The Sourcebook further explains that Dr. David Eisenberg of Harvard School of Medicine and Ronald Kessler of the Survey Research Center found that alternative therapies are as popular as ever, and as of 1990 sixty-one million Americans used alternative therapies while twenty-two million Americans saw an alternative medicine provider for certain medical conditions. According to this same survey there were 425 million visits to alternative medicine providers and 388 million visits to biomedicine providers. In 1990 alternative medicine in the United States represented a $13.7 billion dollar business with out-of-pocket expenditures by the patient being $10.3 billion while all conventional hospital expenditures were $12.8 billion and physicians charges were $23.5 billion (Cook 10). A majority of people seeking alternative medical therapies are those with chronic illnesses who believe that biomedicine does not have the effective treatments targeted for their conditions. One reason for this is that conventional medicine gives patients standardized treatments (typically drugs or surgery or both) and advice as to whether the patient fits into a number of broadly defined symptomatic categories and the treatment is “physician centered.” The physician becomes the authority and usually the patients’ needs are not addressed which encourages patients to become passive (Cook 10). Alternative medicine sees each patient as unique and an individual and treatment creates elaborate procedures for identifying individual suitability and sensitivity to that treatment. Multiple treatments are judged and the patient is responsible in the healing process. In biomedicine it appears that high-tech diagnostic and therapeutic procedures can be quite attractive to physicians. Based on the physician’s confidence in this high technology, alternative low-tech therapies may be considered ineffective. And once in place, established therapies can take precedence over new or alternative therapies (Cook 10).
The AMA has also tried to take steps to safeguard biomedicine by eliminating certain aspects of alternative therapies. In 1963 the AMA formed a Committee on Quackery that worked to find ways to cut off chiropractors from their patient base. The principal means of achieving this goal was by making it unethical for a medical physician to associate with an “unscientific practitioner” as the AMA labeled the chiropractors. The chiropractors were considered an “unscientific cult” by the 1966 resolution of the AMA’s House of Delegates. In the August 1987 Wilk et al. v. the American Medical Association decision, the United States Court of Appeals held that the AMA violated the Sherman Act by “conducting an illegal boycott in restraint of trade directed at chiropractors…” (Wilk 2). The AMA had used former Principle 3 of the AMA’s Principles of Medical Ethics which provided: “A physician should practice a method of healing founded on a scientific basis; and he should not voluntarily associate with anyone who violates this principle” (Wilk 2). The district court further found AMA’s purpose was to:
Prevent medical physicians from referring patients to chiropractors and from accepting referrals from chiropractors, so as to prevent chiropractors from obtaining access to hospital diagnostic services and membership on hospital medical staffs, to prevent medical physicians from teaching at chiropractic colleges or engaging in any joint research, and to prevent any cooperation between the two groups in the delivery of health care services (Wilk 3).
The district court further held that it is “ethical for a medical physician to professionally associate with chiropractors, if the physician believes that the association is in his patient’s best interest” (Wilk 3). This type of behavior by the elite of medicine indicates that, rather than working with all forms of medicine for the betterment of the patient, they were first and foremost interested in gaining power and control of the medical industry. Is it any wonder then, that there are no alternative therapies recommended for the simplest of health challenges to the very complicated challenges such as cancer?