I ran across a series of posts from a physician which I think do a thorough job of identifying warning signs of unscientific, irrational or outright quack medical treatments. They’re not organized in a particularly systematic way, but they cover a lot of important ground. Below are the specific headings grouped under the post in which they appear, with the details to be found on Dr. Walt’s page.
Warning Signs- Post One
1. Is the product or practice promoted as a “Major Breakthrough,” “Revolutionary,” “Magic,” or “Miraculous”?
2. Do the promotions try to simply elicit an emotional reaction rather than present clear information to help you make an informed decision about the product?
3. Is only anecdotal or testimonial evidence used to support claims of effectiveness?
4. Are claims made about scientific support without giving specific details?
5. Is the information about the therapy or product being provided by a professional lacking in the proper credentials?
Warning Signs- Post Two
6. Are technical words used without a clear definition?
7. Would a treatment require you to abandon any well-established scientific laws or principles?
8. Do proponents claim that a medical system is so flawless (“airtight”) that there is no need for further testing?
9. Is the treatment said to be effective for a wide variety of unrelated physiological problems?
10. Is the product a quick and easy fix for a complicated and frustrating condition?
Warning Signs- Post Three
11. Does the proponent of the therapy claim to be criticized unfairly?
12. When challenged, do defenders attack the critic instead of responding to the challenge?
13. Do proponents claim that research will prove their therapy is effective as soon as studies are conducted?
14. Is training to provide the therapy offered only at obscure private institutions instead of accredited professional schools?
15. Do proponents use expertise in other areas to lend weight to their medical claims?
Warning Signs- Post Four
16. Is a therapy encouraged simply because it’s been used for centuries by people in some remote place?
17. Do proponents use statements that are basically true but unrelated to the therapy?
18. Do proponents blame failed tests of effectiveness on skepticism or outright nonbelief of observers?
19. Do proponents claim it is too difficult for most to understand how a therapy works, or that only the “enlightened” can understand?
20. Does the proponent disguise the truth with vague and misleading statements?
Warning Signs- Post Five
21. Does the product you’re considering require advance payment?
22. Does the advertisement promise a “money-back guarantee”?
23. Is the therapy available only in other countries?
24. Are there conflicts of interest?
25. Is the term “natural” the main advantage of the remedy?