'Doctors' without Degrees
Why do we call unqualified doctors quacks?
The word actually comes from the Dutch word “quacksalver” used in the 17th century to describe people who sold medicines. However, so many of these peddlers began selling their fake potions as “miracle cure” that the word soon evolved to mean a crook. These “quacksalvers” became prevalent throughout Europe during the cholera epidemic of the 1800s when people were desperate for any sort of remedy to save them from the ailment. The name stuck, and has been associated with so-called medical practitioners ever since.
There are many reasons why quacks flourish in several countries across the world. They are super salesmen; they play on fear, and they cater to hope. The most important tool which brings success to their business is exuding confidence on their patients. Once they have successfully done this, their popularity spreads.
To keep them in business, quacks use a number of clever propaganda ploys. Quacks love to charge that modern science does not have all the answers for many diseases which they claim to have. The idea is to get people to turn to quacks when they become frustrated with doctors being unable to provide a cure for their ailments. Quacks also use conspiracy theories where they claim drug companies withhold cure from the public.
Cost is another important factor that allows quacks to thrive. Take for example the case of quackery thriving in Haiti. Street vendors in that country run “pharmacies” from plastic buckets of medicines they carry on their heads. Some have been running these “pharmacies” for over decades. The medicines are arranged in a colorful, attractive manner to catch the eye of the patients. People approach these vendors “confessing” their problems. These “pharmacists” have a readily available pill in their baskets for all forms of illness. They have turned medicines into a consumer good.
Quacks capitalize on the natural healing properties of the human body. They take credit whenever the body self-heals itself. Another ploy is the use of “generations of experience” when the signboards outside their “clinics” declare the names fathers and grandfathers who have been in this profession, highlighting the year when the family began this business.
The business of quackery thrives in mostly underdeveloped or developing nations. This is due to lack of education, poverty, difficulties of access to medical facilities and absence of governmental controls. In such countries it’s not just the high cost of treatment that keep people away from qualified doctors but it is also the non-availability of one close by even within a radius of 100 kms. Quacks are quick to fill in the void at such locations.
It is a fact that quacks are involved in a battle for survival with legitimate health-care providers. This is sort of a “philosophical conflict” rather than a clash between proven versus unproven methods. Despite the strength of science-based opposition and government regulatory authorities, quackery manages to flourish in many countries.
In health matters, quackery is not sold with a warning label. There is no sharp line dividing between what is quackery and what is not. Quackery lies in the promise; not on just the product.
With so many quacks present in several countries, they are likely to be in business for sometime around.