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1930s US Government poster.
Style over substance
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The president of a St. Louis medical college once said to a large graduating class: "Young men, don’t go to your work with timidity and doubts of your ability to succeed. Look and act your part as physicians, and when you have doubts concerning your power over disease remember this, ninety-five out of every hundred people who send for you would get well just the same if they never took a drop of your medicine." I have never mentioned this to a doctor who did not admit that it is perhaps true. If so, is there not enough in it alone to explain the apparent success of quacks?
Quacks and Grafters

Quackery is a term for a medical treatment that, to put it politely, doesn't work.

Lies and false hope[edit]

When asked for her opinion, this victim of duck woo responded, "Quack."

Quackery involves giving false hope to those with incurable conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, certain forms of cancer, or to otherwise gullible patients, often charging exorbitant amounts of money for it. Rather a lot of what is politely dubbed "alternative medicine" is quackery, as is much of the vitamin and herbal supplement business. Implicit in the word is that the quack's nostrum, whatever it may be, is pure snake oil and the quack him/herself is a liar/con artist/charlatan, or a true believer in something that simply doesn't work.

Quacks, as the persecuted innocent victims of mainstream establishment conspiracies, may set up their practices offshore to duck (har!) the more stringent laws governing medical practice in the developed world. Hence, some Americans head to Mexico for Laetrile in clinics just over the border, or travel to the Philippines for a Bio-Energizing Anti-Cancer Zapper Machine.


"Quack" derives from the 17th century word "quacksalver", in turn from the Dutch word kwakzalver (hawker of salve). Both "quack" and "kwak" originate from the Middle Dutch quacken (to brag or boast). Quacksalvers would appear in town markets offering cure-alls in bottles to anyone gullible enough to part with their money. So it's nothing to do with ducks, much as we wanted it to be.

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