Dr. Weil is often seen as the smiling “mainstream” of alternative medicine. He’s a real doctor (unlike, say, Gary Null), and much of what he advocates is standard and uncontroversial nutritional advice. But Weil illustrates the two biggest problems with so-called alternative medicne: once you’ve decided science is dispensible, the door is open to anything, no matter how insane; and no matter how altruistic you may start, sooner or later you start selling snake oil. Most doctors out there are working hard to help their patients prevent and overcome disease use the available evidence. Others decide that science is too constraining and start practicing at the periphery of knowledge, throwing plausibility and ethics to the wind.
The fact that Weil claims to donate to charity all of his ill-gotten gains does not mitigate the harm he causes.
The flu pandemic has been challenging to all of us who practice medicine. We try to keep up day to day with the latest numbers, evidence, and best practices, while trying not to worry about getting ill. And since the vaccine isn’t widely available yet, we also worry about our family’s health. So we go about our work every day, wearing masks when appropriate and washing hands frequently. If the numbers reach a certain threshold, we will implement sophisticated pandemic plans.
All of that is rather hard, though, so perhaps we should just throw caution to the wind and start selling flu snake oil just like the smiling Dr. Weil.