It’s one thing to find an occasional questionable ‘alternative medicine’ article in a dubious journal, quite another to learn that the same flakes have set up shop on your local hospital cancer ward. The latest edition of Skeptic magazine ($, Vol 21, No.4, 2016) points out how gong-banging and aromatherapy and suchlike nonsense is being welcomed into legitimate cancer wards…

“The most disturbing trend in cancer care is the ongoing infiltration of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) into otherwise legitimate cancer hospitals. As of 2016, every cancer hospital on the top of U.S. News & World Report’s list of America’s best either has its own CAM center or openly markets CAM services. Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Bendheim Integrative Medicine Center offers aromatherapy, Qi Gong, reflexology, hypnotherapy and a slew of other fantasy treatments. At Dana-Farber’s Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies, you can waste as much time and money as you like on Qi Gong, acupuncture, massage therapy, and Reiki. The UCLA Medical Center has a partnership with the Urban Zen Foundation (Reiki, essential oil therapy, and contemplative care/mindful awareness exercises). Not to be outdone, the stellar MD Anderson’s CAM center has Tai Chi, Tibetan meditation, group drumming, acupuncture, and “laughter for health.”

“This has led to some awkward advertising moments in which hospitals warn patients about the very treatments they now offer. Sloan Kettering’s Chief of Integrative Medicine Service boasts of having “studied, published, and lectured internationally” on “alternative therapies” for more than 25 years. The hospital itself advises its patients: “alternative regimens are unproved, expensive, and potentially harmful.”

“… Medical expenses are still the leading cause of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. In dire circumstances, when one is not thinking with due lucidity, the temptation to turn to cheap alternatives that are bountiful outside of mainstream medicine can be irresistible. When legitimate hospitals host CAM services — by whatever name they choose to call them — they implicitly abet a shameful industry.”

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