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‘Alternative Therapies’: Health Care, Bioethics and the Law


Alberto Campos ,

Programa de Maestría y Doctorado en Ciencias Médicas, Odontológicas y de la Salud – Bioética, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) Mexico City, MX
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Fernando Cano Valle

Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, UNAM, Mexico City, MX
About Fernando
Chairperson of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Clinical Medicine. M.D., M. Sc. (med.)
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‘Alternative therapies’ are those treatments used in place of conventional medical treatments or procedures. By opposing orthodox vs. ‘alternative’, ‘natural’ has come to be laden with meaning of the absence of evil, of regeneration, synonymous with non-technological, not drug-based, non-invasive, non-hostile. We discuss the attention directed to products supplied to a market of ‘alternative therapies’, some of which border illegality because of lack of adequate scientific controls to assure they are innocuous and because of lack of adequate legal controls to prevent ‘therapeutic’ fraud.

We are concerned about vulnerability because ‘alternative therapies’ can subject individuals to exploitation by becoming an undue profit and inducing an uncritical illusion of risk-free remedies against disease. They can seriously harm well-intentioned people, who seek through them a way to strive in an environment perceived as threatened by science and technology. The law has to come into play when legitimate spiritual beliefs are exploited by ‘alternative therapies’. It is important not to place medical research in the same plane of perspectivism in which ‘alternative therapies’ operate. Finally more trials have to be conducted by proponents of ‘alternative therapies’ if adequate evidence of their benefits is to be demonstrated.

How to Cite: Campos, A. and Cano Valle, F., 2011. ‘Alternative Therapies’: Health Care, Bioethics and the Law. Amsterdam Law Forum, 3(1), pp.42–51. DOI:
Published on 02 Feb 2011.
Peer Reviewed


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