A scientist in the alternative camp
Geoff Watts talks to Edzard Ernst, holder of the only chair of complementary medicine in the United Kingdom, about his career
Edzard Ernst, who recently celebrated his first 10 years as occupant of Britain's only chair of complementary medicine, at Exeter University, lives with contradictions. A firm believer that his branch of medicine should be treated like any other, and scrutinised accordingly, he concedes that he may be robbing it of the sense of “otherness” that is one source of its appeal. He says he understands that but believes that scientific honesty is a higher imperative.
If medical techniques are to be classified simply on the basis of their efficacy--they work or they don't--why separate out one small batch under the heading “complementary”? Ernst points out that he didn't create the distinction. But he concedes that the very existence of his chair is reinforcing it. “This is true--to my regret. But I don't see any other way to make progress.”
And progress he has made. According to his department's own summary