The Weekly Waluation of the Weasel Words of Woo #3

Last Week’s Entry: Everyone’s a Winner!

The resounding total of 4 “translations” for the second W^5 entry might have been trying to tell me something…nah!

I gotta say that each of the four nailed the central point: the esteemed Institute of Medicine (IOM), a subset of the esteemed National Academy of Sciences, has decided that it’s just fine—no, it is “important” and even “required”—that when it comes to “CAM,” the medical profession dispense with ethics, law, and science. Otherwise we might mistakenly argue, er, against the “integration of CAM therapies with conventional medicine.” That, clearly, would be unacceptable.

Stephen Barrett and others have critiqued some of remainder of the text. Regarding our own group of translators: yeah, you are all winners, but Stu once again rose above the crowd. Whadizzy, some kinda ringer? If he keeps this up I might have to insist that he be tested for performance-enhancing substances.

Hoodathunk that the IOM’s opinions are for sale? They are: the language that you deconstructed was bought and paid for, as we clunky Americans are so fond of saying, by…you and me! Yup, our tax dollars, funneled through the NCCAM and some other government agencies, generated the very Pap that we Smeared.

This Week’s Entry

In order to encourage more participation, I’ll try limiting entries to a single paragraph each, for a while anyway. This week’s entry, which will be the first of several from the same treatise, is found on the website of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as part of its “CAM Education Initiative“:

EDCAM – CAM and Medical Education Report

Medicine today is experiencing a paradigm shift that involves the blending of two disparate philosophies of health and disease, the biomedical or scientific reductionist view and the clinical, experiential holistic view. While the biomedical model reduces disease to a disturbance in biochemical processes and relies heavily on the “curative model” of care, holistic medicine derives from a “healing model,” which emphasizes the complex interplay between multiple factors: biochemical, environmental, psychological, and spiritual.

Feel free not only to restate it in the Queen’s English (it’s already in the Prince’s), but to comment upon its assertions. Remember, you gotta week, and I’ll announce the lucky winners in 2 weeks.

Happy waluating!

The Misleading Language and Weekly Waluation of the Weasel Words of Woo series:

  1. Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Integrative Medicine’
  2. Integrative Medicine: “Patient-Centered Care” is the new Medical Paternalism

Posted in: Humor, Medical Academia, Politics and Regulation

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15 thoughts on “The Weekly Waluation of the Weasel Words of Woo #3

  1. DVMKurmes says:

    My translation;

    “Medicine today is experiencing a conflict between the science-based view and the warm, fuzzy feelings some people get from the “holistic”, experiential view. While science-based medicine seeks to find the actual causes of disease and seeks to find cures that actually work, understanding that experience and anecdote can be misleading. “Holistic” medicine attempts to “heal” by emphasizing the interaction between the actual disease, the environment, the patient’s psychology and spirituality (which can be manipulated and taken advantage of by unethical practitioners). If the science based model does not offer a satisfactory result or seems too difficult, perhaps resorting to good old-fashioned wishful thinking may help.”

    They are using a false dichotomy here-there is no reason that science based medical professionals do not consider the whole patient. In my experience, many people want a magical dose that will solve their problem instantly. When the treatment involves more expense than expected, changes in the environment, diet, or a psychological problem the practitioner’s job and the patient’s (and animal owner’s in my case) becomes more difficult and time consuming. This can make normally sensible people seek out alternatives that may not make sense, but a slick salesperson can often convince them otherwise. The fact that ethical professionals need to warn of possible side effects and complications can be frightening at times.

  2. Michelle B says:

    My translation:

    “CAM practitioners don’t know their arse from their elbow. On the other hand, practitioners of evidence-based medicine, with their clarity and strong connection to reality (and with their annoyingly higher rate of proven clinical success), inspire CAM practitioners to develop the only edge they have which is to pretend that ‘healing’ is more potent and desirable in some mysterious way than ‘curative.’ In this way, no one will notice their lack of efficacy as everyone will be focusing instead on finding this holy grail (this cup will be overflowing with ‘life energy’, of course) of perfect and absolute healing.”

  3. Reductionist, scientific medicine has been just too damn good at treating disease with the result that there are an awful lot of very healthy, wealthy people out there with a lot of time on their hands trying to get into the “feel good” business. With nothing better to do they sit around the table drinking Perrier and Chardonay and philosophizing or fantasizing about ways to make their lives and ours totally risk free and absolutely perfect.

    The saddest part is that they are now very successfully infecting what were previously scientific medical institutions with their illness sometimes called Foggy Brain Syndrome.

    Now please excuse me. I think I’m having a heart attack. I have to call 911 so that they can get my psychologist and my preacher over here immediately. Surely if one of them can’t save me the other can.

  4. pmoran says:

    Illness can be predominantly psychosomatic or stem from personal or communal hypochondriasis. We are not supposed to know that these days, so here is a fancy way of getting to ask your patients “and how have things been otherwise?”.

  5. wertys says:

    First up a ‘paradigm shift’ as defined by Thomas Kuhn is a radical, transforming change in worldview from which science can not retreat. Examples include the germ theory of disease, or research on genetics. Only someone completely ignorant of the history of medicine would consider the reintroduction of older, disproven therapies back into the medical canon as a paradigm shift.

    Like most practising clinicians, I find the idea that the dichotomy of the ‘biomedical’ model and the ‘biopsychosocial’ or ‘holistic’ model is as phoney now as it was when the ‘biopsychosocial’ model was first postulated in the mid 70s. The idea that practising clinicians do not care about the complexities of looking after their patients in the real world is insulting and simplistic. Since Harvey Cushing enjoined doctors to ‘view the patient in his world’ the ideal of scientific medicine has been to marry the stunning advances in basic science and physiology with applying them in the real world for the benefit of individual patients. As far as I am aware that has not gone out of fashion, though doctors have not always been adequately trained to communicate complex decisions in 25 words or less.

    The idea that the ‘biomedical model’ inevitably leads to medical decision making without regard to the social or environmental milieu is a non seqitur. It is essentially a slur propagated by disaffected magical thinkers who don’t like that bad things can happen to people who don’t deserve them.

    In any case, the major unstated premise of this wholly fallacious paragraph is that if only doctors could always give good news and really REALLY CARE about their patients, all will be well. As Steve Novella often says, the deficiencies in scientific medicine do not mean that some type of ‘CAM of the Gaps’ should be the only alternative.

  6. Stu says:

    Thanks to my fresh batch of snark-steroids:

    Medicine today is experiencing a withering attack of the stupid that involves the blending of two disparate philosophies of health and disease: the scientific reductionist view that actually works, and the one that makes you feel good about yourself while making an entire cottage industry of quackness indecent amounts of money. While the biomedical model reduces disease to what actually goes on in the body and relies heavily on the “curative model” of care (the kind that “cures”), holistic medicine derives from a “healing model,” (the kind that “heals” the practitioner’s checkbook), which emphasizes the complex interplay between multiple factors: what goes on inside the body, what goes on outside the body (for example, what your neighbor had for lunch), how you feel about your feelings, and how your favorite deity, should he/she/it exist, might feel about the matter (and how you feel about that).

  7. DBonez says:

    My translation:

    Medicine today is experiencing a ridiculous paradigm shift that involves the preposterous blending of two disparate philosophies of health and disease: the biomedical or scientific reductionist view that’s proven to work, even in traumatic situations, and the faith-based, “works-because-there’s-nothing-really-wrong-in-the-first-place-but-if-there-is-you’re-probably-going-to-die” view. While the biomedical model reduces disease to a disturbance in biochemical processes and relies heavily on the proven and factual, “reality-based model” of care, faith-healing derives from an “omnipotence model,” which emphasizes the useless interplay between multiple factors: stupidity, naivety, imperceptibility, non-functionality, and spirituality.

  8. overshoot says:

    While the biomedical model reduces disease to a disturbance in biochemical processes and relies heavily on the “curative model” of care, holistic medicine derives from a “healing model,” which emphasizes the complex interplay between multiple factors: biochemical, environmental, psychological, and spiritual.

    Hey, I learned that one ‘way back in an only slightly different context:

    “An engineer starts with a complex problem and starts breaking it down into smaller and smaller parts until each can be solved individually. In contrast, a politician starts with small, solvable problems and stirs them together until he has a giant hairball that’s completely insoluble.”

    One might perhaps apply the same Pirsig-esqe cleavage to many disciplines, such as medicine and marketing. Bonus points for identifying which goes to which camp.

  9. overshoot says:

    And, I might add:

    “I have given up my search for truth and am now looking for a good fantasy.”

    If your MD insists on telling you the unattractive truth, find someone who will tell you comforting lies. I’ve certainly worked for enough managers like that.

  10. Falx says:

    Medicine today is experiencing a paradigm shift towards medicine yesterday. It involves the blending of the philosophies of modern and medieval medicine: the biomedical or scientific reductionist view, and the “I’ll just remove that demon for you by draining your blood with this rusty dagger. Don’t mind my unwashed hands” view. While the biomedical model reduces disease to a disturbance in biochemical processes and relies heavily on the “curative model” of care, holistic medicine increases disease to something ineffable, like the combination of God and sparkles above the mountains on that spring morning you fell in love.

  11. Calli Arcale says:

    Hmm, this sounds like fun!

    Medicine today is learning to relax its standards of proof such that rigorously tested hypotheses can be blended with untestable ones. While the traditional model tries to determine what’s wrong and cure it, alternative medicine instead emphasizes helping people feel happy about about themselves while leaving the body to do whatever it can to heal itself.

  12. Joe says:

    Once I went to med school- what a grind, had to think all the time.
    Then I became a woo woo- what a fool, brother can you paradigm?

  13. ShawnMilo says:


    Medicine today is experiencing an epidemic of unscientific ideas infiltrating popular culture in its name. Science-based medicine, using only methods proven in trials designed specifically to disprove their efficacy, is now forced to share shelf-space, mindshare, and media exposure with unproven or disproven claims made by misguided or dishonest people promoting “spiritual,” pseudo-scientific, or emotional claims. These procedures and products are usually accompanied by vague descriptions of how they work, what they treat, and why they should be trusted. These descriptions use clever wording to disguise ambiguous statements and logical fallacies intended to overwhelm or confuse consumers, rather than educate them. In addition to flooding the market with rubbish which makes it more difficult for people to seek appropriate treatment, some of these claims actively attempt to dissuade people from receiving proven medical care by making unfounded claims about potential dangers. Receiving unscientific treatment and refusing scientific treatment causes unnecessary suffering and death, and should thus be eliminated using a program of public education.

  14. Michael X says:

    Medicine today is experiencing a … shift that involves … two disparate philosophies of health and disease, the … scientific … view and the … holistic view. While the [scientific] model … relies heavily on … curative … care, holistic medicine derives … a … model … between … psychological, and spiritual.

    Being disparate philosophies, we can thus conclude that holistic medicine does not focus on curative care.

    Cut out the BS and even liars will end up saying something true.

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