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Tertiary education institutions should not offer pseudoscientific medical courses

Alastair H MacLennan and Robert G B Morrison
Med J Aust 2012; 196 (4): 225-226. || doi: 10.5694/mja12.10128

Standing up for science

The international scientific credibility of Australian tertiary education institutions is being undermined by the increasing number of pseudoscientific health courses that they offer (Box).1,2 Many universities teach therapies without a scientific basis to their students within their health care curricula, including homeopathy, iridology, reflexology, kinesiology, healing touch therapy, aromatherapy and “energy medicine”. Subjects such as acupuncture and chiropractic are claimed to treat a broad array of afflictions and are taught as such. The levels of evidence supporting these alternative beliefs are weak at best, and such randomised controlled trials of these therapies as exist mostly do not support their efficacy (with the exception of acupuncture for some types of pain).3-5 Some university courses purport to teach critical thinking about these approaches and promote research into them. Both are appropriate objectives if they are not a subterfuge for awarding qualifications to practise these therapies.

  • Alastair H MacLennan1
  • Robert G B Morrison2

  • 1 Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA.
  • 2 School of Education, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA.


Competing interests:

We are founding members of FSM. Alastair MacLennan has won the South Australian Government Science Excellence Award — Research for Public Good. Robert Morrison has won the Australian Government Eureka Prize for the Promotion of Science.

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