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The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center
for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The Rosenthal Center is part of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation launched it in 1993 "to contribute to a greater understanding of things that today are considered unconventional but which may one day improve the quality of our lives." In 1996, the survivors of Carol Ann Schwartz funded a cancer initiative "to make reliable information on complementary cancer therapies readily available." In 1999, it received a grant from the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to create a Specialized Research Center for CAM Research in Aging. Its research focus is on aging and women's health, with emphasis on herbal remedies. Although its research may turn out to be significant, its Web site is a disgrace.

The Center's stated objectives include serving as an "internationally known and respected resource for information about complementary and alternative therapies." However, its Web site merely describes various methods from their proponents' viewpoints and links to many other sites that do the same. It's homeopathic links, for example, go only to proponent sites, not one of which contains any criticism. In fact, it has an entire page called "Resource Guide: Education & Training in Homeopathy for Doctors & Medical Students" that fails to mention how foolish it would be to take the courses or to believe what they teach.

The Center's cancer information section lists many questions to ask when investigating complementary and alternative methods. For example, it advises readers to visit the practitioner, any questions, observe the practitioner's "bedside manner," and, if you feel "reassured and trusting," to "trust your intuition." This advice is absurd because successful quacks are habitual liars who have little difficulty in gaining the trust of their victims. It would be more honest and helpful to state that the vast majority of "alternative" methods and information sources that promote them are not worth investigating.

The site also carries the following notice (to which I have added underlining):

Disclaimer

The information and resource listings on this site are not intended to be fully systematic or complete, nor does inclusion here imply any endorsement or recommendation by Columbia University, the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine or the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (RHRC). Columbia University, the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and RHRC make no warranties, express or implied, about the value or utility for any purpose of the information and resources contained herein.

Warning

The information and resource listings on this site are by definition outside the scope of generally accepted medical standards of care. They are nonconventional, alternative or complementary. For some of the treatments there may be scientific evidence for therapeutic efficacy while in other instances there is as yet limited or no research data.

The information and resource listings should not be used in any way to provide diagnoses or to prescribe any medical treatment. As in the case of conventional medicine, indiscriminate use of some of these therapies without medical supervision may be harmful to your health. Individuals viewing this material should in all cases consult their own doctor or other medical provider for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

Center director Fredi Kronenberg, Ph.D., is fully aware that some of the links contain information that is garbage and that other information on the site is misleading. I have pointed this out to her several times, and she has publicly acknowledged that she agrees with nearly every criticism I make about "alternative" methods. It would be far more honest to say, "Our information merely regurgitates proponent viewpoints. We don't criticize senseless methods because (a) that would not be politically correct; (b) some of our allies would get upset with us; and (c) maybe our Center would get less grant money."

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This article was posted on February 22, 2001.