Alternative medicine got a sympathetic ear on Capitol Hill this week, during a hearing held by Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) to explore how to integrate homeopathy, herbal treatments, and other therapies into mainstream medicine. Appropriately enough, he called as his star witness an alternative doctor: actress Jane Seymour, who plays Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, on TV.
Burton was wooed to the alternative side 5 years ago when his wife got immunity-boosting shots of a cell-surface antigen that, he said, has prevented a recurrence of her breast cancer. The 24 February hearing was part of a continuing "inquiry" on how Americans can get better access to therapies off the beaten medical path.
At the hearing, Seymour said she has been a convert since her dying father was taken to a San Diego clinic that invigorated him temporarily with the aid of massive vitamin C injections. She's a special fan of homeopathy, which treats ills with minuscule doses of substances that ordinarily cause the same symptoms. This "hair-of-the-dog" approach has been ridiculed by many scientists, who say the active ingredients are so diluted they are often nonexistent in homeopathic preparations. But members of Burton's House Committee on Government Reform listened raptly as Seymour claimed, among other things, that "homeopathy can cure acne within 4 days."
Only one committee member, Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, raised a contrary voice--after Seymour suggested that women should opt for thermography before mammograms, which "are now known to be causing cancer." But most were with Connie Morella (R-MD), who gushed that Seymour is a "role model ... so what you have to say has a tremendous effect on public attitudes."