White Coat Underground

Archives for December, 2009

Why is health reporting so hard?

C’mon, Times, it’s not like you’re some kind of penny-ante operation. You’ve got at least modest resources, you know like the internet and telephones to call up experts. Right? I don’t know whether it’s a lack of resources, laziness, or ignorance that allows pieces like this one into the paper, but it doesn’t change the…

Death of a scam artist

Oral Robers, a man infamous for his televangelism and faith healing, died yesterday. The coverage of his life helps remind me why I’m a skeptic. There are many wonderful skeptical bloggers out there—I’m not one of them. Sure, I aim a skeptical pen at improbable medical claims, but my posts aren’t dripping with skepticism in…

Swine flu—unequal killer

One of my favorite publications is the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). It’s put out weekly by the CDC and allows for rapid communication of emerging or interesting health trends. This week the CDC is reporting an extraordinary death rate from influenza in American Indians/Native Alaskans (AI/NA). Collecting data like this presents several challenges,…

More dangerous naturopathic nonsense

After reading the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Physician’s idiotic flu handout I decided to see what our American naturopaths had to say about flu. It’s not good. The most effective way to prevent influenza is through vaccination. Good hand hygiene probably helps. Nothing else really does, but that has never stopped quacks from making wildly…

Naturopaths getting it wrong in Canada

Over at Skeptic North there has been an ongoing discussion about naturopathy. Since it looks like naturopaths are going to get prescribing privileges in Ontario, it’s reasonable to subject their practice to some pretty intense scrutiny. One naturopath left some interesting comments about treatment of heart disease, citing relevant literature, but failed to show an…

Just a bit more on Merry Xmas

I guess I hadn’t realized how attached people are to their holiday greetings. There are a number of comments that deserve some examination here, at least if you have any interest in living comfortably in a multi-cultural society. Since it’s my blog, I get to yank the comments out of context and focus on some…

Happy Blogiversary to Orac!

One of the blogosphere’s best known skeptics hit a milestone today. Orac at Respectful Insolence has now been fighting ignorance for five years. That’s like, oh, about 30 in blog years. Why don’t you go over there and wish him a happy blogiversary. He deserves it. Folks like Orac who publicly call out quacks get…

Merry Chirstm–er–

It’s not always easy to figure out that you are not normative. If you grow up in an ethnic enclave, when you’re young you probably think everyone is black/Spanish-speaking/Korean. When I was a little kid one of my parents’ friends remarried. I remarked on how the new wife was Jewish. My mom corrected me. “But…

Medical nihilism

Human medicine advances in the way much of science does. People make systematic observations, form plausible hypotheses, and collect data. One of the more important questions in medicine is how people are affected by certain exposures. When that exposure is a medicine, we prefer data from double-blinded, randomized controlled trials. Other types of exposures (such…

Primary Care Challenge, Part II

Some time ago I issued a naturopath challenge in which I invited naturopaths to analyse a typical primary care problem. Today, I’d like to issue a broader challenge. With health care reform in the works, it would be wise to look north (or in my case, south) to our Canadian neighbo(u)rs, but not for the…