Social media has been abuzz with stories of the mounting death toll of alternative medicine practitioners in recent months. Hardly two weeks go by without another macabre report of a mysterious fatality of an osteopath, chiropractor, or herbalist, each one coming under seemingly suspicious circumstances.
Following a Food and Drug Administration raid of his premises, the body of holistic doctor and vaccination skeptic Jeff Bradstreet was found dead, shot in the chest and floating in a river. Osteopath Mary Rene Bovier was reported stabbed to death, with police treating it as a homicide. Soon there were five reported dead. Then eight. Then there were ten.
What could be going on? Some alternative medicine advocates have speculated that the deaths are linked to the government. Bradstreet's family has even set up a GoFundMe page seeking "To find the answers to the many questions leading up to the death of Dr Bradstreet, including an exhaustive investigation into the possibility of foul play." Maybe the nefarious pharmaceutical companies are knocking off the competition.
Or maybe not. The link that connects all of these deaths has finally been discovered. And according to Snopes, the real killer is… basic mathematics.
As of March 2015, there was an estimated range of 897,000 to just over 1,000,000 doctors in the United States, and per every 100,000 people (of all vocations) each year, approximately 821 die. Going by those numbers alone, between 6,500 and 8,200 medical doctors will statistically die of myriad causes in any given year. Each month approximately 700 doctors would die (based upon the number of American doctors and the number of overall deaths)… As such, six to eight deaths is well within the realm of expected doctor deaths.
Snopes goes on to dissect the other deaths, which don't seem all that suspicious after delving into the details. Some of the doctors who were reported as "alternative" or "holistic" actually weren't.
As the recent spate of speculation attests, alternative medicine advocates often see themselves as outsiders pitted against a hostile medical establishment. The federal government, "Big Pharma", and the medical profession are perceived to be in a silent conspiracy against them. There's nothing this cabal won't do to eliminate alternative practitioners in defense of their proft-making enterprises. It's a perfect example of what Reason editor Jesse Walker has called the Enemy from Above, a type of paranoid fantasy that envisions constant subterfuge from a malevolent, ruling elite.
But a recent Reason TV video turns that self-perception on its head. 'The Alternative Medicine Racket' shows that alternative medicine lost its claim to 'outsider' status decades ago, when the federal government began to mainstream its many methods, despite a lack of evidence of their effectiveness.
Today, what's known as "complementary" or "integrative" health is firmly entrenched in the medical establishment, with a well-funded center at the National Institutes of Health working to promote alternative treatments at dozens of medical centers across the nation. Yet despite $5.5 billion spent over the last 23 years, they've found no alternative cures. It's an astonishing record of taxpayer-funded futility.