Homeopathy4health

5 January 2014

Skeptic persecution via Ben Goldacre BadScience Forum leads to patient suicide and medic perpetrator prosecution. GMC fails to act.

http://childhealthsafety.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/patient-committed-suicide-after-his-doctor-was-hounded-by-dr-ben-goldacres-badscience-forum-internet-bullies-perpetrators-mild-two-year-cautionary-sentence-only-just-ended-december-2013/

Perpetrator: Stuart Jones

Causing a patient to commit suicide by vicious bullying of the patient’s treating doctor specifically to “increase anxiety levels” in the victim doctor’s patients is apparently not a sufficiently serious crime to warrant more than a 2 year “caution” for the Health and Care Professions Council.

Although no charges were brought against the patient’s doctor by the GMC and the doctor was never called before the GMC, aborted investigations in 2006/07 cost the GMC £136,692.12 in solicitors’ fees and disbursements and a possible further £500,000 on internal costs – according to a report on a website set up to support the patient’s doctor by patients and wellwishers.

The GMC is funded by a levy paid by all medical doctors registered in the UK.

It appears also no action has been taken by the GMC regarding Dr Goldacre’s BadScience Forum activities.

The GMC is meant to act on patient complaints.  To complain to the GMC you can contact them on:

Email: gmc@gmc-uk.org.”

29 June 2013

Why hounding homeopaths is both batty and arrogant.

“Ultimately what Nightingale is attacking is the intelligence and judgement of people who are trying to find an effective way to heal themselves. If homeopathy, which even its most virulent critics cannot claim is remotely likely to be harmful, works for you, then someone needs to combine serious arrogance with real battiness to believe they have the right to stand in the way.”

 Body of Evidence

There is no shortage of villains in the world. Psychopaths – domestic and national – whalers, toxic waste dumpers, global eavesdroppers, billionaire tax avoiders and their army of accountants –  all well worth campaigning against with the aim of getting them banged up or forced to cough up.

There is also an infinite supply of people who are mildly irritating who misplace apostrophes, wear Croc shoes, do crochet, litter their sentences with “you know” and text using their middle finger.

However most of us can tell the difference. In fact mixing the two categories up is a pretty reliable indicator of a serious level of battiness . Picketing shops that sell Crocs or campaigning to forbid the sale of mobiles to clumsy texters puts you firmly in the mild-to-fairly-irritating and definitely-a-bit -potty class.

Step forward the Nightingale Collaboration, earnest and self-styled defender of rationalism, whose seriously potty members have got…

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29 May 2010

Skeptics becoming sceptical about Skeptic events

Filed under: bad science,science,scientism — homeopathy4health @ 6:45 pm
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I am pleased that skeptics are becoming aware of the pseudo-religiosity of Skeptic in the Pub movement and the financial exploitation of the skeptic population by the James Randi Foundation:

http://www.skeptobot.com/2010/05/skeptical-look-at-tamlondon.html

20 December 2009

‘The trouble with skeptics’, ‘illiberal liberals’ and skeptic projection

I appreciate jdc325’s piece on inappropriate skeptic attitudes and behaviours, having been subject to them on this blog.  I’m pleased to say however that generally the skeptic tone is much better than two years ago: Skeptic insults to homeopaths daily count: December 4th 2007.  I’d like to add a skeptic fail of my own: making up facts based on logic, or ‘flact’ for short.

Also of interest this week is Brendan O’Neill’s piece in Spiked online on the illiberal, anti-free speech treatment of Johnny Ball’s scepticism of man-made climate change at a ‘religious style get together of rationalists’ including freedom-of-speech-for-scientists and anti-homeopathy campaigners. Further evidence that science or scientism is the new orthodox fundamentalist religion.  Update: even Randi is being subject to the same treatment

And finally I agreed with homeopathyblogs that Goldacre et al are projecting onto homeopaths their own unscientific and biased approach as detailed by William Alderson’s review of Ernst and Singh’s Trick or Treatment.  The printed version of  Goldacre’s notorious anti-homeopathy piece in the Guardian contained cartoons projecting pharma’s love of its pills and forcefeeding them to innocent patients.  Given that Goldacre is involved in psychiatric work you would think that he would recognise this, unless of course he was wilfully using it to influence.

26 November 2009

Parliamentary Science and Technology Evidence check for Homeopathy

Thanks to ‘Voice of (not so) Young Homeopathy’ for their comments on this week’s Parliamentary Science and Technology Evidence check for Homeopathy here:

http://vonsyhomeopathy.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/uk-parliamentary-science-and-technology-committee-evidence-check/ 

You can watch the whole meeting here:   http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=5221

Vo(ns)YH promises a transcript too.

Some funny moments: I thought Goldacre’s comment that he wasn’t interested in Physics quite hilarious given that homeopathy allegedly ‘goes against all its laws’, and Ernst saying that he thought it was the long consultation that helped homeopathic patients REALLY begged the question: ‘is there any evidence for that? and if there is then why does the NHS only allow 10 minutes?’ and David Colquhoun got a dishonourable mention about going around collecting anecdotal evidence.

I’m disappointed that no-one mentioned that only 13% of NHS treatments are backed by solid evidence: http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/ceweb/about/knowledge.jsp

Update: Here is the evidence supplied to the committee:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/homeopathy/contents.htm

15 June 2008

Homeopathy, Medicine, Science and Cognitive Dissonance

Given that more and more people globally are using homeopathy with benefit for all kinds of ill-health; its effectiveness in treating epidemics: cholera, influenza (here and here); its integration into the Indian medical system; and the World Health Organisation reporting that it is the number 2 medical system in the world (but you won’t find that report anywhere, it’s been buried), I can only conclude that the reason why conventional medics and scientists might genuinely (rather than wilfully because of love of science itself, self-interest or pharmaceutical allegiances taking priority over the health of patients) refuse to use and investigate homeopathy is because they are suffering from what is termed ‘cognitive dissonance’. www.learningandteaching.info describes it well:

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation. It therefore occurs when there is a need to accommodate new ideas, and it may be necessary for it to develop so that we become “open” to them. Neighbour (1992) makes the generation of appropriate dissonance into a major feature of tutorial (and other) teaching: he shows how to drive this kind of intellectual wedge between learners’ current beliefs and “reality”.  
Beyond this benign if uncomfortable aspect, however, dissonance can go “over the top”, leading to two interesting side-effects for learning:

  • if someone is called upon to learn something which contradicts what they already think they know — particularly if they are committed to that prior knowledge — they are likely to resist the new learning. Even Carl Rogers recognised this. Accommodation is more difficult than Assimilation, in Piaget’s terms.             
  • and—counter-intuitively, perhaps—if learning something has been difficult, uncomfortable, or even humiliating enough, people are less likely to concede that the content of what has been learned is useless, pointless or valueless. To do so would be to admit that one has been “had”, or “conned”.

Ordeal is therefore an effective — if spurious — way of conferring value on an educational (or any other) experience. “No pain, no gain”, as they say.

  • the more difficult it is to get on a course, the more participants are likely to value it and view it favourably regardless of its real quality.
  • ditto, the more expensive it is.
  • the more obscure and convoluted the subject, the more profound it must be. This has of course been exploited for years to persuade us of the existence of the emperor’s clothes, particularly by French “intellectuals” and “post-structuralists”. (I recently came across the wonderful phrase “intellectual flatulence” which perfectly describes such rubbish.)

It is not, however, so much the qualities of the course which are significant, as the amount of effort which participants have to put in: so the same qualification may well be valued more by the student who had to struggle for it than the student who sailed through.”

As medicine and science is very hard to get into and arduous to study, it seems to fulfill several of the above criteria.

29 April 2008

Society of Homeopaths’ press complaint against Goldacre and The Guardian

The Society of Homeopaths has sent an official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission concerning Ben Goldacre’sarticle in The Guardian: “A kind of magic” November 16th 2007 .  They say in the membership newsletter (not online):

“The Society maintains that the article is in breach of the commission’s “code of practise” in that it did not clearly distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact.  The complaint states that it was not clearly defined as an opinion article, with the introduction giving the impression that the piece was a journalistic appraisal of the issues.  It is the Society’s view that there are also statements in the article itself which give the impression it is fact rather than opinion.

The complaint also relates to key factual inaccuracies in the piece, notably that homeopaths are “killing people”, which the Society has pointed out is a potentially damaging statement without any evidence to back it up.”

I have checked the PCC code of conduct and number 1 is:

1 Accuracy
  i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

 

 

The pictures I found particularly offensive (not on the internet piece but behind a paywall somewhere if you want to look [update: a portion of one is on David Colquhoun’s blog]): they depicted sharp suited, dark-glassed male homoepaths ‘loving’ their white pills and standing over their poor kneeling patients while they poured them down their throats.  As many UK homeopaths are female and are known to be quite gentle creatures it didn’t make sense to me.  And as for the ‘facts’ in the piece they were mostly ‘FLACTS’. I know you are a psychiatrist Ben but you can’t just go round making stuff up.

I look forward to hearing the PCC’s views on this in due course and will report back.

27 March 2008

Wholesale scorn on complementary medicine is unscientific.

Madeleine Bunting (at my least favourite newspaper ‘The Guardian’ since ‘I’m a cuddly junior doctor/you’re-making-it-up-psychiatrist’ Ben Goldacre’s devoid of any twisted homeopathic facts propaganda piece) makes some pertinent points about the state of Sceptic-Woo wars in complementary medicine.  I disagree that homeopathy is ‘just placebo’ as the benefits of homeopathic treatment can be much more profound than just ‘feeling better’ or ‘removal of symptoms’ but otherwise I agree with her thinking:

“Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All; Snake Oil Science; and next month sees another, Trick or Treatment: what these new books have in common is varying degrees of frustration at the seemingly inexorable rise of complementary medicine. It seems the aim of some of these authors is to finish off a burgeoning health industry that they believe is based on charlatans and quacks preying on the gullible and desperate.

The books reflect the growing exasperation in some quarters that public opinion is not as amenable to persuasion and scientific evidence as they would hope. The language gets lurid; the mood music to pronouncements on complementary medicine is increasingly alarmist – we are living in dangerous times, an unEnlightenment looms as tides of irrationality threaten to overwhelm the palisades erected by science. “Reason is a precious but fragile thing,” declared Richard Dawkins in his series, The Enemies of Reason, last autumn. “Reason has liberated us from superstition and given us centuries of progress. We abandon it at our peril.”

What so troubles these science warriors is that it is estimated a third of people in the UK now use complementary medicine, at a cost of £1.5bn a year. In the US, the figures are substantially higher; it has been calculated that more visits are made to healing therapists than to doctors. There is an extraordinary paradox here: a half-century of astonishing conventional medical advances has not succeeded in eliminating complementary medicine. Quite the reverse: the breakthroughs in conventional medicine have been accompanied by the proliferation of other forms of healing – many of which have little or no evidence base to prove their efficacy. Indeed, it only takes a short surf on the web to discover that the wilder shores of this burgeoning industry are, well, pretty wild.

To the science warriors, this bizarre state of affairs can only be explained by irrationality. They bemoan the state of science education and lament how, contrary to expectation, literacy and access to information have failed to eradicate superstition. Meanwhile, in this increasingly sharply polarised debate, complementary medicine practitioners are equally exasperated by what they see as blinkered scientific reductionism.

So it takes a brave scientist to launch into this territory and risk getting attacked from both camps by daring to ask a simple question: is there anything science can learn from complementary medicine? That is precisely what Kathy Sykes is doing in her current television series, Alternative Therapies (the second programme is on BBC2 tonight). As Bristol University’s professor of public engagement in science and the director of the Cheltenham Festival of Science, no one can challenge her credentials as a scientist, yet her scrutiny of particular therapies throws up serious challenges to conventional medicine.

Sykes is too good a scientist to give complementary medicine an easy run. Tonight she examines reflexology, and gives it pretty short shrift. There are 30,000 reflexologists working on a million British feet a year. They base their work on a theory that parts of the sole of the foot correlate to organs in the body. The only problem is that Sykes could find no one, reflexologist or scientist, who could explain how these correlations might work. Furthermore, it turned out that this “ancient” healing system seems to have originated with an imaginative American woman in the 1930s. But patients swear by it. One reflexologist points Sykes to her annual garden party full of babies and children as evidence of the success she has had with infertility problems. This is the point where most scientists snort with derision at the use of personal anecdote as evidence, but Sykes presses on and it takes her into two areas of scientific research. First, she digs up new research on the importance of touch, which can have a profound impact on the brain. Even the hand of a stranger reduces anxiety and that of someone with whom one has a close relationship is even more significant. In fact, Sykes finds some scientific underpinning which goes beyond placebo in many of the therapies she looks at. But it is placebo which emerges as a recurrent and crucially important thread in her quest, and it leads her to the work of several American scientists who are trying to identify what placebo is, who it works for, and why it works.

This is one of the most common charges made against complementary medicine – that most of it is no better than placebo. But there is a way of turning that accusation around: perhaps complementary medicine is an effective way to harness placebo as one of the most powerful – and cheapest – of healing processes. Rather than being derogatory about the phenomenon as “just” placebo, perhaps we should see it as one of the most remarkable and little understood aspects of the human body.

That line of inquiry has taken Sykes to the US several times over the course of the two series she has made. There placebo has become a new frontier in medicine. In a range of studies with startling results – even sham knee surgery can be as effective as the real thing – many factors contribute to placebo: the confidence of the doctor; the social, cultural expectations around the procedure; the empathy and warmth of the patient-doctor relationship; the patient’s degree of faith. Get all these right, and the outcome can be remarkable. Harvard professor Ted Kaptchuk is publishing a study this week which shows that placebo is as good as any conventional treatment available for irritable bowel syndrome. Given that the eight most industrialised nations spend $40bn a year on medication for this condition, that’s revolutionary stuff.

This kind of research into placebo gives some insight into why complementary medicine has boomed and why there are so many people who cite their own experience to passionately defend it. The average consultation with a GP is 4.6 minutes, while the complementary therapist can devote an hour to taking detailed personal histories. That time and relationship provide a context and an opportunity for the ritual and recasting of personal experience which Kaptchuk believes are the crucial elements of placebo.

Complementary medicine is most popular where conventional medicine fails, such as with musculoskeletal conditions and mental health – stress, depression, anxiety (the recent revelations about the inefficacy of Prozac were another reminder of how shaky the science is in a large area of conventional medicine). Several complementary therapies are particularly effective at pain relief – you had to see Sykes’s footage of hypnotism helping a woman to have teeth extracted without anaesthetic to believe it. Kaptchuk argues that pain is not a static given but can be experienced dramatically differently.

Conventional medicine prolongs life but is less successful in prolonging good health – we can expect to spend more years of our life in poor health, as a government report showed last week – and in producing wellbeing. So people are voting with their feet, trying to find other ways to fill the gaps left by conventional medicine. We need scientists to help to identify what they are looking for and why, rather than pouring scorn indiscriminately on the whole field and on the relations between belief, mind and body, of which science still has such a fragmentary understanding.”

21 January 2008

Rupert Sheldrake: we need to be skeptical of skeptics

Filed under: bad science,sceptic,scientism — homeopathy4health @ 10:09 pm
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Rupert Sheldrake,  one of the world’s most innovative biologists, is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory. He first worked in developmental biology at Cambridge University, and is currently Director of the Perrott-Warrick project.

The skepticism of believers 

I used to think of skepticism as a primary intellectual virtue, whose goal was truth. I have changed my mind. I now see it as a weapon.

Creationists opened my eyes. They use the techniques of critical thinking to expose weaknesses in the evidence for natural selection, gaps in the fossil record and problems with evolutionary theory. Is this because they are seeking truth? No. They believe they already know the truth. Skepticism is a weapon to defend their beliefs by attacking their opponents.

Skepticism is also an important weapon in the defence of commercial self-interest. According to David Michaels, who was assistant secretary for environment, safety and health in the US Department of Energy in the 1990s, the strategy used by the tobacco industry to create doubt about inconvenient evidence has now been adopted by corporations making toxic products such as lead, mercury, vinyl chloride, and benzene. When confronted with evidence that their activities are causing harm, the standard response is to hire researchers to muddy the waters, branding findings that go against the industry’s interests as “junk science.” As Michaels noted, “Their conclusions are almost always the same: the evidence is ambiguous, so regulatory action is unwarranted.” Climate change skeptics use similar techniques.

In a penetrating essay called “The Skepticism of Believers”, Sir Leslie Stephen, a pioneering agnostic (and the father of Virginia Woolf), argued that skepticism is inevitably partial. “In regard to the great bulk of ordinary beliefs, the so-called skeptics are just as much believers as their opponents.” Then as now, those who proclaim themselves skeptics had strong beliefs of their own. As Stephen put it in 1893, ” The thinkers generally charged with skepticism are equally charged with an excessive belief in the constancy and certainty of the so-called ‘laws of nature’. They assign a natural cause to certain phenomena as confidently as their opponents assign a supernatural cause.”

Skepticism has even deeper roots in religion than in science. The Old Testament prophets were withering in their scorn for the rival religions of the Holy Land. Psalm 115 mocks those who make idols of silver and gold: “They have mouths, and speak not: eyes have they, and see not.” At the Reformation, the Protestants deployed the full force of biblical scholarship and critical thinking against the veneration of relics, cults of saints and other “superstitions” of the Catholic Church. Atheists take religious skepticism to its ultimate limits; but they are defending another faith, a faith in science.

In practice, the goal of skepticism is not the discovery of truth, but the exposure of other people’s errors. It plays a useful role in science, religion, scholarship, and common sense. But we need to remember that it is a weapon serving belief or self-interest; we need to be skeptical of skeptics. The more militant the skeptic, the stronger the belief.”

20 January 2008

Fact or FLACT?

Sceptics like to twist things around, notably Ben Goldacre (junior liaison psychiatrist, of the ‘it’s all in your head’ school of medicine), according to twisted logic.

It feels like this:

I might say ‘I like yellow’.

A sceptic might then claim ‘H4H doesn’t like white, red, blue, green, orange, purple, pink, black or brown.’  This would not be true as I also like blue and purple and I can tolerate all the other colours too.

I have a new term for such logic-derived ‘facts’: ‘FLACT’.

*4th February 2008.  Updated* to incorporate my justification of including Ben Goldacre from responses to Andy Lewis (aka le canard noir):

https://homeopathy4health.wordpress.com/2007/12/03/forced-vaccinations-because-conventional-medicine-is-not-effective-in-treating-infectious-disease/

The low cholera mortality rates under homeopathic treatment: When Cholera finally struck Europe in 1831 the mortality rate (under conventional treatment) was between 40% (Imperial Council of Russia) to 80% (Osler’s Practice of Medicine). Out of five people who contracted Cholera, two to four of them died under regular treatment. Dr. Quin, in London, reported the mortality in the ten homeopathic hospitals in 1831-32 as 9%; Dr. Roth, physician to the king of Bavaria, reported that under homeopathic care the mortality was 7%; Admiral Mordoinow of the Imperial Russian Council reported 10% mortality under homeopathy; and Dr. Wild, Allopathic editor of Dublin Quarterly Journal, reported in Austria, the Allopathic mortality was 66% and the homeopathic mortality was 33% “and on account of this extraordinary result, the law interdicting the practice of Homeopathy in Austria was repealed.’

Ben states:‘Homeopathic pills won’t do anything against cholera.’

So by his logic (and yours) most of the people treated with homeopathy just got better anyway: ‘the homeopaths’ treatments at least did nothing either way’

So logically: If people just got better anyway, by this evidence they should just have been left alone when they got cholera and the death rates would have been much lower. And his other part of Ben’s logic is that cholera death rates were so high because allopathic medicine made them much worse: ‘high allopathic mortality rate was due to dangerous practices’

So my point is why would the population worry so much about cholera then?

But they did:

http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/2000_fall/1832_cholera_part1.html

‘New York was probably the most thoroughly scourged among the states. Each of the thriving towns along the Erie Canal suffered in its turn, despite quarantines and last minute attempts at ‘purifications.’ . . .Small villages, even isolated farms, were stricken. And here the disease was most terrifying; it had to be faced alone, often without friend, minister, or physician. The appearance of cholera in even the smallest hamlet was the signal for the general exodus of the inhabitants, who, in their headlong flight, spread the disease throughout the surrounding countryside.’

http://www.lib.rochester.edu/index.cfm?page=3353

‘Asiatic cholera is a very violent intestinal disease, usually running a short course to dehydration and death, often in a matter of hours. Its very violence ensured that it would not be the type of disease which could be overlooked or treated with little concern’

‘The social and economic consequences of cholera were quite significant. Community life was completely disrupted whenever a new pandemic arrived. Usually panic gripped the populace and all persons who could leave the affected area promptly did so. The spectacular deadliness of the pandemic of 1826-37, which was the first to strike Europe and America, set up a psychological conditioning which assured that all subsequent invasions would induce panic. Normal economic and social life came to an end. Governmental activities were carried out with difficulty. Even medical and nursing services were impaired–sometimes to the extent that the sick were left untended and the dead unburied. Travellers and strangers often were treated badly. Gradually, as an epidemic waned, normal routines were resumed. Practically every community added boards of health and sanitation, which were supposed to take preventive measures against new outbreaks of cholera.’

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