The Science of Snake Oil
We like to think of health care as an exact science: established guidelines, uniform practices, rigorously tested treatments vetted through extensive lab trials. Unfortunately this was neither the case in the early days of medicine, nor is it the case today. It's shame that nearly 2500 years after the writing of Hippocrates' famous oath we'd still be wrestling with the ethics of best practice.
Indeed, the days of snake oil and traveling medicine shows may not be as far behind us as we'd imagine. Today, millions of Americans are still trusting their health to modern day hucksters peddling unproven treatments. And to make matters even worse, it seems regulators are largely turning a blind eye to this practice.
So how is one supposed to tell the quacks from the real McCoys? And how, in an age of energy healers, alternative medicines, nutritional supplements and integrative healthcare approaches are average consumers supposed to make informed decisions?
This hour, we talk with experts in an effort to answer these questions.
- Dr. Steven Novella - Neurologist and assistant professor at Yale University Medical School, and Senior Fellow for the James Randi Educational Foundation. Dr. Novella is also executive editor of Science-Based Medicine
- Erika Janik - Historian, writer, and executive producer of Wisconsin Life at Wisconsin Public Radio. Author of Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine
- Dr. Eric Boyle - Medical expert and historian at The National Institute of Health, and author of Quack Medicine: A History of Combating Health Fraud in Twentieth-Century America
Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.