Archive for the ‘“Alternative” Medicine’ category

Prison Time For Self Help Guru. Will It Do Any Good?

November 19, 2011

In October 2009, a self help guru named James Arthur Ray held a sweat lodge ceremony in which 3 men died because of excessive heat. Ray was recently sentenced, and received two years in prison for negligent homicide.

“This doesn’t bring Kirby back. This doesn’t bring back James or Liz,” said Brown’s mother, Virginia. “But certainly time in prison is a deterrent and will serve as a warning to the self-help industry.”

Unfortunately, time in prison is not a deterrent. How could it be? What would it have stopped him from doing? Ray was blissfully unaware of any danger. People with no medical training are, by definition, acting outside of their competencies all the time when acting in any sort of a ‘healing’ ceremony.  As long as untrained gurus are allowed to ‘treat’ people with no oversight or regulation, there will be incidences in which they cause more harm than good. The victims in the sweat lodge were showing all the signs of heat stroke. A high school football coach would have had more training in diagnosing the heat stroke than Ray did.

Medical training isn’t a magic bullet. Deaths still do occur on the watch of competent trained people. But, the training they receive does increase their competency, as well as weed out those that just can’t hack it. What confidence could anyone have in a ‘guru’?

Holistic Healer Wins Million Dollar Settlement

November 8, 2011

How’s this for an odd turn: A “holistic healer” sued KSTP-TV for a news story about her … and won! To the tune of $1,000,000!

The gist of KSTP’s story was that Susan Anderson, then known as Susan Wahl, a Hudson doctor of naturopathy, had “de-prescribed” anti-anxiety medication to Cheryl Blaha. Cheryl Blaha then claimed to KSTP in interviews that she had tried to commit suicide as a result of being weaned from the medicine by Anderson.

Sounds pretty bad. However …

In her suit, Anderson claimed medical records indicated that Blaha’s own medical doctor had reduced the medication and that there was no proof of the alleged suicide attempt, said Patrick Tierney, Anderson’s lawyer.

“That was certainly the heart of it,” Tierney said Monday night. “KSTP bought [Blaha’s story] hook, line and sinker, and that’s what this case was about.”

I’m not a believer in “alternative” medicines, and believe they should be regulated. But, it is important to remember that the practitioners of them may be honest people that believe in their practice, and aren’t out to undermine scientific medicine. Attempts to regulate the practice should be done through industry regulation instead of witch hunts.

Link to full story at Star Trib

Steve Jobs and Alternative Medicine

October 20, 2011

His friends wanted him to get an operation. His wife wanted him to get an operation. But the Apple CEO, so used to swimming against the tide of popular opinion, insisted on trying alternative therapies for nine crucial months. Before he died, Jobs resolved to let the world know he deeply regretted the critical decision, biographer Walter Isaacson has told 60 Minutes.

Link to full article

Bachmann Adds Anti-Vaxer To Her Resume

September 14, 2011

Global Warmering denier, anti-gay crusader, creationist, and now Anti-vaxer. Oh, what a lovely set of traits for a wanna be president to have.

“Mrs. Bachmann said on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday that after Monday night’s debate in Tampa, Fla., a tearful mother approached her and said her daughter had suffered “mental retardation” after being vaccinated against HPV. “It can have very dangerous side effects,’’ Mrs. Bachmann said.”

In that case, it looks like Mrs Bachmann has had her fair share of the drug (Boom, Crash … Thank you, I’ll be here all week).

Seriously, though. The HPV vaccine did not cause this child’s mental retardation. And an unsubstantiated claim by an unknown person that has never been looked into by anyone isn’t a valid argument, anyway. And Bachmann should know that, what with the medical wiz she’s married to and all.

And the benefits of HPV vacinnes are great: HPVs are the leading cause of cervical cancer (source). And you don’t have to be promiscuous to get one. HPVs are very common. Most sexually active people in the US will acquire an HPV at some point (source). Some cases will go away, others can kill you. The government is well justified adding it to the list of vaccines already required for school children. It’s just good medical practice, and good for US citizens in general. Using vaccines to scare an ignorant and easily scared population into voting for you is just fucking evil.

What do you know, even Rush Limbaugh is calling out Bachmann on her stupid fear mongering remark.

“Bachmann might have blown it, she might have jumped the shark,” Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show. “There’s no evidence that the vaccine causes mental retardation.”

Ye Ol’ Royal Snake Oil

July 30, 2011

Edzard Ernst calls ’em as he sees ’em.

Britain’s leading alternative medicine researcher has reignited a public row with Clarence House by branding the Prince of Wales a “snake oil salesman”.

Professor Edzard Ernst criticised the heir to the throne for lending his support to homeopathic remedies and for promoting the Duchy Herbals detox tincture.

In a briefing with reporters at the Science Media Centre in London, Ernst warned that “snake oil salesmen are ubiquitous and dangerous”, and named the prince as “one of the most outspoken proponents ofhomeopathy.

Turns out, it’s not even real snake oil! Talk about a scam.

Ernst is co-auther of Trick or Treatment, along with science writer Simon Singh, which I would highly recommend to anyone.

Skeptic Book Review: Trick or Treatment

May 2, 2011

I just can’t help it, I am always extremely disappointed whenever I find an atheist that is not also a skeptic. I mean, once a belief in the big ticket myth is thrown out that window, what in the world is preventing someone from tossing out all unfounded beliefs?

The only real justifiable reason that I can see would be access to information. Or, bombardment with misinformation. And with all the intense marketing and heavily biased reviews, there is a lot confusing data out there.

For the field of complimentary or alternative medicine (CAM), Trick or Treatment can fix that. Popular science writer Simon Singh and (often unnamed) co-author Edzard Ernst, M.D. wrote a very easy to read but very informative book that doesn’t preach or belittle. The subtitle The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine is not just marketing. The book does not set out just to bad mouth CAM, but to let people know the belief systems behind the practices. Did you know that chiropractors that fully accept their own practice (known as straights) deny the germ theory of medicine?

The book starts off  with an overview of evidence based medicine, then dedicates a chapter each to acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, and herbal medicine. There is also an appendix giving a quick rundown on a myriad of other alternative therapies.

Singh doesn’t belittle any of the questionable procedures, though I feel he would be justified with many of them. Instead, he gives the history of the treatments, including the reasons why someone might have believed that they worked, and details on the current practices. He mentions the medical studies that the treatments have gone through, including ones that are often touted to support the practices. He does this for two very good reason: 1-honesty and 2- to educate about medical studies that are not properly interpreted. Not all studies, after all, are created equal. I test products for a living, believe me, I know. Many tests are just not conducted properly. And, if not properly analyzed with a critical eye, they can lead to erroneous results. For instance, did you know that in Japan, there hasn’t been a single negative medical review published! Tell me how bias isn’t involved there.

But, with good meta analyses, even bad studies can provide useful information. And that is were we are today. We are in a world in which there are so many studies, good, bad, and terrible, that, in order to get any truthful results, we must conduct a study of the studies. And that is what Science Based Medicine does. And that, is what Trick or Treatment can tell us that watching Dr Oz can’t.

Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in CAM or just medical studies in general.

Bogus Flu PSA

November 21, 2010

An organisation called Safe Minds have paid for the production of a flu shot public service announcement to be played in movie theaters across the US. Unfortunately, the spot is … well, just plain wrong. The 30 second ad encourages people to demand “mercury free” flu shots, implying all kinds of dangers because of mercury.

When the say “mercury”, what they are actually referring to is thimerosal, a preservative that has been used to reduce any possible bacteria. Some have accused thimerosal as being the cause of autism, even though there has never been any evidence of a link. In fact, the dose is so small, there’s no evidence of any side effects from thimerosal. And, in addition:

Since 2001, no new vaccine licensed by FDA for use in children has contained thimerosal as a preservative,

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Flu shots are all packaged as single user doses now. So, no need for preservatives. Pretty simple.

The flu, on the other hand, does cause deaths every year.

Yet, the misinformation continues. Why do organizations like this spend their time and money producing ads that have no basis in reality? Who the hell knows.

I do find it funny that their logo contains the words “Get the Facts”, when they have spent who knows how much money on an ad that 2 minutes on the internet would tell you is factually wrong.

List of theaters playing the PSA (via Skepchic)

  • Empire 25 in New York City
  • Long Beach 26 in Long Beach, California
  • River East 21 in Chicago, IL
  • Boston Common 19 in Boston
  • Phipps Plaza 14 in Atlanta
  • Tyson’s Corner 16 in McLean, VA
  • Northpark Center 15 in Dallas, TX
  • Rosedale 14 in Saint Paul, MN
  • Pavillions 15 in Denver, CO