The Manifesto of the Hungarian Skeptic Society on Alternative Medicine
The Hungarian Skeptic Society was founded in December 2006. Our objectives include both providing information about the findings and methodology of science, and, if necessary, radical criticism of unproven, pseudoscientific or esoteric practices and theories.
By using the word "skeptic" we do not mean to suggest that nothing can be taken for certain. On the contrary, the word is used in the sense that skepticism has become an integral part of scientific research. If it was not for skepticism in research, it would be impossible to filter out those hypotheses through tests, experiments, scientific discussions and publications which are in conflict with verifiable knowledge and to keep only the ones that stand the proof.
During the past 15 years, the Hungarian skeptic community felt a certain reluctance to criticize the so-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), primarily because of its unwillingness to take away the last hope from our unfortunate, sometimes terminally ill fellow beings. This is not, nor has it ever been our goal.
However, in the past decade, uncontrolled substances and cures have become so widespread that they are beginning to pose a serious threat to patient health. At the same time, the manufacturers and distributors of these substances and the self-proclaimed healers tend to give an extremely distorted view of evidence-based medicine, which might bring about a serious lack of trust. This is precisely what undermines patients' trust in efficient cures and drugs which, in contrast with their "alternative" counterparts, may only be marketed after a rigorous approval process.
So-called alternative medicine is not a uniform subject. Their disregard for experience, lack of testing and discussion even with "professionals" from their own field inevitably lead to theories and methods that are contradictory and conflicting.
People condemn companies that sell foodstuffs by-passing laws and regulations; there is great debate over whether or not to allow certain drugs to be over-the-counter, doctors and pharmaceutical companies are being sued for millions over malpractice or side-effects. In spite of this critical attitude, people seem to ignore the fact that certain drugs are being sold as dietary supplements claiming to help cure cancer, diabetes, blindness, AIDS, viral infections and allergies - without having been clinically tested!
The proliferation of such things show us that something is not quite right with the practice of modern medicine. Alternative healers - although certainly not all of them - are much more personal with patients that a physician is during medical examination. People require attention and CAM patients are paying for that during their treatment. Conventional health authorities should learn from this, instead of picking up CAM's unproven and many times harmful practices.
Our serious critique of this matter is paramount, since the current timid approach seems to be hindering the system for strict research requirements as well as legal procedures. The modified health laws concerning CAM - although the original goals were different - has manifestly legitimized mystical and pseudo-scientific practices. Furthermore, this has created a loophole allowing certain over-the-counter drugs to be sold without having undergone any toxicity or efficiency testing. Foreign examples also show that research centers and drug administrations there seems to be a trend towards slackness. This is a frightening thought, and we do not wish to neglect this.
We believe that the division is not between traditional and alternative medicine, but between effective and non-effective medicine.
Our efforts are motivated by the same ordinary questions that a consumer will ask themselves when purchasing a product or service: "Does this do what it promises? Should I spend money on this? Am I putting myself or my family at risk?"
Budapest, August, 2007
Hungarian Skeptic Society