Issues in complementary and alternative medicine
Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

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Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

3.13 Key ethical issues for CAM practitioners: research

Every therapy needs to have a sound theory underpinning it. Without it, a therapy cannot grow and mature. Research may extend and improve the knowledge base for a given therapy but not all practitioners are willing or able to participate in useful, well designed research. The issues are related to the ethical principles of benefiting (beneficence) and not harming (non-maleficence). Without evidence to support the claims that are being made, how can practitioners be sure that they are doing good rather than doing harm? What is at issue are ethical questions that go to the heart of knowledge, and how competing knowledge systems are assessed. Several CAM therapies still adhere to the teachings of their founder. Their knowledge base is passed down through the generations, remaining true to original principles. Such therapies have not made the transition to a knowledge base that can be externally validated and modified in the light of new findings. It remains to be seen whether public support for such therapies will continue in these increasingly evidence-based times.


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