Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Don't believe the childhood vaccine fearmongers

Don't believe the childhood vaccine fearmongers
Michael Fumento (archive)
June 30, 2005

If you have small kids, you may have heard dire warnings about the perils of childhood vaccinations. The clamor has been driven lately primarily by an article from Natural Resources Defense Council (inventors of the Alar scare) attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. A new book called Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism makes similar hysterical claims. Ignore them. The life you save may be your child’s – or somebody else’s.

Some of these fearmongers mean well but are woefully ignorant. Others are so obsessed with bringing others into the conspiracy-theory fold that they will say and do anything.

For example, they claim childhood vaccines cause the neuro-developmental disorder autism because they contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Never mind that production of childhood vaccines with thimerosal ended several years ago, or that the fearmongers are also rabidly against the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which NEVER contained thimerosal.

The only relationship they can really draw between these vaccines and autism is that the disorder appears by age four and the shots are given before then – the hoary old fallacy of “after this, therefore because of this.”

But every actual argument they make, however sensible it may first seem, crumbles like a vampire exposed to sunlight. Here’s what the vaccine fearmongers and the over 150 Web sites they operate won’t tell you.

The most comprehensive review of the medical literature appeared last year in a 214-page report from the Institute of Medicine concluding “The evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.” The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have also given thimerosal a clean bill of health.

The most recent review of the published work appeared in the September 2004 issue of Pediatrics. It concluded “Studies do not demonstrate a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and Autistic Spectrum Disorders.”

It also said the way and speed in which the body absorbs and disposes of ethyl mercury [that which comes from thimerosal] “make such an association less likely.” It rejected epidemiological studies from the father-son team of Mark and David Geier “that support a link” to autism, citing “significant design flaws that invalidate their conclusions.”

Some major foreign studies have even shown autism rates climbing AFTER thimerosal use ended.

The IOM review also dismissed the findings of the Geiers, darlings of the conspiracy theorists who make their living as expert witnesses and consultants for lawyers filing claims under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Pumping out studies alleging the dangers of thimerosal keeps them in business.

Other health professionals (and often federal courts) have also harshly dismissed their work, with the American Academy of Pediatrics condemning them for “numerous conceptual and scientific flaws, omissions of fact, inaccuracies, and misstatements.”

The conspiracy theorists stop at nothing. Thus in his June 21 appearance on Fox TV’s Scarborough Country, Kennedy told Joe Scarborough, “We are injecting our children with 400 times the amount of mercury that FDA or EPA considers safe.” He thereby confused the ETHYL mercury from thimerosal and for which there is no evidence of harm and no EPA standard with a different chemical, “METHYL mercury.”

Worse, he ignored the correction to his piece appended five days earlier by the publications that co-published it, Rolling Stone and “The article also misstated the level of” mercury infants received, it stated. It was “40 percent [or 0.4 times], not 187 times, greater than the EPA’s limit for daily exposure to methyl mercury.” Thus having been caught overstating exposure by almost 500 times he then doubled even that for Scarborough!

The real conspirators here are the Kennedys of the world, the 150 websites, and all those desperate to kill off childhood vaccinations. Sadly, they’re also killing off kids. As more frightened parents refuse to have their children vaccinated, “‘hot spots’ are cropping up across the U.S.,” observed a recent article in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, such that “outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, mumps, rubella and diphtheria are reoccurring, costing hundreds of lives and hospitalizing thousands more.”

Keep America’s children healthy. Send the anti-vaccination conspiracy packing to Area 51 in Roswell where they can harmlessly pontificate about flying saucers and that eye in the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill.

Michael Fumento is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. and a health and science columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service. His latest book is BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing our World.

Vaccination: House MD. TV series

Vaccination: House MD. TV series

As shown last night (Australian TV).


[House walks away. Cut to the clinic and House is in an exam room with
a young mother and her baby.]

Young Mother: No formula, just mommy's healthy natural breast milk.

House: Yummy.

Young Mother: Her whole face just got swollen like this overnight.

House: Mmhmm. No fever, glands normal, missing her vaccination dates.

Young Mother: We're not vaccinating.

[Baby giggles and coos]

Young Mother: [Takes a toy frog and starts to make frog sounds]
Gribbit, gribbit, gribbit. [Giggles]

[Baby smiles and giggles too]

House: Think they don't work?

Young Mother: I think some multinational pharmaceutical company wants
me to think they work. Pad their bottom line.

House: Mmmm. May I? [He takes the frog and starts to do the gribbit
noise with the baby]

Young Mother: [Whispered] Sure.

House: Gribbit, gribbit, gribbit. [The baby laughs] All natural no
dies. That's a good business: all-natural children's toys. Those toy
companies, they don't arbitrarily mark up their frogs. They don't lie
about how much they spend in research and development. The worst a toy
company can be accused of is making a really boring frog.

[Young Mother laughs and so does House. The baby giggles again]

House: Gribbit, gribbit, gribbit. You know another really good
business? Teeny tiny baby coffins. You can get them in frog green or
fire engine red. Really. The antibodies in yummy mummy only protect
the kid for 6 months, which is why these companies think they can
gouge you. They think that you'll spend whatever they ask to keep your
kid alive. Want to change things? Prove them wrong. A few hundred
parents like you decide they'd rather let their kid die then cough up
40 bucks for a vaccination, believe me, prices will drop REALLY fast.
Gribbit, gribbit, gribbit, gribbit, gribbit.

Young Mother: Tell me what she has.

House: A cold.

[Cut to House leaving the clinic when the ducklings all approach.]

The Brights' Bulletin #26 June 29, 2005

The Brights' Bulletin #26 June 29, 2005


ONE BRIGHT'S VIEW: "I believe that an orderly universe, one indifferent to human preoccupations, in which everything has an explanation even if we still have a long way to go before we find it, is a more beautiful, more wonderful place than a universe tricked out with capricious, ad hoc magic."
(Enthusiastic Bright Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin Books, London, 1998, p. xi)


Beware of emails like the example (within the xxx-marked section) below. It is possible for scofflaws to mimic the Brights' email address to send viruses and worse. The following is meant to entice recipients to open attachments. The Brights' Net did not send it (and has no way to stop it)!


Dear The-brights Member,

Your e-mail account was used to send a huge amount of unsolicited spam messages during the recent week. If you could please take 5-10 minutes out of your online experience and confirm the attached document so you will not run into any future problems with the online service.

If you choose to ignore our request, you leave us no choice but to cancel your membership.

Virtually yours,
The The-brights Support Team

If you have received anything like this, let us know at:

MEETUPS FACE NEW FEES is the Internet website that helps individuals meet with others. It enables many different types of groups to form, including "Brights Meetups". The services were provided free to member participants for two years, and over 2300 Brights registered into the system. Recently the commercial organization instituted a per-meeting charge. While some Brights Meetup groups have decided to pay the price, some have not. If your Meetup group is interested in transforming into a Brights' Local Constituency, check out:


We need four or five volunteers who are knowledgeable and able to develop a media communications plan. We invite you to join a task team to work in cooperation with the Co-Directors over a few months on goals, target audiences, key messages, and tactics. If interested in the idea, please review

If you have talents to offer and would like to be a team member or leader, please email a brief description of your interest and capabilities to Please put MEDIACOM in the subject line.


The impetus of the Morality Action Arena was serious impaired during our move to a new server and the move of the database to DemocracyInAction.

Rather than attempt to involve all Brights through the Bulletin, we have decided to move the Morality Project to those who are interested in actively participating. (The Bulletin will provide updates to inform the constituency.)

The goals of the project are stated at:

If after reviewing the goals you are interested in participating in the Morality Action Arena, send a blank email and in the Subject line put in all caps MORALITY. We will set up a group communication process.


The Poll to determine the favored direction of the rays of the Brights icon image demonstrated that no single direction clearly won. The sideways positions, which tend to emphasize the "view from outer space" aspect, drew the largest number of votes. The more standard "sunrise" position did squeak a bare plurality over rays pointed right.

Therefore the decision is that, at least for now, the icon may be used in any position. We will arrange for placement of images on the website that you can copy and distribute.


USA, California: San Diego North County Brights (Encinitas) / Dwain /


Brights Central sent out a BrightenOP (Brighten Opportunity) on June 10th which had the proposed text for a best "first press release" to religion news editors. Over 70 "editor-Brights" stepped forward to comment on the draft, speak to the underlying rationale, and/or give advice regarding PR processes in general. Contributions were simply outstanding! (Thank you, everyone!)

A complete overhaul by Co-Directors (not "by committee") followed the input. The re-write was completed, and a re-look by a handful of volunteers is underway. Additionally, it was suggested to produce an online Media Kit (information for reporters), and a draft is underway. The Media Kit will be posted on the web shortly, followed by the Press Release.


"Concepts: A ProtoTheist Quest for Science-Minded Skeptics" by Paul Carleton. The author attempts to answer the question, "Why is belief in God so common?"
Review this and all the other books by Brights at:


We've long known of "social Christians" who, while not believing in the supernatural, for spousal harmony or other social/cultural reasons identify by the religion and go to church . Brights underneath, one might say. Now, though, we have run into an interesting blog focused on "being a Bright" by a Christian who is a Bright.

His blog ( is a handy reminder that "religion" is far from a monolithic concept. There are many who follow precepts attributed to Jesus but do not believe he was supernatural or "the son of god". Of course, for linguistic reasons, we'd favor "Christian Brights" over the chosen moniker. Nevertheless, the "Bright Christians" site has meritorious intent, as the author states:

"I'm starting this blog, simply said, because I haven't found anything like it as a resource on the web yet. This is a place I want to encourage the discussion of how those who find themselves naturalists and willing participants in a religious (in my case Christian) tradition can navigate between dogma and devotion, amid tradition without relinquishing reason; how we can be both religious and naturalist at the same time--to guide our religiosity with the best knowledge and thinking that we can."


One of the options when registering as a Bright is to have the Bulletins and BrightenOps sent in HTML. With our new database provider, we currently have the capacity but not the time to implement this option. One of these days, though, those of you who selected it will receive the content, but formatted differently. You can switch your text preference (or change any other value such as email address) by editing your profile at:


The five-member Board of Directors of the Brights' Net met in June in Sacramento for its semi-annual meeting. This is a legal requirement. The Brights' Net is a non-profit California corporation and educational organization, with a 501(C)(3) U.S. federal tax exemption for donations. You can find formal information about The Brights' Net from GuideStar, which is the recognized source of trustworthy information concerning non-profit US corporations and associations: (registration required for detailed info.)


Clint (Maryland, USA): "When someone makes the comment to me that 'evolution is only a theory,' I reply that yes, it is a well established theory, and God is only a hypothesis."


The Co-Directors will be attending the Secular Student Alliance convention and be in Columbus on August 12 to 15. We will be in the Lexington area on the following weekend. We would be pleased to meet with local area Brights at either location. Is there a volunteer who would arrange a place for a Brights' gathering in Columbus on the evening of Sunday August 14th and someone to do the same in Lexington on the 21st?


The previous Bulletin announced that the Smithsonian Institution would be co-sponsoring the showing of a movie produced by an "evolved" form of creationism known as "Intelligent Design." In response to the information, a number of Brights, along with the Co-Directors, emailed concerns to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian (Mr. Randall Kremer, Public Affairs and Ms. Debra S. Ritt, Inspector General) wrote back:

"The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History recently approved a request by the Discovery Institute to hold a private, invitation-only screening and reception at the Museum on June 23 for the film 'The Privileged Planet.' Upon further review we have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research. Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor the National Museum of Natural History supports or endorses the views of the Discovery Institute or the film 'The Privileged Planet.' Given that the Discovery Institute has already issued invitations, we will honor the commitment made to provide space for the event, but will not participate or accept a donation for it."

Co-Directors' Opinion: Even though the SI imprimatur was finally withdrawn, the Discovery Institute will still be able to publicize that its film "premiered at the Smithsonian Institution." Teachers across the nation will learn that fact about the film, and that alone, and be given impetus to show the film in their schools. They will be oblivious to the Smithsonian's "non-co-sponsorship" or the reasons for same. Thus, in pragmatic terms that truly matter (e.g., science education in the schools), the end result is hardly better than the original co-sponsorship. Overall, DI has probably gained a step in furthering its "theistic science" agenda, giving a distinctly pseudo-scientific endeavor the appearance of being legitimate science.


If you have a problem receiving this Bulletin, please email Kevin ( and place the word PROBLEM in the subject line.

The Brights' Forum (open 24/7)

The archive of all prior Bulletins is at

If you need to change your registered email address to a new one, suspend emailing from Brights Central, etc., you can now change status yourself at:

Do you have comments for the Co-Directors? Send to and put DIRECTORS in the subject line. If your question is for the Coordinator of Brights' Local Constituencies, send to and put BLC COORDINATOR in the subject line.

Brights Central
Co-Directors: Mynga Futrell and Paul Geisert
Webmaster: Kevin Schultz
Web Architect: Theo Welch
BLC Coordinator: Tammy Richard

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

BS! T-Shirts

BS! T-Shirts -

acupuncture, alien abduction, ancient astronauts, animal rights, applied kinesiology, aromatherapy, astrology, astral projection, auras, ayurveda, censorship, channeling, chakras, chi, chiropractic, clairvoyance, color therapy, creationism, crop circles, cryptozoology, crystal power, dowsing, ear candling, electronic voice phenomena, environmentalism, fad diets, faith healing, feng shui, flower therapy, ghosts, homeopathy, hypnosis, iridology, magnet therapy, moxibustion, naturopathy, Nostradamus, numerology, psychics, psychokinesis, pyramid energy, qigong, recycling, reflexology, reiki, reincarnation, rolfing, shamanism, shiatsu, spoon bending, telepathy, trepanation, the war on drugs...

...all BS!

For the uncensored "Bull Shit!" version:

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Survey: Many believe cancer myths

Survey: Many believe cancer myths

Tuesday, June 28, 2005; Posted: 12:55 a.m. EDT (04:55 GMT)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- More than 40 percent of Americans surveyed in a study falsely believed surgery can allow cancer cells to spread through the body, researchers said Monday. And up to a quarter believed there is a drug industry plot to cover up a cure for cancer.

The survey, published in the journal Cancer, may mean patients with cancer may fail to get treatment or may fail to stick with it, the researchers said.

The telephone survey of 957 adults was designed to represent the general U.S. population, said the researchers, led by Dr. Ted Gansler of the American Cancer Society.

"The most prevalent misconception, 'Treating cancer with surgery can cause it to spread throughout the body,' was endorsed as true by 41 percent of the respondents," the researchers wrote in their report.

"The second most prevalent misconception, 'The medical industry is withholding a cure for cancer from the public in order to increase profits,' was identified as true by 27 percent."

But most people -- 68 percent -- correctly rejected the idea that pain medications are ineffective against cancer pain and 89 percent knew it takes more than a positive attitude to treat cancer.

Eighty-seven percent knew there were effective treatments for cancer. More than 60 percent of cancer patients are still alive 5 years later.

The results show that the American public is significantly ill-informed about cancer, and that most people overestimate how much they know about the disease, the researchers said.

Only 25 percent of those surveyed correctly identified all five misconceptions as false.

The survey fits in with others recently done about what people know about cancer.

People who were 65 or older, of non-white race and those who admitted they knew little about cancer were more likely to get the answers wrong, the researchers said.

The findings may help explain why some groups are more likely to die of cancer than others, the researchers said. People who get early screening and prompt treatment for their cancer are more likely to survive.

Copyright 2005 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Sticking Pins In Homeopathy

The following article is a mixture of good points and confusing messages. It's too bad the author couldn't present a clear message. Some of his reasoning reminds me of this quote:

"When, predictably, the alternative technique ignominiously flunked the double blind test, its practitioner delivered himself of the following immortal response: 'You see: That is why we never do double-blind testing any more. It never works!'" - Richard Dawkins

Sticking Pins In Homeopathy
posted by alexon Jun 27, 2005 - 08:32 AM

Sylvia Millecam, a successful Dutch actress and comedienne, died of breast cancer at age 45, about two years after her diagnosis was made. Throughout her illness, she opted to be treated with alternative medicine rather than conventional scientific medicine. Statistics indicate that had she received the latter type of treatment, her chances of living beyond two years would have been higher than 95 percent.

Despite the dramatic achievements of scientific medicine, the use of alternative medicine in the Western world is soaring. Contrary to the prevailing view, there are increasing reports that many alternative therapists are not presenting themselves as a complement to conventional medicine, but rather as a substitute for it.

Some had hoped that a scientific examination of alternative practices would lead to a change in this trend. But after two decades of collecting empirical data about the effectiveness of alternative treatment methods, one can say that this expectation has been disappointed. What has happened instead, is that these experiments have sparked an important discussion about the limits of the scientific method, as well as doubts about its credibility.

Anyone who cares deeply about the welfare of human beings must observe these processes with great concern. The way to alter the course and fortify the hegemony of scientific medicine is to keep those with vested interests away from the scientists and to renew and strengthen the therapeutic ritual - listening, understanding and genuine dialogue - in conventional medicine.

Fashionable alternative

Alternative medicine is a collection of treatment methods that are offered to people as a cure for their illness and suffering, without their safety and effectiveness having undergone an exacting study according to the criteria of scientific medicine. The "basket" of alternative treatments includes a highly varied group of theories and practices, which are sometimes divided into a number of main categories: alternative medicine systems (homeopathy, acupuncture, etc.); treatments with a biological basis (natural substances, various diets, megavitamins, etc.); therapies that involve bodily manipulation (chiropractics, various kinds of massages); and mind-body therapies (meditation, hypnosis, yoga, prayer).

In an editorial that accompanied two articles about the unexpected biological activity of alternative herbal remedies, Marcia Angell and Jerome Kassirer, editors of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, described the difference between conventional and alternative medicine: "It is time for the scientific community to stop giving alternative medicine a free ride. There cannot be two kinds of medicine - conventional and alternative. There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work."

Nevertheless, the use of alternative medicine is rapidly growing. A comprehensive survey of 13,044 people, conducted in 2002 and published about a year ago in the United States, indicated that 62 percent of Americans received therapy in one branch of alternative medicine in the year prior to the survey.

In 1997, David Eisenberg of Harvard University published a comprehensive survey on the extent of the use of alternative medicine in America. He found that the number of visits to alternative healers rose from 427 million in 1990 to 629 million in 1997 - more than the total number of visits to conventional physicians. All in all, Americans spent $27 billion on alternative medical services, a figure similar to the amount spent on conventional medical services.

With the market economy being the motivating force behind today's health industry, the medical establishment has recognized the economic potential of alternative medicine. Many hospitals are opening institutes devoted to the various types of alternative medicine, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are offering expanded policies that include alternative medicine.

More than 60 percent of family doctors referred patients to alternative medical services at least once in the year preceding the survey, and 38 percent did so in the month preceding the survey. The American federal government allocates tens of millions of dollars a year to research related to alternative medicine. The decision-makers have chosen to ignore the possibility that this trend might end up blurring the public's perception of the fundamental distinction between the two approaches.

Uproar in Holland

While there is an internal division between the various branches of alternative medicine and complementary medicine, the general perception is that all types of alternative medicine constitute a supplement to scientific medicine - not a substitute. Politicians and the medical establishment use this argument to bestow legitimacy on the broad support they give to alternative medicine. Nonetheless, there is growing evidence that this is not really the case.

Not long ago, there was a public debate in Holland on the subject, prompted by an investigation into the circumstances of the death of Sylvia Millecam, who had been referred to a surgeon for a biopsy of a lump in her breast. She chose to go instead to an electro-acupuncturist who assured her that she was healthy. After a delay of eight months, a conventional physician diagnosed breast cancer and proposed that she undergo a mastectomy and chemotherapy. She refused and instead sought treatment from many alternative therapists. 28 doctors and institutions were involved in Millecam's treatment. Some of them dismissed the diagnosis of breast cancer outright. She was treated with a wide range of methods, including anti-cancer cell therapy, halotherapy (also known as salt therapy), psychological approaches and so on. She died two years later.

A recently published study found that the survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50 is about 95 percent after two years, 85 percent after five years, and 70 percent after 15 years.

In addition to a recommendation that disciplinary measures be taken and criminal charges be brought against some of those involved in the Millecam case, the authors of the report also proposed that Dutch legislators amend the existing law to require from now on that all those who work in alternative medicine be registered and that their activity be subject to oversight. They also recommended that a law be enacted stating that only a certified physician is permitted to make or change a medical diagnosis.

Apart from extreme cases like this that raise public consciousness about dangerous practices whose true extent is unknown, other public data also clearly illustrate the fierce competition being waged by alternative medicine against conventional medicine. At a time when there is a grave shortage in the resources allocated to scientific medical services, people are spending a fortune on alternative treatments. If just part of this money went to fund medical services that have been scientifically proved, the ability to provide vital services to needy populations and to expand scientific research and technological development would be dramatically increased.

As already noted, the medical establishment prefers to hide its head in the sand, as long as it can share in some of the income that originates with alternative medicine. In the past decades, as part of the attempt to grant legitimacy to this field, we have seen an effort to examine its various branches using scientific tools. And it appears that this tendency is causing a further erosion of the status of scientific medicine.

Homeopathy put to the test

Homeopathy was created in the late 18th century by Samuel Hahnemann. In an attempt to test the effects of the Cinchona plant, which was touted as a treatment for malaria, Hahnemann took a number of doses of the plant extract even though he was not ill with the disease. He found that the symptoms he experienced were surprisingly similar to the symptoms of malaria.

This finding led Hahnemann to formulate the "similarity principle," which lies at the basis of the homeopathic method. According to this principle, chemical preparations whose ingestion causes symptoms similar to those that appear in certain illnesses have the potential to cure patients of these illnesses. With the aim of reducing the toxicity of the preparations to a minimum, while preserving their curative potential, Hahnemann proposed that the active ingredient be "diluted" as much as possible. In the absence of suitable scientific knowledge, the progenitors of the method diluted the solutions to such a degree that the concoctions they sold as remedies did not include even a single molecule of the active ingredient. This tradition has been preserved to this day.

Homeopathy as a holistic system ignores the achievements of many generations of biological research that are based on the reductionist method. This method says that the way to develop effective healing methods is through a deep understanding of the components that make up the whole person at different levels: molecular, cellular, tissue and organ. The dilution principle contradicts basic physical laws (such as the law of mass preservation) that have been proved in thousands of experiments in different and complex systems. Still, there have been numerous attempts to validate the homeopathic method on the basis of the scientific method's principles.

In June 1988, the important scientific journal Nature published an article that caused a major uproar. A group of scientists led by Jacques Benveniste of the University of Paris, in collaboration with other laboratories (in Rehovot, Milan and Toronto), reported that in their experimental environment, a solution was able to preserve the biological activity of antibodies that were in it even when it no longer contained a single molecule of a single antibody.

At the end of the article a paragraph appeared under the heading, "Editorial reservation," that said: "Readers of this article may share the incredulity of the many referees who have commented on several versions of it during the past several months. The essence of the result is that an aqueous solution of an antibody retains its ability to evoke a biological response even when diluted to such an extent that there is a negligible chance of there being a single molecule in any sample. There is no physical basis for such an activity. With the kind collaboration of Prof. Benveniste, Nature has therefore arranged for independent investigators to observe repetitions of the experiments. A report of this investigation will appear shortly."

In an editorial entitled "When to believe the unbelievable?" the editors wrote: "Benveniste's observations, on the other hand, are startling not merely because they point to a novel phenomenon, but because they strike at the roots of two centuries of observation and rationalization of physical phenomena. Where, for example, would elementary principles such as the Law of Mass Action be if Benveniste is proved correct? The principle of restraint which applies is simply that, when an unexpected observation requires that a substantial part of our intellectual heritage should be thrown away, it is prudent to ask more carefully than usual whether the observation may be correct."

The investigating team's report and Benveniste's response that was published four weeks later are both fascinating documents, depicting a laboratory located in the western suburbs of Paris that serves as the setting for a major drama.

Benveniste backs down

The composition of the team of investigators sent by the journal was somewhat odd: In addition to John Maddox, the editor of Nature, it included a professional magician, James Randi, and Walter Stewart, a respected investigator of scientific fraud. Not one of them had training in the laboratory's field of work. Nonetheless, their report indicates that during the week they spent in Paris, they went about their tasks quite diligently.

It did not take long for the team to find that two senior members of Benveniste's research team were receiving their salaries from a company that markets homeopathic drugs. In going over the records, the investigators were surprised to discover that the experiments conducted in the lab had not always confirmed the premise that the activity of the antibody was also preserved in the solution that did not contain it. The "unsuccessful" experiments were not included in the article, and there was not sufficient justification for this omission.

After observing four experiments, the members of the team concluded that the cell counts, on whose basis the results of the experiment were determined, were done by scientists who were aware of the level of dilution of the solution. Therefore, there was a concern that the result of the count was influenced by their expectations and their strong desire to corroborate the premise of the research.

So, the members of the team initiated three new experiments. This time, the samples were coded and the people counting the cells did not know the dilution level of the solution. The matching codes to the samples were revealed on the last day the investigating team was in Paris. And the results were unequivocal: The antibody was not active in the samples in which it was not present.

The bottles of Champagne that had been readied for the farewell meeting remained unopened and the atmosphere was tense. In light of the results of the last experiments, the team gave Benveniste three options: withdraw the article, write a clear disavowal of its findings or publish a response to the team's report that would be published in full. Benveniste chose the third option.

The report was published under a stinging headline: "High-Dilution Experiments a Delusion." In response, Benveniste harshly criticized the members of the team, describing them as amateurs in terms of their training. He disparaged the level of their arguments and claimed to have found numerous inaccuracies in their report. Indignant, he accused the inspection team of witch-hunting and McCarthyism. Benveniste called on the scientific community not to allow inspectors into laboratories and to return to the good old method by which one lab seeks to substantiate the findings of another lab by independently reproducing the results using an equivalent experimental system.

Five years later, an article responding to Benveniste's call was finally published in Nature. Unfortunately for him, the results did not meet his expectations. A team from the pharmacology department of the University of London repeated Benveniste's experiments, but were unable to reproduce the results, and reported that their findings did not support the claims of the French team.

The attempt to give homeopathy validity also spilled over into another arena: controlled clinical experiments.

In the past two decades, numerous clinical studies have purported to examine the effect of homeopathy on various illnesses. Four different groups systematically summarized these studies. Despite many reservations about the quality of the studies, and about the possibility of biases that cannot be measured, the researchers found that homeopathy has a positive effect.

But empirical findings such as these, which stand in total contradiction to established theories, are not sufficient to alter our current understanding of reality. Therefore, the positive findings in the clinical experiments arouse skepticism among many both inside and outside the scientific community.

God is put to the test

Long-distance healing has been described as "a conscious spiritual activity directed at benefiting the physical or emotional welfare of another person." Long-distance healing by means of prayer essentially involves asking God or some other supreme power to intervene in the condition of a specific individual or patient. This is the most popular method of alternative medicine in the Western world. In England, there are 14,000 long-distance healers. A controlled clinical study published in 1998 in one of the less prestigious medical journal made big waves. 40 AIDS patients in an advanced stage of the disease were randomly divided into two groups: a control group and an experimental group that was given "long-distance healing" for 10 weeks. The long-distance healing was done by healers of various types and traditions who were scattered around the United States and never met the patients they were supposed to be healing. Six months later, the group that received long-distance healing was found to have a lower incidence of AIDS-related illnesses, fewer doctor visits and fewer hospitalizations. Their illness was less severe. And their mood was better.

Anyone who wanted to believe that this was simply an esoteric, anecdotal and basically meaningless study was soon proved wrong. In 1999, a leading medical journal published a study that examined the effect of prayer on patients hospitalized in the cardiac ICU. A group of 990 patients was randomly divided into two subgroups: The patients in the control group received the standard treatment and the patients in the experimental group received the standard treatment plus long-distance healing. Without their knowledge, another person was asked to pray for their recovery.

The researchers reported that the mortality rate in the two groups was identical, but the clinical progress of those who received long-distance healing involved fewer serious complications. The difference in the amount and severity of complications between the two groups was statistically clear.

After a lengthy concerted effort, more than 100 studies examining the effects of long-distance healing were found in the medical literature. After sifting out the studies that did not meet basic methodological standards, 23 studies remained, covering 2,774 patients: 13 of them (57 percent) found a positive effect; nine found no effect and one found a negative effect.

The intensive debate that followed the publication of these studies focused mainly on the questions asked by the research. The basic claim made by the healers was that it was not the effect of prayer on disease that was tested, but rather God's intervention in response to human mediation, with divine intervention being statistically measured.

Putting a question of this sort to the scientific test seems like a dubious proposition. Is it logical to assume that God will act in accordance with the laws of probability? According to the great monotheistic religions, God is not bound by the laws of nature, and certainly not by the laws of probability. Moreover, the great religions attribute unlimited powers to God. He is omnipotent. Is it reasonable to assume that God needs the prodding of prayers in order to ensure the well-being of people whose welfare he cares about?

There are people who have drawn encouragement from the (even partial) success of scientific experiments that appear to corroborate the power of the Creator and they propose to continue to advance and to look at the effects of the various components of ritual prayer: i.e., quantity, type, form, duration, frequency, degree of fervor, number of people praying at one time, the type of belief held by the person praying or the patient. For example, it would be interesting to test the premise that the effect of five people praying for two minutes is identical to the effect of two people praying for five minutes. Some suggest using such a method to test what is the "correct" faith - by examining whether the prayer of a Christian for a Jew has more effect than the prayer of a Jew for a Christian.

But many are troubled by the acceptance of these studies, feeling that the idea that the efficacy of long-distance healing can be proved through clinical experiments actually calls into question the credibility of such experiments.

A survey published in the most recent issue of Nature indicates that at least one out of three scientists in America who receives a government-funded grant is too forgiving of inaccuracies and is not averse to "rounding out the corners" in his or her scientific work. Approximately 15 percent admitted that they had omitted data from a study and 27 percent admitted that they had not preserved the data properly. Such "inaccuracies" could easily transform a negative result into a positive one. The scientific method is based on a broad system of rules that determine the way in which it is possible to obtain reliable evidence and the way in which reliable evidence becomes a scientific truth. The achievements of science and the public's trust are dependent in large part on the degree of commitment that scientists have to strictly upholding these rules. Wild competition between scientists and the deep involvement of vested interests in scientific research have dealt a serious blow - some would even call it a mortal blow - to the integrity of the scientific community.

Ritual and healing

Up until the mid-20th century, medical practice was based on the fundamental premise of ergo propter hoc - the attribution of a certain effect exclusively to the action that preceded it chronologically. This is one of the most common errors in human thinking. The penetration of the scientific method into clinical medicine derives from the understanding that the juxtaposition of an action and an effect cannot serve as decisive proof of a causal relation between them. Reality is more complex than that: There are many variables in the system and their influence may be more important than that of the action that was intended to alter the reality. The objective of the controlled clinical experiment is to distinguish between the effect of the drug and the effects of other factors that could cause changes in the patient's condition.

The successes of alternative medicine are based on the faulty thinking inherent in ergo propter hoc: The improvement in the patient's condition in homeopathy or prayers to the Creator is attributed to "therapy," while its source almost certainly lies in other influential factors such as natural healing and therapeutic ritual. Bear in mind: Nearly every treatment for the flu (whether with antibiotics or homeopathy) will be an apparent success simply because in the vast majority of cases, the body itself overcomes the illness.

The therapeutic ritual, which includes listening, conveying information and expressions of empathy and understanding, may lead to a change in the patient's opinions, expectations, beliefs and mental state. Despite its importance, studies show that in most cases the effect of therapeutic ritual is of limited duration and becomes smaller and less significant in inverse proportion to the severity of the illness.

Nevertheless, it appears that the human need for the therapeutic ritual, despite its limited effect, is a very basic, perhaps primeval one. Therefore, many people are ready to make every effort to satisfy this need, even if it sometimes means forgoing other tools that could bring them much benefit in the long run. In other words, patients turn their backs on conventional medicine and seek out alternative medicine in part because only it satisfies their deep need for a sympathetic ear and acknowledgment of their physical and emotional distress.

Unfortunately, the physicians who apply the achievements of scientific medicine had almost completely abandoned the therapeutic ritual - sometimes because of their work conditions (the number of patients they are required to see within a certain period of time), and sometimes because of their belief that the effective tools they possess enable them to function as technicians.

Anyone who cares deeply about human welfare must view the growth of alternative medicine and the erosion of the status of conventional medicine with great concern. Initial attempts to protect scientific research from the taint of vested interests and repeated calls from leaders of the medical establishment to strengthen the therapeutic ritual attest that in the strongholds of scientific medicine, there is also a sense that the foundations are shaking.

Benny Mozes is a physician, researcher and a lecturer on health policy.

Health Ministry rejects claims vaccine data 'falsified'

Health Ministry rejects claims vaccine data 'falsified'
28 June 2005

The Health Ministry has rejected claims by anti-immunisation lobbyists that it "falsified data" to make health professionals believe meningococcal disease is on the rise.

The ministry says the data being questioned was a mistake that was picked up in a report before it was even published.

The $200 million meningococcal B vaccination campaign to vaccinate all 1.1 million New Zealanders aged under 20 began in South Auckland last July.

New Zealand has been in the grip of a meningococcal disease epidemic since 1991, which has infected 5700 victims, resulting in 227 deaths, most of them children.

Self-styled risk and policy analyst Ron Law and writer/researcher Barbara Sumner Burstyn, who have accused the ministry of running "a state-funded medical experiment", said in a statement documents sent to healthcare workers contained a "falsified graph suggesting that meningococcal disease was on the increase".

One graph in a draft of the 2004 annual meningococcal disease report prepared by Environmental Science and Research (ESR) showing the number of meningococcal bacteria isolated from patients included 70 additional cases in the 2004 data.

"This strongly suggests that the message being conveyed to the ministry by the public about the need for and efficacy of the experimental MeNZB(tm) vaccine is being falsified," Mr Law said.

AdvertisementAdvertisementHowever, the director of the Meningococcal Immunisation Programme, Dr Jane O'Hallahan, said the information in the 2004 report was accurate.

"An incorrect graph was circulated to health professionals before this report was finalised and we caught the error and corrected it before ESR and the Ministry of Health published the report," she said.

Stakeholders who received the incorrect graph have had their attention drawn to the correct version in the report, which is publicly available on the ministry's website.

Ms Sumner Burstyn had also accused the report's author, Dr Stewart Reid of "a conflict of interest" because he was clinical investigator for one of vaccine-maker Chiron's clinical trials, as well as a member of the Medicines Assessment Advisory Committee, which gave the go-ahead to the MeNZB(tm) vaccine.

"When the qualifications of reporters investigating the development and release of an experimental medicine are called into question, it is ironic that the qualifications of the one of the most senior players in the MeNZB(tm) saga have been withheld from the public," she said.

However, the ministry said there was no substance to the allegations: a panel independent of the ministry chose the preferred provider of the vaccine from tenders submitted by four manufacturers.

The principal investigator of the trials was not a Chiron employee.

The Independent Safety Monitoring Board was set up by the Health Research Council to independently monitor the roll out of the meningococcal B immunisation programme.

The ISMB has five members from New Zealand and overseas with extensive expertise covering statistics, vaccine trials, public health epidemiology, clinical paediatrics and meningococcal disease.

Last week Health Director-General Karen Poutasi took the unprecedented step of writing an open letter to New Zealanders replying to mounting criticisms of the campaign, which was published in metropolitan and regional daily papers.

Dr Poutasi said the ministry had to correct "some of the misinformation that has circulated".

It was pointless to focus on narrow timeframes with meningococcal epidemics, which went through "peaks and troughs", she said.

In the first five months of last year, there had been two deaths, while this year there had been five by May.

The epidemic was likely to run for another 6-10 years if the ministry took a "do nothing" approach, she said.

The immunisation programme was not just about preventing deaths, but also brain damage, amputation, deafness, massive scarring, learning disabilities and other things caused by meningococcal disease.

For every 100 cases of meningococcal disease, approximately 4 will die and 20 will be permanently maimed or disfigured, while 76 will be treated and make a full recovery.

Media stirs up faux vaccine controversy

Media stirs up faux vaccine controversy
Media watch by David Cohen

So the "debate rages" about the campaign to immunise young New Zealanders against the epidemic strain of meningococcal disease, according to the New Zealand Herald. What's more, notes the Dominion Post, "weeks of controversy" surrounding the safety and testing of the MeNZB vaccine could permanently hurt the immunisation cause. It could spell the end of "widespread support" for vaccination, warns the Christchurch Press.

Doesn't the wintry air just positively reek of crisis?

Hmm. I think it was Katharine Hepburn who said she didn't care what the papers said as long as it wasn't true. Even so, you have to draw the line somewhere.

There is no crisis. There is no controversy. There isn't even really any serious debate.

More like hundreds of thousands of parents quietly going about immunising their kids from a disease that has killed hundreds of New Zealanders and sickened thousands more over the past 14 years. And not one of the country's scientists has suggested things should be otherwise.

The opposition has been threefold, and what an odd triple-brew they are too.

First, a tiny little mob of crusaders for whom vaccination of any type represents an evil capitalist conspiracy.

Then a solitary list MP, Sue Kedgley, the same Green Party representative who not so long ago was spoofed into lending her name to a bogus campaign to ban dihydrogen monoxide (aka water ­ those who played the jape told Ms Kedgley the chemical is "colourless, odourless, tasteless and kills uncounted thousands of people each year" adding that it is known to be present in "some imported food").

Finally, and most influentially, there has been a number of news chiefs who believe these individuals' zany views merit serious media attention.

One example of the alleged debate might suffice. Late last month, Russell Brown wrote on his weblog about the current immunisation programme. He asked whether adverse responses to the vaccine were possibly being under-reported by the Ministry of Health.

Mr Brown is no academic authority on immunological safety and -- to be fair -- neither was he pretending to be one. His online piece was an anecdotal affair to do with his older son missing school for three days after receiving a shot. Nothing wrong with that.

Or so it appeared. Within a day, National Radio's flagship newsmagazine show, Nine to Noon, had led a show with news of Mr Brown's "findings," giving them more than equal time to the rebuttals made later by bemused health officials. On the same day, he turned down another interview request from 3 News.

By the following Sunday, Mr Brown was back at it on the radio again, on his own Mediawatch show, being interviewed by somebody else about whether it had been a sensible call for the state-funded broadcaster to have interviewed him in the first place.

Well, was it? As Nine to Noon host Linda Clark pointed out on the day, repeatedly, Mr Brown is a journalist, one whose opinions are "widely read" to boot, and therefore he is qualified to speak on biologic plausibility and unique lab symptoms. But isn't the world already rather full of such people? And if what Ms Clark says is really the case ­ if all that's needed to be a medical authority is to be a known journalist ­ then why bother having doctors at all?

Real doctors know, of course, vaccine-fuelled faux-controversies are not unique to New Zealand. In the US, a similar non-debate to the one taking place here has been on whether vaccines cause childhood autism. Here again, the actual conversation involves only a tiny fringe of anti-capitalist types and some ideologically sympathetic news editors, along with ­ this being America ­ the trial lawyers, who have somehow convinced 4100 vulnerable parents to bring a risible class-action suit against the pharmaceutical industry.

In Nashville recently, I attended a small media seminar at Vanderbilt University, along with science reporters from the news networks CNN, CBS, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and American National Public Radio among others, where we heard geneticists, epidemiologists, paediatricians, toxicologists, neuroscientists and statisticians pour scorn on every conceivable facet of both the general anti-vaccine hype and the specific vaccine = autism case. Again and again and again, the allegedly causal relationship between immunisation and the genetically-based neurological disorder was given short shrift.

Moreover, as many of the physicians pointed out, it's not as if any real debate is taking place: no scholar from any reputable university or hospital in the northern hemisphere is lending his or her weight in the other direction in this entirely media-generated "debate."

In the US at least, there are signs the media may finally be taking that lesson on board. Just last week, for example, the ABC News network abruptly canned a scheduled interview with Robert F Kennedy Jr, the author of a barmy diatribe in this month's Rolling Stone magazine on the (now-abandoned) use of thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, in vaccines and its effects on childhood disorders.

As of Tuesday this week, news of Mr Kennedy's non-appearance on ABC had been reported in only one of the world's online news sources --


A new wine for seniors (humor)

A new wine for seniors

California vintners in the Napa Valley area, which primarily produces Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio wines, have developed a new hybrid grape that acts as an anti-diuretic. It is expected to reduce the number of trips older people have to make to the bathroom during the night.

The new wine will be marketed as Pino More.

Many Believe Cancer Myths

Many Believe Cancer Myths
June 27, 2005

Pop quiz: Treating cancer with surgery can cause the disease to spread to other parts of the body. True or false?

If you think the statement is true, you're wrong, but you're not alone.

More than half of the people questioned in a recent American Cancer Society survey mistakenly believed that surgery can or might spread cancer. And a significant percentage also believed other common cancer myths.

ACS researchers say the findings point to a need for greater public information efforts that target the poor and undereducated populations who tend to have the most misinformation about cancer.

"Our findings confirm that many people have misconceptions about cancer that may lead them to make choices which are not in the best interests of their health," researcher Ted Gansler, MD, tells WebMD.

Hiding A Cure

The ACS telephone survey included 957 randomly selected adults from across the nation who reported that they had no history of cancer. Among the most common misconceptions identified in the survey:

  • 41 percent said they believed surgery could spread cancer, and 13 percent said they didn't know if this was true.

  • 27 percent agreed with the statement: "There is currently a cure for cancer but the medical industry won't tell the public about it because they make too much money treating cancer patients." Fourteen percent believed the statement might be true.

People who had not graduated from high school were three times as likely as college graduates to believe that a cure for cancer exists but is being withheld. In general, people who were older than 65, nonwhite, and living in the South had the most misconceptions about cancer, as did people who identified themselves as not knowing very much about the disease.

The survey results are published in the Aug. 1, 2005, issue of the ACS publication Cancer.

In a more encouraging finding, nine out of 10 people surveyed correctly disagreed with the statement, "All you need to beat cancer is a positive attitude, not treatment."

An equal number did not agree with the statement, "Cancer is something that cannot be effectively treated."

Also encouraging was that 68 percent of those surveyed rejected the statement, "Pain medications are ineffective against cancer pain."

Myths Influence Treatment

Gansler says the widespread notion that surgery causes cancer to spread may stem from the once common practice of operating on patients to diagnose the disease. Patients whose cancers were too advanced to be treated often declined rapidly after diagnostic surgery.

"Because [nonsurgical] imaging is so advanced these days, it is not nearly as common for people to have surgical procedures that they are not likely to benefit from," he says.

The idea that a cure for cancer is being withheld may stem from another misperception, Gansler says — the mistaken belief that little progress has been made in treating the disease.

"Many people think in terms of a single cure for all cancers, which is highly unlikely," he says. "What they don't realize is that there are many people out there today who have been cured. A lot of progress has been made in many areas."

He points out that just a few decades ago only about 10 percent of children with leukemia survived the disease. Today, 80 percent survive.

Decisions Often Made On Bad Information

Cancer specialist Timothy Moynihan, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says patient misperceptions often influence their decisions about cancer treatment.

"Some people are reluctant to accept one type of therapy or another because of what they have heard," he says. "That is especially true with regard to chemotherapy and its side effects. They often don't understand that we have come a long way in making chemotherapy a whole lot easier on the patient than it used to be."

Myths about pain management are also common, he says.

"A lot of people are concerned that if they take a pain medicine now it won't work later," he says. And they worry about becoming addicted. These are both common myths."

People who harbor these cancer misconceptions may increase their risk for cancer death and disability because they may make inappropriate health care decisions or may have poor adherence to treatments, they write.

Sources: Gansler, T., Cancer, Aug. 1, 2005, online edition. Ted
Gansler, MD, MBA, director of medical content, American Cancer Society, Atlanta. Timothy Moynihan, MD, cancer specialist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

For more excellent information:

Alternative Medicine and Cancer

Monday, June 27, 2005

Adjustments and manipulations are not the same

As usual, John Badanes, DC, PharmD, gets right to the point. As a former chiropractic professor he understands all the issues quite well! Here is his comment at Gary Knutson's blog:

Dr. Knutson, DC:
Let me ask the reformers out there then; is what chiropractors do - manipulation - duplicated by "physical therapists and other health-care providers"?

If you want to actually answer this question, , Dr. Knutson, you need to either eliminate the term "manipulation" from the question, or, replace it with the term "Adjust." Then, the answer is easy -- and accurate.

Chiropractic "Adjustments" [of Subluxations] are what uniquely define the chiropractic profession. They always have, and, for better or worse, they always will. To the extent chiropractors give-up their proprietary adjustments of the many and variably defined chiropractic subluxations they diagnose and treat, what they do will approach -- diagnostically and therapeutically -- the generic manipulations and mobilizations of the physical therapist. To wit, those chiropractors who have given-up the chiropractic ghost altogether -- which is to say, reject what uniquely defines "chiropractic" -- they are chiropractors who don't practice "chiropractic." They look more like physical therapists because they reference the same biomedical resources. And so, their treatments are more likely to be duplicative since they would not be informed by chiropractic ideology.

You can't have it both ways. Once you realize that adjustments and manipulations are not the same -- by definition --then you have to accept the professional implications that each term has for the practice of physical medicine. Clearly, chiropractors are different than physical therapists. Define that difference and you have answered your question of "duplication."


[John Badanes, DC, PharmD]
Comment from jobadan - 6/26/05 9:54 AM

Quackery in Chiropractic

Whenever chiropractors attack my criticisms of the rampant quackery in the so-called "profession", they are only revealing their ignorance of my information sources, which are chiropractors themselves, and those who understand chiropractic best. The following Letter to the Editor is from the foremost chiropractic historian, Joseph C. Keating Jr., Ph.D.. Even though he wrote it in 1991, his analysis still fits this very day.:

We Get Letters


Quackery in Chiropractic

Dear Editor:

The recent editorial suggestion (Dynamic Chiropractic, January 18, 1991, p. 22) that American Chiropractic Association (ACA) President Charles F. Downing, D.C.'s letter to "Dear Abby" has "picked clean the last vestiges of doubt about chiropractic and 'quackery'" is absurd. The so-called "quackery myth about chiropractic" is no myth. If anyone doubts the continuity of quackery in the profession, he has only to turn to pages 31 and 35 of the same issue of Dynamic Chiropractic.

On page 31, Dynamic Chiropractic has published Dr. Robert E. Connolly's advertisement for "my proven psoriasis treatment" and his unsubstantiated claim that "psoriasis can be cured" by his methods. Dr. Connolly also notes that his cure will increase doctors' income substantially. He offers several testimonials to buttress his therapeutic claims. Page 36 reveals that James F. Dorobiala, D.C.'s Ten Minute Cure for the Common Cold has made it to the Motion Palpation Institute's (MPI's) "Preferred Reading and Viewing List." This "difinitive work" on "The Cure and Management of the Common Cold" is available for a mere $75.

Wow! Cures for psoriasis and the common cold. Sure sounds like Nobel Prize winning stuff. A search of scientific sources (Chiropractic Research Abstracts Collection, Index Medicus), however, paints a very different picture. My scan of the literature reveals no experimental evidence from Drs. Connolly or Dorobiala to substantiate the wild claims made in these advertisements. Rather, these advertisements amount to for-profit promotion of unproven health remedies and thereby clearly meet the criteria1,2 of quackery.

I pick on Drs. Connolly and Dorobiala because their advertisements so clearly amount to "quackery" that they are easy to document. But the kernels of quackery (i.e., unsubstantiated and untested health remedies offered as "proven") are ubiquitous in this profession.3,4 I dare say that health misinformation (if not quackery) can be found in just about any issue of any chiropractic trade publication (and some of our research journals) and much of the promotional materials chiropractors disseminate to patients. the recent unsubstantiated claims of the ACA are exemplary.

"Chiropractic procedure not only corrects athletic injury but also enables your body to operate at peak efficiency without the use of drugs or medication" (ACA pamphlet #ST-3, 1990) and,

"Chiropractic is a drugless, non-surgical method of procedure which has been proven effective for improving performance" (ACA pamphlet #ST-4, 1990.

Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of this tradition of unsubstantiated claims is that those chiropractic remedies which may, in fact, be helpful to patients (i.e., safe and effective) go untested and discredited because of the profession's willingness to promote them with nary a shred of experimental evidence.

It escapes me entirely how Dr. Downing, the ACA, MPI, and Dynamic Chiropractic can suggest that there is no quackery in chiropractic. Either these groups and individuals do not read the chiropractic literature or have no crap-detectors. I urge a reconsideration of advertising and promotion policies in chiropractic.


1. Jarvis, W. "What Constitutes Quackery?" NCAHF Newsletter 1989, July/August: 4-5.

2. Pepper Committee. "Quackery: a $10 billion Scandal" U.S. House of Representatives, Comm. Pub. 1984; No. 98-435.

3. Keating, J.C. "Making Claims." Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) April 1988; 11(2):75-7.

4. Keating, J.C. "Traditional Barriers to Standards of Knowledge Production in Chiropractic. Chiropractic Technique September 1990; 2(3): 78-85.

Joseph C. Keating Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Palmer College of Chiropractic/West
Sunnyvale, California

Dynamic Chiropractic
February 15, 1991, Volume 09, Issue 04

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Experts Reject Some Therapies

New York Times

Experts Reject Some Therapies

Published: June 25, 2005

Practitioners are using nutritional supplements, sauna baths and
powerful "detoxification" drugs to treat autism in the belief that it
is caused by thimerosal, a vaccine preservative that contains mercury.
But health experts say such therapies are not effective and can be

Dr. Susan Swedo of the National Institutes of Mental Health said the
use of drugs to remove metals from the body, called chelation, could
cause liver and kidney damage and other problems.

It "isn't responsible to prescribe" chelation for autism, Dr. Swedo said.

Chelation is approved by federal drug regulators only after blood
tests confirm acute heavy-metal poisoning. Yet some doctors say they
skip the tests for autistic children.

"We try not to waste people's money on tests," said Dr. John Kucera, a
physician in private practice in Colorado Springs. "Some are of the
opinion that everyone deserves a chance at chelation therapy whether
they show the signs or not."

One of the first to advocate treating autism with chelation and other
therapies was Dr. Stephen Edelson of Atlanta.

Dr. Edelson said in an interview that he stopped practicing medicine
last year after the state medical board censured him for abusing
prescription drugs and parents filed lawsuits contending that their
children had regressed under his care.

Dr. Edelson said he placed children in 160-degree saunas as part of
their treatment. Some children fought to get out of the sauna and
kicked out its window, an assistant said in a sworn statement.

The doctor said he also used chelation and prescribed 60 to 70
supplements a day, causing some children to vomit. Children had so
much blood taken for tests - often 20 vials in a sitting - that one
child passed out, a parent claimed in a lawsuit.

But many parents are desperate. Dr. Jim Laidler, an anesthesiologist
in Portland, Ore., said that after he learned that his two sons had
autism, "if someone had e-mailed me that powdered rhino horn worked, I
would have gone off on safari."

Dr. Laidler said he and his wife decided to try a restricted diet,
nutritional supplements and chelation.

But he said that his wife secretly stopped the treatments and waited
to see if he noticed a difference. He did not. The children's behavior
worsened and improved independent of the therapies.

Dr. Laidler now thinks that most such therapies are harmful.

"These parents are addicted to hope," he said. "They need it to
survive, and there are people who are willing to sell it to them."

Friday, June 24, 2005

The 11th Meeting of the Skeptics' Circle

The 11th Meeting of the Skeptics' Circle is now up and running at Anne's Anti-Quackery & Science Blog. There are plenty of really interesting entries.

My own entries were thus described:

"Paul at Confessions of a Quackbuster pointed out in his Placebo Illusion that the placebo effect influences the mind, but cures no real illness. He made the connection between placebo tricking the mind and sCAM tricking the patient. They are both frauds."


"Paul from Confessions of a Quackbuster made it clear to us that State medical board suspends license of Dr. James Shortt. Doctor James Shortt is an alternative medicine doctor and a "serious threat" to public health."

The archives site is located here:

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Health orders chiropractor to halt live blood analysis tests

Health orders chiropractor to halt live blood analysis tests

PROVIDENCE, R.I. A Rhode Island chiropractor has been ordered to stop performing live blood analysis tests.

The order came from the state Health Department yesterday. It says Joyce Martin was using the tests to diagnose problems that she says could be treated with nutritional supplements. Medical professionals say the tests have no clear value, and the public should be wary of anyone who offers them.

Martin has offices in Cranston, East Greenwich, East Providence and Providence. She says she was surprised by the department's action, had removed the lab equipment, and wouldn't do the test anymore.

Martin is allowed to continue her chiropractic practice.

Taxpayers Overbilled for Chiropractic Work

Taxpayers Overbilled for Chiropractic Work

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 21, 2005; 5:35 PM

WASHINGTON -- In one year, the government paid chiropractors for nearly $285 million in services that should not have been billed to Medicare, an inspector general's report said Tuesday.

Since 2001, the year studied, the demand for chiropractic services has increased. To prevent abuses, caps should be placed on the number of times that Medicare could be billed for chiropractic services for a patient, Health and Human Services' inspector general said.

"The need for a more effective way to eliminate inappropriate maintenance payments is crucial," the report said.

The questionable payments in 2001 amount to $2 out of every $3 that Medicare spent on chiropractic services that year. The payments were improper because they reimbursed providers for treatments that failed to meet the government's criteria for medical necessity, or because providers lacked the proper documentation to prove the services were needed, the report said.

The American Chiropractic Association, noting that the data cited by the IG's office is four years old, said the government instituted new procedures last year designed to help chiropractors avoid improperly billing the government. Medicare will reimburse for manipulation of the spine that is designed to improve a chronic or acute condition, but it is not supposed to reimburse chiropractors for simply maintaining a health condition.

The vast majority of improper payments, or $251 million, was for maintenance, the IG said.

"The procedures were put in place not quite a year ago, and it's intended to address the very problem they're talking about in this report," said Thomas Daly, a lawyer with the association, which represents about 12,000 chiropractors. "They wouldn't have the statistics to report whether it's having an impact or not. That's why we're a little mystified why they didn't go into what's happening now."

Daly said the association disagreed with the IG's recommendation that the government cap the number of times that it will pay for chiropractic services.

"We think an appropriate test is whether those services are reasonable and necessary," Daly said.

The inspector general's office said taxpayers could realize significant savings from the caps.

"When chiropractic care extends beyond 12 treatments in a year, it becomes increasingly likely that individual services are medically unnecessary," the report said.


On the Net:

IG's office:

American Chiropractic Association:

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Are chiropractors necessary?

Are chiropractors necessary?

Gary Knutson, DC, has some interesting comments on the FSU chiro school debacle, and on chiropractic's possible role in the future of the healthcare system.

Adverts inform parents on vaccine

Adverts inform parents on vaccine
Jun 18, 2005

The Ministry of Health is spending $130,000 on a newspaper campaign to combat what it calls misinformation about the Meningococcal B vaccination programme.

It says some parents are being misled by false claims about the vaccine's safety and usefulness, and are putting their children at risk by refusing the vaccine.

At meetings around New Zealand parents have been listening to Ron Law challenging the vaccination.

Law describes himself as a risk analyst who has worked in medical laboratories. He and a freelance journalist have teamed up against the Health Ministry's vaccination programme.

Law says the ministry is ramping up the benefits of the vaccine and downplaying the potentially adverse effects. "People will have to ask the question is this vaccine necessary, is it effective, is it safe?" says Law

The ministry has hit back with an open letter to parents in newspapers nationwide urging them to reconsider the vaccine.

"We decided to put in the open letter to address some of the false claims that are circulating, says Vaccination Programme Coordinator Dr Jane O'Hallahan.

The letter is being endorsed by all key health groups, including Auckland University's Immunisation Advisory Centre.

Dr Nikki turner says it's alarming that people with no scientific credibility have gained a large amount of "air space" when a lot of what they say has no basis in science.

Turner says anti vaccination campaigners don't know what they're talking about.

"They clearly do not understand how to read the science, how to read the statistics," says Turner.

The campaign aims to inoculate all 1.1 million New Zealanders aged under 20 against an epidemic that's killed 231 New Zealanders since 1991.

Turner says the implications of wrong information is confusing for parents and that more children may miss out on a vaccination.

O'Hallahan says so far just a handful of parents have decided to withdraw their children.

"We're concerned about any children withdrawn from this programme because of false claims. This vaccine is going to save lives," says O'Hallahan.

The Ministry of Health is hoping it will convince all parents to get their children vaccinated.

Man Who Allegedly Claimed To Be Doctor Gets Suspension

Man Who Allegedly Claimed To Be Doctor Gets Suspension

POSTED: 5:59 am EDT June 20, 2005
UPDATED: 7:32 am EDT June 20, 2005

PROVIDENCE -- A man who authorities say falsely claimed to be a doctor and performed incorrect and unnecessary medical tests has agreed to a suspension of his natural healing practice, a lawyer for the state Health Department said.

John E. Curran, of Exeter, did not testify at an administrative hearing on Friday, repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination according to the Providence Journal.

The state Health Department shut down Curran's East Greenwich medical practice earlier this month. Investigators said Curran gave false and misleading diagnoses, routinely drew blood and swindled patients by offering expensive treatments.

Curran claimed to be a physician and naturopath, a doctor who treats diseases with natural agents like air, water or sunshine.

Curran pleaded the Fifth Amendment as Bruce McIntyre, a lawyer for the Health Department, held up various items -- including copies of bogus diplomas and a blue lab coat -- that he used as part of his practice.

"Isn't it true that this is the coat you wore when you saw patients?" McIntyre asked.

"I must plead the Fifth Amendment," Curran replied.

Curran's attorney, John H. Ruginski Jr., said he told his client not to testify since the case is before a federal grand jury.

Federal agents raided Curran's Providence practice in January. Curran reopened in East Greenwich, but was raided again in April.

Health officials say Curran is not licensed to practice in Rhode Island or any other state.

Colleen Brophy, Curran's wife and the owner of the East Greenwich business, has said her husband was not practicing medicine and did not present himself as a doctor.

Federal court affidavits show that Curran is being investigated for wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering in connection with the practice, the newspaper reported.

[HealthFactsAndFearscomBulletin] Royal Society v Lancet,radiation madness, more

blog of the American Council on Science and Health:

Stier on the Royal Society's rebuke of Lancet scares:

Molineaux on the radiation-fearing loon in us all:

Whelan on NY pols warping science:

Burney on the good and bad news about HIV:

Stimola on a private contribution to stem cell research:

_Personalized_ e-updates, purchasing/tracking of ACSH publications, and
the option of posting comments about our articles are yours at:

Anti-Aging Doctors Sue Professors

Anti-Aging Doctors Sue Professors

Heard the one about the professor who jokingly gave the two osteopathic physicians a bottle of snake oil? Well, they didn’t think it was funny.

In fact, the co-founders of the Chicago-based American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) decided to sue S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Thomas Perls, associate professor of geriatrics at Boston University, for $240 million. According to the defamation complaint filed in an Illinois court, Olshansky and Perls conspired to undermine A4M’s scientific credibility and in turn to harm the business prospects of Ronald Klatz and Robert Goldman, the two founders. The result, according to the complaint, was several professional disappointments, including the loss of a $20 million contract for Medical Development Management, an Illinois corporation in which Klatz and Goldman are the principal shareholders.

It is not the first time Olshansky and Perl have criticized A4M, although they maintain that their criticisms are based in science. In fact, the two guest edited an issue of The Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences that was devoted to clearing up the hype about anti-aging remedies. It was at a conference on anti-aging that Olshansky gave a bottle of vegetable oil, labeled “snake oil,” to Klatz and Goldman, who were not there. That honor was added to the “Silver Fleece” award for “the most outrageous or exaggerated claims about slowing or reversing human aging,” for which Olshansky and Perls helped select the winner.

Olshansky said he is by no means against searching for ways to slow or stop aging. In fact, he has conducted aging research himself. “I’m a strong supporter of anti-aging research,” he said. “But it’s my job to protect public health, and inform the public about the truth of what we know and what we don’t know. Right now, the claim that we can stop or reverse aging isn’t really much of an issue for debate among serious scientists.”

Among A4M’s remedies that worry him is human growth hormone. In one of his books, Klatz called HGH proven for age-reversal. HGH has been shown to temporarily slow some signs of aging, but some research suggests reason to be concerned about possible side effects.

Experts said the case is an uncommon attack on professors speaking about issues within their field of study. Because of the cost of litigation, lawsuits “can have a chilling effect on academic research,” said Jonathan Knight, director of the Office of Academic Freedom and Tenure at the American Association of University Professors, who said cases like this are “as rare as hen’s teeth.”

Knight said he was surprised that the lawsuit did not name the universities, which “have deeper pockets,” as defendants as well. But other experts thought the whole point might be to scare the professors with the cost of litigation. “Even the cost of the discovery process can be extremely expensive,” said Sandra Baron, executive director of the Media Law Center in New York, who said she is not aware of other cases just like this.

The University of Illinois at Chicago is backing its professor in the case, and footing the legal bill. “The university has become involved because it is an issue of academic freedom,” said Bill Burton, a spokesman. “Professor Olshansky is doing his job … to search for the truth and speak it. That is the purpose of a research university. The university is defending its purpose.”

Klatz and Goldman chose not to comment on the case, but their lawyer disagreed strongly with Burton’s sentiment that Olshansky was doing his job. “This is not a case about an ‘academic’ debate,” said Sigmund S. Wissner-Gross. “The case is about alleged conduct by two individuals far removed from the classroom and not in their professional capacities.”

“That’s funny,” Olshansky said of the claim that he was acting outside his role as a professor and researcher. “This was an international conference on anti-aging in Australia,” he said of the venue for the silver fleece award, “in a session devoted to anti-aging, the hype and the reality. I couldn’t be anymore within what I do.”

The complaint also mentions Olshansky’s visit to an A4M conference in Las Vegas in 2003. It says that Olshansky met the executive vice president of Market America Inc., and that he denounced several of their products as unproven and useless, threatening to make his statements public, when he found out Klatz and Goldman had helped formulate them. Olshansky said he recalls the meeting. “It was a friendly three-way conversation with me, him, and the [professor from UCLA] who was running the meeting.”

Olshansky said he asked his typical two questions: 1) What does the product do? 2) Where’s the scientific evidence? When the Market America representative told Olshansky there had not been sufficient clinical trials, Olshansky said he told him “maybe it would be a good idea to do that.” Olshansky said the the man then asked if he would do it. “I said that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. It was a friendly inquiry, trying to evaluate the evidence, just as it should be in science. Of course, Klatz and Goldman were not there.” Market America later backed out of its contract with Klatz and Goldman, who claim in court papers that the products were tested.

Klatz and Goldman first sued Olshansky and Perls last fall, but the case was dismissed in the spring, according to Olshansky. The new case is a modified version of the original.

Olshansky said he has received strong personal support from many colleagues, and that he will not stop speaking out. “We will not be intimidated,” he said. “This is the pursuit of a scientific issue by scientists. I am a professor of public health and that’s part of what I do. I will continue to speak freely for the rest of my life.”

— David Epstein

Polite request to creationists

As a former believer in the young earth theory (created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago), I found this essay by Peter Bowditch to be very interesting:

Polite request to creationists
by Peter Bowditch

In June, 2005, I took part in an online debate on behalf of Australian Skeptics against Answers in Genesis to answer the following question: "Did the universe and life evolve, or was it specially created in six days?". At no time did the other side ever mention six days, although they had a lot to say about why science and scientific theories could be wrong, therefore making creationism right. After the debate, I posted the following to the online forum where bystanders had been discussing the arguments offered by both sides.


Because I was writing the statements for Australian Skeptics, I deliberately kept out of the discussion. Now that the formal debate is over, I would like to make one last request of the creationists, a request directly related to the question that started this debate.

Please provide some unambiguous, positive evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Please do not offer uncertainties in the 13.7 billion year estimated age of the universe, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Do not tell me that humans and pineapples share a large proportion of their genes in order to allow humans to eat pineapples, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Do not say that atheists lack a moral perspective because they do not believe in God, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Do not say that the Grand Canyon might have been made in eight months (just look at Providence Canyon in Georgia!), because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Please do not bring up that old canard about how you can’t understand how an eye could evolve so therefore it must have been created, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Please do not tell me that the creation story in the King James Version Genesis 2 is wrong, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

An opinion poll about how many people believe in special creation is irrelevant, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Do not suggest that the rates of radioactive decay may have been millions of times greater in the past unless you are prepared to offer evidence, because wishful thinking is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago. (Also, remember that saying that decay rates were much higher is the same to a physicist as saying that the speed of light was greater, and, as we all know, AiG have a statement on their web site commanding that slowing of the speed of light should no longer be used as a creationist argument.)

Do not tell me that something is true because you said it somewhere else in the past, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Do not misquote Stephen Jay Gould about the probability of finding transitional fossils, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Do not tell me that Darwin was completely wrong because On the Origin of Species was published in the same year as The Communist Manifesto and On Liberty, and Marx, Darwin and Mill probably used the same photocopier at the British Museum. (That was a joke, by the way.)

Do not tell me that Darwin was completely wrong and then tell me that natural selection is how evolution works unless you want to be accused of sophistry and hypocrisy, and in any case that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Please don’t say that everything looks designed and therefore there must have been a designer, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Please don’t make any comments about whether Adam possessed any or all of nipples, a navel, a pelvis appropriate for bipedalism, or even a penis, because none of this is evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Please do not misrepresent the work of Claude Shannon and information theory, because even if Shannon were to be proved wrong and all global communications systems, including the Internet, stopped working tomorrow it would not be evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Do not say that the fossil skeleton nicknamed Lucy is really the skeleton of a monkey, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago, and please don’t say that you don’t know whether Archaeopteryx was a bird or a lizard but it must have been one of them, because that again is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Please do not say “God did it”, because that is not evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Please provide some unambiguous, positive evidence that the Earth was created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

Can’t do it? I didn’t think so.

As I have been declared by the other side to be an atheist and by their reckoning that makes me amoral, I lose nothing by ignoring where I said “I would like to make one last request of the creationists”, and I now make a second request.

Please tell me what evidence it would take to prove your beliefs wrong?

(Used here by permission)


Peter Bowditch has a number of very interesting websites:

The Millenium Project

Quintessence of the Loon

Full Canvas Jacket

The Green Light

Australian Council Against Health Fraud