Revisiting this, my nephew is a grad student in a bioethics program and this very topic came up over the weekend. He brought up some points to ponder.
Whether you approve or not, medical research depends upon human experimentation. The greatest research endeavors start with a plausible hypothesis, follow with in vitro biochemical analysis and then test in animals. Researchers know disease processes down to the molecular level but they'll never know if the fruits of their years of efforts can actually be realized in humans unless tested on humans. Enter bioethics! The most effective clinical trial which could produce a miraculous treatment can, and sometimes does, run headlong into complex bioethical issues.
In the past 30 years or so, bioethical control of medical research on humans has transitioned significantly. Intense federal regulation of clinical trials makes it hard to believe that abuses of the past could be repeated. Extensive informed consent procedures are mandatory. sometimes I question why researchers would even want to engage in trials with all the scrutiny of the government breathing down their necks!
And - Alternative medicine, in that rare instance when it is actually scientifically studied, is not immune to the issue. The NCCAM Gonzales study (largely based on the Kelley and Gerson protocols) for pancreatic cancer patients was recently curtailed due, in part, to bioethical issues. Quality of life decreases were identified as a result of the rigors of the treatments along with the abysmal patient survival rates when compare long term to conventional medical treatment modalities.
Which leads me to a BIG question... Does a purveyor of alternative/natural products perform any sort of documented long term research on human subjects for efficacy and safety? Do they collect and react to information about adverse effects? Is it ethical that they do not?