Book Review: Do You Believe in Magic? by Paul Offit

magicDo You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine

By Paul Offit (New York: Harper Collins, 2013)

Do You Believe in Magic? is an engaging history of junk medicine and quackery in the United States. Paul Offit’s narrative ranges from the stories of cancer patients who were treated with inert or toxic substances rather than the standard of care to the celebrities like Suzanne Somers and Dr. Mehmet Oz, who have made tremendous amounts of money selling supplements and television shows.

As a proponent of early childhood vaccination, Offit is a favorite target of those who believe vaccinating children against diseases like smallpox and measles is dangerous and wrong. He argues that doctors owe it to their patients to promote scientific literacy, because this will enable patients to understand their own care choices, to the benefit of public health. These are excellent points, and it is easy to sympathize with his position that there is no complementary, alternative, or integrative medicine, “only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t.” Yet clients who are looking to complementary and alternative therapies for relief from cancer symptoms or the side effects of treatment may want a more practical approach to their options, as is offered in these other books in the BCC library:

  • The ACP Evidence-Based Guide to Complementary & Alternative Medicine, by Bradley P. Jacobs, MD & Katherine Grundling, MD, discusses the evidence for and against individual modalities used in treatment of many different conditions.
  • Integrative Oncology, edited by Don Abrams, MD, is a collection of longer, evidence-based essays on different types of complementary and alternative therapies as they are used in cancer care (e.g., “Nutritional Interventions in Cancer.”)

Find Dr. Offit’s book and these others in Section XI: Complementary & Alternative Medicine in the BCC library.