CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Marginal to Mainstream: Alternative Medicine in America

Stephen E. Straus, MD, Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, wrote a favorable review of Marginal to Mainstream: Alternative Medicine in America, a new book from my colleague Mary Ruggie, PhD, a sociologist and professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The review, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, commented: "Readers could also review Cohen's Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Health Evolution (University of Michigan Press, 2000) for more insights into the government machinery that is abetting or restraining the movement of CAM from marginal to mainstream."

The review reads in part: "A strength of the book is its trenchant analysis of the nature of CAM and the factors that drove it to the margins of organized medicine throughout most of the 20th century. Ruggie notes that CAM and conventional medicine enjoy different epistemological frameworks. Conventional medicine aspires to practices that are informed through formal scientific inquiry. In CAM, traditional wisdom and our own life experiences suffice to explain the phenomena and guide the choices of daily life. For Ruggie, the "mainstreaming" of CAM is not evidence that it and conventional medicine are relinquishing their philosophical distinctions. Rather, this trend speaks to the recognition within conventional medicine of its own limitations and that personal choices can be agents for health....Ruggie is cautiously optimistic that research will not legitimize CAM so much as provide a rational basis for deciding which products and practices are sufficiently safe and effective to be mainstreamed."

NEJM 2004:351;24;2561. Mary Ruggie, PhD, is also a founding member of the Board of Advisors for the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173