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Defining Terms – Integrative Medicine (IM)

June 3, 2011

Many proponents of complementary and alternative medecine (CAM) advocate for what they call integrative medicine (IM), at its most basic described by supporters as the integration of CAM into mainstream medicine. In the post “When  Woo Enters the Science Classroom” I described the issue with this approach as follows.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine is a catch all phrase to describe all forms of quackery and nonsense that either have not been proven to be safe and effective or have already been proven to be either unsafe, ineffective, or both, yet are continuing to be offered by alternative practitioners. When treatments are shown to be safe and effective through rigorous scientific research and trials, they are adopted as medicine and cease to be referred to as complimentary or alternative. This is the one common thread running through all forms of CAM. If we can agree that this is the case then integrative medicine, a term used describe efforts to offer patients CAM treatments alongside, in addition to, or in place of, accepted science-based medicine, cannot be considered anything other than an attempt to integrate unproven, unscientific medical treatments with science-based medicine. This is not an issue of culture, acceptance of differing value systems, or a way to integrate potentially beneficial CAM treatments with science-based medicine. Any treatments currently considered CAM that are shown to be beneficial and safe will at that time cease to be CAM, will be considered science-based, and will be offered to patients appropriately without the need of any special agenda called Integrative Medicine. This is why the very notion of Integrative Medicine is an issue from the word go.


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