Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst: Trick or Treatment?

This is for one of the book discussion clubs. I nearly bought it, but the library had it in (in Swedish) so I borrowed it instead. It is the kind of book that theoretically is good to own, but after reading it I'm not sure I'm that bothered. I find the subject terribly interesting, but there was something lacking from the book. The idea of it all is that Singh and Ernst review different alternative health treatments to see if they have any effect or if people are just wasting their money. The basis for their review is a scientific approach and evidence based medicine, terminology which they explain quite thoroughly. Their target reader seems definitely to be the people who are more inclined to want an alternative treatment than conventional medicine, so they need to explain why we need to use certain methods - like randomized blind studies -  to discover if a treatment is working, and how history has shown that this is the better approach and not the traditional way of, well, guessing and trusting tradition. This is sadly repeated time and time again. Maybe it works better in English, the same way that inane pop lyrics work in English. I found it a bit repetitive. While I don't doubt their findings, I felt as though they didn't really trust me to understand them, and I would have liked a more science-paper-style book on the whole. With footnotes, so I could see where the source material came from, not just a reading list at the end. I would also have liked a more in-depth look at why people opt for homeopathy rather than actual medicine. The authors do touch on the idea that people are disillusioned with "scientific" medicine after scandals such as the thalidomide one, but I would have liked more. So maybe I'm not after more science then, maybe I'm after more philosophy.

Promising, but for me it didn't live up to the hype.

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