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August 21, 1972

Quackery Persists

JAMA. 1972;221(8):914. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200210058018

Young1 approaches the problem of persistent quackery on the basis of the interrelationship among three parties—the citizen as patient, the orthodox practitioner, and the quack. First, he makes the general observation that quackery never has made sense. In America, as long ago as the 18th century and on into the middle of the 19th century, pronouncements indicated that quackery, being contrary to sound reason, must surely disappear as ignorance was dissipated. Yet, the charlatans are still with us—the chiropractors, the naturopaths, the scientologists, and assorted others.

In the second part of his essay, Young analyzes the reasons for quackery's seemingly paradoxical persistence. The citizen, becoming afflicted with a seemingly minor illness, may or may not consult an orthodox practitioner. More likely, he accepts counsel from a relative or a friend who knows just the needed remedy, or, susceptible to the blandishments of TV advertisements, he doses himself with whatever