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Shadow Medicine: The Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies
     

Shadow Medicine: The Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies

by John S. Haller Jr.
 

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Can Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) find common ground? A distinguished historian of medicine, John S. Haller Jr., explores the epistemological foundations of EBM and the challenges these conceptual tools present for both conventional and alternative therapies. As he explores a possible reconciliation between their

Overview

Can Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) find common ground? A distinguished historian of medicine, John S. Haller Jr., explores the epistemological foundations of EBM and the challenges these conceptual tools present for both conventional and alternative therapies. As he explores a possible reconciliation between their conflicting approaches, Haller maintains a healthy, scientific skepticism yet finds promise in select complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies. Haller elucidates recent research on the placebo effect and shows how a new engagement between EBM and CAM might lead to a more productive medical practice that includes both the objectivity of evidence-based medicine and the subjective truth of the physician-patient relationship.

Haller's book tours key topics in the standoff between EBM and CAM: how and why the double blinded, randomized clinical trial (RCT) came to be considered the gold standard in modern medicine; the challenge of postmodern medicine as it counters the positivism of evidence-based medicine; and the politics of modern CAM and the rise of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. He conducts an in-depth case study of homeopathy, explaining why it has emerged as a poster-child for CAM, and assesses CAM's popularity despite its poor performance in clinical trials. Haller concludes with hope, showing how new experimental protocols might tease out the evidentiary basis for the placebo effect and establish a foundation for some reconciliation between EBM and CAM.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/28/2014
In this rigorous survey, Haller, professor of history and medical humanities at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, argues that the placebo effect is real, exhibits a powerful influence over body and mind, and that Western medicine must accommodate “some blending of the subjective and social aspects of healing.” His call comes at a time of “uneasy coexistence” between alternative therapies and conventional medical practice, and the challenges the placebo effect has on both. Haller notes that half of the doctors questioned in one 2006 study admitted to prescribing placebo treatments on a regular basis, though they may have couched their prescription in an ambiguous explanation of “a medicine not typically used for your condition.” The larger point, he explains, is that the placebo treatment proves “the whole of which is greater than the sum of its parts.” The book is equally concerned with the failure of alternative therapies to achieve scientific “legitimacy,” and the nagging question, still unanswered, for traditional medicine of whether standard random-controlled trials are ever “the sole judge” of a treatment’s safety or success. This provocative book is aimed at challenging the research community, and the questions it raises are important for patients and doctors alike. (July)
ZME Science
A great read... Brilliantly presented...
Pascal James Imperato
Shadow Medicine is authored by a master historian of medicine and represents an exciting voyage through the complex worlds of evidence-based medicine and complementary and alternative therapies. The author, who exercises great objectivity, sees possibilities in the placebo effect eventually serving as a catalyst to create common ground between conventional and alternative therapies.
Gerry Grob
Shadow Medicine explores the foundations of both reductionist biomedicine and complementary and alternative medicine. John S. Haller Jr. shows why the former is unable to deal adequately with the placebo effect and the latter cannot judge the efficacy of its individualistic interventions. This book is an important contribution to an understanding of the contemporary health scene and merits a wide audience.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231169042
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
07/08/2014
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

John S. Haller Jr. is emeritus professor of history and medical humanities at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His most recent books include The History of American Homeopathy: From Rational Medicine to Holistic Health Care; Swedenborg, Mesmer, and the Mind-Body Complex: The Roots of Complementary Medicine; and The History of New Thought: From Mental Healing to Positive Thinking and the Prosperity Gospel.

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