Medical Misinformation and Social Harm in Non-Science Based Health Practices: A Multidisciplinary Perspective, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Medical Misinformation and Social Harm in Non-Science Based Health Practices

A Multidisciplinary Perspective, 1st Edition

Edited by Anita Lavorgna, Anna Di Ronco


216 pages

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Hardback: 9781138388666
pub: 2019-11-04
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Medical approaches and treatments developed outside science-based medicine are often the object of highly polarised debates, with "believers" and "sceptics" presenting arguments for or against their legitimacy and effectiveness. While some complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) might be beneficial to individuals’ physical, psychological and spiritual needs, many forms of non-science-based treatments and approaches can be dangerous and greatly harmful to people’s health. With very few exceptions, relative little attention has been paid in the social sciences to the topic of misleading medical information and specifically of CAM-adjacent health scams and their harms to people. Criminology in particular should be very concerned with the study of these practices and be at the forefront of the interdisciplinary scientific debate, as some of these approaches are leading to great social harms, with serious repercussions both on the health of people and on their confidence in the medical profession and the scientific method.

This book brings together contributions of international academics from criminology, digital sociology, health psychology, medicine, law, physics, and journalism. It is the first book to reconcile different scientific understandings of these practices, exploring the challenges, implications and potential remedies to the spread of dangerous fraudulent information. It covers a range of topics, including the history of fraudulent "alternative" health practices and the public understanding of science, case studies on specific frauds and their harms, offenders’ behaviours, media studies, web science analyses on the role of cyberspace as a facilitator of the spread of potentially dangerous information, and debunking practices. It is essential reading for scholars across criminology, sociology and health studies.


"With topics ranging from vaccination hesitancy to wellness influencers, this edited volume provides a timely and nuanced approach to understand the current crisis of public trust in biomedical expert knowledge. Throughout the book, pioneering research tackles the socio-cultural dynamics at the core of this phenomenon, but it also highlights the importance of collaborating across different academic disciplines, as well as beyond academia, with journalists and debunkers. As increased awareness and critical knowledge of the harmful consequences of non-scientific health practices become more and more urgent, this book is a most informative starting point for researchers, policy makers and the general public alike."

Dr Maria Vaccarella, Lecturer in Medical Humanities, University of Bristol, UK

"Medical Misinformation and Social Harm in Non-Science-Based Health Practices is a highly readable and original collection inviting the readers to embark on their own intellectual journey into the impressive array of disciplines it touches upon and very skilfully synthesises: criminology, digital sociology, health psychology, medicine, law, investigative journalism and even quantum physics! A thought-provoking, relevant and important work that needs to be read."

Professor Georgios A. Antonopoulos, Professor of Criminology, Teesside University, UK

"There have been several excellent critical analyses of non-science-based healthcare in recent years. This book, a multi-author, multi-disciplinary investigation into bogus health practices and claims, is amongst the best in this tradition. The authors look at the subject from refreshingly different perspectives including criminology, health fraud, quantum woo, pseudoscience, science denial, nutritional fads, fake herbal medicine, anti-vaccination rhetoric, and journalism. They provide important critical analyses that complement each other and provide a fully rounded picture.

Non-science-based health practices cause untold psychological, physical, and economic damage to consumers, patients and society. This scholarly volume will help us to better understand the often-complex issues involved. I recommend it to all who wish to minimise the dangers of misinformation in medicine."

Professor Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor, University of Exeter, UK. Former Professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Chair in Complementary Medicine

"In this original and timely collection, Lavorgna and Di Ronco gather a range of experts from across disciplines to expose the complex harms associated with non-science-based health practices. In an age of creeping healthcare privatisation, patient-consumer sovereignty, online networking and e-commerce, this book brings much-needed refinement to current conversations about pseudoscience and quackery. Cutting-edge social science at its best, this book will be of interest not only to students and academics in criminology, sociology, health and law, but also to practitioners and policy makers working to protect the public from fraudulent medical practices and health misinformation."

Dr Alexandra Hall, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Northumbria University, UK

Table of Contents

1. Introduction Anita Lavorgna and Anna Di Ronco; 2. Towards a better criminological understanding of harmful alternative health practices: a provider typology Anita Lavorgna and Heather Horsburgh; 3.Science denial: psychological processes underlying denial of science-based medical practices Sara Prot and Craig A Anderson; 4. Understanding the demand for illicit lifestyle medicines online: an analysis of the risk perception of consumers Rosa Koenraadt; 5. First do no harm': exploring non-evidence-based practices within the Ukrainian health sector Anna Markovska, Ganna Isayeva, and Sergyi Ostropolets; 6: ‘Don’t trust the experts!’: Analysing the use of populist rhetoric in the anti-vaxxers discourse in Italy Ester Massa; 7: Quantum physics and the modern trends in pseudoscience Enrico Gazzola; 8: Who are the experts? Examining the online promotion of misleading and harmful nutrition information Heather Horsburgh and David Barron; 9: Activism against medicine on social media: untangling the #novax protest in Italy on Twitter Anna Di Ronco and James Allen-Robertson; 10: Traditional herbal medicine and the challenges of pharmacovigilance Nayeli Urquiza Haas and Emilie Cloatre; 11: Framing of CAM-adjacent health scams in the UK media: an interdisciplinary perspective Anita Lavorgna and Felicity L Bishop; 12: Dossier Hamer: the role of investigative journalism in exposing pseudomedicine Ilario D’Amato; 13: Conclusive thoughts Anita Lavorgna and Anna Di Ronco

About the Editors

Dr Anita Lavorgna is Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Southampton, UK.

Dr Anna Di Ronco is a Lecturer in Criminology at the Department of Sociology of the University of Essex, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Crime and Society

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HEALTH & FITNESS / Alternative Therapies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disease & Health Issues