In the episode “The Great American Medicine Show”, Dr. Quinn and the townsfolk are regaled with epic tales of awesomeness by a huckster, Doc Eli, peddling snake oil. Awesomeness ensues.
The relevant details of the show description taken from the Wiki episode list are as follows:
Dr. Mike tries to heal the soul of Doc Eli, a Civil War surgeon turned patent medicine show huckster, who’s come to like the taste of his own medicine, an all-curing elixir used by the fabled Kickapoo Indians. She doesn’t trust the sales pitch of this exploitave medicine show man, especially when she’s facing a real medical crisis involving Myra. She must help Doc Eli face his past demons, before he can help her remove an ovarian cyst from Myra, in a technique he pioneered.
Doc Eli shows up with all the hallmarks of quackery: “ancient” Indian wisdom, cures everything known to man, anyone can take it because if you’re not sick it’ll make you feel like Superman, your doctor just wants to say big words and cut you open, and “ooh look! shiney!”.
His reasoning is that medicine is largely a matter of “making people feel better” so he feels that he’s not doing anything wrong in promoting some kooky elixir. There’s no cure for cancer, TB, etc. so why not do something that doesn’t work but makes people “feel better” rather than crushing their dreams?
Dr. Quinn awesomely points out that his elixir masks symptoms, delays treatment, and can be dangerous. She says that she tells her patients the truth no matter how much it sucks.
Myra has an ovarian cyst requiring an operation. Her new fiance insists that she get the required surgery. Her pimp insists that he gave her the cure-all elixir and it says it cures all women’s problems so of course she doesn’t need the surgery and he doesn’t want the butcher doctor cutting on his employee. Thus presenting another danger to this snake-oil garbage — family/friend/employer pressure and misunderstanding. You may realize this stuff is bull, but when you’re unconscious guess who’s making your medical decisions.
Aside: There’s a difference between providing false hope for terminal patients (still inexcusable) and advertising something to the general population as a cure-all while simultaneously undermining the intentions of real medical doctors. Trying to make a buck off the innocent doesn’t match the reasoning of “I’m just trying to provide some relief”.
Wow. I mean, seriously. When Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman is the voice of reason… I have to wonder if, as a 12 year-old, this was one of my first exposures to skepticism and I forgot about it until just now as I’m watching it on Vision, of all places. My heart was all aflutter as I watched just now, so I thought I’d share.