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If you're a fan of acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic therapy,
or holistic medicine, you probably won't want to read TRICK OR
TREATMENT by Simon Singh and Dr. Edzard Ernst . . . its premise,
as stated in the subtitle, is to present THE UNBELEVABLE FACTS
ABOUT ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE.
In doing so, they state in the very first two paragraphs what readers
can expect to find:
* The contents of this book are guided entirely by a single pithy
sentence, written over 2,000 years ago by Hippocrates of Cos.
Recognized as the father of medicine, he stated:
"There are, in fact, two things, science and opinion;
the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance."
There's much to like about this book . . . for one, there were
interesting tidbits about famous people, including the following
about Florence Nightingale:
* Nightingale's passion for statistics enabled her to persuade the
government of the importance of a whole series of health reforms.
For example, many people had argued that training nurses was
a waste of time, because patients cared or by trained nurses
actually had a higher mortality rate than those treated by
untrained staff. Nightingale, however, pointed out that this was only
because more serious cases were being sent to those wards with
trained nurses. If the intention is to compare the results from two
groups, then it is essential . . . to assign patients randomly
to the two groups. Sure enough, when Nightingale set up trials
in which patients were randomly assigned to trained and untrained
nurses, it became clear that their counterparts in wards with untrained
nurses. Furthermore, Nightingale used statistics to show that home
births were safer than hospital births, presumably because British homes
were cleaner than Victorian hospitals. Her interests also ranged
overseas, because she also used mathematics to study the influence
of sanitation on healthcare in rural India.
I also liked how the authors clearly explained concepts and while
doing so, incorporated some humor into what otherwise could have
been very dry material . . . for example, as indicated in this passage:
* Scientists even began to poke fun at homeopaths. For example,
because homeopathic liquid remedies are so diluted that they
often contain only water, scientists would sarcastically endorse
their use for the treatment of one particular medical condition,
namely dehydration. Or they would jokingly offer to make each
other a drink of homeopathic coffee, which was presumably
incredibly diluted and yet tasted incredibly strong, because
homeopaths believe that lower amounts of active ingredient
are associated with greater potency. Similar logic also implied that
a patient who forgot to take a homeopathic remedy might die
of an overdose.
At the very end of the book, there's an excellent "Rapid Guide to
Alternative Therapies" . . . these cover some 36 others, including
Colonic Irrigation, Feldenkrais Method, Magnet Therapy, Osteopathy,
Be forewarned that you might not like what you read in TRICK
OR TREATMENT, particularly if you believe in any and/or all
of the above . . . however, it will get you thinking--and that's
always a good thing.