May a Good Family Practitioner Believe in Complementary Medicine or Use Placebos?

DOI: 10.3238/zfa.2015.0201-0206

german translation / full article

Klaus Linde

Keywords: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Placebo Functional Specificity Medical Professionalism

Summary: Among academics in family medicine there is debate whether it is legitimate to use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) interventions or placebos. This article discusses social and professional aspects strongly influencing this discussion while rarely being made explicit. Based on the classical sociological analysis by Parsons the crucial role of functional specificity for legitimizing the acting of individual physicians and of medicine as profession is emphasized. Functional specificity itself is grounded on the scientific method. But in daily family practice functional specific knowledge is often insufficient. For those believing in CAM interventions these offer additional functionally specific tools. Yet, CAM therapies are typically based on theoretical concepts which are not backed up by science or even seem scientifically completely implausible. In this situation the evidence from clinical trials is often interpreted very differently by proponents and sceptics. Some physicians sometimes use treatments they consider themselves placebos or non-specific. Since patients are usually not fully informed this approach seems ethically and scientifically problematic.

(State: 26.05.2015)

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