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Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial [Hardcover]

Simon Singh , Edzard Ernst
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 April 2008
Welcome to the world of alternative medicine. Prince Charles is a staunch defender and millions of people swear by it; most UK doctors consider it to be little more than superstition and a waste of money. But how do you know which treatments really heal and which are potentially harmful? Now at last you can find out, thanks to the formidable partnership of Professor Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh. Edzard Ernst is the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, based at Exeter University, where he has spent over a decade analysing meticulously the evidence for and against alternative therapies.He is supported in his findings by Simon Singh, the well-known and highly respected science writer of several international bestsellers. Together they have written the definitive book on the subject. It is honest, impartial but hard-hitting, and provides a thorough examination and judgement of more than thirty of the most popular treatments, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology, chiropractic and herbal medicine.In Trick or Treatment? the ultimate verdict on alternative medicine is delivered for the first time with clarity, scientific rigour and absolute authority.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press (21 April 2008)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0593061292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593061299
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 133,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Singh is a science journalist and TV producer. Having completed his PhD at Cambridge he worked from 1991 to 1997 at the BBC producing Tomorrow's World and co-directing the BAFTA award-winning documentary Fermat's Last Theorem for the Horizon series. He is the author of Fermat's Last Theorem, which was a no 1 bestseller in Britain and translated into 22 languages. In 1999, he wrote The Code Book which was also an international bestseller and the basis for the Channel 4 series The Science of Secrecy.

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Fearless, intelligent and remorselessly rational. -- Sunday Times, April 20th 2008

"a definitive - if controversial - guide to what works, and what doesn't. It makes indispensable, if sometimes alarming, reading"
-- Daily Mail, April 8, 2008

Book Description

The ultimate verdict on alternative medicine.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and useful, but by no means unbiased 22 Dec 2012
By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Trick or Treatment is a very interesting read about the evidence that exists for the effectiveness (or not) of various complementary and alternative therapies (CAM). The book focuses especially on acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal medicine, with an appendix covering many more treatments in brief. I enjoyed reading the anecdotes on the history of CAM and conventional medicine, and there was a lot of useful information in there, but the authors' tone and approach left me questioning whether they were as unbiased as they claimed to be. Incidentally, I'm a big believer in the principles of evidence-based medicine (EBM), and I'm sceptical about many alternative therapies, so I didn't expect to have a problem with this book.

The main reasons I found myself distrusting Singh and Ernst are as follows:

1. Trick or Treatment claims to be a neutral presentation of the facts, but it is written in a very persuasive tone, with disparaging language used for anything the authors disapprove of. I really felt they were giving me the 'hard sell', which seems at odds with the concept of EBM. Much is made of the fact that Ernst used to be a homeopath, which supposedly makes him less biased, but to me the book seemed to have been written by someone who had become disillusioned by his former profession and therefore had strong feelings about it. On its own, this is not necessarily a problem, but in comparison with the points below it made me wary.

2. Throughout the book, the authors imply that modern conventional medicine is always better than CAM and that it always it has better evidence. They do not acknowledge any of the problems with research in conventional medicine, such as publication bias, or the fact that poor-quality trials exist here too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essential facts about alternative medicine 15 Aug 2014
By Brian Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book takes an objective look at alternative medicine. The outcome is electrifying to everyone who thinks and has used or considered using anything like homeopathy or acupuncture. Singh and Ernst don’t set out with any malice – Ernst has worked for many years in alternative medicine – but they show devastatingly how proper trials have shown these alternative treatments to rarely be better than a placebo, and often to have negative or even life-threatening consequences.

It really is striking – the vast majority of alternative medical treatments are proved to be on a par with snake oil. Apart from anything else, this ought to be required reading for doctors -a surprising number encourage alternative treatment – for celebrities who endorse this kind of medication and particularly the media which all too often is wide-eyed and idiotic on the subject of alternative treatments. In the UK, Prince Charles who has bumbled on about the subject for many years, ought to be forced to copy this book out by hand until he gets the point.

All in all, a really important book which wasn't given the coverage it deserved when it came out, and what’s more it’s very readable too. By combining Ernst’s expertise on the subject and Singh’s superb science writing we have a book that is as entertaining as it is informative, and the emphasis on real testing will be a delight to anyone who enjoys the saying ‘data is not the plural of anecdote.’ More than recommended – essential.
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55 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This should be essential reading alongside Ben Goldacre's Bad Science. Both books serve a vitally important role. Where Goldacre's book is a little more chatty, it's author being the 'David Brent' of the popular science writers world (I'm cool, you'd love to have a drink with me, and yeah, I can drink loads, while leading two double-blind trials, writing newspaper columns, participating in amateur dramatics (yes, really!) and being the funniest guy you've ever met... I'm cool, I swear, particularly if it impresses the kids and ...), Ernst and Singh's book is a little more sober, the authors being less desperate to impress. The books compliment each other well. If you come away, as some readers have, unconvinced,claiming the authors to be part of some conspiracy, or accusing them of blind prejudice against CAM then you have simply failed to understand the basic points they're making, and those points are not difficult to understand. This book and Goldacre's explain with admirable clarity the placebo effect and the way a double blind trial works and why they're important. Not difficult notions to understand in any case, but, just in case, here they are explained clearly, so all can grasp them. All treatments should undergo rigorous testing, much of the stuff on your health food shops' shelves hasn't, and when it has it has been shown (with very very few exceptions)to have all the healing qualities of a sugar pill, which in the case of homeopathy isn't surprising since that's what they generally are.
Now, to the KINDLE edition. 1 month into my Kindle ownership and I'm now getting pretty irritated by the shoddy quality of many of the Kindle editions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last sense 22 Feb 2014
By Kpopeye
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Informative and a good read. Sensible and logical and now feel more informed and happy to ignore friends who think alternative medicine a good thing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Aristomenis
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I thought the book was adequate and clearly written.
Published 1 month ago by David McDonagh
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 months ago by Sandali Jayasena
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Will Out
Read this on Holiday, found it compulsive reading, I had no idea how much people wasted on Woo and invented medicine, it's astounding. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Philip Robin Eccles
2.0 out of 5 stars Bit disappointed
I was hoping to get an Exposé on the tricks and treats of alternative medicines - but really this is not here in this book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Seven of nine
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
I found the treatment very scientific. It changed my opinion about accupuncture. I have had it done a few times as my osteopath recommended it for faster recovery. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Rohit (NZ)
5.0 out of 5 stars Another weapon against quacks
I bought read and highlighted key parts for my grandmother who is a believer in homeopathy as opposed to the placebo effect and power of mental conviction. Read more
Published 7 months ago by H. Pritchard-smith
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful and very readable rebuttal of the claims of 'alternative...
Singh and Ernst have, individually, been waging war on the 'woo' merchants for many years, and in this book they powerfully combine to explain and discuss the evidence that shows... Read more
Published 9 months ago by M. G. Cornwall
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
A fascinating look at the alternative medicine industry and meta analysis. Great for any cynics ! I enjoyed this immensely
Published 9 months ago by Spillit
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, as ever
It was the author rather than the subject which drew me to this book: having previously read "The Code Book", "Fermat's Last Theorem" and "Big Bang", I... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Charlie C-S
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