Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Enforced Quackery: Day 5

Day 5 consisted mostly in a visit from a herbalist. Well, I say a herbalist, she seems mostly to have worked in Marketing for A Vogel - the "educational" material from this session consists of no less than 9 advertising leaflets from that company along with three or four studies which find that herbal medicine is just as effective as conventional medicine at treating certain illnesses (more cherrypicking? I don't know - maybe these medicines actually are as effective as the artificial counterparts). I would post links to the leaflets, but I can't seem to find them online, and I'm not sure I really want to give them even more free advertising. They were also given a free sample of one of the products (I think it was Echinacea throat spray).

Now, I am not a medical student, and my girlfriend has only been one for just over a year, but we're both pretty sure that it is not standard practice to invite representatives from drug companies to give a brief talk to students about how awesome their company's products are (if it is, we're pretty sure it shouldn't be). And can only imagine the reaction from the Alt. Med community if it were widely reported that Big Pharma had been having friendly one-to-ones with students in which it passed out free samples of it's products, and leaflets explaining how ibuprofen was way better than arnica for treating a sore ankle.

Anyway - the other thing to come out of day five was more details about the assessment for the module. There will be an essay on the case study from day 4, and my girlfriend has also chosen to write an essay on "The role of homeopathic medicine in the health service" (or some very similar title - it might be the role of homeopathic medicine in society, which I guess is slightly more pallatable). If anyone's still reading this, she'd be very grateful for suggestions on how it might be possible to write an essay about that, to be marked by a homeopath, without being intellectually dishonest.

Day 6 was today - I'll post something about that as soon as I've spoken to her.


Dr Aust said...

If your other half hasn't done her essay yet, I would suggest a discussion on (i) the reasons why patients might request homeopathy (ii) the ethical questions surrounding placebo therapies. A tack (slightly provocative) might be "If placebo therapies are perceived to be useful by some doctors, but discouraged for ethical reasons, are the GPs who use homeopathy simply finding a way to keep using placebo therapy?" I notice you discussed this idea a bit in the "Day 7" post. If she wrote about it that way, but kept it sober, she could perhaps pass the assessment without having to tell porkies to keep the homeopath happy.

Another tack might be "how do you given talking therapy to people who might not think they want talking therapy"... to which the answer might be "treat them with homeopathy"

Dr Aust said...

PS A paper which could serve as a discussion starter for an essay of either kind is here.