Needle point

September 23, 2010

Judith Farquhar berates me for not being an expert on Chinese medicine (Letters, 9 September), but she is a professor of anthropology. I can find only one publication by her in PubMed, a digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature, and that isn't about anything medical. It isn't obvious to me that an anthropologist should be better qualified to comment on medical treatments or systems biology than a pharmacologist.

Chinese medicine is, no doubt, very interesting from the point of view of anthropology and cultural history. But we are not talking about anthropology or philosophy. We are talking about treatment of sick people. If one looks at what is actually taught on these courses, it is obvious that most of it is not true and some of it is dangerous.

The University of Westminster has, so far, refused to divulge anything in response to Freedom of Information Act requests about its courses on complementary and alternative medicine, and its vice-chancellor refuses to discuss the matter. In fact, I have more teaching materials from Westminster than almost any other university. They arrive in "plain brown emails" from people who have had contact with these courses and who have enough conscience to realise that is their duty to let the public know what is going on.

David Colquhoun, Via

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