Below the fold you will find a copy of a letter I recently sent to my local GP. Because I have yet to recieve any reply back from them and am in fact generally happy with them I have decided not to include the name of the practice in this post, I’m sure you understand. Also I just want to mention a similar letter by The Australian Skeptics from which I will admit borrowing a few lines. Hey they had already done the research; there was no reason for me to go reinventing the wheel. Anyway here’s what I had to say:
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing with regards to something I discovered upon a recent visit to your medical centre, and which I found to be both disheartening and some what alarming. Before we get to the point of my letter however I feel I should preface my comments by pointing out that my issues have nothing to do with the level of service I received at the centre. In fact I was very impressed with the friendly and professional response I received from both the attentive doctor who listened to my woes and the two receptionists I dealt with. My complaint in no way stems from any interaction I had while at the centre and I was not even aware that there was something to be concerned about until later in the day.
A few hours after leaving the centre I decided to check my appointment card, in order to make a note on my calendar of the blood test I had booked, and was shocked by what I discovered there. Amongst the adverts for counselling services, massage therapy and gym membership I was appalled to find advertisements for holistic healing services such as reflexology, Reiki and, most concerning of all, Hopi ear candling. Now I understand that in this economic climate many organisations do not have the privilege to be more discerning with regards to whom they accept advertising money from, however allow me to explain why I feel it is incredibly inappropriate for a medical centre to promote modalities for which there is little or no scientific evidence of efficacy.
With both reflexology and Reiki concerns have been raised by numerous medical professionals that treating potentially serious illnesses with these alternative modalities, neither of which have any proven efficacy, could delay the seeking of appropriate medical treatment thus endangering lives. Both treatments reply upon the manipulation of “health energy’ or “Qi’ and as I write this there is currently no scientific evidence for either the existence of Qi or any mechanism for its manipulation. Added to this in 2008 a systematic review of randomized clinical trials was conducted with regards to Reiki and found no evidence in support of its efficacy, nor did it recommend its use in the treatment of any condition.
Which brings me to Hopi ear candling, another modality with no proven efficacy but differing from reflexology and Reiki in that it has been conclusively demonstrated to cause harm. Reports of serious injuries as the result of Hopi ear candling include temporary hearing loss, burns, ear canals blocked by dripping wax and punctured ear drums (see Seely, Quigly, Langman (1994). In fact the organisation Health Canada has gone so far as to having them banned in that country. Closer to home Edzard Ernst, the first professor of alternative and complementary medicine at Exeter University, had the following to say on the matter:
“Ear candling is one of those CAM modalities that clearly does more harm than good’¦ its mechanism of action is first implausible and second, demonstrably wrong’¦ in my view, therefore, it should be banned’
Now while the medical centre itself does not offer any of these unproven and potentially dangerous treatments the inclusion of adverts for them on your appointment cards implies a level of endorsement on the part of the centre as well as a legitimacy that the treatments themselves have not earned.
Once again my experience at the centre was one of professionalism and science based medical treatment, things that are the antithesis of the holistic treatments that you advertise. Medical centres such as yours are generally viewed as places where the public can come for the best and most effective medical advice. I ask you to look at these adverts and ask yourselves if this is indeed what you are offering.
Thank you for your understanding and for taking the time to listen to my concerns.