Ethical and professional aspects of the practice of alternative medicine

Scand J Soc Med. 1992 Dec;20(4):217-25. doi: 10.1177/140349489202000406.


The question of who should provide alternative medical treatment raises a number of different problems of both an ethical and a professional nature. Providing medical treatment, including alternative medical treatment, presupposes that the physician in question possesses diagnostic competence. It is in the best interests of society that medical care is safe, and therefore society must monitor the medical profession, e.g. in order to assure itself that the treatment provided is in agreement with the tenet of science and proven experience. The democratization of the patient-doctor relationship and the liberalization of the availability of medical and alternative medical treatments means that society also has an interest in ensuring that physicians offer alternative medical treatments or cooperate with practitioners of alternative medicine. A question is whether this is also of interest to the physicians? Another question touching on professional ethics is whether the doctor has the same responsibility to respect the desire of a patient to receive alternative medical treatment as he would have to respect the patient's right to forego ordinary medical treatment. These questions are analysed here against the background of the perspective of the relevant interest groups and are graded with regard to the disease and treatment concerned, how far the disease has advanced, the age of the patient, and whether or not the patient is competent to make his own decisions. These considerations are relevant in a discussion of who is qualified to provide or prescribe alternative medical treatment. This study points out that the individual physician should have the possibility to compromise and improvise from case to case.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Beneficence
  • Complementary Therapies / standards*
  • Decision Making
  • Decision Trees
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Paternalism
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Patient Rights
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Professional Practice / standards*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Values
  • Sweden
  • Treatment Outcome