UCL News


Science accuses BBC of medical quackery

24 March 2006

Some of Britain's leading scientists have accused the BBC of "quackery" by misleading viewers in an attempt to exaggerate the power of alternative medicine.

The criticisms centre on 'Alternative Medicine', a series broadcast on BBC2 in January, in which some of the most memorable scenes included open-heart surgery apparently carried out using acupuncture as an anaesthetic. …

This weekend scientists turned on the programme's producers, accusing them of distorting science in an attempt to present an unjustifiably positive image of complementary therapies. "They are peddling quack science," said Professor David Colquhoun [UCL Pharmacology]. …

Two other programmes in the series - discussing faith healing and herbalism - were also criticised.

"It was the programme on herbal medicines which really got me going most," said Colquhoun. "It is as if evidence-based medicine and reason started to go out of fashion in the 1970s and 1980s and mysticism came in. We have to bring reason back."

Colquhoun also warned that an unproven herbal treatment for Aids called sutherlandia is being promoted on the internet after it was featured in a programme discussing alternative herbal medicines.

He added that a gathering of members of the Royal Society, Britain's most prestigious scientific body, is to be convened next month to promote the merits of conventional science. …

They will raise concerns that more than 50 universities now offer three year bachelor of science degrees in alternative medicine.

"This is no longer a fringe game played by new age people," said Colquhoun. "It is beginning to erode intellectual standards at real universities."

Lois Rogers, 'Sunday Times', 26 March 2006