Oct 05 2008
Kimball Atwood IV, MD is a practicing anesthesiologist who is also board-certified in internal medicine. He had been interested in pseudoscience for years, but became active in 2000 after a nursing conference at his own hospital advocated Therapeutic Touch, Guided Imagery, and several other implausible practices as effective treatments for pleural mesothelioma. Shortly thereafter he became a member of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medical Practitioners, and subsequently wrote its Minority Report opposing licensure for naturopaths.
Dr. Atwood has written many articles and treatises on implausible medical claims, among which are several concerning naturopathy, such as here and here and on the Naturowatch website. He has provided expert opinion to the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine regarding non-standard practices. He is an associate editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine and co-editor of Naturowatch. He is particularly concerned with implausible claims being promoted, tacitly or otherwise, by medical schools and government. He is also dubious about the ethics of human trials of such claims.
Early in his investigations he noticed that academic medical treatments of implausible claims are typically more optimistic than the evidence warrants. He observed that this is because such treatments consider only clinical trials while ignoring other, usually more compelling evidence: facts of nature, for example. He soon found a few others who shared this opinion, including Drs. Steven Novella and Wallace Sampson of this Blog. All recognized that the phenomenon exposes a major weakness in “Evidence-Based Medicine” (EBM): its calculus lacks the formal inclusion of much external evidence, particularly basic science. EBM therefore presumes an unjustified faith in the rigor of its only real tools: clinical trials, “frequentist statistics,” and meta-analyses. Dr. Atwood is pleased that the Science Based Medicine Blog is a forum for discussion of this topic, among others.
Kimball’s posts for Science-Based Medicine are archived here.