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Dr. Steve Barrett - On the Quackwatch

Steven Barrett is a retired psychiatrist, author, and operator of the Quackwatch website. His talk at The Amaz!ng Meeting concerned how to differentiate quackery from legitimate medical alternatives and experimental medicines.

Dr. Steve Barrett
Dr. Steve Barrett, Quackbuster

An example given of the legitimate alternative was the variety of pain relievers available to the public. Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, and others offer proven and effective alternatives. Experimental alternatives were described as those medicines or methods which are not (yet) substantiated, but which have a scientifically plausible rationale. Examples given were eating a 10% fat diet, and certain herbs.

The final category discussed was "questionable" alternatives. These are substances or methods which have no substantiation, and which do not make sense based on what we already know. Homeopathy and the "subluxation" claims of chiropractic were the examples used.

Dr. Barrett emphasized that the correct skeptical attitude is to not be either completely distrusting nor completely trusting when approaching alternative medicine, and that common sense is an unreliable guide. He concluded by saying that quackery needs to be fought on a network basis. Much can be accomplished with a large number of people doing occasional work to confront ill-founded medical practices.

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