Snake Oil

Consider the not-too-distant past. At the turn of the century, the medical marketplace was packed with snake-oil salesmen. They bottled colored water and called it the sovereign remedy for every disease known to humans.

Everything new became a cure-all. Radio was a recent discovery–well, then, radio waves could cure rheumatism! Tibet was exotic. Therefore, many concoctions pretended to derive their origin from that far-off country.

Into this cornucopia of unscrupulous commercial activity, medical doctors advanced like early Ralph Naders. They fought against fake remedies, demanded accountability, and held aloft the flag of rigorous research.

When present-day medical boards investigate alternative practitioners, they mean to continue in that noble tradition. All unconventional cancer treatments look like snake oil to them. They want to protect people from being duped. Their intentions are good.

But many patients wish the government would just get out of their way and allow them to obtain the treatments they prefer.

The dynamic tension must be maintained between significant but opposing values in order to find a balance between protecting people from health care fraud and allowing them freedom of choice.

Comments are closed.