As I am new here, it might be a good idea to briefly introduce myself. I am a physician, trained in Germany, whose very first post as a freshly-backed doctor happened to be in Germany’s only homeopathic hospital. At the time (mid 1970s), I had no idea that this experience would determine so much of my professional life.
Subsequently, I became a conventional doctor until I risked a complete career change: I went to London and worked in a research laboratory. This is when I began to think as a scientist. Later, I returned to Germany, did a PhD and, for many years, worked simultaneously as a scientist as well as a clinician.
One day in 1993 - by then I was head of a large clinical department at the University of Vienna - I decided to risk another adventurous career change: I accepted the position of ‘Professor of Complementary Medicine’ at the University of Exeter, UK. Up to that point, alternative medicine had been no more than a hobby to me, but now it became my full-time job to scientifically investigate this area.
In Exeter, I assembled a multidisciplinary team, and together we applied the tools of science to the often weird and wonderful word of alternative medicine. What made us special, I think, was the fact that we did not try to prove that alternative treatments worked (like most of the others who research in this area), but we aimed at rigorously testing the many claims that were being made. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our findings were mostly disappointing to those who were believers in this or that alternative therapy.
Eventually, my critical attitude, paired with a habit to speak out, got me into deep trouble. Proponents of alternative medicine tend to dismiss critics arguing that they don’t know what they are talking about. In my case, this strategy failed: I usually knew my subject at least as well as my opponents. When they could no longer ignore our findings, we inevitably made powerful enemies.
My ‘claim to fame’ is that I had several public clashes with Prince Charles who is one of the most influential apologists of alternative medicine in the UK. The result was that his office filed an official complaint and my University conducted a 13-months investigation into my affairs. Eventually they had to return a verdict of ‘not guilty as charged’, but all support broke down, the money dried up, my staff was dismissed, I was forced to accept early retirement, and my unit was closed for good. This sorry tale (and much more) has been told in more detail in my memoir ‘A SCIENTIST IN WONDERLAND’.
Now, as a pensioner living in the UK and France, I write books, give lectures and do my blogs and support the skeptics where I can. Why? Many people claim because I have an axe to grind or because I am on the pay-roll of ‘Big Pharma’. But they could not be more wrong.
The truth is that I feel an ethical duty to correct or at least counter-balance the frequently dangerous nonsense about alternative medicine that consumers read almost every day. I have researched alternative medicine for over two decades, published more about it than anyone on this planet, and today I feel the need to do my best to inform the public responsibly, to warn them from irresponsible entrepreneurs, and to prevent patients from falling victim of naïve therapists who haven’t got a clue about medicine.
On this blog, I intend to write about all aspect of alternative medicine - with expertise, often with irony, sometimes with humor, but always with enthusiasm and dedication. I hope my posts are entertaining and informative - most certainly they will be critical.