part II of this Article examines the ongoing debate about alternative medicine and the arguments that may wedge the door of Western medicine open to alternative treatment methods. Alternative medicine's successful entry into Western practice depends on convincing conventional medicine of the efficacy of alternative treatments, a task that remains largely undone. Part III explains why the debate about unproven alternative therapies differs from previous discussions about human research, and therefore merits independent consideration. Part IV argues that it is not ethically appropriate for physicians to offer or agree to provide alternative therapies whose efficacy remain unproven or are of dubious potential. Part V defends the conclusion that physicians should not offer unproven alternative therapies, but if certain circumstances exist to justify pursuing alternative treatments, physicians should adhere to the model of informed consent that governs the conduct of experimental clinical trials.

Organized medicine, since its inception, has fought to maintain a firm grip on the philosophy of health care generally, as well as on the specific treatments patients should have available to them. Lori Andrews succinctly captured this marshaling of power in ...
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