Letter: Safety of acupuncture

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YOU ARE right to regard alternative therapies with scepticism, but it is not always true that "alternative medicine is fine as long as it does no actual harm" (leading article, 17 March).

Even if an alternative practitioner is highly skilled, there is always a risk that the patient, with or without prompting by the practitioner, will avoid orthodox medicine altogether, which in some cases may be essential to their survival.

Alternative therapies can also cause harm in more subtle ways. They engender suspicion of orthodox medicine with their excessive claims about harmful side-effects and the ingestion of toxins. They introduce back into medicine concepts of magic and superstition from which doctors have freed themselves after centuries of effort. We should not let the placebo rule our health.

Dr SIMON JONES

London SW12

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