There is as fog of craziness hanging over
the Cayman Islands that needs attention. Alternative medicine, medical
quackery, or whatever you prefer to call it, is taking an unknown health and
economic toll on our population. It’s time for those who know the difference between
real healthcare and nonsense to push back for the sake of those who are being
led astray by conartists or their own gullibility.
Cayman is not unique, of course. Medical quackery
is a global problem and it’s not going away anytime time soon, unfortunately.
But we can do better here. Well, we could if our doctors and health officials
would do a better job of condemning the many local quack cures that fool so
Here are few basic things everyone should
be aware of that can help defend against the medical quackery that can threaten
your health and waste your money:
Most problems heal on their own. Our bodies
are very good at recovering from illness and injury. Given enough time, we
usually get better. Unfortunately, when some people take a kooky cure and then
feel better a few days or weeks later, they credit the crackpot treatment
instead of the real causes—time and their own bodies. People also often take a
fraudulent treatment in conjunction with a doctor’s treatment. But guess which
one they will tell their friends about.
“Natural” does not necessarily mean good or
safe. Rattlesnake venom is natural. Arsenic is natural. But I wouldn’t recommend
you drink any untested potions with those ingredients.
The placebo effect is real and it’s
powerful. For reasons not yet fully understood, many people can benefit from
treatment that doesn’t really do anything other than give the patient a feeling
of being treated. Even weirder, it seems that some people can be helped by a
placebo, even when they know it’s a placebo! Obviously many crackpot cures
benefit from the placebo effect even though they are otherwise worthless. The
problem, however, is that the placebo effect is inconsistent and cannot be
relied upon so it does not justify the use of unscientific treatments.
“Alternative medicine” means unproven
medicine. There is a reason you have a good chance to live more than 60 years,
unlike those poor saps thousands of years ago that were lucky if they ever saw
30. It’s called medical science. The scientific method, combined with crucial
knowledge of our bodies, the microbial world, and evolution have given us the
power to resist and fight back against disease and injury. “Alternative
medicine” is a slap in the face to medical science. If it were proven, if it
really worked, then nobody would call it “alternative”. It would just be called
medicine. Part of the appeal of alternative medicine is that real healthcare as
it is delivered to patients can sometimes feel impersonal and downright
inhuman. But whatever shortcomings real healthcare and some doctors may have,
running into the comforting arms of a witch doctor with his magic potions is
not the answer.
Cayman is screaming for help on this issue.
For example, two local radio talk shows have provided an astonishing amount of
free publicity to promote homegrown “cures” for AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and so
on. The shelves of some of our pharmacies are littered with some of the most
ridiculous medical quackery imaginable. Why do we not hear a thundering and consistent
voice of condemnation from our doctors and health officials about such
Our medical experts are in the best position
to raise Cayman’s level of awareness about the ridiculous treatments that
people are throwing money away on and possibly harming themselves with. This is
a serious issue. How many Caymanians neglect real and necessary treatment
because they put their faith in quack cures? Start talking doctors; Cayman
needs to hear your thoughts on everything from homeopathic medicine to magnetic
therapy. I am sure you would not want your silence to be interpreted as an
endorsement of all this madness. But that is just how some might see it.
Please, speak up. Cayman needs you.
P. Harrison’s columns appear twice per month in the Observer. Contact him at