In addition, much of the regulatory framework governing conventional medicine, which incorporates many ethical obligations, also translates to CAM practice.This includes, for example, licensure, malpractice liability rules, and legal rules governing professional discipline.The focus of this article is therefore on ethical aspects in areas of overt variations between CAM and conventional medicine.
Table 1 provides a brief description of some of the most important therapeutic methods within CAM.
For the purpose of this article, it may be helpful to highlight some of the major, current conceptual and pragmatic differences between CAM and conventional medicine, particularly those with implications concerning ethical obligations.
In doing so, a degree of simplification and dichotomisation may be necessary, recognising that CAM research and practice are both evolving; that definitions embrace legal, social, and political (as well as medical and scientific) realities, and that the lines between conventional medicine and CAM become blurred when CAM therapies are incorporated into routine medical practice.
Complementary and alternative medicine has become an important section of healthcare.
Its high level of acceptance among the general population represents a challenge to healthcare professionals of all disciplines and raises a host of ethical issues.
This article is an attempt to explore some of the more obvious or practical ethical aspects of complementary and alternative medicine.In fact, many of the ethical rules applicable to conventional medicine—such as requirements of informed consent, practice boundaries (that is, the duty to practice within one’s scope of competence or else to appropriately refer), and duties involving confidentiality and privacy—translate across to the arena of CAM.Most definitions therefore describe CAM by what it is not rather than by what it is (for example, not taught in medical schools, not scientifically proven, not plausible, not in line with the concepts of orthodox medicine, etc).Such definitions are of questionable value and validity; for instance, several forms of CAM are now taught in some medical schools In an attempt to find a positive definition, we have suggested the following: CAM is “diagnosis, treatment and/or prevention which complements mainstream medicine by contributing to a common whole, by satisfying a demand not met by orthodoxy or by diversifying the conceptual frameworks of medicine”.This definition of CAM has now been adopted by the Cochrane Collaboration’s “field” in CAM.It is, however, academic and does not describe the modalities involved.