Ontario Doctors Given Green Light to Promote Quackery

Over the past 2 years, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) have been attempting to update their policy on the use of non-conventional medical therapies.  They have landed on a draft policy called Non-allopathic (Non-conventional) Therapies in Medical Practice and there will be many in the skeptical community that will have a problem with the policy.

The Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) certainly found many problems, and after our own evaluation of the draft policy and policies in other jurisdiction, we have produced a response to the draft policy that we have submitted to the CPSO today.

Among the many difficulties CASS has with the policy, the most obvious has to do with the title.  As Flora at the Winnipeg Skeptics blog detailed well, the term “allopathy” signals a wrong direction being taken by those attempting to maintain a neutral position when describing non-conventional medicine.  The term, coined by Samual Hahnemann as a counter for his term homeopathy, means to treat disease with its opposite, in order to cure it.  This term misses the mark completely in terms of modern medical diagnosis and the adoption of the term by the CPSO bespeaks an undue influence over the committee by alternative medical promoters.

The other problems CASS has with the draft policy concern the wishy-washy position on evidence that the CPSO seems to have when it comes to non-conventional treatments – after all if they were proved useful, they would now be conventional medicine – and the attempt to muzzle physicians from expressing their personal professional opinion on any non-conventional therapy if it falls into the category of “non-clinical” opinion.  This is a very ambiguous term and who really knows what they mean by the term, but you can read the policy and our response to it and decide for yourself.

I would not be writing this if I thought we could do nothing to oppose and change the viewpoint of the CPSO.  That is why CASS is calling on members of both the public and the medical field to read the policy and comment on it. There is strong representation in the current comments of supporters of alternative medicine and we do not want all of the feedback to be pro-pseudoscience.  Please visit the CPSO policy site above and fill out the comment form available at the bottom of the page.  The deadline for this consultation is September 1st 2011, so we must move quickly and let the CPSO know the safety of Ontarians depends upon sound medical opinion based on modern scientific evidence.

Picture via Flckr and Joel Friesen under Creative Commons lic


14 Responses to “Ontario Doctors Given Green Light to Promote Quackery”

  1. DP says:

    I thought society is supposed to become more rational as time goes on. Instead it seems to me as if the whole continent is losing it’s f@&$&!? mind

  2. Flora says:

    Thanks for the link! Physicians have a responsibility to our patients, and this sort of imbues false confidence in CAM within the population. People who say “well it works for me” and shrug off all evidence (or lack thereof) should be allowed to go do what they want, but it’s the people on the fence that are going to be swayed by this that disconcerts me. Patients trust their doctors, and they trust that any treatment they might provide is based on good evidence.

    Promoting woo is not without harm. Many naturopaths, for example, advocate the use of “natural” vaccinations for lethal diseases like malaria. Supplements have been advocated over the use of anti-retroviral therapy for HIV. Woo can and will kill people, and endorsement of quackery is tantamount to letting these deaths happen.

    • Ariana says:

      Drugs kill people ten times quicker. Do you ever listen to the drug commercials . . . they tell you. This drug could kill you but at least you will get a good night sleep or relief from depression . . . yeah right . . . permanent relief.

  3. crf says:

    You’re doing great work.

    Why you ended up having to do it is part of a sad story that might be told about the Ontario medical profession. Are they apathetic, clueless, uncaring, confused about science, incompetent or defeatist?

  4. Curtis says:

    When I first saw your post, I went right to the cpso site and read the policy. Ugh. Then I took the survey, probably the most extensive use of comment area I have ever used on a survey before. It took me about an hour to tell them what I thought the new proposed policy. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Keep up the good work at Skeptic North and CASS.

  5. Morvis13 says:

    I’m trusting my doctor to be an educated voice of reason that would know better than to prescribe me something that didn’t work. When the modern doctor gives up on science they might as well be wearing a mask and dancing to make it rain.

  6. Mary P says:

    Filled out the survey even though I am not from Ontario. I do not want my province to follow the lead in this type of policy. I too made extensive use of the comments.

  7. Nancy says:

    Thanks for the post – have read the policy and comments posted to date. Impressed with physician responses. Shows clearly which parties are the thoughtful, compassionate and educated people I would want to turn to with questions about my health.

    Policy is full of contradictions and vagueness – I will write and post feedback on their site before the deadline. I was disturbed to read a “no comment” response from professional organization invited to participate.

  8. Andy says:

    The very idea of this document scares me. Would we support the idea of vehicle mechanics telling you to just buy a turkey feather and some air freshener to make your worn-out brakes work better? Would it make a difference if the customer felt that replacing the brake pads wasn’t the best option “for them” based on their personal “mechanical paradigm” which has resulted from “their own truth” which , naturally, derives from a “different way of knowing” – and if they could more-readily afford a feather and some smelly stuff?

  9. Ariana says:

    Thanks for the link. This is what I wrote.

    I often read James Randi Educational Foundation to find out what the high school drop out conjurer and shit stirrer is up to. Today’s article was yet another attempt to rally the forces against holistic healing methods.

    I, for one say thank you for your evolved approach to healing and allowing alternative therapies to take their rightful place in medicine to allow choice and personal empowerment and non toxic therapies!

    To your health!

    Have a wonderful day,

    • Kim Hebert says:

      I’m sure your poorly-constructed ad hominem attack against Randi and the JREF (which will likely confuse the CPSO if anything) will have an appreciable impact compared to the thoughtful and rational criticism they have already received.

  10. Ariana says:

    It looks like this site is a your comments will be posted if you agree with me site.

    • Kim Hebert says:

      All first time commenters are held in moderation to prevent spam. [Edit: See our commenting policy.] All of your comments have now been approved.

      It’s always an interesting gauge to someone’s character when they assume malicious intent where there is simply the mundane need for someone to happen check the comment feed and click “approve”.


  • Michael Kruse

    Michael is an advanced-care paramedic in York Region, just north of Toronto, Ontario. A semi-retired theatrical lighting designer as well, he re-trained in 2005 as an EMT-PS at the University of Iowa and as an ACP at Durham College, and is currently working towards a B.Sc at the University of Toronto. Michael is a founder and the chair of the board of directors of Bad Science Watch. He is also the recipient of the first annual Barry Beyerstein Award for Skepticism. Follow Michael on twitter @anxiousmedic. Michael's musings are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his employer or Bad Science Watch.