How to Recognize a Quack

For a long time there has been a website that labels as a “quack” any practitioner who dares to venture from the outdated pharmaceutical-backed cookbook (known as the official “standard of Care”) used by establishment medicine. The “quack busters” target what others call “alternative medicine” or “complementary medicine” or “integrative medicine”.

It doesn’t impress the self-appointed quack trolls that the denounced professionals often do wonderful work and actually cure a higher percentage of patients than the mainstream approach and with fewer side effects. Even more amazingly, they often save those patients after conventional medicine has given up on them. I almost consider it a recommendation to be singled out as a quack. (I was flattered when I was once called a “quack” by the chief quack buster for the crime of helping write educational manuals for natural food stores!) Perhaps it is the same folks (or drug companies) who give bad ratings to the websites representing those fine health professionals. That’s why I’ve completely lost faith in one such website rating service (Web of Trust). For a compelling story about what has happened to the science and practice of medicine, as well as the demonization of a true covid-19 era hero and the suppression of the life-saving treatments he employed, read about the late Dr. Vladimir Zelenko.

The alternative-blasting folks may not have evil intent but they are still dangerous as zealous defenders of the old school of thinking in medicine. In a big picture view, there is (1) medicine proven to work, (2) medicine proven to not work, and (3) that for which there is insufficient data to consider “proven” (usually natural remedies). Conventional doctors use #1 methods but often still rely on #2’s. The natural medicine pioneers (you can spot them because of the flaming arrows in their backs) typically practice a mix of #1 and #3.

It is very difficult for methods and substances to graduate from #3 (investigative) to #1 (proven). That is because there is an institutional bias against them (fostered in large part by the pharmaceutical industry) and because there is scant funding for exhaustive research of substances that cannot be patented. The chiropractic profession is an example. This description of the profession by B. J. Palmer shows how unreasonable the attacks on these professionals are: “What Chiropractic does, is that it simply takes the handcuffs off Nature, as it were. By finding the particular vertebra that had shifted and restoring it to its natural position, the adjustment thus releases the natural flow of nerve impulse. When the maze of nerves, or Nature’s communication system, supplies the body with the energy it needs for wellbeing, you have health.”

However, many naturopathic methods are historically validated, logical, non-invasive, safe and less expensive than mainstream care. Sometimes the resistance to new ideas is just dogmatic blind adherence to the old ones. Diabetes care is a good example. “For decades alternative practitioners have been reversing the disease by reducing consumption of refined carbohydrates and using nutrients to improve insulin sensitivity. Meanwhile, mainstream medicine and the nonprofit organizations (which are backed by giant food processors and drug companies) continued to manage the disease with high carbs and medication. Another good example of this is the now acknowledged fact that the intestinal membrane barrier can become too permeable (leaky) and cause systemic health problems. For decades practitioners who saw the evidence and helped people by repairing the gut lining were laughed at and vilified.

If truly concerned about public welfare, “Quack-busters” should take off the blinders and own up to the fact that mainstream medicine is itself the number one cause of premature death in the US (Death by Medicine article). They would then promptly fill in the gaps in their knowledge by studying at a good naturopathic medical school like Bastyr University which is fully-accredited just like a state university medical school.

I believe that a quack is a health professional who:

  • does not put the well-being of the patient ahead of profits, fame and/or personal comfort
  • does not consider the patient a partner in the healing process
  • does not welcome questions and alternate views from patients (Docs can learn a lot from patients.)
  • thinks that having written a prescription alone is providing medical care
  • does not do a comprehensive history and physical (Relying on tests and reports from previous doctors can be quite misleading.)
  • blindly follows all the pronouncements of the government or the trade association (such as the American Medical Association) without incorporating common sense, clinical experience, historical context and studies on nutrition and natural approaches (Mainstream medical groups  and government seem to be controlled to a great degree by pharmaceutical interests.)
  • in the case of the corona virus refuses to treat patients with that infection with the same sense of urgency they would any other serious infection.
  • condemns a supplement just because he or she is unfamiliar with it
  • uses a cookie cutter approach-i.e. treats all patients as though they are the same (Even factoring in averages for size, age and gender is not good enough. A famous nutrition scientist, Roger Williams, PhD who served the University of Texas at Austin, said “Nutrition is for real people. Statistical humans are of little interest.”)
  • refuses to believe that adverse health effects being experienced by the patient could possibly be related to the treatment being given
  • is afraid (even in a non-emergency situation) to try a new remedy that, while perhaps not “proven”, is non-toxic, non-invasive and shows promise
  • thinks the average 6-minute office visit (partly filled with interruptions and computer work) is enough time to determine the patient’s real issues and to counsel diet and lifestyle changes that might be sufficient to reverse the trend
  • believes that no one but a person with his or her same credentials can facilitate healing
  • works under the influence of alcohol, drugs or extreme fatigue
  • molests patients
  • suffers dementia and continues to practice

The following traits, unless combined with the characteristics above, do NOT make a health professional a quack:

  • Using unconventional treatments which include but are not limited to nutritional supplements, acupuncture, chelation, neurofeedback, stem cell therapy, prolotherapy, herbs, hydrotherapy, microcurrents, chiropractic, massage, neuromuscular integration, homeopathy, detoxification, psychoneuroimmunology, etc.
  • Working to restore subtle imbalances in the body which are not commonly understood to be tied to current disease symptoms.
  • Using unconventional testing such as nutritional tests, computer frequency testing, thermography, hair mineral analysis and kneisiology.
  • Paying attention to well-controlled studies conducted in foreign countries.

Often doctors with unconventional practices are reported to medical boards by other doctors who are upset that the targeted doc dares to heal patients using methods that the complainant is unfamiliar with. It is about competition. (E.g. why so far naturopathic physicians can only obtain a license to practice in about half the states.) The medical boards typically cannot find patients who were harmed, so after a witch hunt through the medical office, censure the doc based on some trivial record keeping violation. I contend that there is probably not a single physician of any stripe who does not have a record keeping oops somewhere in the files. Defending themselves from such an investigation can cost a practitioner tens of thousands of dollars.

Learn more about the so-called “Quack-busters”

Copyright 2014-2022 by Martie Whittekin, CCN