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Books, Journals, New Media
November 26, 2003

Alternative Medicine

Author Affiliations
 

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(20):2741-2742. doi:10.1001/jama.290.20.2741

In reviewing this book I must in good conscience declare a bias: I have to date not had much patience for complementary and alternative medicine in my daily clinical practice. While not actively discouraging my patients if they ask for it, I almost never initiate a referral to a nonallopathic physician. Although the book reviewed herein may have only partially disabused me of my prejudices, it has certainly clarified them for me.

James Whorton, professor of the history of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, covers the subject while clearly exhibiting two important senses: humor and history. The book begins with the early 19th century, explaining how the thickest roots of the present conflict between allopathic and alternative medicine took hold and grew. We learn of an epic battle between allopathic practitioners who preferred "heroic therapy" and other practitioners who preferred to rely "on nature." These two antipodes take us right up to today. Of course, as we learn from the history of any good conflict, things are never purely black and white.

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