. . . or as Dr Barrett refers to it more accurately, Insurance Reform.
On Friday, Sarah Avery of the News & Observer reported on her interview with the now-retired Pennsylvania psychiatrist who started the Quackwatch.com website in 1996 following years of investigating fraudulent health practices.
From the Quackwatch Mission Statement:
Quackwatch is now an international network of people who are concerned about health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct. Its primary focus is on quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere. Founded by Dr. Stephen Barrett in 1969 as the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud (Allentown, Pennsylvania), it was incorporated in 1970. In 1997, it assumed its current name and began developing a worldwide network of volunteers and expert advisors.
Avery reports that Barrett has been particularly effective in drawing attention to the quackery and dangers of chiropractors:
Call the American Chiropractic Association, mention Barrett’s name, and the response is a groan.
“Uhhhg,” said spokeswoman Caitlin Lukacs, “I’ll try to find someone to comment.”
No one called.
A Google search for chiropractors lends a possible explanation. Barrett’s Quackwatch page pops up as the fifth site listed out of 6.5 million, indicating it’s one of the most frequently visited among people looking for chiropractics.
He loves it.
“It’s good to be in the top 10,” he says and grins.
In his “retirement,” Dr Barrett and colleagues are now providing critical information to debunk myths about health care reform at Insurance Reform Watch. As Avery reports:
Now he has put together a health reform truth squad, a group of fellow retirees that includes a past admissions officer at Harvard University, a UNC-Chapel Hill academic, a doctor, two dentists, an economist and a one-time New York City insurance fraud investigator.
Their mission: to vet some of the wilder claims of those opposed to current health-care proposals and publish them on the Internet.
“Most of it is sheer baloney,” Barrett says.
In essence, Insurance Reform Watch is applying the same basic critical thinking tenets of Quackwatch to the health care debate:
John Hammond, a professor emeritus of pathology and lab medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill, says the group decided recently to go public with its findings as the debate grew more rancorous and certain assertions began to be repeated.
“All this garbage needs to be debunked,” Hammond says, pointing to one claim that older Americans will lose access to their doctors if more people are covered. “That’s so morally bankrupt you can’t even begin to consider it as a rational response.”
Beyond Avery’s article itself, the comment thread there is worth reading briefly as it deteriorates almost from the start with the accusations that since Dr Barrett is a registered Democrat and physician, he cannot be objective. Coupled with the “some alternative medicine works because Duke and UNC have acupuncturists on staff” and you’ve got all the makings of epileptic seizures for my colleagues, Orac and PalMD.
Welcome to our little slice of heaven, Dr Barrett. Bora Zivkovic and I look forward to coffee with you.
Watch Insurance Reform Watch as the site is updated during continued national debate on this topic.
Photo credit: Harry Lynch, News & Observer