Misleading Claims About Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies are proving more and more popular as our GP surgeries are getting overcrowded. People are turning to ‘ancient’ healing methods as well as new age therapies to try and balance their body, mind and soul.

The majority of complementary therapists are working in good faith – they’ve done their training, they know their stuff, and they genuinely want to help you. But as with any other business, there will always be some people who play the system, and unfortunately, complementary health is an area where it’s easy to take advantage of people’s trust.

The Trouble With Health is….

It’s incredibly difficult to say whether you have been ‘scammed’ when it comes to your health, because even with mainstream health, what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.

If you just don’t feel that your treatment has been effective, you should talk to your therapist and see if you can come up with a solution. But if acupuncture simply didn’t cure your headaches, or you still have backache after osteopathy, it could be a case of ‘well, we tried.’ – it’s the same with remedies you might buy from the chemist, sometimes they work for you and other times they have very little effect.

Snake Oil Scams

Most practitioners won’t guarantee that their treatment will work, any more than a GP will tell you 100% that a course of treatment will cure a health problem. What a reputable practitioner should tell you is that it’s in your interest to have your symptoms investigated by a doctor anyway (an iridologist can look in your eye and tell you that you have an imbalance in your endocrine system…a doctor can do the blood test to check for thyroid disease.)

Remember the case of the actor Steve McQueen? Diagnosed with incurable lung cancer, he decided against chemotherapy and instead took 50 daily vitamins and minerals, had massages, took part in prayer sessions and psychotherapy, took coffee enemas and even had injections that contained ingredients made from sheep and cattle foetuses. He died in 1980 from a heart attack following surgery to remove more tumours.

Serious Illnesses

No therapist should EVER tell you that they can cure you of serious or life threatening illness. Anyone who offers to cure a life-threatening condition with a complementary therapy should be avoided like the plague – they are what late journalist John Diamond called ‘snake oil merchants.’ If you do come across a therapist who claims to be able to work miracles where the mainstream medical profession has failed, you should report them to any professional body they are a member of.

In the same way, if a therapist advises you to ignore doctor’s advice or stop taking medication, it’s the therapist who should be ignored…and reported. Stopping prescribed medication is not only unwise, but can also be dangerous in some cases.

Unfortunately, the sector is largely self-regulated so it’s quite possible that the person you’re seeing isn’t actually a member of any professional body at all.

Misleading Statements

You could always try reporting a rogue therapist to your local trading standards department for making a misleading claim –although it could be difficult to prove anything if the claim wasn’t made in writing.

As from 28 May 2008, The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 makes it a criminal offence to mislead consumers about goods and services. It’s a criminal offence for anyone who offers a service to make a statement that they know to be false or misleading in some way. It’s also an offence to ‘recklessly’ make a false or misleading statement, whether the statement about the nature of any services (or goods) they provide. Anyone who is found guilty of making a misleading statement can end up with an unlimited fine or even imprisonment.

Luckily, it’s only a very few people who set out to mislead their clients – the majority of people offering complementary therapies genuinely believe in their product, and genuinely want to help you, not rip you off…

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