The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America / Edition 1

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While medical science has never had more to offer, many people are turning to "alternatives" such as chiropractic, homeopathy, "organic" foods, vitamin supplements, herbs, chelation therapy, and occult "healers." Millions of Americans who are unenlightened, seriously ill, or desperate have fallen into the clutches of TV promoters, nutrition hustlers, or other con artists whose offerings are ineffective or dangerous - and sometimes lethal. But quackery is not confined to individuals who fit the popular image of a quack. Significant numbers of well-trained physicians have strayed from science into "fad diagnoses" and unproven treatments that lack a rational basis. The Health Robbers, featuring more than twenty highly respected authorities, explains the dangers of quack medicine, "alternative" cancer remedies, health fads, and "miracle diets." It argues for stronger laws and more vigorous policing of the marketplace. And it answers such questions as: "Are 'organic' foods worth their extra cost?" "Can acupuncture cure anything?" "Will vitamin B[subscript 12] shots pep me up?" "Can diet cure arthritis?" "Will spinal adjustments help my health?" "Will amino acids 'pump up' my muscles?" "Where can reliable information be obtained?" and "What's the best way to get good medical care?" Even if the answers to some of these questions seem obvious, the details in this volume, written in an informative, highly readable, and easy-to-understand style, will astound you. Quackery often leads to harm because it turns ill people away from legitimate and trusted therapeutic procedures. However, its heaviest toll is in financial loss not only to those who pay directly, but to everyone who pays for bogus treatments through taxes, insurance premiums, and other ways that are less obvious. Chapter titles include: "The Food Fear Epidemic" ("Beware of chemical con men"), "The Overselling of Herbs" ("More hype than help"), "Quackery and the Media" ("Should we believe what we see and hear?"

Discusses alternative cancer remedies, hlth fads, miracle diets, acupuncture, spinal adjustments, amino acids, etc.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Arguing that ``quackery is at an all-time high,'' psychiatrist Barrett ( Health Schemes, Scams and Frauds ) and Jarvis, an adviser to the American Council on Science and Health, in a comprehensive if not altogether well-balanced survey, come down hard on misleading advertising and news media, sales and network marketing of weight-control and beauty systems. The authors also deplore patients who renounce established practices for alternative remedies, self-doctoring with herbs, vitamins, etc., along with psychic and cult healing. One questions their failure to distinguish among forms of non-traditional treatment, in effect putting chiropractic into the same category as, say, faith healing, although the efficacy of chiropractic and acupuncture is no longer a very controversial issue. The authors conclude with a review of our health laws and agencies (Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration) and other sources of information and avenues to redress abuse. Author tour. (Oct.)
This collection of articles follows the American Medical Association's "party line." The papers, written for the layperson, rail against chiropractic, homeopathy, herbs, organic foods, acupuncture, eye exercises, antifluoridation, diet pills, unproven allergies, fraudulent AIDS and cancer cures, and other practices, lumping together the good, the bad, and the ugly. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
William Beatty
In her foreword, Ann Landers states that each chapter is written by a "highly respected authority in his or her field," which makes editor Barrett an authority on cancer, arthritis, weight control, allergies, AIDS, the skeletal system, nutrition, and mental health. Hmmm. This book that broadly examines quackery and its ramifications includes especially good chapters on "Make-Believe Doctors," "Prominent Promoters" (i.e., individuals), "Health Crusaders" (organizational variety), and "Quackery and the Media" (in which "60 Minutes" gets its knocks); and James Harvey Young's "Why Quackery Persists" is the type of thoughtful and clearly expressed piece he's been producing for years. The last three chapters provide excellent material on, respectively, existing legal protections and what laws are still needed, "Getting the Most from Your Doctor," and organizations and methods for fighting quackery.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780879758554
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/1993
  • Series: Consumer Health Library Series
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 526
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.76 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword: P. T. Barnum was right
1 How Quackery Sells: Clinical tricks of the supersalesman 1
2 Vitamin Pushers and Food Quacks: How to spot a nutrition hustler 23
3 The Make-Believe Doctors: Medical impostors 45
4 Occult Health Practices: Why the proof of the pudding is not in the eating 55
5 The Food-Fear Epidemic: Beware of chemical con men 67
6 "Alternative" Cancer Treatment: Doublespeak that can kill you 83
7 The Misery Merchants: Exploiting arthritis sufferers 101
8 Weight Control: Facts, Fads, and Frauds: Beware of fat profiteers 113
9 Avoiding the "Marginal" Medic: How to spot a fuzzy-thinking physician 125
10 Unproven "Allergies": An Epidemic of Nonsense "Environmental illness" and the "yeast connection" 137
11 Immunoquackery: Riding the crest of AIDS 155
12 The Spine Salesmen: Don't let chiropractors fool you 161
13 Homeopathy: Is It Medicine? Much ado about nothing 191
14 Genuine Fakes: The "organic" ripoff 203
15 The Overselling of Herbs: More hype than help 213
16 Vitalistic Gurus and Their Legacies: Natural health? 225
17 The Multilevel Mirage: Person-to-person hype 253
18 Acupuncture: Nonsense with Needles: Don't get stuck 259
19 Nutrition for Athletes: Myths vs. Facts: An insider's views on "ergogenic aids" 269
20 Quackery by Mail: The "guarantees" are as bogus as the product 281
21 The Tooth Robbers: The unfounded attack on fluoridation 295
22 Dubious Dental Care: Delusions and poor science in the dental office 307
23 The Gadgeteers: Exploiting science 321
24 The Miracle Merchants: Faith healing doesn't work 337
25 The Eye Exorcisors: Don't throw away your glasses 347
26 The "Holistic" Hodgepodge: Look beyond the slogans 355
27 Prominent Promoters: Have they confused you? 367
28 "Health Freedom" Crusaders: Fighting to make quackery legal 397
29 The Mental Health Maze: How to find a therapist 421
30 The Mind Robbers: Destructive cults 443
31 Quackery and the Media: Should we believe what we see and hear? 447
32 Why Quackery Persists: Quacks never sleep 457
33 The Truth-Seekers: Voices of scientific truth 465
34 Strengths and Weaknesses of Our Laws: How well does government protect you? 477
35 Getting the Most from Your Doctor: Communication tips 485
36 Fighting Quackery: Tips for Activists: Your effort may even save a life! 495
Recommended Reading 501
Index 507
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