Present day promotion and research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is often unethical. Dr. Wallace Sampson, Clinical Professor of Medicine (Emeritus), Stanford University, in a Medscape General Medicine video editorial focuses on two little discussed issues relating to CAM: informed consent and the ethics of clinical research.
Physicians have a duty to inform the patient if a treatment under discussion is not scientifically validated. Dr. Sampson points out: An ethical dilemma occurs when patients have unrealistic expectations for an ineffective remedy. The practitioner who fails to inform realistically, or leads the patient on, compounds the dilemma. Failure to inform realistically is sometimes rationalized as either choosing not to remove hope or as nonjudgmental patient support.
However, uncritical support amounts to abetting ill-informed, counterproductive, and harmful decisions.
Concerning clinical trials Dr. Sampson points out that subjecting research participants to methods of “negligible plausibility” violates the Belmont and Helsinki declarations. By this standard much of current NCCAM sponsored research would be unethical.