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Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

No more Acupuncturists Without Borders?

One of the more depressing things I’ve seen coming from various practitioners of quackery is a tendency for them to mimic Médecins Sans Frontières (in English, Doctors Without Borders). You know Doctors Without Borders, don’t you? It’s a fantastic organization that brings volunteer physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals into disaster areas and war zones in order to bring health care to people who desperately need it regardless of politics or ideology. Unfortunately, because MSF is such an admirable group, quacks with good intentions but no effective remedies have mimicked its methods, dropping practitioners of various forms of woo into disaster areas.

Examples are not hard to find. For example, there is Homeopaths Without Borders, which brought homeopaths to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake of 2010. Then Scientologists inflicted themselves on the long-suffering Haitians and made quite a mess of things as well. Then it was acupuncturists who decided that they’d lend a hand, even trying to provide anesthesia for amputations. I later learned that there is indeed a group called Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB, which, given how old I am, reminds me more than anything else of “Average White Band,” but that’s what I get for having come of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s). In any case, this is the goal of the group:

We are currently working on making community acupuncture part of the standard of care in the immediate aftermath of disasters, alongside traditional medical interventions. AWB is committed to treating all who have been affected by disaster and conflict including survivors, first responders, emergency personnel and other care providers. The community model for treatment allows those treated to experience relief together from stress and trauma. When the whole group feels calm and quiet, hope, determination and resiliency rises powerfully within it.

It turns out, surprisingly enough, that perhaps AWB is about as popular as the Average White Band is now, 30 years after its prime. Just up on AWB’s Facebook page in October was this message:

AWB is having to cut back on our staffing temporarily until we receive more funds, donations and membership dues. We now currently have the equivalent of one full time staff position running the entire organization. We hope this will change soon. At the same time, the need for our services, the numbers of inquiries and people interested in our work, and the unbelievably powerful disaster relief programs we’ve been able to support, are at an all-time high.

Please consider how you can help now – with a donation, a monthly pledge, finding others to donate, renewing your membership, putting out an AWB Donation Kit in your waiting room, or whatever may suit you if you want this important work to continue. And if you can do it today, we would greatly appreciate that. Please go to www.ACWB.info to donate or sign up as a new or renewing member. Thank you!

Maybe there is hope after all.

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]

35 replies on “No more Acupuncturists Without Borders?”

The best bit about Average White Band was their logo, as far as I was concerned. Not to diss their music, but drawing the W in AWB to look like a shapely female bottom had a certain charm.

I must ask If you’re reading my mind, though. I found out about Acunpuncturists Without Borders about 2 hours ago via Scoop.it. Haiti has definitely suffered more than its fair share since the earthquake.

As a financial supporter of Medicins Sans Frontieres, it concerns me that these quacks might be getting in the way while actual doctors are trying to undertake their work in trying circumstances.
Then of course there’s the exploitation of desperate people in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Makes me stabby.

Not acupuncture but Majik Water Dispensers are in Botswana


YouTube Video

Nadene volunteers her time and skills with the Maun Homeopathy Project. She treats the poorest communities in rural Botswana, who have a staggering rate of HIV Aids infection. Homeopathy is incredibly effective in dealing with the opportunistic infections that plague these communities. If you’d like to donate, kindly go to JustGiving.com and type ‘Nadene Snyman’ into the site’s search engine.

Here’s the website.

There was a small furore earlier this week, when it became known that the online UK giving site, JustGiving was being used to raise funds http://www.justgiving.com/mhp (in Botswana) and another African homeopathy project in Ghana, http://www.justgiving.com/homeopathyinafrica.

JustGiving refuses to remove the Maun Project from its site.

Sharon: just as long as you don’t stab them with an acupuncture needle. That won’t help anyone.

Heh, they probably wouldn’t have been getting many donations from Australia. Round here, AWB stands for the Australian Wheat Board, most famous for paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein.

If I wasn’t worried about the knowledge of the average accupuncturist before, I definitely don’t want to consider using one now. The article said on the third day the trainees were ready to do accupuncture with supervision? I think it takes longer than that for them to set the students in cosmetology school loose on real clients!

What a pity that the money to train these needle “therapists” and the money to send them to Haiti, was not donated to reputable charities to provide relief.

I have a friend who is Haitian. Just after the earthquake, she tried to book a flight to Haiti to try and locate her grandmother. She was told that only designated disaster relief workers, doctors, nurses and supplies were being sent to Haiti. Weeks later, she learned that her grandmother was found beneath the rubble of her home and that survivors cleared away some of the rubble and buried her.

It’s a pity that the AWB planning to go to war and disaster zones isn’t the Average White Band. They would be more useful.

For that matter, so would the Australian Wheat Board.

To be fair to them, homeopaths aren’t COMPLETELY useless in these situations: if there’s one thing people need in a disaster area, it’s water. And homeopaths provide that, even if there’s a lot of woo involved.

They’re still bastards for giving sick people false hope, though.

As a long time supporter of the MSF it shits me no end when other organisations try to leech of their reputation. And when the leechorganisation is promoting fairy tales and cloud castles it gets me even angrier. People in catastrophe areas need medical doctors and clean water they do not need rainbowcrystal therapies and acupuncture.
Talking about Australia this article got me in a better mood –
this is my first go at linking

@ VikingWarriorPrincess: How about the homeopathic cholera vaccines that this same group has been involved with?

P.S. You did a great job of “linking”…which still eludes me!

The article you linked to is very interesting about the deaths of non immunized people in Australia, the combining of single antigen vaccines and the addition of additional vaccines, to protect kids.

Scientologists went far beyond pretend help. They actually tried to PREVENT psychological assistance to families of 9/11 victims. Quack medicine doesn’t roam outside of scientific domain; it directly COMPETES with it.

Kulgur wrote:

To be fair to them, homeopaths aren’t COMPLETELY useless in these situations: if there’s one thing people need in a disaster area, it’s water. And homeopaths provide that, even if there’s a lot of woo involved.

Not if they’re of the sugar pill variety.

lilady, feel free to email me for a short tutorial on how to do links with more details.

do it like this:

[a href=”Uniform Resource Locator or URL or web address”] words you want to use to link[/a]

Replace [ with the character above the comma
Replace ] with the character above the period

The double quotation marks before and after the URL are essential.

Liz…I’ll email you after Thanksgiving, when hubby and I can both sit down at the computer. Thanks so much for your offer and have a wonderful holiday.

Perhaps Homeopaths Without Borders and Acupuncturists Without Borders can join hands and start Quacks Without Borders.
(Would make a nice band name.)

We now currently have the equivalent of one full time staff position running the entire organization.

The homeopaths can only hope to be in such a weakened position, because it would make them infinitely more powerful.

@Lilady
Well my linking ability was as I suspected inept, that was the article I was reading at the time but I was supposed to link to something else. ::headdesk::
I’m going to crawl back under my rock and gather up some courage for my next linking experiment.

@Lilady again
Scratch my last post I just realised that not only am I abysmally bad at maths my reading abilities is on par with it.
::doubleheaddesk::
I managed to link to the one I meant to link to… I need coffee or perhaps some sleep.
And those homeopathic cholera vaccines what are the homeopathic substance in those supposed to be? On second thought I probably do not want to know that.


This is where I learned how to link

and it would be highly embarrassing if that link did not work…

Scientologists went far beyond pretend help. They actually tried to PREVENT psychological assistance to families of 9/11 victims.

I hesitate to classify “psychological assistance” with MSF. Surely it belongs on the acupuncture / crystal-healing side of the fence. IIRC, all the evidence on trauma counselling is that it makes things worse: people who receive psychological assistance after a trauma finish off in worse mental condition than people left to themselves.

They should change their name to Anti-effective Woo Band.
(Thesaurus suggests “Anticlimactic” )

Thanksgiving : The day on which people gather together to celebrate the non-appearance of Cthulhlu.

VikingWarriorPrincess #12

Talking about Australia this article got me in a better mood –

If you haven’t already seen it, this may improve your mood even further…

TEXTAGATE. Or how to breach Charitable Fundraising Laws and get caught

November 22, 2011

During the recent AVN tour of Western Australia, the Caravan of Carnage, Meryl Dorey was handing out flyers. The flyers include details of how one can “donate” to, and/or “become a member” of, the AVN. That these flyers were handed out is a demonstrable fact. We have one.

Today, Meryl Dorey exploded all over the AVN Facebook page, blaming Stop the AVN for her own actions. Dorey got caught. And it hurt. A lot.

I hesitate to classify “psychological assistance” with MSF. Surely it belongs on the acupuncture / crystal-healing side of the fence. IIRC, all the evidence on trauma counselling is that it makes things worse: people who receive psychological assistance after a trauma finish off in worse mental condition than people left to themselves.

I think you’re heavily overstating the case, herr doktor. Yes, there is evidence, much of it gathered through 9/11, that what were believed to be the most effective trauma counselling techniques at that time actually had a tendency to backfire. But even if that were what was indicated by “all the evidence” (emphasis added) those techniques don’t constitute the whole of “psychological assistance.”

In any case, the Scientologists were engaged in an active effort to try and prevent disaster victims from receiving trauma counselling, not because they were somehow aware of good scientific research (which hadn’t been done yet) indicating the negative effects of then-current practices in the field, but out of a religious conviction that all “psychs” are inherently evil torturers allied with the Galactic Emperor Xenu. Even the crystal-healers look less bizarre than that.

I think we should be less tolerant of these organizations. They pulls into financial donations and people’s attention, while actually working organization remain in the background.

@ VikingWarriorPrincess: Thanks so much for the “link” to learn “linking”. I emailed it to my hubby and to myself. Who knows…perhaps Liz Ditz’s kind offer and your “link” might finally help me to do the elusive linkage.

I should also note that there is a lot of research from academic psychologists into the curative claims of psychotherapists, going back before 9/11, and all the forms of psychotherapy tested so far are at best no better than a placebo. Whatever claims trauma counsellors were making for themselves after 9/11 had certainly not been tested by the counsellors themselves, and I do think it is fair to put them in the same class as the Disaster Homeopathists, whatever reasons the Scientology crowd might have had for opposing their offers of help.

Acupuncturists without Borders uses the time-tested and research-rich (data-rich) NADA protocol for auricular (ear) acupuncture in the diaster relief clinics. From a neurologic perspective, it helps the body reset from “fight or flight” aka sympathetic nervous system overload [common in shock and post-traumatic stress] to “rest and digest” aka parasympathetic mode.
Mrs. Woo–regarding training of acupuncturists:
masters and doctorate level programs in acupuncture and oriental medicine are accredited by ACAOM, as directed by the U.S. Department of Education. If you know of people practicing acupuncture who did not graduate from an accredited master’s or doctorate program, please report them to your state’s department of health.
The trainees described in the article you quote are local people (most Haitian doctors and nurses) learning from AWB how to successfully use the simple acupuncture protocol. This is the principle, “teaching someone to fish” [so they can feed themselves versus fishing for them]. I am sure Physicians with Doctors without Borders do similar teaching to local health personnel, such as how to properly clean and bandage a simple wound.

Wow, the ignorance posted by the majority of participants throughout this conversation is staggering. I am an acupuncturist, and I’m more than happy to place my belief in the objective empirical evidence that I witness every day. How can you possibly bash my profession when allopathic medicine is filled with placebo meds ( ever heard of statins? lol) and ridiculous surgical procedures for pain that fail and worsen the condition 60% – 70% of the time? It’s just silly, and anyone with an IQ higher than a tree stump would shy away from this poorly researched and implemented quackery that has become modern medicine. Before you go making some asinine comments, ask yourself this: why is it that most of my patients get results that they have been completely unable to attain through “conventional” method despite years of drug therapy? Well, I think anyone with the ability to perform critical thinking can figure that one out… Good luck! ; )

Ken,
1. By the homeopaths’ definition, acupuncture (if it worked) would have be allopathic as well.
2. If you go to PubMed and type the words “statin effectiveness”, you’ll find 933 articles. Please show the ones that say that statins are no more effective than placebos when properly prescribed.
3. Please provide the well documented, properly controlled, replicated research that shows that acupuncture provides better results than a placebo.
4. Please let us know how acupuncture treatments are modified to correct for errors in previous knowledge.

I am an acupuncturist, and I’m more than happy to place my belief in the objective empirical evidence that I witness every day.

We’d all actually love to see objective evidence demonstrating accupuncture actually does work. You seem however to be confusing belief with knowledge, and seem to be proceeding from anecdote in lieu of evidence.

If you’re aware of actual evidence that accupuncture is safe and effective–well designed, large scale clinical studies for example– by all means share it with us. Otherwise I’m sure you’ll understand why we remain skeptical.

How can you possibly bash my profession when allopathic medicine is filled with placebo meds ( ever heard of statins? lol)…

Statins don’t act as placebos: they are biologically active molecules which inhibit the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase inhibiting synthesis of cholestrol. On average, long term use of statins reduces LDL cholesterol by 1.8 mmol/L, reduces incidence of cardiac events by ~60% and reduces the risk of stroke by 17%.

…and ridiculous surgical procedures for pain that fail and worsen the condition 60% – 70% of the time?

Citations needed-which surgical procedures, exactly, what is the evidence that indicates a success rate of less than 30%?

Before you go making some asinine comments, ask yourself this: why is it that most of my patients get results that they have been completely unable to attain through “conventional” method despite years of drug therapy?

You’ve offered no evidence your patients get the results you claim, or with any greater frequency than would be expected eitehr by pure chance or as the result of a placebo effect. Can you provide credible evidence they do get success and that success is caused by the accupuncture itself? (Surely you don’t expect us to simply accept your assertions at face value?)

Wow, the ignorance posted by the majority of participants throughout this conversation is staggering.

Said the man who not only believes in ancient and mysterious Oriental magic, but charges people to perform it for them…

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