FRIENDS of Science in Medicine have refuted claims in two MJA articles that the group is trying to get rid of all complementary and alternative medicine courses from universities.
FSM president Professor John Dwyer, of the University of NSW, told MJA InSight that his organisation “clearly” supports CAM research where there is evidence for potential benefit.
“It will be a great pity if parallel health care still exists in 10 years, for science has the ability to see a convergence of CAM and orthodox medicine”, he said.
The two articles published in this week’s issue of the MJA were in response to an editorial written by members of FSM published earlier this year in the Journal. (1)
In an editorial published this week in the MJA, the authors, led by Professor Stephen Myers, professor of complementary medicine at Southern Cross University in NSW, wrote that the call by FSM to remove complementary medicine from universities raised deep issues. (2)
“The debate on whether complementary medicine should be a university discipline, when seen from sociological perspective, says much less about good science and much more about control and power”, the authors wrote.
“Indeed, it is not melodramatic to point out that if the Friends of Science in Medicine were to succeed in their stated aims, they would achieve a dystopia — a medical ‘1984’ where only one way of knowing the body in health and illness is permitted in public discourse. This controversy is simply the latest episode in a long-contested battle between orthodox and divergent views.
“[CAM] courses clearly develop critical thinking and fulfil the criteria for legitimate university disciplines”, they wrote.
In a Perspectives article, the authors, led by Professor Paul Komesaroff, of the department of medicine at Monash University, called on members of FSM to “revise their tactics and instead support open, respectful dialogue in the great spirit and tradition of science itself”. (3)
The authors said that they believed the views promoted by FSM in the earlier MJA editorial, “exceed the boundaries of reasoned debate and risk compromising the values that FSM claims to support”.
Professor Dwyer said the FSM had been “swamped with media enquiries” since the latest MJA articles were released to the media.
He said it was hard to discuss in detail the factual errors in the two articles, “let alone the questions around the nature of science” in a media interview.
The current controversy was initially sparked by a letter sent by the FSM earlier this year to vice-chancellors of universities offering CAM courses. It asked that the universities review their teaching of health sciences “to ensure that primacy is given to scientific principles based on experimental evidence”.
“We ask that your university confirm the principle that all health-related courses should be taught according to scientific principles based on experimental evidence,” the letter said.
Professor Dwyer said the articles published in the latest MJA misrepresented the FSM’s point of view and seemed to misrepresent what was understood by the scientific process itself.
“It is pointless to argue about who is right and who is wrong, who should be believed and who should not. That is the whole point of FSM’s approach; to subject claims to proper scientific scrutiny, as science excels in determining impartially whether these supposed treatments are effective or not”, Professor Dwyer said in his response to the articles.
He said a full response to the claims in the MJA articles would be included on the FSM’s website.
– Kath Ryan
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