Thursday, March 8, 2012

CAM trying to break into Oregon

Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a belief system based on faulty reasoning and poor logic. Take for example this article discussing integrating CAM into the Oregon healthcare system.  As usual the article is full of non-sequiturs arguments that sound compelling but do not really support the overall claim. The reason CAM promoters use non-sequiturs is that an actual discussion of whether CAM treatments worked would lead any reasonable person to choose to not use CAM.

Remember the first question we should ask prior to using a treatment is: does it work? Then if it does work we should implement it. The problem is that most of CAM has not been proven to work and for much of it to work it would need to contradict some of our most trusted scientific ideas.

Jamie Sewell, the author of an article discussing Oregon's new Coordinated Care organizations (CCOs) (part of Oregon's Health care system) wants to see CAM used in these new CCOs. Her reasons are all flawed. First she cites the flawed idea that CAM treats the whole patient where modern medicine does not. This is simply a misunderstanding of modern medicine. Modern medicine treats underlying cause of disease when possible and when not it treats the symptoms. CAM often claims to provide treatments for things that modern medicine currently cannot treat.  But when closely scrutinized these CAM treatments are almost universally shown to not work. In reality CAM preys upon those who desperately want treatment when none exists by offering them false hope. Sewell points out that Oregon's CCOs are designed to reduce costs. Providing useless CAM treatments won't make patients any better and will just increase costs. Hardly the outcome intended by the CCOs.

Sewell also points out that CAM often costs less and often results in better patient satisfaction. Well, even if true those points are not relevant. If a cheap treatment doesn't work then every penny paid for it was a waste. A patient who is "satisfied" by a fraudulent CAM cancer cure is no healthier than a person who took no cure at all. Even worse, they may have delayed getting real medical treatment and thus decreased their chances of surviving.

Science has weighed in on CAM and shown most of it to not work. Thus, CAM has retreated to using rhetoric rather than evidence to support its position.  Those promoting CAM need to stop and take a deep look at their arguments. If all your arguments are based on misleading rhetoric it might be time to change your opinion.

The birth control mandate has nothing to do with religion

A common news topic in this election year is the controversy surrounding the birth control mandate in Obama's health care bill. The religious, especially Catholics, claim that the mandate to provide health insurance that covers birth control free of charge violates their religious rights because it goes against their beliefs. Well, they are wrong it does not violate their religious rights.

The bill does not tell Catholics that they must change their beliefs. It does not require them to use the contraception that would be provided free of charge. It does not even require them to personally provide such contraception. It merely says they must have a health insurance plan that provides birth control for those who wish to have it. The Catholics thus are mostly complaining that their funds might be used to cover something they don't believe in but that their employees want.

Well, we have plenty of history of forcing people to do things they don't believe in. We forced racist employers to stop discriminating when hiring. We all need to pay taxes which support wars and public programs many do not believe in. Part of being in a society is realizing that we will not all agree on every program that is ran by our government. That is not to say that we should not fight those programs that we believe are wrong. But claiming that a law discriminates against you because it violates your beliefs shouldn't be taken seriously. The proper argument is to try to show that your beliefs should be accepted by society as a whole.

The Catholic church faces a problem. Society as a whole is largely beginning to disagree with them on the issue of contraception. They cannot win the battle against contraception so they have fallen back and are desperately clinging to a sinking ship and trying to plug the round hole with the square peg of a religious discrimination claim.

Think about what the Catholics are trying to deny. If they have employees who want birth control they want to reduce access to birth control for those employees. They are thus attacking the right of those who believe in birth control to use birth control.  If Catholics wish to claim that their religion is being discriminated against they must also admit that they wish to discriminate against their employees who believe in and wish to use birth control.

But discrimination is really not the issue here. This is simply an issue of social policy debate: is universal access to birth control and other contraceptives a good thing and should we mandate it? That is the true debate. The issue of religious discrimination is merely a sideshow attempt to draw attention away from the real issue because that battle is one the Catholics likely cannot win.