I used to believe that the Mayo Clinic was a venerable institution adhering to the scientific principles and practices that resulted in superior patient care and above average clinical outcomes. I’m not sure I had any real basis for that perception and recently I’ve come to recognize that such a perception is ill founded.
What is precipitating my writing this post is a recent tweet from @MayoClinic referring to a page on their main website regarding Ginkgo biloba:
I was struck by how efficiently they incorporated the argumentum ad antiquitatem logical fallacy into 140 characters and was compelled to click the associated link. My compulsion was driven by curiosity of what physiological effects would be attributed to Ginkgo based on this fallacy. Unfortunately, I suspect others clicked to link in hopes of finding which condition they have that will be helped by this herb.
What I found was more disturbing than I had expected. The source cited was a patient monograph published by “The Natural Standard Research Collaboration.” Although tempting I’ll refrain from delving into a discussion of the dangers of such organizations. If unfamiliar with “integrative medicine” I’d suggest spending some time on the Science Based Medicine website that contains many informative articles on the topics of integrative medicine, alternative medicine and other related mystical therapies.
Suffice it to say that the Cochrane Reviews are unambiguous in their conclusions that Ginkgo is not an effective treatment for the conditions cited in the Mayo Clinic article. In light of hard evidence to the contrary, why would the once honored Mayo Clinic promote such dribble? It seems to be contradictory to what I had once believed the institution to be. And then I decided to check their mission statement and realized that in the battle between science and mysticism at least one skirmish had been won by the mystics. The Mayo Clinic mission statement reads: “To inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research.”
The key code phrase is “integrated clinical practice” which is a practice that augments traditional medicine by incorporating the mystical rituals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. I am very disappointed by the Mayo Clinic and wonder who’s at the helm allowing this to happen.
It could be the Mayo clinicians are just appalled by this shameless, intentional marketing of misinformation to the public and to them I express my sympathy. Maybe someday the general public will see mystical therapies for what they are and stop visiting scurrilous websites and their supporting institutions. Only then, when the dollars diminish, will the Mayo Clinics of the world readjust their practices and begin to regain their credibility.
 Argumentum ad antiquitatem or appeal to tradition is the logical fallacy that holds something must be correct because it has been present for an extended period of time.