Some of Australia’s leading CAM academics and health educators have published an editorial in the 16 July issue of the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) in support of teaching complementary medicine courses in universities.
Removing complementary medicine courses from universities will not reduce public demand, but it may reduce their educational rigour, say the authors.
“We can see great danger for the public if complementary medicine practice is allowed to develop outside mainstream education”, Professor Stephen Myers and coauthors wrote.
Professor Myers, director of the natural medicine research unit at Southern Cross University, was responding to an editorial published in the 5 March issue of the MJA by Alastair MacLennan, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at University of Adelaide.
In that article, Professor MacLennan, on behalf of a group called Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM), condemned the growth of complementary medicine courses in Australian universities. He said the growth in “pseudoscientific health courses” was undermining the international scientific credibility of Australian universities, and that academics at these institutions should “stand up for science”.
However, according to Professor Myers, “the real benefit of an appropriately mentored and approved university education is the exposure of students to the biomedical sciences, epidemiology and population health, differential diagnosis, safe practice and critical appraisal.
In an article in the same issue of the MJA, Professor Paul Komesaroff, from the Department of Medicine at Monash University, and coauthors wrote that the views in the MacLennan editorial “exceed the boundaries of reasoned debate and risk compromising the values that FSM claims to support”.
Professor Komesaroff said that while there was now an extensive evidence base in relation to complementary therapies, the concept of evidence-based medicine was highly contested and debated within Western medicine itself. It is not appropriate, he argued, for doctors or scientists with a particular view of medicine to impose those views on the whole community; rather, they should respect the rights of individuals to choose the approach to health care they feel is suitable for them.
“It is important that those who seek to be friends of science do not inadvertently become its enemies. We call on the members of FSM to revise their tactics and instead support open, respectful dialogue in the great spirit and tradition of science itself”, Professor Komesaroff wrote.