Saturday, January 29, 2011

Government by referendum

Some people believe that every political decision should be decided by referendum. A good example why this is nonsense has just occurred in Switzerland. I quote from New Scientist:

SWITZERLAND has bowed to popular pressure and decreed that state-backed health insurance must pay for five types of “complementary medicine” between now and 2017, pending an investigation of their efficacy. In 2009, 67 per cent of the Swiss electorate voted, under the country's system of deciding issues by referendum, for five complementary therapies to be covered by health insurance. They are homeopathy, herbal and traditional Chinese treatments, neural therapy and anthroposophic medicine – which, among other techniques, uses mistletoe to treat cancer.

In December, however, the government's scientific panel advised that this would be illegal, as the law requires insurance to pay only for treatments that meet objective measures of efficacy, and these techniques do not. “The only solution was to pay for the five methods temporarily, but linked to an evidence-based evaluation,” says Ignazio Cassis, a member of the Swiss federal parliament and vice-chair of the Swiss Medical Association. “This isn't science, it's Swiss politics.”

The evaluation will be based on a report on existing studies of the techniques. This will be prepared by Swiss complementary practitioners and then reviewed by an independent body, possibly the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.


Burke said...

In a completely free country, there would be no problems like this. People buy what they want.

Disputes like this are no different than those of s band of robbers arguing over how their loot should be divided.

Carter said...

I apologize for leaving this comment here, but I didn't see how to communicate directly.

Thank you so much for your succinct comments on FCR and the mustard gas story.

Anonymous said...

One hopes that the final reports on the efficacy of the various 'treatments' is made broadly available. NIH has a funding program on alternative treatments but the results are not broadly available to the general public.