Thoughts on Judaism

Friday, March 18, 2005

Magic medicine and Insurance

One challenge I am often presented on the subject of "alternative" magic medicine is that insurance covers many of these types of "treatments". Homeopathy, acupunture, chiropractic and naturopathic treatments can all claim some of this "legitimacy".

Note: By chiropractic care, I mean the traditional Palmerian subluxation nonsense. The term "chiropractic care" is presently applied to many types of treatments, loosely or not at all related to Palmerian treatments. I do not wish to debate each individually. WWW.CHIROWATCH.COM will handle that.

The answer is that this legitimacy is no more legitimate than an endorsement from a celebrity. Insurance companies sell what people demand, not necessarily what is good for them. For example, the Aetna site often comments on quackery, but there may be Aetna plans that cover the same quackery, because their job is to sell policies, not to dictate medical treatment. I am sure that if a company targets religious Jews, they may yet sell insurance that covers the pidgeon treatment for hepatitis. This does not imply research, only market demand.

Another challenge I get is that, since some things work as placebo, we should allow it to work for the people who would benefit from the placebo. This is OK, but magic medicine practioners often pick up on people who are in desparate straits, who have tried real treatments, or have been convinced that medical science is a monetary conspiracy. After all, who would not spend a moderate or even large amount of money for a promise (and that's all there is, a promise) to save themselves or a loved one from a difficult disease. They are no more than a con game for the vulnerable. I think that victimizing people in this way, especially under those conditions, is reprehensible, disgusting, despicable, I can not think of strong enough terms. Apparently, a large number of people in the frum world disagree, by posing this challenge. I guess our moral standards are different, as well as our reality compass.


  • What IS the story with the pidgeon treatment for hepatitis? I heard about it as a young bochur. is there any evidence or suporting theory?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:45 PM  

  • Not only is there no evidence, other than anecdotal, I am unable to find an old traditional Jewish source on this practice, Gemorra, Kabalah or otherwise. I.e. this may be a foreign magic practice.

    I saw a 1995 blog where someone claims that Dr. Fred Rosner studied the matter in 1992 and published the study in the NY Jounal of Medicine in May 1992(the journal is no longer published). According to the blog, he found no conclusive evidence that it works.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:22 PM  

  • The study cacn be found here.

    Hat tip: Mis-Nagid

    By Blogger Menuval, at 6:09 PM  

  • You da bomb! CS. V'Gam Mis-Nagid zachur latov. If been looking for ages.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 5:16 PM  

  • Chabad skeptic

    The PDF is an essay from 1999 that refers to the study in 1992 in footnote 10. Do you ahve access to the acual study data. In this PDF, Rosner is very politically correct in his phrasing.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 11:59 PM  

  • I'll try to find it next time I'm at the university library. I'm curious myself.

    By Blogger Menuval, at 3:07 AM  

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