Q&A: Edzard Ernst on alternative medicine

Steve Jobs’ tragic death may have added a new urgency to Edzard Ernst’s work. In October 2003, when Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he turned not to conventional medicine but acupuncture, macrobiotic diets, and visits to a spiritualist, delaying surgery some doctors suspect could have saved his life. About ten years before that diagnosis, Ernst—an award-winning, U.K.-based physician—began establishing an evidence base for alternative therapies. Since then, Ernst has become the world’s first professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England, founded two academic journals on the topic (Perfusion and Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies), and published more than 1,000 papers and over 40 books (including the recent Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial).
So far, only five per cent of the alternative therapies Ernst turned his critical gaze to have shown curative powers beyond those of a placebo. The demise of Apple’s founder, then, seems a fitting occasion to reflect on the powerful allure that alternative medicine holds—even for the geniuses among us. “My first thought was, ‘How tragic,’ and the second, ‘When will we learn the lesson?’” said Ernst. “People—even if they are smart—are all too easily misled to do the most stupid things, particularly with the promotion of alternative medicine being as viciously effective as it is.”

Source  - Macleans