The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has grown dramatically
in recent years, as has research on the safety and efficacy of CAM treatments.
Minimal attention, however, has been devoted to the ethical issues relating
to research on CAM. We argue that public health and safety demand rigorous
research evaluating CAM therapies, research on CAM should adhere to the same
ethical requirements for all clinical research, and randomized, placebo-controlled
clinical trials should be used for assessing the efficacy of CAM treatments
whenever feasible and ethically justifiable. In addition, we explore the legitimacy
of providing CAM and conventional therapies that have been demonstrated to
be effective only by virtue of the placebo effect.