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Incommensurable Worldviews? Is Public Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicines Incompatible with Support for Science and Conventional Medicine?
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Author: Paul Stoneman et al.

by Paul Stoneman, Patrick Sturgis, Nick Allum, Elissa Sibley

Proponents of controversial Complementary and Alternative Medicines, such as homeopathy, argue that these treatments can be used with great effect in addition to, and sometimes instead of, ‘conventional’ medicine. In doing so, they accept the idea that the scientific approach to the evaluation of treatment does not undermine use of and support for some of the more controversial CAM treatments. For those adhering to the scientific canon, however, such efficacy claims lack the requisite evidential basis from randomised controlled trials. It is not clear, however, whether such opposition characterises the views of the general public. In this paper we use data from the 2009 Wellcome Monitor survey to investigate public use of and beliefs about the efficacy of a prominent and controversial CAM within the United Kingdom, homeopathy. We proceed by using Latent Class Analysis to assess whether it is possible to identify a sub-group of the population who are at ease in combining support for science and conventional medicine with use of CAM treatments, and belief in the efficacy of homeopathy. Our results suggest that over 40% of the British public maintain positive evaluations of both homeopathy and conventional medicine simultaneously. Explanatory analyses reveal that simultaneous support for a controversial CAM treatment and conventional medicine is, in part, explained by a lack of scientific knowledge as well as concerns about the regulation of medical research.
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