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Naturopathy invades the heartland

Many are the times I’ve referred to homeopathy as The One Quackery To Rule Them All. Because homeopathic remedies diluted greater than 12 C (12 serial hundred-fold dilutions) have been diluted more than Avagadro’s number, they are incredibly unlikely to have even a single molecule of starting compound in them. That makes them water. Given that the vast majority of homeopathic remedies are, in fact, only water, they are the perfect quackery, and any effects due to homeopathy are nonspecific and placebo effects. More recently, I’ve pointed out that, because you can’t have naturopathy without homeopathy, naturopathy is the grab bag quackery for which no quackery is too quacky to be included in the grab bag. I, of course, respond to homeopaths and naturopaths, “Get into the f-ing sack.”

Personally, I like to use acceptance of homeopathy as a litmus test for credulity, knowing that anyone who believes in homeopathy–even understanding what it is–has a serious credulity problem. Naturopathy has a serious credulity problem. Even so, naturopathy seems to be making inroads in a lot of places, being the “respectable” form of quackery. Heck, its practitioners even give themselves the title of “doctor,” and the “ND” after their names is really close to the “MD” after the names of real doctors. Maybe that’s why naturopathy is among the most successful alt-med “disciplines” at insinuating its way into academic medical centers, “integrating” itself with science-based medicine. Of course, I never could figure out how “integrating” quackery with science-based medicine does anything other than taint SBM with pseudoscience.

Be that as it may, the other day I saw more evidence of just how prevalent the infiltration of pseudoscience has become. Normally, naturopathy and other forms of “alternative medicine” are associated with large population centers full of people who, because they live in large population centers yearn for the “natural” and earnestly believe that, just because it’s natural it must be better. Now, it’s infiltrating places like rural Montana:

Patients battling cancer now have a new option in their arsenal, which may include multiple cups of green tea or a prescription for ginger supplements.

Lynn Troy, a naturopathic doctor, works one day a week treating cancer patients at Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s Northwest Oncology and Hematology office. She began there in January, joining a small population of integrated cancer care naturopaths employed by hospitals in Montana.

“It had a slow start, but now it’s really busy,” Troy said.

Billings Clinic also offers naturopathic services for its integrated cancer care program, but the idea has yet to catch on throughout most of the state.

Unfortunately, I have no doubt that the naturopaths are working to try to make sure that the idea catches on in the rest of the state. And they’ll do it by doing what Troy does in this interview, co-opting science-based medicine and woo-ifying them. First, there’s the false appeal to “wholism,” in which only the naturopath “takes care of the whole patient.” Then add to that the claim of being a nutritionist:

A big part of her job is to assess the diet and nutrition of the patient, and to prescribe herbs and supplements to complement the array of traditional medicines they are already taking.

Troy said her prescriptions range within the botanical, herbal and homeopathic medicines, depending on what she is treating – whether it’s a side effect of current therapies or a general symptom.

This could mean suggesting supplemental melatonin, coenzyme-Q10 or five cups of green tea, she said, as well as various herbs. Her patients are motivated to make a change, Troy said, and their diet is a good place to start.

Of course it is, but making a change just for change’s sake is rather pointless. In medicine, suggestions for “making a change” should be based on sound evidence and science. Naturopaths, as we’ve seen time and time again, are experts in taking preliminary results of scientific investigation and investing far too much confidence into them to the point of using them in people whether they sufficiently evidence-based enough for that or not.

And let’s not forget the “empowerment” angle. Not surprisingly, it’s in this article too. Troy’s naturopathy is described as giving patients the power to take control, with naturopathy described as teaching patients “how they can change their lifestyle to improve their health”–as if conventional medicine doesn’t try to do that every time physicians try to persuade their patients to lose weight, excercise, stop smoking, and make other lifestyle interventions in order to improve their health does not. Apparently, woo makes the medicine of hard truth about what it takes to improve one’s health easier to take. Or, alternatively, taking supplements flows from the same impulse that taking a pill does: It’s way easier to take a pill or a supplement than to commit to long term changes in lifestyle that can be unpleasant and, more importantly, require a daily effort to follow. In this, naturopathy and supplement hawking are no different than medicine. Where they are different is that SBM requires valid scientific evidence before it recommends a pill or other treatment; naturopathy bases its recommendations on a philosophy rather than science. It also convinces the patient that it’s “empowering” him or her. The problem is, true empowerment can never derive from being fed information that is at odds with reality.

But it’s not just naturopathy. If you want to have an idea when something’s gone “mainstream,” just look at the course catalog of your local community college, a community college like Northern Virginia Community College:

Newcomers to this concept [of homeopathy] can gain a wider understanding of this alternative medicine at Johnson’s “Intro to Homeopathy” class at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College this spring.

The Basics: Three two-hour sessions are spread out over three weeks and students need to purchase a copy of Timothy Dooley’s “Homeopathy: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine” ($11, Timing Publications). The first class is an overview of homeopathy and an examination of how it’s used today. According to the World Health Organization, it’s the second most widely used form of medicine in the world (bested only by herbal medicine) and it’s most popular in Asia, South America and Europe.

Another naturopath. Why does it always have to be a naturopath? Maybe it’s because naturopathy is a cornucopia of quackery, a hodge-podge of virtually any quackery that can fit into the “natural” belief system underlying naturopathy, be it traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathy, various forms of supplements, or “energy healing.” He’s also recruiting:

Students who complete the class will not be certified to practice homeopathy, but they will have with a stronger understanding of the discipline. Johnson hopes that the class helps participants decide whether they would like to continue on to naturopathic school to get an ND themselves.

I must admit, I often have a hard time stifling a laugh when I hear the term “certified to practice homeopathy.” Give me a couple of measuring implements, some vials to shake up the remedies between each dilution step, and a lobotomy, and I could be “certified to practice homeopathy” right now. (You don’t even have to give me a Bible to smack the remedy against at each succussion step, the way Samuel Hahnemann himself did it!) Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I’ll pass.

Be that as it may, this course at the community college is clearly meant as a “gateway” to homeopathy. It serves two purposes. First, it serves as propaganda to make believers out of members of the general public. True, these are self-selected members of the general public, given that they’re willing to pay $129 for three classes on homeopathy, but after the class they have the potential to become at the very least evangelists for pseudoscience and at the very worst potential new homeopaths themselves.

And so it goes.

Unfortunately, the longer I’m at this, the more of this sort of thing I see. I tend to attribute the increasing infiltration of quackery into places where you’d never see it before, such as northwest Montana and community colleges in Virginia, to quackademic medicine. The reason is due to an effect that I like to call the “Harvard effect,” as in, “Harvard’s doing it.” And Harvard is doing it to. So is Stanford, UCSF, the University of Michigan, Yale, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and many academic hospitals. They provide the patina of respectability to pseudoscience, giving smaller hospitals out in the sticks, whose physicians tend to want to emulate academia anyway, because that’s where the cutting edge therapies are. By associating with academia, quackademic medicine takes on the aura of being “cutting edge” itself. Worse, unlike high tech new cutting edge therapies at university hospitals, which are quite expensive and demand specialized skills unlikely to be available in rural areas, modalities like naturopathy are relatively cheap and can be done anywhere.

Is it any wonder that small community hospitals in Montana (or Missouri or Ohio or Kansas or anywhere else with lots of rural hospitals) would want a piece of that?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

168 replies on “Naturopathy invades the heartland”

It seems that not only are NDs quacks they are lazy quacks. 1 day a week is she serious how busy can you really be working 1 day a week.

Different threads of interest will combine in strange ways. Perhaps at the Harvard level, it is a way dealing with the inherent bankruptcy of Medicare and Social Security, as we know them today, without an overt default or revolution. Maintaining leadership is very important at Harvard – keeping your head on your shoulders can be as important as having a good one. I am not sure that science per se matters to the policy side of Harvard liberal arts faculty anyway.

Alphas, or friends of the elite get one thing, Deltas and serfs another. Seemed to function for a while in the USSR. Or, perhaps general nihilism following the welfare state.

Look at it this way – if the patient dies, the quack can claim it was because of the conventional treatments & if they live, they’ll claim it was because of the alternative treatments. By co-opting conventional medical practices, they get the best of both world – the ability to claim all of the success, without needing to accept any responsibility.

Автор ошибается. Концентрация, и вещество не лечит. Эффект не зависит от вещества, от характера заболевания. К сожалению, автор не знает.

prn, did you accidentally summon a soviet invasion (Comment 5)

Bad prn. no commie-summoning.

Re: “by associating with academia”…

I’ve been quite ‘impressed’ with the balls-out strategy of the latest ND- granting school, NUHS in Chicago.

The ‘s’ stands for sciences, as in: school subset science subset NUHS subset naturopathy subset homeopathy.

Interesting that the Institute For Creationism Research was unable to get approval to grant a science credential, but naturopathy has carte blanche.

Since naturopathy, a doctoral pseudoscience program, is fully approved, it only seems fair — a bizzaro-land kind of reversal of values fair, I specifically mean — to let ICR have their pseudoscience M.S.

-r.c.

(The comment 6) Nonsense and mistakes, politics and nationality no have.

It is impossible to judge laws on its visible actions. Action – is the consequence, the studied reasons.

[email protected]: prn, did you accidentally summon a soviet invasion…?
I think “Physiology expert”@5 is directly addressing Orac on homeopathy.

Russian to English, Google translation of #5:
[The author is mistaken. Concentration of the substance does not cure. Effect does not depend on the substance of the nature of the disease. Unfortunately, the author does not know]

Cyanide is a naturally occuring substance, but because it is “natural” does not mean I intend on prescibing it to my patients. It seems that naturopathy has taken advantage of the desperation that some patients feel when looking for treatments. We must continue to emphasize the fact that “natural” does not decessarily mean that it’s good for you.

Dr Sam Girgis
http://drsamgirgis.com

@hellocthulu, #6

It’s not just a commie summoning but the most reductive one I’ve ever seen. Apparently homeopathic effects are magic that rely on nothing at all and can’t be studied. I’m also surprised by how accurately Google translated that post. Usually translation tools will butcher phrases in other languages with grammatically incorrect words…

That aside, why drink green tea and take herbal supplements to treat cancers instead of raising money and petitioning for more federal funding into some of the cutting edge treatments being cooked up in labs, like tiny artificial particles targeting tumors with siRNA to interfere with their growth and other nano-mechanical means of starving tumors and tracking down how they metastasize?

The ideas seem very promising and so do the trial results but there are so few patients per trial and so few labs working on the concept to see if it would work in real world clinical conditions…

It just irritates me that “natural” quacks seem to have such a hold on people while real cutting edge science that can actually save lives gets ignored or put on the back burner in favor of twits who trip over their own tongues when trying to explain why it is that their nostrums and concoctions are supposed to help patients.

I’m no fan of homeopathy, but the science of nutrition is progressing in leaps and bounds. This article descibes a recent review of the nutrient curcumin by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center:

http://www.wellnessresources.com/health/articles/curcumin_helps_change_gene_function_to_combat_cancer/

Like many other other natural substances, curcumin can differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells; kill the cancer cells, make healthy cells stronger and better able to survive. Maybe these naturopaths are onto something!

You have incorrectly studied substance athzetilholin. Therefore will erroneous conclusions.

You are not properly examined the substance acetylcholine. On this you have the wrong conclusions.

Jeff, someone will beat me to it.

But read that list you just read down. Does it really not set off your bullshit detector?

Although that article is a bit simplistic, I have to give the article credit for stating that nutrition can help the body fight cancer and increase the effectiveness of traditional cancer therapies. While such claims as listed seem a bit fantastical, I am happy to see a site I did initially write off as quack-tastic talk about epigenetic functions and supporting traditional therapies.

Still, I approach it warily. Even naturopaths are going to be right sometimes.

I hold a special disdain for naturopathy. A family member, whom I take regularly to one of the best M.S. centers in NYC, is starting to become completely blinded by woo. The center has a acquired a naturopathic doctor, lending this doctors a false credibility – their door is right next to some of the best neurologists, clinical research scientists and physical therapists for M.S.

It all comes down to the sense of empowerment, as Orac said. M.S. is an awful disease, and in cases like my family member’s, can be rapidly degenerative. Medicine for the most part has not done much to slow down his progression of the disease. But since seeing this naturopathic doctor, he feels like he is in control of of his body and his disease. Naturopathy offers simple answers like, “we eat certain foods, we feel better,” which is a much less complex concept to understand than regulation of proteins in the brain or structures of nerve cells. What really pisses me off is that his doctor has convinced him that he has all sorts of food allergies (gluten, eggs, etc) without ever running any food sensitivity tests, and has him on a diet eating nothing but kale, fruit and plenty of pricey herbal supplements. While I don’t doubt there is some organic real sensation of relief from his symptoms he is experiencing, I fear following this naturopath will be detrimental in the long run. He has stated his plans to soon get off all his medication and stop seeing his neurologist in favor of seeing the naturopathic doctor exclusively.

Its a gateway woo. It started with this quack and now hes off to have an unnecessary and unstudied procedure done (CCSVI – Dr. Novella has written about this before). While I hold a graduate degree in a research science and I try my best to act as the voice of reason during his doctor appointments, I simply cannot compete with the sway of the quacks. The personal and individualized attention the naturopaths can give, the customization of a diet for their special symptoms is exactly what people are looking for when medicine has not had the desired results.

I have seen this type of naturopathy invasion first hand in a top research institution. It preys on the weak and vulnerable, offering them simple answers to complex problems.

Timothy Dooley’s “Homeopathy: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine”

Oh, the irony.

That stuff reminds me the supplement-seller that knocked on my door a couple weeks ago. I listened to his spiel with a mixture of surprise and amusement (door-to-door quackery salespeople? Seriously? This is honestly the first door-to-door salesperson I’ve met in five years of living in my location, and he sells supplements and homeopathy?). He said, “And all this stuff is all-natural, so you know it’s good for you!”

I replied, “All-natural? You mean like nightshade?”

He left.

I wonder how many patients per week are flying into Kalispell, Montana from Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver and Las Vegas to receive naturopathic treatment for their cancers? Probably just as many as are flying into Bardstown, Kentucky to receive a revolutionary new surgery for esophagitis.

“Inherent bankruptcy” meaning that the people who hate medicare and social security keep playing with the numbers to convince you that there’s not enough money there, while siphoning some of it off to pay for the rest of the federal budget, you mean? (The typical “social security is bankrupt” claims invoke implausibly low economic growth rates when doing those numbers, then turn around and use much higher ones when calculating everything else. This is not honest.)

JohnTR: Would you be willing to identify the medical center you’re taking your relative to, either here or in email.

The question is what are we going to do about it? MD’s have got to hone their approach to patients if they are going to stop this slide into woodom. People go to these quacks because they feel neglected at least, and insulted at worst, by what they perceive as a brushoff from the MD. I’ve experienced this myself with the resulting foray into woo (brief and quickly realized, but not so the rest of my “circle”). I was lucky to have a good background in the history of science, if not the direct practice, and am skeptical by nature. But people who are religious or “spiritual” are very easily led down this path and one good scoffing from the MD is all it takes for them to find someone who “cares” about their symptoms.

It becomes even more difficult to dissuade people from these practices when they become part of traditional medical centers. Doctors need to question this invasion into SBM loudly and clearly, and stop this heinous validation of quackery.

Jeff @13: Go to Google Scholar and do a search on “curcumin cancer”. You will find over 26,000 articles and patents about studies on the effects of curcumin on cancers, dating back to the 1990s and maybe before.
How many of those studies were performed by naturopaths? Not many, is my guess. But naturopaths are always quick to jump on news of the latest research involving medical uses of so-called “natural” chemicals and crow about how they “always knew”.
No they didn’t know, not until they read the articles.

Sarah — he might even have been selling nightshade, without realizing that’s what belladonna is. While the actual stuff is pretty dangerous (and a source of a legitimate medicine, atropine), homeopathic belladonna is not uncommon.

I was half-asleep around 3 am but a thought arose that woke me right up… it was one of those startling coalescences of ideas concerning recent events; this has happened before- a few times in September-October 2008, it involved frightening numbers ( vix & libor)that I had seen previously in the day; it has also revolved around the possibility of being sued. This time was probably the worst.

“Making inroads” wrote our esteemed host. Lately, the woo-meisters I follow speak of “paradigm shift” and “‘scientific’ revolution” ( which I suppose *really* means that science itself will be overthrown and replaced with pseudo-science). Orac speaks about the infiltration of woo into med schools and universities; I have discussed how charlatans propose promulgating their ideas through parents and school systems. Then there are the anti-vaxxers.

Right now, economies are dealing with the aftermath of 2008: as money tightens in western democracies perhaps there will be less to go around for medical care ( meaning SBM) which has become increasingly technical and expensive. While Mike Adams and others cry out that their natural approach will be hindered by governmental dictatorship, I fear the opposite possibility: that governmental laxity of regulation (DSHEA) and cuts into governmentally sponsored health care will allow us to slide into the very Woo-topia of “Health Freedom” ( a/k/a free enterprise for crankery) that is the wet dream of charlatans like Mike and Gary Null.

Woo is the “opiate”( although non-functioning as such physiologically- it’s all placebo) that placates those with real complaints accompanied by psychological distress, pacifying fears, soothing qualms, and inspiring confidence ( which con men do very well, hence the name) with promises of “total cures”, “no side effects”, and “lack of toxicity”. And like Marx’s opiate, spirituality plays a part as well here: woo is faith-based and seeks out a higher plane of reality ( other ways of knowing), as it surely doesn’t work so well in the one I inhabit.

The everyday stresses and ills of people are calmed with re-assuring talk that is just that: “talk”. Although woo-meisters tell their followers that “stress kills” they continuously *ramp up* stress with tales of world’s end or the end to life as we know it : Adams talks of societal and economic collapse, Null adds “solar flare activity” which will knock out the electrical grid causing “riots in the streets” as well: then they each sell you “storable organic foods” and seminars on coping with the forthcoming endtimes.

We may live in harsh times: preying upon fears and magnifying them to your own fiscal advantage illustrates how hard the world has become.

Courses such as those at Northern Virginia Community College are easy to run at my community college. We’ve had courses on ghost hunting and aromatherapy, for example. All of these are considered “community education” which is self-supporting (no taxpayer subsidies) and non-credit. From the colleges point of view, it’s a money machine. From the woomeister’s point of view, it’s fertile ground for recruiting customers.

Of course, I never could figure out how “integrating” quackery with science-based medicine does anything other than taint SBM with pseudoscience.

As I said before there is such thing is scienced-based naturopathic herbs. Another person and myself listed a bunch of science-based naturopathic herbs, etc in the comments section in the past. Our posts were not refuted. Some people cherry picked my post at an herb or two (since they didn’t think they were science-based), but my post was far from refuted. It seems like you are dissuaded by people like Steve Novella perhaps, because he generally comes across as very grounded and reasonable. While his facts are correct most of the time, when he starts talking about naturopathy he sort of stumbles over the facts a bit while dissuading his listeners.

What we are dealing with is group think and herd mentality that takes place on both sides (i.e. naturopathic and medical doctors).

We all participate in group think and herd mentality to some degree, but it would be nice to see people think more for themselves than having to get their information (or lack thereof) from blog posts and podcasts. Education is good, but some of these sources contain a heft dose of built in persuasion.

@Denise Walter:

While Mike Adams and others cry out that their natural approach will be hindered by governmental dictatorship, I fear the opposite possibility: that governmental laxity of regulation (DSHEA) and cuts into governmentally sponsored health care will allow us to slide into the very Woo-topia of “Health Freedom”…

I don’t think you have much to worry about. It’s true that DSHEA guarantees consumer access to safe, natural products. But Obamacare will force many to buy a level of health insurance they don’t want or need, leaving less money to pay for these natural products. Unfortunately your opinions reflect those of the medical dictocrats in Washington: Americans should not be allowed freedom of choice regarding healthcare, since they might make “wrong” choices.

@ Jeff : Isn’t it a waste to throw your money after herbal products and supplements whose sales pitch promotes prevention and cure of serious illness without solid data. DSHEA results don’t bode too well for alt med.

About “force”, I believe that you have been reading NaturalNews or listening to Fox too much: right! as in Massachusetts the armed government agents came into homes forcing citizens to sign on the dotted line, buying insurance. Do you really expect this? Come on. There is the income consideration and probability of lack of enforcement of “fines” by taxation ( MSNBC has discussed this for *years*) Oh, “Forbidden Channel”! I see!

Most countries provide coverage. If you ever are unfortunate enough to need surgery or treatment for a serious illness how do you propose that it will be paid for, if all aren’t somehow in the insurance pool? The present system is very costly. Herbals will not go very far in dealing with an MI or CHF.

“Nature is floods and famines and earthquakes and viruses and little blue-footed booby babies getting their brains pecked out by their stronger siblings! ….Nature doesn’t care about me, or about anybody in particular – nature can be terrifying! Why do they even put words like ‘natural’ on products like shampoo, like it’s automatically a good thing? I mean, sulfuric acid is natural!”

-Julia Sweeney

I can explain very easily why Harvard does it. It’s because the NCCAM gives them millions of dollars every year. They just can’t pass it up.

The analyst #28 wrote:

As I said before there is such thing is scienced-based naturopathic herbs.

What is the difference between “science-based naturopathic herbs” and the herbs used in pharmacognosy?

Or, put another way, if you take pharmacognosy out of naturopathy — what remains?

Physiology expert @5

Автор ошибается. Концентрация, и вещество не лечит. Эффект не зависит от вещества, от характера заболевания. К сожалению, автор не знает.

Well said!

My cyrillic Russian is a little rusty, (ancient shipwreck territory, frankly,) but I believe that said something about the effect of treatment being completely independent of substance prescribed, concentration, or the disease, which implies it’s placebo medicine.

Timothy Dooley’s “Homeopathy: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine”

When you go beyond the Flat Earth, don’t you fall off?

Actually, placebo has a 53% success rate and pharmaceuticals (scientifically formulated) 46%. Scientifically (!) validated IRBs run on common herbs have shown 60 to 75% success rates. Add to that the fact that over 200,000 people in the US die in hospitals each year as a direct result of being given pharmaceuticals, I’ll take my chances with ginger over acetomedophine any day. And, yes, I would rather choose my healthcare than that submit to scientific dogma since pharmaceuticals have nearly killed me on several occasions.

Francine Davies – do you have reliable sources for any of those numbers?

@ Mephistopheles O’Brien

do you have reliable sources for any of those numbers?

No doubt she does, but I suspect the sun don’t shine there.

100% of JohnVs reading Francine Davies comment think it 100% absurd to through random numbers all over a comment with no citations and are 0% surprised that such a comment comes from a crank.

Scientifically (!) validated IRBs run on common herbs have shown 60 to 75% success rates.

Scientifically validated institutional review boards have been run on common herbs with 60 to 75% rates of success?

Orac, were you aware that the HSR oversight board at your institution may have been high on pot when they OK’d your latest cancer study?

Quite a shocking revelation.

“A statement of fact cannot be insolent” – really??? I was educated as a civil engineer , so I am technically a scientist. And science is about observation, or so I was educated to think. I would not label or judge you as you have me because science demands observation, not emotion. My personal observations, and no one else’s, determine my actions. I demand the right to choose my healthcare and not have it dictated to me my people who like to play God and dictate their “truth” on to me. My experiences gave me the opportunity for oservation, pure and simple. You can have all the drugs you want – I really don’t care.

Ms. Davies:

My personal observations, and no one else’s, determine my actions.

Do you see nothing wrong with drinking bleach? After all, you’ve never had a negative experience with that before.

FD @ 44:

I was educated as a civil engineer , so I am technically a scientist.

No, you’re not. You are an applied technologist. You use the tools scientists figure out how to make. You do not spend time figuring out how the world works. And how do we know this? Easy:

My personal observations, and no one else’s, determine my actions.

The plural of anecdote is not data. Scientists know this. You do not. Educate yourself about Dunning-Kruger and try again.

Francine Davies:

I was educated as a civil engineer , so I am technically a scientist. And science is about observation, or so I was educated to think.

I was educated as an aerospace engineer, and I agree with the others in that you are not a scientist (I am also not a scientist, even though I did spend a bit of my career being a rocket scientist). I also believe that your engineering education is faulty if you believe anecdotes count as data. Did you skip out on the statistics for engineers class?

Have you had to go through design review without providing documentation for your presentation?

@Francine Davies:

I was educated as a civil engineer , so I am technically a scientist.

I have multiple degrees, one of them in electrical engineering. I can positively state that engineers are not trained as scientists. They are trained to apply and diagnose based on models derived from scientific methods. They may take a lot of science classes, but their main jobs and skillsets are applying technologies that already exist.

The engineers I work with on a daily basis have no qualifications as scientists. If it wasn’t in a book, they don’t know it.

I’m a civil and structural engineer and i’m certainly no scientist and i’d hate to think what might happen if i designed buildings and roads purely using my personal observations.

NJ @46

The plural of anecdote is not data.

Ooh! I’ve been waiting for someone to mention this again. I have a proposal for the plural of anecdote

Manyecdote

Now that there’s a word for it, maybe they’ll stop calling it data.

Francine Davies #44 wrote:

And science is about observation, or so I was educated to think… My personal observations, and no one else’s, determine my actions. I demand the right to choose my healthcare and not have it dictated to me my people who like to play God and dictate their “truth” on to me.

You do not understand science; it involves humility, and a recognition that our biases lead to error, so we need cross-checks.

Science is not about the truth (or The Truth). It’s about evidence and data and what can be observed. It’s about models, explanations, and theories that explain current observations and make predictions. All “truths” in science are provisional. If the evidence doesn’t support a model anymore, scientists abandon it in favor of a model that better explains the existing evidence. — (Orac)

So — if you are wrong, what would it take to change your mind? Or do you not care if you’re right or wrong — as long as you have the at least temporary ability to feel “empowered?”

As long as we’re harping on people not being scientists, here’s a possibly provocative observation — many, probably most, MDs are not scientists, either.

Fortunately, there are many who are superb scientists, both by training and by habit of mind (our host seems to fall squarely in this class).

However, many MDs have reached their exalted status by plodding through a mindless, memorization-based science “education” that leaves them defenseless against the siren songs of woo.

Francine Davies (#38) tests the limits of credulity:

“Actually, placebo has a 53% success rate and pharmaceuticals (scientifically formulated) 46%.”

Is that an aggregate placebo success rate or a specific placebo success rate from a particular study? Or was that number simply conjured out of thin air? Citations are requested but not anticipated.

“Scientifically (!) validated IRBs run on common herbs have shown 60 to 75% success rates.”

I’m trying to come up with what Ms. Davies meant by “IRB”, since the first one that came to my mind – Institutional Review Board – doesn’t seem to fit. Here’s a tip: it’s best to not use an acronym without first defining it.

On the off chance that Ms. Davies meant “clinical trial” or “randomised controlled trial” (RCT), I’d like to know [a] what “common herbs” were tested (oregano? sage? thyme? rosmary?) and [b] what were the outcome measures (savory stews? delicious soups? tasty pasta sauces?). Absent a citation, I’ll assume that Ms. Davies just made this figure up.

Then we get to the “meat” of this rather vegan offering:

“Add to that the fact that over 200,000 people in the US die in hospitals each year as a direct result of being given pharmaceuticals, I’ll take my chances with ginger over acetomedophine [sic] any day.”

I believe Ms. Davies is conflating iatrogenic deaths with deaths due to “pharmaceuticals”; a citation would be helpful but, again, I won’t be holding my breath.

Finally, we get to what may be the crux of Ms. Davies comment:

“And, yes, I would rather choose my healthcare than that submit to scientific dogma since pharmaceuticals have nearly killed me on several occasions.”

Anyone who has been “nearly killed” by pharmaceuticals on “several occasions” is either in a very precarious state of health or just can’t put the stuff down. Assuming Ms. Davies isn’t “medically fragile”, I’d suggest a good twelve-step program.

As for the right to “choose my own healthcare”, I believe that, as an adult, you are not only allowed but expected to choose your own healthcare. If your choice is fantasy-based medicine over evidence-based medicine, well, you are free to pick whichever suits your fancy.

Prometheus

Add to that the fact that over 200,000 people in the US die in hospitals each year as a direct result of being given pharmaceuticals

When this figure is so much higher than anyone else’s estimate, I feel obliged to ask for a source; otherwise I’m left wondering whether Francine Davies’ “personal observations” consist of listening to the leprechauns in her trousers.

Re: “by associating with academia”…

I’ve been quite ‘impressed’ with the balls-out strategy of the latest ND- granting school, NUHS in Chicago.

The ‘s’ stands for sciences, as in: school subset science subset NUHS subset naturopathy subset homeopathy.

Interesting that the Institute For Creationism Research was unable to get approval to grant a science credential, but naturopathy has carte blanche.

Since naturopathy, a doctoral pseudoscience program, is fully approved, it only seems fair — a bizzaro-land kind of reversal of values fair, I specifically mean — to let ICR have their pseudoscience M.S.

-r.c.

I have an electrical engineering degree and have worked many years in computer science. Doesn’t make me a scientist either.

I loved the lab work I did one year assaying drugs at Wyeth labs and recognize that even the work I did there was really only technologist or maybe junior scientist level. The real scientist (my boss) took my data and the data of many others and looked at trends and anomalies in that data to make recommendations to other scientists on how to change drug formulations. Fun but a real eye opener into the tedium of science, and the statistics.

Francine Davies: Get a clue before you drag you anecdotes through this place.

Wrysmile:

I’m a civil and structural engineer and i’m certainly no scientist and i’d hate to think what might happen if i designed buildings and roads purely using my personal observations.

What? Don’t you know Young’s Modulus and Poisson’s Ratio are just ways for Big Material to make you buy from them? You need to free yourself from the iron fist of Stephen Timoshenko’s tenets (often known as “that Irish guy”, well at least in my structure classes). You need Alternative Engineering.

😉

Herr Doctor Bimler notes (in reference to Ms. Davies figures on “death from pharmaceuticals”):

“When this figure is so much higher than anyone else’s estimate, I feel obliged to ask for a source…”

I thought it might be interesting to look at the numbers of deaths from some other causes, just to see how likely Ms. Davies’ number is to be correct.

[Note: from CDC preliminary 2009 data]

All causes, all ages: 2,436,652 (so “death by pharmaceuticals” would be nearly 10% of all deaths)

Major cardiovascular diseases – 779,367

Malignant neoplasms – 568,668

All accidents – 117,176

Complications of medical and surgical care – 2,550

Now, I’m not an expert, but it seems to me that people dying from pharmaceuticals would come under the heading “complications of medical and surgical care”. If so, Ms. Davies’ number (200,000 per year) would seem to be high by at least a factor of one hundred.

But maybe 2009 was an especially low year for pharmaceutical-caused deaths. Let’s look at 2007 (the latest year with final results):

All deaths, all ages – 2,423,712

Complications of medical and surgical care – 2,597

It looks like Ms. Davies has some explaining to do.

Prometheus

That ever-varying iatrogenic deaths figure bugs me. I wonder if the people who wave those figures around have actually worked in a general hospital.

The UK hospitals I have worked in have been full to overflowing with ever increasing numbers of elderly sick patients with multiple medical problems. A lot of them will die whatever is done for them (we all die eventually, many of us in a hospital), and some of them will die as a result of the drugs they are given. US hospitals surely cannot be that different.

For example, you have an elderly diabetic patient with failing kidneys, congestive cardiac failure, malnutrition from not eating properly for weeks before admission and a fractured hip. Her doctor really does need to give her a cocktail of drugs or she will die, so the possibility of an adverse drug reaction is very real.

If that drug reaction is fatal she is added to the list of iatrogenic deaths, and then someone claims this as evidence that conventional medicine kills, and bogus alternatives like naturopathy have all the answers.

What could naturopathy or herbal medicine do for that hypothetical patient?

What could naturopathy or herbal medicine do for that hypothetical patient?

Nutritional medicine is the correct answer, right? Blame the patient for not eating right.

@JohnTR #18 Your relative has been ’empowered’ by being made falsely afraid of various foods, so he now has the ‘power’ to avoid them. In a few years he will be trapped, ‘unable’ to eat those foods and ‘requiring’ various expensive ones, and may have trouble nourishing himself. He will also be poorer, unable to afford other things, possibly including health care, because of the expensive food requirements. Those are possible results of false ’empowerment’. I’ve met people in that situation.

I’m no scientist, but I know homeopathy is purest woo. I really hate that some woo has penetrated into MD Anderson, it’s just about the best cancer research hospital in the US and the Texas Medical Center is an awesome place. Imagine a complex of hospitals bigger than downtown Denver. That’s what it’s like. I suspect that wooness at MD Anderson, Harvard, and the like are the result of the actions of a few big doners. I will try to find out who is responsible.

Houston has a cancer survivors monumet:
http://www.yelp.com/biz/bloch-cancer-survivors-plaza-houston

Oddly enough it’s a popular place for bridal gown photographs.

Maybe the woo at Anderson is just a way to get people in for effective treatment who would not do so without some woo. I hope that’s all it is.

Argument from authority, anecdote, anecdote, anecdote, magical-thinking, conflation, straw man, anecdote, red herring, ad hominem, anecdote, righteous indignation, victimhood, anecdote, wishful thinking, confirmation bias, sense of triumph, so there!

Eesh.

The EO is asking for guidance from the Committee on how much longer she is to overlook the unlicensed practice aspect and just compel them to license.

(California Naturopathic Medicine Committee minutes, 2010 November 5.)

OH. MY. G-D. THEY KNOW! THEY KNOW!!!

I have a satirical comment in moderation. It mostly points Ms. Davies to this article on Alternative Engineering. I actually don’t think she has had to stand in front of somewhat hostile customer audience to defend her own work. Been there, done that… but it was fun to comment that the next presentation had the acronym of “FRACAS.”

Narad, it get’s worse:

From your same link (page 3)

California NDs cannot currently practice as trained and cannot practice to the extent of NDs in the other licensing states. Every state that licenses ND has the same education and board examination requirements, yet California NDs are consistently hampered from providing quality primary care due to the limitations outlined in the reports. With the growing need in California for primary care providers and the lack of MDs and DOs to provide that care, it makes sense that California would want to encourage NDs to not only fully practice primary care medicine but also encourage their patients to be proactive in preventing disease, which is major component of naturopathic care.

The fact that this blog even exists is proof enough that naturopathy must work. Otherwise there would be no need to constantly disparage it, would there? You don’t see blogs written by astronomers writing thousands of words a day disparaging astrology. The blog author’s strident, high-pitched tone only reinforces to the reader that there must be something effective about naturopathy, since if it was as useless as he maintains, there would be no need to constantly point out its ineffectiveness. When someone tries very hard to convince me that something is obvious, it usually isn’t.

@Woo is me
I think you miss the point, and have adopted a rather unreliable method of assessing what is or is not effective. If courses in astrology started being taught as fact in reputable universities, I think there might be a few astronomers taking a “strident, high-pitched tone”. I suppose that would convince you there must be something to it. After all, Professor Brian Cox recently said on TV “Let’s get this straight once and for all, astrology is rubbish”. So it must be true, right?

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the depth of idiocy displayed by some naturopaths. If so, check out this blog post by naturopathic doctor Robert O. Young. I hope it speaks for itself.

The fact that this blog even exists is proof enough that naturopathy must work. Otherwise there would be no need to constantly disparage it, would there? You don’t see blogs written by astronomers writing thousands of words a day disparaging astrology.

Indeed the non-existence of such websites is conclusive evidence. By the same token, websites authored by climatologists that argue repeatedly against climate-change denialists would be admissions that climate change is in fact fraudulent; while websites authored by atheists who repeatedly take issue with religious nutcases would be admissions of the underlying truth of religion.
The evidence would be indisputable. We are fortunate that no such websites exist.

[email protected] elderly diabetic patient with failing kidneys, congestive cardiac failure, malnutrition from not eating properly for weeks before admission and a fractured hip. Her doctor really does need to give her a cocktail of drugs or she will die, so the possibility of an adverse drug reaction is very real.

I’ve seen our “regular medical” system fail repeatedly on separate parts of this description, where apparently the dietetic, nursing and medical staffs always had the wrong magic cocktail for weeks fading into months, and then intense nutrition succeeded. Sometimes overnight on some step changes, along with dumping half the meds listed and reducing others.

[email protected] Nutritional medicine is the correct answer, right? Blame the patient for not eating right.

Getting rid of the insitutional fare (hospital RD, nursing home) junk diet (high sugar, starch, PUFA; low on colored vegetable content with overcooked food) should not be underestimated.

However, at the point above, nutritional medicine might more resemble a compounding pharmacy on medical quantities of purified nutrient components based on published literature (AJCN, JAMA, NEJM and their international counterparts) to overcome multiple levels of issues (digestion, depletion, organ issues, increased nutrient demands) at death’s doorstep.

Blame the victim? Already SOP. They pay “the ultimate price” too. But the food and medical industries were likely lifetime contributors, also.

the dietetic, nursing and medical staffs always had the wrong magic cocktail for weeks fading into months, and then intense nutrition succeeded

Intense nutrition that can cure kidney failure, CCF and a hip fracture without drugs? I would love to see documentation of that! This sounds like another case of real medicine doing the job and CAM taking the credit.

Getting rid of the insitutional fare… should not be underestimated.

I think you overestimate what nutrition can achieve. Good nutrition is necessary, but I’m not convinced it is sufficient.

prn’s comments appear so familiar to me: I wonder why that is? He seems to advocate that faulty nutrition is responsible for mankind’s ills and that compensatorily improved nutrition will cure them. He is not entirely enamoured with standard dietetics, SBM, pharmaceuticals, or governmental regulation. I believe that I have run into that set of ideas *somewhere* previously but I can’t quite put my finger upon it. I don’t seem to remember that I encountered this theory at any of the elitist institutions I attended. I venture that he reads other websites in addition to RI. I wonder which?

I said on separate parts of that whole list, “regular” had failed and been corrected. One example part, below…

another case of real medicine doing the job and CAM taking the credit.
When something is broken for weeks and months, written off, and then finally corrected with supplements in under 24 hours, AND then, further progress is made by removal of the “regular” drug, that isn’t a viable conclusion.

In the instance, persistent nausea and vomiting after start of polypharmacy, Reglan added for nausea. Still nausea and persistent lack of appetite across weeks. Added betaine HCl+pepsin, pancreatic enzymes, glutamine and B3 at supper, next day eating with great appetite, cleaning plate vs previously untouched. No nausea problems ever after. Then, when the Reglan was removed, 2/3 of pronounced Parkinsonian shaking, almost like a movie caricature, disappeared. No magic really, simply restarting the initial digestive processes and perhaps allowing some mucousal repair. Later, I prompted a H. Pylori breath test out of the doctor, and it was positive. But the digestive supplements are still useful after HP treatment.
————————-
I think you overestimate what nutrition can achieve
I think many here haven’t the slighest idea what therapeutic nutrition can achieve. They’re playing with bows and arrows, cutting their fingers, while laughing at the idiots collecting niter and cotton in strange vessels…

My position is that the ND are not nearly as advanced as I desire, but they appear well ahead of MD and RD that I interview on specific medical-nutrition situations. The post 1930s MDs have great capability to do better, but they aren’t even in the running. Mostly, they’re asleep at the wheel, or flat headed in the wrong direction.

As for ND credulity on homeopathy, I don’t bug MDs over cognitive dissonance and their religious beliefs either. Perhaps homeopathy is a softer way of streeting clients when they have no further prescription other than time, and removing dietary excesses. The homeopathic solutions put a safe, physical something in idle, impatient hands.

Simple denial of antibiotics for the viral sore throat seems a common situation that NDs prescribing homeopathics might have a therapeutic advantage, if it stops bootleg pharmacy. I do have a different opinion myself, so pls don’t even start.

herr doktor bimler:

I hate Scienceblog’s commenting system.

At least it has a preview button.

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