Today we live in evidence based arena of medicine. Every move that we make as surgeons and physicians must have tinges of evidence-based science. Our medications, our procedures, our treatment plans must all have the backing of science. All across our great higher institutions, in the laboratories, in conference rooms every day common heroes are hard at work establishing a paradigm of science by conducting research and trials that are tested, evaluated and improved. Highly powerful statistical models of their work substantiate the results and with it is borne the revolution of modern medicine. As a plastic surgeon I am proud to be a part of some of these trials and I support them and patiently await the establishment of new procedures, regimens and equipment. To me, there is no higher priority than to use evidence-based medicine when I treat my patients.

Alas, come the modern day snake oil salesmen-The Naturopathic “doctors”. Armed with egos that rise above their senses, these so called practitioners are jumping on the bandwagon of “natural” remedies and the holistic needs of the consumers. Their practices are based on regimens and “wizardry” of fads that are becoming so popular. They are involved with very little science, if any, and continue to imbue their offerings with draconian and untested remedies. They are dangerous.

Not a week goes by in my own practice that I am not faced with convincing a patient that taking some their remedies can have untoward sequel, especially when mixed with appropriate medications that we prescribe. We spend countless hours trying so hard to be detectives and figure out what potion they are taking and what effects they have during a major surgical experience. From blood thinning, to liver injury many of these remedies are simply put-dangerous.

Last week I met a lady who had gone to a naturopath up the street for evaluation of her scar. The naturopath had injected her scar with some vitamin mix that also had other potions included. Then she had gone further and told her that scars are “centers” of toxins and these accumulations are detrimental to the body and can cause organ failure. An unbelievable tale. In 22 years of surgical experience and after dealing with thousands of miles of scars, I have never ever heard of such contorted and deceptive description.

These same naturopaths are also involved with offerings of hope to patients who have terminal illness. The desperation of these patients is met with the cavernous zeal and lust of these practitioners for money and their deceptive and self-perpetuating belief that herbal and natural remedies can heal, even “cure” cancer. I have always so wanted to ask one of these individuals if they have ever cured any one of cancer. I don’t think I can bear their response. The indulgence of naturopaths in treatment of terminally ill patients, and their offering of hope to these patients and their families is so incredibly devious, dishonest and ill placed that it borders on criminal.

In 2005, The Lancet, a most prestigious medical journal, reported a series of articles that effectively examined the value of homeopathy. One of the trials was a meta-analysis of over 110 trials of both conventional and homeopathy. Every one of the articles seriously doubted the effectiveness of these remedies and concluded that that almost all have placebo effects.

Again, I am all about science. If they did conduct prospective randomized controlled trials and proved that they do have remedies for some of the disease process, then I will look at them with a different light. Until then, no snake oil for this old surgeon who truly cares about the improvement of the human condition.

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