East meets West at Beth Israel—Cage Match!

When those of us who practice real medicine write about implausible medical claims, we are often accused of lacking compassion, as if offering false hope is the same as compassion. We are also accused of turning away from therapies that “couldn’t hurt”. After all, if someone wants to use aromatherapy, what’s the harm?

The truth is that improbable medical claims are dangerous, and not just for the obvious reasons (i.e. dangerous practices such as chelation therapy). They also turn people away from real therapy. I’ve previously introduced you to the concept that there is no such thing as “alternative medicine”. When the Chinese herb artemisin was found to cure malaria and became widely used by modern doctors, it became by definition not alternative. If something “altie” like massage makes someone feel better, it’s neither altie nor “mainstream”—it’s just nice; go and do it. Yoga probably falls into the latter category, of a practice that may give comfort to some people, but is unlikely to affect objective measures of health and disease.

As reported (quite well) by the Times:

A foundation run by Donna Karan, creator of…the much-imitated DKNY line of clothing, has donated $850,000 for a yearlong experiment combining Eastern and Western healing methods at Beth Israel Medical Center. Instead of just letting a celebrated donor adopt a hospital wing, renovate it and have her name embossed on a plaque, the Karan-Beth Israel project will have a celebrated donor turn a hospital into a testing ground for a trendy, medically controversial notion: that yoga, meditation and aromatherapy can enhance regimens of chemotherapy and radiation.

I’ll stipulate that by “Eastern and Western healing methods” they mean credulous Americans’ impression of what is done in “the East” vs. science-based medicine as it is practiced around the world (the Eastern and Western bits).

Why invest so much in bringing relaxation techniques to the hospital? According to Beth Israel’s CEO:

“While we are giving patients traditional medicine, we are not going to exclude patients’ values and beliefs,” said Dr. David Shulkin, the chief executive of Beth Israel, noting that a third of Americans seek alternative treatments. “To make care accessible to these third of Americans, we’re trying to embrace care that makes them more comfortable.”

What is 15% of cancer patients were seeking euthanasia? What if they wanted methamphetamine? Should we integrate these practices into our modern cancer centers? I suspect the motives are both financial and compassionate, but the compassion is misguided. Providing cancer patients undergoing treatments with relaxation techniques, treatment of pain and anxiety, spiritual care, and other comforts is hardly alternative. To claim that they help people with cancer get better is the big leap. (And let’s set aside the possibility that an “Eastern” outfitted cancer center may not groove with everyone’s sense of spirituality).

Some of Ms. Karan’s stated goals are worthy:

Ms. Karan hopes to prove that the Urban Zen regime can reduce classic symptoms of cancer and its treatment, like pain, nausea and anxiety (thereby cutting hospital stays and costs) and serve as a model for replication elsewhere.

Like many patients, she has turned toward dubious practices because of previous bad experiences with real medicine:

Ms. Karan longed for the help of a Marcus Welby, the kind of friendly, wise doctor who seemed possible only on television, and even then in a more innocent era. “Today everybody’s a specialist,” she lamented in an interview. “We’re only one person, even though we have a lot of parts, but everybody takes a piece of us.”

Despite all his high-tech medical treatment, her husband could not breathe, she recalled, until a yoga teacher taught him to “open his lungs.” “He went from ah-ah-ah,” she said, mimicking his gasping for breath, “to aaaaahh.”

“Everybody was dealing with his disease,” she said of the doctors. “Nobody was looking at him holistically as a patient. How do you treat the patient at the mind-body level? Not only the patient but the loved one?”

The above anecdote has an identifiable problem, which can be partly ameliorated via better selection and training of physicians, but one fact of science-based medicine is that experts are required, and not every one of these experts can get to know “the whole patient” and still serve everyone. Karan’s cure may suffer from some of the same problems as mainstream medicine—it’s a “one size fits all” solution. I’m not so sure an Orthodox Jew or Evangelical Christian would feel all that comfortable in her Zen center.

But there are some real problems here that go deeper than just debating the merits of having a Zen cancer center. The sad truth is that behind every so-called compassionate altmed healer is a charlatan. In this case, the fox is already in the hen house. Beth Israel has a “Center for Integrative Medicine” and the docs from this program are closely tied to Karan’s experiment. The two doctors named in the article have rather interesting histories. (They are both “real” doctors. They just seem to have a “different” view on health and disease.)

Take Dr. Woodson Merrell, the head of BI’s Integrative Med department. Among his publications is an apologetic for homeopathy (W . Merrell, E.Shalts. Homeopathy. Medical Clinics of North America, Volume 86, Issue 1, Pages 47 – 62.). If you read here regularly, you may recall my disdain for homeopathy. Here, just a taste from his paper:

Homeopathy essentially rests on two scientific tenets: the principle of similars and a claim concerning the biologic effects of high dilutions. Despite the principles’ apparent contradictions of common sense in medicine and a clear mechanism of action in physics, careful examination shows that they actually are compatible with many current common biomedical observations.

If we took everyone to task on one piece of misguided writing, we’d all be in trouble. Let’s see what else he’s written:

    The Arginine Solution, The First Guide to America’s New Cardio-Enhancing
    Supplement By Robert Fried, Ph.D., Woodson C. Merrell, MD and James Thornton
    The Impact of Acupuncture and Craniosacral Therapy Interventions on Clinical Outcomes in Adults With Asthma. L .Mehl-Madrona, B. Kligler , S. Silverman, H. Lynton, W. Merrell. The Journal of Science and Healing. Volume 3, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 28-36. “Our study showed that the two complementary therapies studied–craniosacral therapy and acupuncture–could be expected to reduce medication use and improve asthma-related quality of life in adults with asthma.”

Other than his standard medical qualifications, I’m not sure why this guy has anything special to offer a cancer center. If it’s pushing strange supplements, homeopathy, or cranial-sacral therapy, well, perhaps the cancer center isn’t interested in being modern any longer.

His collaborator, Dr. Benjamin Kligler (yes, like Merrell, a real doctor), has a few more publications than does Merrell, but these are hardly rigorous:

    Lynton H, Kligler B, Shiflett S. Yoga in stroke rehabilitation: a systematic review and results of a pilot study. Top Stroke Rehabil. 2007 Jul-Aug;14(4):1-8.
    Kligler B, Koithan M, Maizes V, Hayes M, Schneider C, Lebensohn P, Hadley S.
    Competency-based evaluation tools for integrative medicine training in family medicine residency: a pilot study.
    BMC Med Educ. 2007 Apr 18;7:7.
    Erickson K, Shalts E, Kligler B.Case study in integrative medicine: Jared C, a child with recurrent otitis media and upper respiratory illness. Explore (NY). 2006 May;2(3):235-7.

Neither of these doc’s publications gives me great confidence. And then there’s the complementary health center they run. Surprise, surprise…they offer a zoo of woo. And they offer a focus on “functional medicine“, a whole new kind of woo.

Hey, I don’t doubt the competence or compassion of either of these docs—I just think that they’re heading down a dead-end.

Perhaps this sounds overly harsh, too critical. But let me sum this up for you, dear reader.

A major urban medical center is letting a fashion icon redo part of their cancer center in Zen style to focus on yoga. The “scientific” end of the deal is being run by a couple of docs who believe in a non-science-based approach to health and disease. And a ton of money is pouring into this effort.

Look, we are obviously doing something wrong here. There is a perception among some patients that their doctors are not compassionate or holistic enough. The good news is that it’s rather easy to provide compassionate care that is science-based. All it takes is a good ear and a human touch. It doesn’t have to involve adding questionable modalities to our armamentarium.

Comments

  1. #1 The Perky Skeptic
    October 30, 2008

    I will say that some docs seem to be working hard at changing this perception. My new Internist was so friendly and conversational during my initial visit that I found myself worrying over his revenue stream ’cause he spent more than fifteen minutes with me! My husband reported similar getting-to-know-you conversation at his appointments. Dude is really working at making his patients feel at ease, and it’s working! His office staff loves him, and I’m willing to bet his patients (besides us) do, too.

    Compassionate care, check! Science-based, check! Count us as two happy, happy healthcare recipients!

  2. #2 nbs
    October 31, 2008

    I still haven’t seen any scientific research that clearly demonstrate the superiority of “western medicine” over “eastern medicine”. So until then we are only assuming, and we all know what that makes us….

  3. #3 Abel Pharmboy
    October 31, 2008

    I strongly suggest that all readers, bloggers, and MSM journalists writing stories on CAM take a look at this short editorial by Edzard Ernst entitled, “CAM Pseudoexperts,” in the journal he edits, FACT: Focus on Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

    As compared with the qualifications and years of experience we must each meet for being considered an “expert” in our respective fields, the bar is incredibly low for “experts” in CAM. Ernst appropriately skewers these CAM pseudoexperts although he did not go far enough, IMHO, to communicate that journalists should have a more critical eye (although the audience was not intended to be journalists).

  4. #4 James Pannozzi
    October 31, 2008

    Abel Pharmboy!!!!

    I read your blog about Dr. Edzard Ernst’s article on pseudoexperts in which you did NOT seem to notice
    that Edzard HIMSELF IS A PSEUDO-EXPERT. Search his CV for any details regarding his “alternative” medicine training.
    There does not seem to be any.

    A two week “seminar” in Acupuncture?
    Read a book, perhaps “Homeopathy for Dogs”?
    Attended some lectures on ANY Alternative system of medicine.

    If anyone knows exactly WHAT alternative medicine training Edzard has, I’d love to know because, so far, his reputation seems to depend only on he being the first Professor of Complementary/Alternative medicine and not much more.

  5. #5 Anonymous
    October 31, 2008

    PalMD:

    You have made a rather insulting statement to Chiropractors, Osteopathic physicians, Acupuncture physicians, Homeopaths and dedicated professionals of other medical disciplines with the following prefatory phrase:
    “When those of us who practice real medicine…”

    I don’t know exactly how blithe your definition of “real” meidicne is, but I suggest you reexamine the fallacious presumptions that lie at the root of it.

    Likewise, your comments as follows:

    “I’ll stipulate that by “Eastern and Western healing methods” they mean credulous Americans’ impression of what is done in “the East” vs. science-based medicine as it is practiced around the world (the Eastern and Western bits).”

    perhaps need to be cleansed of the arrogant condescension and the complete ignorance of the reality of “science” based medicine for which the British Medical Journal has produced some interesting statistics, see the following:

    Dr. Brian Kaplan’s blog, Sept. 11,2008
    http://drkaplanarticles.blogspot.com

    Here you will learn that “Of around 2500 [conventional] treatments covered [in their literature review] 13% are rated as beneficial, 23% likely to be beneficial, 4% likely to be ineffective or harmful, and 46%, the largest proportion, as UNKNOWN EFFECTIVENESS.

    Is THAT the “sceience based” medicine which you so arrogantly hold as your standard, the one with 46% OF THE TREATMENTS WITH UNKNOWN EFFECTIVENESS?

    Let us go into details – how many double blinded randomized placebo controlled tests on human beings can you cite for heart surgeries, knee replacement operations, CHEMOTHERAPY??

    Is THIS the “REAL” MEDICINE of which you speak
    or is the “reality” of the real medicine NO BETTER than that of the “unreal” ones.

  6. #6 PalMD
    October 31, 2008

    You have made a rather insulting statement to Chiropractors, Osteopathic physicians, Acupuncture physicians, Homeopaths…

    Please don’t insult osteopaths…they’re real doctors.

  7. #7 Dana Ullman, MPH
    October 31, 2008

    Friends,
    If you are going to seek to defend medicine and science, you gotta maintain a good, healthy scientific attitude and you have to do your homework. It seems that you’ve been a bit deficient in each. There are hundreds of clincal and basic science trials to consider. Here are some:

    This study was conducted at the University of Vienna:
    Frass, M, Dielacher, C, Linkesch, M, Endler, C, Muchitsch, I, Schuster, E, Kaye, A. Influence of potassium dichromate on tracheal secretions in critically ill patients, Chest, March, 2005;127:936-941. A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with parallel assignment was performed to assess the influence of sublingually administered Kali bichromate (potassium dichromate) 30C on critically ill patients with a history of tobacco use and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) In this study, 50 patients received either Kali bichromicum 30C globules (group 1) or placebo (group 2). The amount of tracheal secretions was reduced significantly in group 1 (p < 0.0001). Extubation (the removal of obstructive mucus from the lung with a tube) could be performed significantly earlier in group 1 (p < 0.0001). Similarly, length of stay was significantly shorter in group 1 (4.20 +/- 1.61 days vs 7.68 +/- 3.60 days, p < 0.0001 [mean +/- SD]). This data suggest that potentized (diluted and vigorously shaken) Kali bichromicum may help to decrease the amount of stringy tracheal secretions in COPD patients.

    Another University of Vienna trial:
    Frass M, Linkesch, M, Banjya, S, et al. Adjunctive homeopathic treatment in patients with severe sepsis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in an intensive care unit. Homeopathy 2005:94;7580. At a University of Vienna hospital, 70 patients with severe sepsis were enrolled in a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, measuring survival rates at 30 days and at 180 days. Those patients given a homeopathic medicine were prescribed it in the 200C potency only (in 12 hour intervals during their hospital stay). The survival rate at day 30 was 81.8% for homeopathic patients and 67.7% for those given a placebo. At day 180, 75.8% of homeopathic patients survived and only 50.0% of the placebo patients survived (p=0.043). One patient was saved for every four who were treated.

    Here’s a trial conducted at the University of Arizona…the clinical results AND the objective findings are notable:
    Bell IR, Lewis II DA, Brooks AJ, et al. Improved clinical status in fibromyalgia patients treated with individualized homeopathic remedies versus placebo, Rheumatology. 2004:1111-5. Participants on active treatment showed significantly greater improvements in tender point count and tender point pain, quality of life, global health and a trend toward less depression compared with those on placebo. People on homeopathic treatment also experienced changes in EEG readings. Helpfulness from treatment in homeopathic patients was very significant (P=.004).
    –Other references for more detail about this important study: Bell IR, Lewis DA II, Schwartz GE, Lewis SE, Caspi O, Scott A, Brooks AJ, Baldwin CM. Electroencephalographic cordance patterns distinguish exceptional clinical responders with fibromyalgia to individualized homeopathic medicines. J Alternative & Complementary Medicine 2004; 10(2):285-299.
    –Bell IR, Lewis DA II, Lewis SE, Schwartz GE, Scott A, Brooks AJ, Baldwin CM. Electroencephalographic alpha sensitization in individualized homeopathic treatment of fibromyalgia. International Journal of Neuroscience 2004; 114(9):1195-1220.

  8. #8 Marilyn Mann
    October 31, 2008

    I am not against meditation or yoga per se. Some people seem to find them helpful for stress reduction. They should not be oversold, however. If cancer patients are told that their pain, nausea and anxiety are going to be reduced if they participate in these programs, I’m afraid many of them will be seriously disappointed.

  9. #9 N.B.
    October 31, 2008

    Feeding the trolls–regarding Dana’s “studies” confirming homepathy:

    Study 1, COPD: n=50 for treatment and placebo? Don’t make me laugh. A 30C dilution wouldn’t even contain any potassium dichromate, leaving you with a “solution” indistinguishable from pure diluent. The study apparently involved stopping beta-agonist bronchodilators and mucolytics, but there is no mention of controlling for effects as a result of other anticholinergic drugs patients might be taking (and that’s a long list).

    Study 2, sepsis: Yes, I’m sure the Journal of Homeopathy was totally unbiased about this. I’d love to see the methods section. How did they categorize “severe sepsis?” Furthermore, the ethical abuses in this study, if it even happened, are appalling. You don’t NOT treat sepsis, so if some percentage of the patients received “placebo homeopathy” and no antibiotics I’m surprised there weren’t a billion lawsuits. How do you get septic patients–who generally need aggressive treatment just to live–to consent to a homeopathy trial where they might not recieve any treatment at all?

    Studies 3, 4, and 5, fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia, for many patients, may be a form of somatoform disorder. Patients with large pain variability may be more “susceptible” to the placebo effect. Placebos often reduce depression as well (for a while). Patient reporting of “helpfulness from treatment” is not a reliable measure of efficacy. Perceived pain reduction (from placebo effect) may alter EEG readings.

    Homepathy is BS “treatment” with magical water and conducting trials on severely ill patients with sepsis, assuming they aren’t making the whole thing up, is incredibly irresponsible and unethical. Everything else linked can be attributed to placebo effects and small sample sizes biasing statistics or flawed methods.

  10. #10 thalarctos
    October 31, 2008

    If anyone knows exactly WHAT alternative medicine training Edzard has, I’d love to know because, so far, his reputation seems to depend only on he being the first Professor of Complementary/Alternative medicine and not much more.

    At an address at a massage research conference I attended, he mentioned that he had trained in massage in Germany.

  11. #11 mr natural
    October 31, 2008

    Doctor Pal MD you are an idiot. The number of people who use alternative medicine is vast and growing because your ‘real’ medicine is glorified paramedic procedures mixed with toxic drugs and a rare dash of something useful. Natural[and honestly called 'alternative' as an alt. to Allopathic toxic madness] medicine works that is why so many people spend out of pocket on it.

    There are thousands of natural remedies that you do not know jack about because your precious pharmaceutical companies can’t patent them.

    Also saying Massage is just ‘nice’ is as stupid as everything else in your article. Massage is an opening and closing of almost any tissue a skilled therapist can effect. You are telling me that won’t effect and radically, congested circulation? Endorphin release? Lymphatic congestion?

    You are a dinosaur in dr’s clothing.

    If folks want real healing look into

    Matthew Wood [amazon has his Book of Herbal Wisdom and Earthwise Herbal]

    Homeopathy: see especially Robin Murphy ND

    and look into Raw diets [80% is good] but if that is too intense – and it is for many, detoxing fasts [see Elton Haas MD and others].

    Also diet and Yoga or Tai-Chi can cure many diseases, even without herbal or homeopathic remedies. Go to any yoga class and start asking around.

    This doctor is like so many MD’s a quack with his head in the sand. But honestly what else can they do? Their whole system of medicine other than diagnosis is only good for what 10% of the people – the rest of whom would be far better served by seeing Acupuncturists and Acupressurists, Homeopaths and Herbalists and instead f wasting money on insurance, buying organic fresh food and going to yoga and Tai-Chi classes.

    IF we as a culture survive another hundred years, alt medicine will be standard and allopathic western medicine will be saved for the emergencies and diagnosis and research it is mostly good for.

    BTW I wrote all this before seeing Dana’s contribution. He knows his stuff and his books are excellent.

    Homeopathy is indeed the most sophisticated medical system the planet has. Calling it ‘magic water’ is while ignorantly slanderous somewhat close to the truth, water can hold a memory of whatever it is mixed with, even when the substance is no longer present. Google water memory.

    Just cause DR. Quack above says it ain’t real till it’s mainstream doesn’t mean we have to stay behind the curve.

  12. #12 N.B.
    October 31, 2008

    Mr. Natural,

    Yes, I’ll google “water memory” right away and assume that the first pagehit is probably a good source. Hmm, it’s wikipedia. “The scientificially refuted notion that water is capable of retaining a memory of particles once dissolved in it.” Wow, I’m convinced! Where can I get me some magic water?

    If I make you a 300C preparation of Kool-Aid will it cure your delusions?

  13. #13 D. C. Sessions
    October 31, 2008

    CJ, you ignorant slut, welcome to denialism blog. I’m afraid your usual “Nyah, nyah, nyah, I’m ignoring you” is not going to work very well here (not that it works on MHA, but there you are.) And the screaming caps are just so, so, you.

    I’m kicking back and pouring a tall glass of cider, this should be fun to watch.

  14. #14 PalMD
    October 31, 2008

    As an exercise, it’s probably worth examining (rather than refuting) the thinking (sic) behind this comment:

    Doctor Pal MD you are an idiot. The number of people who use alternative medicine is vast and growing because your ‘real’ medicine is glorified paramedic procedures mixed with toxic drugs and a rare dash of something useful. Natural[and honestly called 'alternative' as an alt. to Allopathic toxic madness] medicine works that is why so many people spend out of pocket on it.

    Whether or not I am, in fact, and idiot is irrelevent. The assertion that many use altmed so it must be good is ridiculous—lots of people smoke to.

    There are thousands of natural remedies that you do not know jack about because your precious pharmaceutical companies can’t patent them.

    Excellent use of the pharma shill gambit!

    Also saying Massage is just ‘nice’ is as stupid as everything else in your article. Massage is an opening and closing of almost any tissue a skilled therapist can effect. You are telling me that won’t effect and radically, congested circulation? Endorphin release? Lymphatic congestion?

    Well, that is patently ridiculous. Have you ever dissected a cadaver? Studied actual human anatomy and physiology? Clearly not well.

    You are a dinosaur in dr’s clothing.

    ibid above

    If folks want real healing look into

    Matthew Wood [amazon has his Book of Herbal Wisdom and Earthwise Herbal]

    Homeopathy: see especially Robin Murphy ND

    and look into Raw diets [80% is good] but if that is too intense – and it is for many, detoxing fasts [see Elton Haas MD and others].

    Also diet and Yoga or Tai-Chi can cure many diseases, even without herbal or homeopathic remedies. Go to any yoga class and start asking around.

    Data please?

    This doctor is like so many MD’s a quack with his head in the sand. But honestly what else can they do? Their whole system of medicine other than diagnosis is only good for what 10% of the people – the rest of whom would be far better served by seeing Acupuncturists and Acupressurists, Homeopaths and Herbalists and instead f wasting money on insurance, buying organic fresh food and going to yoga and Tai-Chi classes.

    I appreciate your creativity, but unfounded assertions aren’t all that interesting, and as a tactic of argument, not useful.

    IF we as a culture survive another hundred years, alt medicine will be standard and allopathic western medicine will be saved for the emergencies and diagnosis and research it is mostly good for.

    Wow. That’s just insane. Between vaccinations and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, modern medicine has radically changed the way we live for the better.

    BTW I wrote all this before seeing Dana’s contribution. He knows his stuff and his books are excellent.

    Homeopathy is indeed the most sophisticated medical system the planet has. Calling it ‘magic water’ is while ignorantly slanderous somewhat close to the truth, water can hold a memory of whatever it is mixed with, even when the substance is no longer present. Google water memory.

    Just cause DR. Quack above says it ain’t real till it’s mainstream doesn’t mean we have to stay behind the curve.

    I wouldn’t trust Ullman or any other homeopath to take care of my worst enemy’s pet hermit crab.

    Your response is full of logical fallacies and blantantly false assertions about reality. Congrats.

  15. #15 AusMed
    October 31, 2008

    Wow PalMD. You have some of the craziest and most aggressive woo pushers reading your blog. Not sure i’ve seen a post like this where they haven’t all jumped out of the walls and screamed at least once, but you get it bad.

    I’m glad they’re still struggling to establish a foothold in the real world over here in Oz, maybe we just tend to be a little more skeptical as a country. Feel free to join us :)

  16. #16 mr. natrural
    October 31, 2008

    No what is full of fallacies is your whole POV.

    you look at one page and jump to a stupid conclusion. RThat is your science for you.

    Reactionary nonsense.

    Tell me Dr. Quack why do so many MD’s [real DR's in your arrogant parlance] in England and France and Germany refer to Homeopaths and H.M.D.’s are they all, 30-40% of the DR’s in Western Europe all drinking your 300c cool-aid?

    And pharma-shill – nice – beautifully ironic coming from one.

    Of course you will prattle on about ‘facts’ cause you are too scared or dense to conduct your own reasonbable experiments on yourself. Cowardly some would call it.

    And what pray tell would an autopsy do to prove that the lymph system is unaffected by massage? Utter nonsense.

    Do you know that your Western Medicine is now the #4 killer in the country? Not all that dangerous alt.medicine you so naively rail against. And that is from your own medical journals.

    There have been many, many studies showing th efficacy of many kinds of natural therapies, but you are seemingly too busy spreading disinformation to process them.

    The bottom line is Western Medicine are losing market share and credibility. Western Medicine has a place in Medicine, but until it can gain some small bit of humility – it will never see what it is.

    Have you ever had an acupuncture treatment or craniocasral massage? Or are you as seems apparent, talking about things you know nothing about?

  17. #17 James Pannozzi
    October 31, 2008

    D.C. Sessions:

    DcUCKY!!!!

    Good to see you here – try reading Mr. Natural
    and see if you can expand your point of view
    past the tip of your nose.

    CJ

  18. #18 Anonymous
    October 31, 2008

    ‘data please” when you get it you ignore it: what about the already posted “Here you will learn that “Of around 2500 [conventional] treatments covered [in their literature review] 13% are rated as beneficial, 23% likely to be beneficial, 4% likely to be ineffective or harmful, and 46%, the largest proportion, as UNKNOWN EFFECTIVENESS.

    Is THAT the “sceience based” medicine which you so arrogantly hold as your standard, the one with 46% OF THE TREATMENTS WITH UNKNOWN EFFECTIVENESS?

    Let us go into details – how many double blinded randomized placebo controlled tests on human beings can you cite for heart surgeries, knee replacement operations, CHEMOTHERAPY?? ”

    Go ahead and ignore this too…that just shows the passing reader that you are not interested in discovery and healing so much as defending your fringe anti-alt position.

    Essentially I am posting for the person dropping in and honestly looking around for alternatives.

    Cause ya see Dr. Lots and lots and millions of Americans have been made worse by unnecessary surgery and toxic ill prescribed pharmaceuticals. That is why they already look for non-wstern M.D. healers, and why they will continue to do so, no matter what you ignore or lie about.

    BTW for people doing net research wikipedia is unfortunately known to have Allopathic/Pharmaceutical bias.

    I suggest looking for sites of various certifying bodies, such as:
    http://nccaom.org/ for Lic. Acupuncturists and Certified Acupressurists/Shiatsu practitioners etc.

    http://naturopathic.org/ for N.D.’s now gaining licensure and Insurance coverage in a growing number of progressive states.

    For Homeopathy : http://nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org/

    Curiously enough – last I checked Alabama was the last state to not have Licensed Acupuncturists. Does that tell you something? It should – they are also down there on the bottom of the list for education as well.

  19. #19 Noadi
    October 31, 2008

    You have some of the most passionate loons commenting here, always fun to read and brush up on my logical fallacies. Ad hominems seem popular today.

    I actually was planning to defend this plan to a certain extent. Obviously it’s not going to make cancer patients get well faster but making them feel better is very helpful in it’s own way. My mom went through cancer treatment a few years ago (all went well and she’s cancer free now) and the hospital she went to for treatment had a wonderful program of activities to make cancer patients feel better. They had pretty much a mini-spa for patients, massage, facials, manicures and pedicures, a whole list of things to make patients feel better including a nice menu. I think it did help her to get that sort of care. However it was all focused on making her feel better and make undergoing the treatments not seem as bad as they were, never was there a claim that anything other than the surgery, chemo, and radiation was what would help destroy the cancer.

    That to me is why this is program at Beth Israel is a deception, it’s giving patients hope in stuff that has no known effectiveness. I think giving false hope is a terrible thing to do to someone already going through a horrible disease.

  20. #20 James Pannozzi
    October 31, 2008

    Mr. Natural says it right in both of his recent posts
    and says it well.

    Mr. Natural said:
    “Do you know that your Western Medicine is now the #4 killer in the country? Not all that dangerous alt.medicine you so naively rail against. And that is from your own medical journals.”

    EXACTLY right but somehow those sceintific “real” medicine men seem to breeze right by this.

    also Mr. Natural states:
    “There have been many, many studies showing the efficacy of many kinds of natural therapies, but you are seemingly too busy spreading disinformation to process them.”

    OH but that’s no problem for the “real” medicine dudes because they find ALL those studies “flawed”. WHAT you say?? ALL of them, not just some?? Yes ALL – especially if they appear in a Homeopathy Journal – then they would be called “biased”.

    Oh WOW, hows THAT for scientific thinking – the main problem with the “real” medicine men is that they need to GET REAL.

    Last but not least the “real” medicine self delusionals are so busy toting up the “evidence” that they have not even noticed
    the large number of pharmaceutical drugs that they are using and routinely prescribing for which the mechanism of action is uknown – yet, one of their big arguments against the Homeopaths is that
    (surprise!) the mechanism of action is unknown.

  21. #21 mr. natural;
    October 31, 2008

    sorry I forgot the link for what is undoubtedlt the worst of the heretics in the bloggers opinion; Alt. MD’s.

    http://aaimedicine.com/ for MD’s who have found Acupunture, Homeopathy and or Herbalism and other natural therapies to be far more safe and effective in many cases than the synthetic, dangerous western meds usually prescribed.

  22. #22 D. C. Sessions
    October 31, 2008

    Of course you will prattle on about ‘facts’ cause you are too scared or dense to conduct your own reasonbable experiments on yourself. Cowardly some would call it.

    You first — I know where there are some mosquitoes with plasmodium falciparum just (as it were) dying to meet you. Show me that your approach offers a better solution to having those particular lifeforms in your environment and we might have something to discuss.

    If the Pacific Northwest is too much trouble, you could come to the Colorado Plateau where we have lots of prairie dogs and deer mice. Spend some time with some of them. It’s really gorgeous there, too.

    If the Western USA is still too much travel, there are plenty of bat caves all over the place where lyssavirus is easy to find, and you could go pay some attention to those cute little mammals.

    Do get back to us on your proposed plans.

  23. #23 Tsu Dho Nimh
    October 31, 2008

    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” … Gautama Buddha

  24. #24 LanceR, JSG
    October 31, 2008

    And I love the usual lie: “Western Medicine is the #4 killer”. Not to put too fine a point on it; BULLSHIT! This is the usual bunk about “People DIE in hospitals!” Of course they do. That’s where people go when they are dying. Big surprise that they die there.

    Morons. Learn what science means. Learn something about reality. Hell, just LEARN something!

  25. #25 D. C. Sessions
    October 31, 2008

    Anyone recognize this quote? Would one of the “Eastern mysticism” advocates care to opine on its relevance?

    Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

  26. #26 CaladanGuard
    October 31, 2008

    I’m very skeptical about a lot of the CAM studies and proofs that get thrown around. I’d suggest looking into a few of Edzard Ernst’s papers. He is probably the closest thing to an actual science-based assessor of woo, as far as I can see. I honestly wouldn’t care so much about disproving these ‘treatments’ if they weren’t so anti-science. People can waste their money however they want on their own time, but seeing homeopaths offering ‘alternatives’ to vaccination, or claiming they can -replace- Medicine is the problem.

  27. #27 thalarctos
    October 31, 2008

    Anyone recognize this quote? Would one of the “Eastern mysticism” advocates care to opine on its relevance?

    Well, I’m not an “Eastern mysticism” advocate, but I did think that quote was quite appropriate to include in my textbook on developing research literacy (the ability to read primary sources, namely research studies, for yourself, rather than depend on secondary sources such as the media) in the context of research on massage.

    The book is not out yet, but the draft has been in to the publisher for some time, including the chapter on “What is science?”, where I used a version of that quote, turned in last March or April (I’d have to check my record to see exactly what the deadline was.

    So, Tsu Do Nimh and D.C., as to the use and source of that quote, and its implications, I’d have to say great minds think alike! :)

  28. #28 Pal
    November 1, 2008

    Pal,

    It looks like you scored a lot of popints with a chiroquactor, a homeopathetic, a woo-inclined massager, and a naturoquack flinging poo here. That is quite an accomplishment; it is rare to see just two of them. There may have been some others I missed.

    Congratulations!

  29. #29 Joe
    November 1, 2008

    What the …

    That post was from me, Joe, sorry.

  30. #30 khan
    November 1, 2008

    I wouldn’t trust Ullman or any other homeopath to take care of my worst enemy’s pet hermit crab.

    So would would the ‘naturopaths’ suggest to prevent/cure blood poisoning (red line traveling up vein from cat bite)?

  31. #31 PalMD
    November 1, 2008

    Well, cellulitis and sepsis due to Pasteurella multocida can be rather nasty…i just treated my partner for it.

  32. #32 Isis the Scientist
    November 1, 2008

    One of my favorite layperson-directed pieces of medical journalism was Bill Moyers’s Healing and the Mind. Traditionally “alternative treatments” are not subjected to the same scientific scrutiny as “modern Western medicine,” but a big part of me applauds clinical facilities that attempt to care for both the patient’s physical and mental well-beings and I am not sure the modern hospital does that. I wish we understood these other therapy modalities better.

  33. #33 PalMD
    November 1, 2008

    Hi, Isis!

    It’s not that we don’t understand these other modalities…we do. The problem is that our medical system doesn’t always respond as well as it should to individual needs, especially emotional, spiritual, and social needs.

  34. #34 Kristinmh
    November 2, 2008

    PalMD,

    I’m glad you’re getting the pageviews. Otherwise I do not envy your cadre of (s)CAM artists.

    Keep fighting the good fight, brother.

  35. #35 PalMD
    November 2, 2008

    Well, teh asshat’s are good for something. [/wink]

  36. #36 Badly Shaved Monkey
    November 2, 2008

    It is sad to see Dana Ullman still pimping the same discredited studies after they have been trashed multiple times. But, hey ho, he needs to fill his day with something. Possibly more interesting is to point out that the mere fact that he places so much reliance on his tiny handful of favourite, though useless papers, speaks volumes about the absence of any real supportive evidence for homeopathy.

    Anyway, let me wave my magic wand and cast the spell that seems to repel him most effectively;

    Dana, GIVE ONE INCONTROVERTIBLE EXAMPLE, WITH REFERENCES, OF A NON-SELF-LIMITING CONDITION BEING CURED BY HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT.

  37. #37 Badly Shaved Monkey
    November 2, 2008

    Sorry, I clearly posted in haste having only just found this blog, and now realise that Dana Ullman’s intention was possibly to encompass as many aspects of “denialism” as he could in one post and he was thereby trying to show us what this blog is all about;

    (http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/about.php)

    “5 general tactics are used by denialists to sow confusion. They are conspiracy, selectivity (cherry-picking), fake experts, impossible expectations (also known as moving goalposts), and general fallacies of logic.”

    For the object lesson in denialism I think we should be grateful.

    Clearly, I mistook his intentions.

  38. #38 Anonymous
    November 4, 2008

    PalMD stated:

    “It’s not that we don’t understand these other modalities…we do.”

    WE do??

    “The problem is that our medical system doesn’t always respond as well as it should to individual needs, especially emotional, spiritual, and social needs”.

    And physical needs like staying alive, getting cured from a chronic illness or avoiding dangerous pharmaceutical drug side effects.

    An incredibly candid admission, Pal.

  39. #39 PalMD
    November 4, 2008

    @anon

    Yes, we do understand modalities such as homeopathy…it’s called “water” and we’ve used it forever, and it’s combined with religious-like beliefs in magic, which we’ve also used forever. It’s not hard to understand.

    I don’t think my “admission” was particularly remarkable—obviously there is a subset of patients who feel their emotional/spiritual/social needs aren’t being met. It’s not all that controversial.

    As to “physical needs”, I’m not sure what you’re getting at, but given our successes over the last couple of decades in treating heart disease, diabetes, etc, and in primary and secondary prevention, well, I guess we haven’t gone far enough for you. Sorry, we’re working on it. But not with magic water.

  40. #40 James Pannozzi
    November 4, 2008

    to PalMD:
    “As to physical needs, I’m not sure what you’re getting at…”

    You’re not sure what I’m getting at? Hey, I don’t want to detract from the attainments of modern standard medicine – I’m alive today thanks to MD’s, but there are people dying like flies from chemotherapy and/or the likes of “Vioxx”. I’m “getting” at the physical treatment of people which I believe you should have included along with your candid admission of failure to address emotional, spriritual and social needs I won’t bother to publish any death and injury from iatrogenic causes statistics, I’m sure you know them well. What I resent is the attempt to demean real MD’s and real scientists who are researching the unknown and one of those unknowns is HOMEOPATHY. NO magic involved and they’re NOT charltans or scamsters either. Try looking up some of the work of Dr. I. Bell MD, PhD.

    Please don’t give us that “placebo” effect nonsense and check out the lastest research which essentially says that the 2005 Lancet review of Homeopathy was RUBBISH (sorry about the caps, it’s a compulsion) at this link:
    http://www.news-medical.net/?id=42412
    I have the exact research cites somewhere – will find it if you want it.

    And, last time I looked, NOBODY knows exactly what
    “just water” is. If you’ve got the full answer, publish a paper and collect your Nobel.

  41. #41 Sarah
    March 19, 2009

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Sarah

    http://www.lyricsdigs.com

  42. #42 Alanna
    April 11, 2009

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Alanna

    http://www.craigslisthelper.info

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