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Who cares how alternative medicine works, as long as it does?
I hear this notion regularly and I have repeatedly published about it (even on this blog). In Germany, people often express it succinctly WER HEILT HAT RECHT! The argument is so prevalent that I feel like addressing it yet again by publishing a revised version of my Lancet Oncology paper of 2005. At first glance, the argument seems disarmingly obvious and ethical - above everything else, clinicians must have the welfare of their patients in their minds. All other concerns are secondary. However, on closer inspection and reflection the argument is not convincing. For the purpose of this discussion, I shall use healing as an example of a SCAM that fulfils the following three criteria: it is associated with perceived benefit to some patients; it is apparently without harm; it is not supported by convincing evidence of efficacy. Thus, spiritual healing could be replaced, for instance, by homeopathy, Bach Flower Remedies, craniosacral therapy, shark cartilage, etc. It is obvious that the