There’s no alternative

<strong>Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All</strong>

Rose Shapiro <em>Harvill

From acupuncture to zero balancing, via homoeopathy and urine therapy, this provocative book is a fierce attack on the “epidemic” of alternative medicine, now used by one in three of us. The author, a “fact-favouring sceptic”, argues that this huge business is duping us, because there is no evidence that alternative medicine works, and it sometimes puts health at risk.

Shapiro argues that cancer brings together “the most duplicitous and dangerous manifestations” of the alternative medicine culture. She is stinging about the alternative medicine promoters who accuse doctors, researchers and drug companies (“the cancer industry”) of suppressing “natural treatments” and even a cure itself, to retain power and protect profits.

Shapiro is outraged that alternative medicine is becoming increasingly available through the National Health Service, and cites a London hospital where spiritual healers work with leukaemia patients. She argues that the NHS is wasting money and “encouraging the public appetite for yet more worthless therapies”. Although careful not to criticise those who use alternative medicine, she is perhaps overly optimistic that they will respond to her call to be more critical of its claims.

This article first appeared in the 17 March 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Iraq: the war that changed us