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Analysis of the Reports of the White House Commission on
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP)

Response to a Letter in the Washington Post by
WHCCAMP Chair James S. Gordon, MD

Timothy N. Gorski, MD, FACOG

WHCCAMP Chair James S. Gordon, MD, is is upset that his 2-year pet project is under attack. On March 26, 2002, the Washington Post printed a letter in which he defended his irresponsible behavior. This letter is a response.

Dear Sir or Madam:

James S. Gordon MD's response [Tuesday, March 26, 2002; Page HE02] to recent criticism of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP) that he chaired is as deceptive as the group's final report. To begin with, the Gordon Commission was almost entirely comprised of advocates of "CAM." None of its members had expertise or experience in the evaluation of ineffective, aberrant and fraudulent health claims and methods which account for a large portion of "CAM." None had expertise, experience, or even a particular interest in the protection of the public from such dangers. Most had a financial interest in the promotion of "CAM" and many advocate ideas and practices concerning health and disease that can only be described as bizarre.

Dr. Gordon himself, for example, has said that serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia should not be considered diseases but simply "different ways of being." Dr. Gordon has also endorsed the ideas of his mentor, R.D. Laing, who described schizophrenia as a "voyage of discovery" and advocated psychedelic drugs as a means for healthy people to engage in such "personal growth." Dr. Gordon has also clearly been an apologist for the late Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, whose Oregon cult was responsible for the first successful bioterror attacks on US soil in the 1980's. Dr. Gordon may not have had prior knowledge of those attacks when he was involved in the cult but he continues to promote and sell the Bhagwan's materials through his Center for Mind-Body Medicine. Others of the WHCCAMP Commissioners are closely connected with other irrational beliefs and practices.

As for the work of this commission, the dissenting statement by Drs. Fin and Low Dog is no less than a repudiation of most of the key assumptions and arguments of the group's final report. It is true that neither of these individuals had been critics of "CAM," and, as Dr. Gordon pointed out, gave every indication of initially trying to work within the ideology on which the commission was predicated. But this makes it all the more significant that these two commissioners, in the end, could not go along with Dr. Gordon 's ideological commitments and the extreme agenda lurking in the group's lengthy final report.

Should "CAM" undergo testing? Certainly, every promising method should be examined critically in order to ascertain its benefits and risks in promoting health and alleviating suffering and illness. But just because something is called "CAM" should not move it to the head of the line. Just because someone can imagine the prevention of all disease or its inexpensive treatment with "dietary supplements" doesn't mean that it can become reality. And it is certainly not true, as "CAM" advocates apparently believe, that if only enough money and resources are brought to bear that nearly every form of "CAM" can be validated.

The real truth is, as the editors of the both of the nation's leading medical journals have pointed out, that there is no "CAM." There is no alternative to medical care based on facts and reason and guided by compassion and due consideration for issues such as cost and convenience. What Dr. Gordon sought - and still seeks - to accomplish with his commission is a return to a prescientific era when fanciful, unproven and ineffective methods could scarcely be distinguished from what is now taken for granted as the dynamic standard of care in medicine. It is difficult to say whether this agenda is more arrogant than his personal promotion of "mind-body medicine," which is nothing less than the wholesale medicalization of spirituality along New Age (and the Bhagwan's) lines.

The most reasonable and useful portion of the final report of the Gordon Commission is "Appendix G," the dissenting "Letter from Joseph Fins, M.D. and Tieraona Low Dog M.D." That is the only thing worth reading in it.


Timothy N. Gorski MD FACOG
Arlington. Texas

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This page was posted on March 29, 2002.