Ethical And Legal Issues

Alternative medicine covers a dizzyingly heterogeneous group of medical theories and practices. Alternatives range from the different forms of faith healing, Christian Science, and folk medicine to allegedly scientific systems like homeopathy, chiropractic, and visualization therapy. Also included under the term are acupuncture; herbalism; iridology; the traditional medicines of India, China, Japan, the Philippines, and indigenous peoples; holistic medicine; naturopathy (treatment using agents or elements found in nature); shamanism; yoga; radiesthesia (therapy based on detection of natural waves of force emanating from nature); color healing; aromatherapy; transcendental meditation; crystal therapy; thalassotherapy (treatment based on sea bathing, sea voyages, etc.); massage therapy; midwifery; and many others. Certain shared negative elements justify lumping together such diverse medical theories and practices. They include marginal social standing or fringe status; exclusion from mainline professional journals and public funding for research; exemption from mainline licensing requirements; and opposition to conventional medicine. The essential ethical and legal considerations raised by alternative medicine are veracity and nonmaleficence. Because false claims of healing efficiency can cause direct and indirect harm to patients, any such claims violate the essential ethical standards of all medical practice, whether alternative or conventional practice.

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