Bioethics

Category archives for Bioethics

Antiabortion antivaccine activists like to claim that “aborted fetal cells” in vaccines mean that vaccines are contaminated products of evil. In reality, there are no “aborted fetal cells” in vaccines. A cell line derived from an aborted fetus in 1962 did, however, lead to huge advances in vaccine technology and the prevention of many millions of deaths worldwide.

The latest study being promoted as evidence that vaccines cause autism is truly atrocious. Basically, like many epidemiological studies examining putative links between vaccines and adverse health outcomes, it’s mistaking statistical noise for signal. What’s odd about this study is that not a single statistician or epidemiologist appears to have been involved with its design or execution, although a lawyer, a health economist, and an investment banker were.

So I was distracted yesterday from what I had intended to write about by an irresistible target provided me courtesy of Toby Cosgrove, MD, CEO of The Cleveland Clinic, who bemoaned all those nasty pro-science advocates who had had the temerity to link the antivaccine rant by the director of the Clinic’s Wellness Institute to…

Well, it’s done. Today, the Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill designed to weaken the FDA and empower pharmaceutical companies, sending it to President Obama’s desk. There’s no way Obama won’t sign it, as it contains provisions funding his Precision Medicine Initiative, and he supported it all along. For all its flaws,…

One of the great things about America has been the First Amendment, particularly the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These are rights allow us to gather together to protest when we see something that we don’t think is right and want to change. Unfortunately, there is one downside to these freedoms,…

There’s a misconception that I frequently hear about evidence-based medicine (EBM), which can equally apply to science-based medicine (SBM). Actually, there are several, but they are related. These misconceptions include the idea that EBM/SBM guidelines are a straightjacket, that they are “cookbook medicine,” and that EBM/SBM should be the be-all and end-all of how to…

Whenever we discuss vaccines and vaccine hesitancy, thanks to Andrew Wakefield the one vaccine that almost always comes up is the MMR, which is the combined measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. In 1998, Wakefield published a case series of cherry-picked patients in which he strongly inferred that the MMR vaccine was associated with autism and “autistic enterocolitis.” Of…

One of the things that first led me to understand the dangers of quackademic medicine was a trial known as the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy, or TACT. Chelation therapy, as you might recall, is the infusion of a chelating agent, or a chemical that binds heavy metals and makes it easier for the kidney…

I’ve been debating whether to write about this for a while now, given that the first article that I noticed about it was first published a week and a half ago. Part of the reason for my reluctance is that it would be too easy for politics to be dragged into this more than I…

One major thing that differentiated science-based medicine (SBM) from alternative medicine and quackery is that in SBM there is a generally accepted standard of care. This was even the case back in the days before the proliferation of evidence-based guidelines, in which professional societies and expert panels try their best to synthesize what is often…

it was less than a year ago that I described a bill wending its way through Congress called the 21st Century Cures Act “old vinegary wine in a new bottle.” The reason I characterized the bill that way was because it really was nothing new and it rested on a very old fallacy, namely that…

Back when I started this blog, I hadn’t yet become aware of the phenomenon known as quackademic medicine. This phenomenon, as you recall, is the infiltration of academic medical institutions that should be bastions of science- and evidence-based medicine by outright quackery. In quackademic medicine, we see Very Respectable Academic Physicians and Scientists wasting their…

As much as I write about the foibles, pseudoscience, and misadventures of cranks and quacks that endanger patients. However, never let it be said that I don’t also pay attention to the foibles and misadventures of real doctors that endanger patients. Sometimes that occurs due to incompetence. Sometimes it’s due to the persistent use of…

Even if you’re a relative newbie to this blog, you probably wouldn’t be particularly surprised to learn that I don’t much like Dr. Mehmet Oz, a.k.a. “America’s Doctor.” Of course, I refer to him as something slightly different, namely “America’s Quack,” for a whole host of reasons, including his featuring psychic mediums like John Edward…

Last year, I did several posts on what I consider to be a profoundly misguided and potentially harmful type of law known as “right-to-try.” Beginning about a year and a half ago, promoted by the libertarian think tank known as the Goldwater Institute, right-to-try laws began popping up in state legislatures. I wrote about how…

Readers who’ve been following this blog a while would probably not be surprised to learn that one of my all time favorite movies is Ghostbusters. In fact, it’s hard to believe that the movie is now 30 years old. It makes me feel so old, given that I saw the movie in the theater when…

Countering the misinformation regularly promulgated by the antivaccine movement, be it antivaccinationists who are completely off the deep end, like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the crew at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, or that epitome of the Dunning-Kruger effect mixed with an annoying self-absorption and coffee klatch vibe (that is when it’s not…

There are times when supporting science-based health policy and opposing health policies that sound compassionate but are not are easily portrayed as though I’m opposing mom, apple pie, and the American flag. One such type of misguided policy that I’ve opposed is a category of bills that have been finding their way into state legislatures…

We all seek immortality in some way. Death has been a terror of nearly all since humans first started realizing that everybody dies. After all, no one wants to face the end of everything that one has been, is, and will be, so much so that a key feature of many religions is a belief…

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been almost three years since I first started taking an interest in the Houston cancer doctor and Polish expat Stanislaw Burzynski. Three long years, but that’s less than one-twelfth the time that Burzynski has been actually been administering an unproven cancer treatment known as antineoplastons (ANPs), a…

It’s been three days since America’s quack, Dr. Mehmet Oz, had his posterior handed to him by a wily old prosecutor who is now a Senator, Claire McCaskill. The beauty of it is that, not only was Dr. Oz called, in essence, a liar to his face and not only was he called out for…

Well, it snuck up on me again, the way it has a tendency to do every year. Maybe it’s because Memorial Day is so early this year. Maybe it’s because there’s just so much work to do this week given the multiple grant deadlines. Whatever the case, it just dawned on my last night that…

One of the frequent topics on this blog is, unsurprisingly, cancer quackery. Be it the Gerson therapy and its propensity for encouraging patients to take hundreds of supplements and to shoot copious amounts of coffee where it really doesn’t belong (where the sun don’t shine), the Gonzalez protocol, homeopathy, naturopathy, or various other nonsensical and…

I’ve made no secret of how much I despise Stanislaw Burzynski, the self-proclaimed cancer doctor and medical researcher who has been treating patients with an unproven, unapproved chemotherapeutic agent since 1977, seemingly slithering around, under, over, and past all attempts to investigate him and shut him down. Along the way, Burzynski has become a hero…

Here we go again. Over the last month or so, I’ve been intermittently writing about a very sad case, a case that reminds me of too many cases that have come before, such as Abraham Cherrix, Kate Wernecke, Daniel Hauser, and Jacob Stieler. All of these are stories of children who were diagnosed with highly…