Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial


Simon Singh
15 July, 2009

Simon Singh

Prince Charles is a staunch defender and millions of people swear by it, but most doctors consider alternative medicine to be little more than superstition and a waste of money. And whilst much of this 'medicine' is sold on the High Street and on the internet, does it really work and is it safe? Indeed, does it even matter as long as patients are satisfied with the end results? Welcome to the world of alternative medicine.

Presenting the conclusions of his book Trick or Treatment?, co-authored with Professor Edzard Ernst, the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Singh relies on the large amount of scientific evidence that has been accumulated to investigate which alternative therapies are safe and effective, and which are useless and even downright dangerous. From acupuncture to homeopathy, from herbal medicine to Hopi ear candling, Singh will also look at the origins of these therapies, their rapid growth in popularity and their supposed modes of action. Singh’s conclusions about effectiveness vary from good to bad (including downright dangerous), so he will discuss why so many ineffective alternative therapies have become so popular, and will consider how those that have been shown to be effective can be incorporated within conventional medicine.

Simon Singh received his PhD in particle physics from the University of Cambridge before embarking on a career as a science journalist. He joined the BBC in 1991 and worked as a director and producer on programmes such as Tomorrow's world and Horizon. His documentary about Fermat’s last theorem won a BAFTA, and this also became the subject of his first book. He has also written The Code Book and Big Bang. He has presented The Science of Secrecy on Channel 4, Mind Games on BBC 4 and Five Numbers on Radio 4. His most recent book is Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. Singh is currently being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association for an article published in the Guardian newspaper about the use of chiropractic to treat childhood conditions.

Simon Singh was in Australia as a guest of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas and The Royal Institution of Australia, and his visit to Sydney was supported by the Skeptic Zone and Australian Skeptics.