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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.
To the Edutirs:
Contrary to Dr. James Gordon's protestations about testimony to and dissenting opinions from his White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I offer the following.
I became aware of the commission by examining and alternative medicine organization's web page. The commission notified most "CAM" organizations of its existence and meetings, but did not notify interested scientific and anti-fraud organizations. The leadership of those organizations were well known to the chairman and staff members -- some their members having had previous personal contacts with both.
The commission's genesis remains obscure. Dr. Gordon states the commission responded to a bipartisan congressional mandate. No such congressional origin could be found. Repeated requests for information, including through the Freedom of Information Act, failed to reveal who organized its formation, through which mechanisms, or for what reasons the commission was formed. The Executive order was said to emanate from the Department of health Services and the White House.
The nomination and selection processes were not revealed. Contrary to being a diverse membership, the commission members with three exceptions were practitioners of anomalous and ineffective methods, supporters of the "CAM" movement, or heads of businesses with commercial conflicts of interest. Some practiced known forms of medical quackery.
Contrary to Dr. Gordon's claims of innocent study of cults, he presents two faces -- one to his co-believers, and another in more innocent appearing writings for the public. He fully admits his involvement with and following of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his rituals in Gordon's book, The Golden Guru. His associations with and support of similar cults are outlined in two articles on him and the commission in Fall 2001 Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine.
In 1999, with members of several organizations, I requested to present, along with 20 or more knowledgeable scientists and students of sectarian medicine and anomalous methods ("CAM,") the state of scientific knowledge about them. We proposed presenting before selected commission members and a nonpartisan panel from the National Academy of Sciences. The proceedings would be published with the commission report. The commission finally rejected the proposal through letter and email exchanges over approximately one year. We were offered 5-10 minute slots at several "town hall" and other meetings, at which a predominance of advocates presented, and one hurriedly organized meeting for others in Washington. I declined such invitations and criticized the commission on at least four grounds.
Some scientists fell into the commission's political plan and accepted such invitations. Their critiques were minimized in the final report as predicted.
The White House Commission appears to be no more than a politically and economically devised arm of the antiscientific and New Age movement that intends to overturn science, rationality and common sense in medicine. It seeks federally supportive research and federal and insurance payment for unproved, disproved, and implausible methods.
The spin of Dr. Gordon's letter would have the reader think that such methods hold unknown promise. To the contrary, we already know the methods to be ineffective and unworkable, and further research will be unproductive and wasteful. The White House Commission, for self-serving reasons, refused to hear the evidence, and the Post's article, so far as it went, was accurate.
Wallace Sampson MD
Editor, The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine
Clinical Professor of Medicine, Emer, Stanford University
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