Defining Traditional and Complementary Medicine

  • Kate ChatfieldEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Philosophy book series (BRIEFSPHILOSOPH)


‘Complementary’, ‘alternative’, ‘traditional’ or even ‘pseudomedicine’, are just some of the words that are used to describe this body of therapeutic interventions. Collectively, these terms evoke an array of seemingly disparate connotations, indicative of a wide range of perspectives. Indeed, opinions about their worth span a full spectrum from: ‘essential and highly valued forms of health care’, to: ‘no better than placebos that are proffered by charlatans’. This polarisation of perspectives is a significant challenge when it comes to explanation of what is meant by ‘complementary’ or ‘traditional’ medicine, as is the broad range of individual interventions that fall under this sizeable umbrella. The challenges for establishing a clear definition are explained and arguments given for adopting the World Health Organization’s definition of ‘traditional and complementary medicine’ (T&CM). An overview of the controversial nature of the subject matter provides a backdrop to subsequent ethical analysis in later chapters.


Complementary medicine Traditional medicine Alternative medicine Evidence-based medicine Definition Benefits Controversy 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Professional EthicsUniversity of Central LancashirePrestonUK

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