is the practice of unproven, ineffective medicine
, usually in order to make money or to maintain a position of power.
Quackery has existed all throughout human history, and probably pre-dates the emergence of effective medicine.
Quackery is still abundant today, herbal medicine[?], miracle cures, and diet and fitness regimes are considered a form of Quackery by medical experts, these criticise thet they are great at taking money from people, especially the desperate.
These false treatments persist for a variety of reasons:
- The placebo effect. Medicines or treatments, known to have no effect on a disease, can have major effects on a person's perception of their illness. People report reduced pain, and increased well being, all because they don't no their treatment does nothing. The placebo effect is extreme in the treatment of depression. Some studies show up to 80% of people will report an improvement in their condition after taking a sugar pill.
- False hope. Most conventional practitioners consider it unethical to lie to a patient about the chance of success of their treatment. Quacks do not have these ethical constraints.
- Side effects from real treatment. Anti-cancer drugs and radical surgery can have very distressing side effects. Illegitimate treatments, e.g. herbal medicines, do not have these side effects -- they have no effect.
- Distrust of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine does not have a clean history either. Much of medicine's past was in fact quackery. Nowadays, doctors are often paid a very large salary, much more than most of the people they treat. They often receive money for a consultation, without giving any treatment. Mistakes made by doctors are also reported extensively by the media. The regulatory committees of medical doctors, are doctors themselves. Quackery doesn't have to deal with their wrongs of the past, they don't call themselves quacks, they can change their name to whatever is trendy at the time, e.g. herbalist. They also promote the distrust of conventional medicine, often by lying.
- Cost. Pharmaceutical companies and doctors charge a lot of money for their services. Quacks can easily undercut them, by providing what they call, a better treatment for much less money.
The most common products that are being sold, and are considered ineffective by experts are herbal medicines. These are usually harmless, and do not claim to treat anything important. In most countries there is no regulation of herbal medicines. Some herbal medicines are dangerous, some work, most are a harmless waste of money (plus a possible placebo effect).
Numerous diet programs use people's concern over their image, as a way to make money. They sell books and videos, often with ridiculous ideas about nutrition.
A more disturbing, and a practice more often acknowledged to be quackery, are the miracle cancer cures and treatments.
Many people in western countries, after losing hope with conventional medicine, go to places such as Tijuana, Mexico, where promises of effective treatment for diseases such as cancer are made. (Usually over the internet.)
At these institutions, untrained, or immoral, technicians apply all sort of useless treatments. Examples include pulsing an electrical current through the body to kill 'the bad cells', this has no effect on any cells. These devices usually consist of a car battery, hooked up to two metal plates, in a medical-looking box. They receive a lot of money, and cite a lot of people cured. These people usually blame a conspiracy or a cover-up for the fact the treatment is not used elsewhere.
Many people die because of these places, as their tumour keeps growing, while they receive no real treatment.
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