AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
WHAT CONSTITUTES QUACKERY?
Accurately defining quackery is fundamental to NCAHF for we cannot effectively deal with a phenomenon we have not properly defined. Precisely what constitutes quackery is a matter of considerable confusion. Some wrongly believe it to be merely a matter of personal opinion as to who deserves the label of "quack", but this is not so if the term is carefully analyzed.
Origin of the Term
The first definitional problem is that "quack" is too widely generalized. Mathison states, "The word `quack' originated during the Renaissance, when quicksilver, or mercury, was a popular remedy for syphilis. Wandering peddlers known as `quacksalvers' sold mercury ointments. They would claim that their unguents cured all illnesses. These men, the calling abbreviated to `quacks', became symbols of evil medical practice". Evil medical practice includes more than simply quackery. A definition so broad as to include all evil medical practice is of little value. Some dispute over the origin of the term "quack" has come from the similarity between the root words kwiksilver (quicksilver) and kwaksalver (quacksalver). It has been suggested that "quack" evolved from "quicksilver" because mercury was the main ingredient in nostrums peddled by the "quacksalvers." Such confusion is understandable, but the word "quacksalver" describes a quack's behavior in unmistakable terms. It is important to keep in mind that quackery is a way of behaving, and that a person deserves the label only when his behavior fits. History has examples of individuals who behaved responsibly in some fields, but acted like quacks in others.
"Pretender". Although using "quackery" in reference to all evil medical practice is too broad, defining a quack as a "pretender to medical skill" is too limited. Cassileth found that 60% of cancer quacks were licensed physicians. Monaco says that a referral source for dubious …