Framework for Ethical Evaluation of CAM

In a recent peer reviewed article in the journal Bioethics, Chris MacDonald (a philosopher/ethicist) and Scott Gavura (a pharmacist) argue that any product must pass the following 3-art test in order to be marketed ethically:

  1. Does the product perform the function it is supposed to perform?
  2. Is the buyer sufficiently informed in order to be able to evaluate the product properly?
  3. Is harm to any third party likely?

MacDonald & Gavura argue that many (most) forms of Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) fail one or more of these tests. It is, therefore, prima facie unethical to sell those products.

The authors also note that many non-CAM health products fail one or more of those tests, and such products should arguably not be sold either.

MacDonald & Gavura also note that there are plausible reasons to welcome CAM into the healthcare marketplace, reasons grounded in the value of consumer autonomy and the importance of competition in the marketplace. But they argue that such reasons are outweighed by the argument presented above.

About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.

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