Trick or Treatment (2008) by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst is a fantastic book that examine and contrast alternative medicine and evidence based medicine. This book and the also superb Bad Science should be read by anyone who is into alternative medicine. The two books are calm discussions that point out that alternative medicine is largely a sham. Both books have results in lawsuits. Simon Singh is currently being sued by the British Chiropractic Association.
The book has 6 chapters, an introduction and a section that has a page for various types of alternative medicine, including detox, ear candles and pretty much every type of alternative medicine you can think of. The first chapter; How do you determine the Truth? looks at the history of medicine and how it changed from a field that often hurt it’s patients to the life saving practice it is today. The second chapter discusses Acupuncture, the third Homeopathy, the fourth Chiropractic Therapy and the fifth Herbal Medicine. The final chapter looks at the question of whether the truth matters.
The book is very well written. Simon Singh is one of the best science writers around. His book The Code Book is possibly the best popular science book I’ve ever read. Trick or Treatment is another brilliant book. The sections on each form of alternative medicine look at the theory as proposed by the practitioners, the history of the systems and the evidence on their efficacy. Interestingly 2 alternative medicines are argued to be effective as solid medical evidence has accumulated to show that they are reliable and some other treatments are given some support.
The book is not quite as good as Bad Science. The reason being that Bad Science also points out problems with evidence based medicine and the way in which powerful interests can corrupt research into drugs. But, the investigation into alternative medicines is perhaps a little better in Trick or Treatment.
The book’s final chapter goes into why alternative medicines need to be examined and why they are not just a harmless way for people to waste their money. The reason is that many alternative medical practitioners give out dangerous and incorrect advice, including misinformation about anti-malarial drugs. The other reason is that funds that could be spent on treatments that do work are instead wasted on expensive placebos.
It’s hard to recommend this book highly enough. This and Bad Science are both excellent books that should be read by everyone.