At Science-Based Medicine, David Gorski details the disturbing integration pseudoscience into the care of American veterans:
Today’s topic is the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and its embrace of pseudoscience. VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide care for over 8 million veterans, ranging from the dwindling number of World War II and Korean War veterans to soldiers coming home now from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although there have been problems over the years with VAMCs and the quality of care they provide, including a recent scandal over hiding veterans’ inability to get timely doctor’s appointments at VAMCs, a concerted effort to improve that quality of care over the last couple of decades has yielded fruit so that today the quality of care in VA facilities compares favorably to the private sector. Unfortunately, like the private sector, the VA is also embracing alternative medicine in the form of CAM, or, as its proponents like to call it these days, “integrative medicine,” in order to put a happy label on the “integration” of pseudoscience and quackery with conventional medicine.
Of course, I (and others at SBM) have discussed the intrusion of woo into the military before. For instance, a post I wrote in SBM’s first year of existence discussed Col. (Dr.) Richard Niemtzow, a radiation oncologist by training but also one of the Department of Defense doctors trained as certified acupuncturists, and his advocacy for “battlefield acupuncture.” The form of acupuncture that Col. Niemtzow advocated was auricular acupuncture, which involves inserting tiny needles into the ear and leaving them there until they fall out. He even pioneered a program to train physicians in “battlefield acupuncture” and deploying them to combat zones. Not surprisingly, the evidence base cited in support of such a program was—how do I put this?—underwhelming, but that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for the idea and other alternative medicine in the military. Given that my last post on battlefield acupuncture was in 2009, I thought I’d take a look again at the infiltration of “integrative medicine,” including battlefield acupuncture, into the military and the VHA. Unfortunately, unlike Clay Jones’ satirical—or…is it?—piece about robotic acupuncture, this is no joke. It’s really happening.
You can read Gorski’s full post here.