Medicine

So, in case you hadn’t noticed, I was taking a brief vacation, a long weekend if you will. As a result, I hadn’t planned on posting new completely original material until Wednesday or Thursday. (Monday’s post, some of you noticed, was a modified crosspost from my not-so-super-secret other blog.) Then something happened. You know you’re a committed blogger when your vacation can be interrupted by an overpowering urge to write about something in the news. Longtime regular readers (or even not-so-longtime regular readers) can probably guess right away what I’m talking about. Of course, I gave it…
It is an article of faith among believers in alternative cancer cures that conventional oncology consists mainly of a bunch of money-hungry surgeons and oncologists who want nothing more than to cut, poison, and burn patients with cancer and charge them enormous sums of money to do so for as long as they can until the poisonous chemotherapy finally kills them. It is an evil and malicious caricature, of course. People don’t endure four years of medical school, three to five years of residency, and three years of fellowship in order to be able to cut, poison, and burn without regard for whether…
It sounds like malpractice to me. That’s what I’ve been thinking ever since learning how poultry workers are treated (and not treated) for work-related injuries. The latest example comes from Pilgrim’s Pride, the largest US poultry processing company. Last week OSHA issued the first-ever citation in the industry for inappropriate medical care of repetitive motion injuries. The citation indicated: “The employer failed to make timely appropriate medical referrals for employees with injuries related to chronic and acute exposures and incidents, heavy lifting and persistent and continuous pain in…
“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.” -Mattie Stepanek It's been a fantastic week here at Starts With A Bang, where we've covered even more ground than normal! First off, for those of you not following me on SoundCloud, we've got a new science podcast out, on the last star in the Universe. Have a listen and enjoy; that's all possible thanks to the generous donations of our Patreon supporters, as are the re-runs of each article, ad-free, on a 7-day delay over on Medium. Here were the new pieces of this past week: Will the 'Great Attractor' defeat dark…
This morning, the Florida Department of Health reported a “high likelihood” of the first localized transmission of Zika virus from mosquito to person in the United States. Up until now, the more than 1,600 documented Zika cases in the continental U.S. have been related to travel abroad; however, the news from Florida likely means that local mosquitoes are carrying the virus. The news also means that although public health officials have long warned that this day would come, local Zika transmission got here quicker than help from Congress did. Back in February, President Obama requested $1.9…
Many are the times that I’ve discussed the issue of quack doctors. I’m not just referring to naturopaths, whose abbreviation ND stands to me for “not a doctor.” In fact, I’m referring to actual, real physicians, doctors with an “MD” or “DO” after their names, doctors who have graduated from reputable medical schools, completed residencies at reputable hospitals, done fellowships, and are respected members of their communities. I’m referring to MDs who have embraced quackery and thus made themselves indistinguishable from NDs. Actually, they are worse than NDs, because, as MDs and DOs, they…
I’ve frequently referred to “integrative medicine” as the “integration” of quackery with conventional, science-based medicine for the very good reason that that’s what it really is. However, advocates of medicine not based in science are nothing if not masters of marketing, which is how, over the course of three decades or so, “alternative medicine” morphed into “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), which ultimately morphed into its most recent incarnation, “integrative medicine.” The term “integrative medicine” is fantastic from a marketing perspective because it implies (and is…
Every year in the U.S., more than 32,000 people die due to gun-related violence, suicide and accidents. That number includes the deaths of seven children and teens every day. So it’s not surprising that health care providers — those who witness the tragic results of gun violence — are often vocal proponents of gun safety reform. But when it comes to the intimate patient-provider relationship, do people want to discuss gun safety with their doctors? A group of researchers set out to explore that question in what may be the first nationally representative survey on whether Americans feel it’s…
I’ve discovered an antivaccine loon I’ve never encountered before. At least, if I have encountered him, I don’t remember it. Basically, it happened this way. Not having found anything that fired me up to blog yet, I was perusing my usual collection of sites, both crank sites (as in antivaccine, quack, and pseudoscience) and medical/scientific sites, seeing if anything would grab my attention. Oddly enough, I happened upon the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism; even more oddly, for whatever reason, I haven’t really been paying much attention to AoA for the last few weeks. To be honest, AoA…
As a cancer surgeon and physician, I can’t stand Ty Bollinger. I’m sure that comes as a surprise to absolutely none of my regular readers, given what a massive cancer quack he is. Most recently, he has become known for a series of deeply dishonest videos about cancer, chemotherapy, and alternative treatments for cancer called The Truth About Cancer. If there’s one rule I’ve learned in skepticism, be it about quackery or any other outlandish claims, it’s that any time I see a book, movie, or article called “The Truth About...” chances are at least 95% that the content is not the truth about…
Mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, with more than 600 workers dying in fatal workplace incidents between 2004 and the beginning of July. And many more miners die long after they’ve left the mines from occupational illnesses such as black lung disease, while others live with the debilitating aftermath of workplace injuries. Today, researchers know a great deal about the health risks miners face on the job, but some pretty big gaps remain. Kristin Yeoman and her colleagues at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) hope to begin closing that knowledge…
On Respectful Insolence, Orac examines the dangers posed by experimental stem cell treatments, which are often offered outside the United States in order to avoid regulatory oversight. Orac writes that stem cell therapy is "moving from cutting edge science to applied science" but treatments are not yet refined to the point of being safe and effective. In the case of Jim Gass, a stroke patient who sought stem cell therapy at clinics around the world, the intervention proved to be disastrous, as cells injected into his lower back grew into a cancer-like mass that left him paralyzed from the…
Last week, I wrote about a man named Jim Gass, a former chief legal counsel for Sylvania, who had suffered a debilitating stroke in 2009 that left him without the use of his left arm, and weak left leg. He could still walk with a cane, but was understandably desperate to try anything to be able to walk unaided and function more normally in life. Unfortunately (at least given what ultimately happened), Mr. Gass was both driven enough, credulous enough, and wealthy enough to spend $300,000 pursuing stem cell tourism in China, Mexico, and Argentina over the course of four years. The result is…
If you grew up, as I did, a child of the 1970s in the US (I graduated from high school in 1980), you probably couldn’t escape the influence of Kris Kristofferson. He was big, and he was at his biggest during the 1970s, pumping out country music and mainstream hits, appearing in movies, and generally rocking an awesome beard. Anyway, the 1980s came, and Kris Kristofferson’s career went. Well, it didn’t exactly disappear. Kristofferson continued to work and appear in movies, and his records still sold fairly well. However, he was never again as big as he was in the 1970s. It turns out that…
There are reasons that I’m not a pediatrician. First, and foremost, I like surgery. Indeed, when I first entered medical school, my intent was to become an academic internist, but things didn’t quite work out that way. To my surprise, when I did my surgery rotation I liked it way more than I ever thought I would, even with the then 100+ hour weeks. (This was long before the time of work hour restrictions on residents or medical students.) Then, when I did my internal medicine rotation, I found it far less interesting than I thought I would. So when it came time to apply to residencies, I…
It's been over three weeks now since hockey legend Gordie Howe died at the age of 88. Detroit, as I've pointed out elsewhere, is a serious hockey town, as hockey-crazy as any town in Canada (just look at the fancy new hockey arena being built downtown only a mile from where I work), and it worshiped Gordie Howe for as long as I can remember growing up here. The reason I mentioned this is because in late 2014, Howe suffered a series of debilitating strokes that brought him close to death. He survived, but with major neurologic deficits. As a result of Gordie Howe's fame, representatives of a…
There are so many ridiculous alternative medicine treatments being “integrated” via “integrative” medicine into medicine, no matter how ridiculous they are, that it’s not only hard to believe, but it’s hard to keep track. Homeopathy is, of course, the most ridiculous, although “energy medicine” definitely gives homeopathy a run for its money in the Department of Stupid. The depressing thing is that most physicians, even “integrative medicine” physicians, know that homeopathy is bunk (at least when they even know what homeopathy is—most think it’s just herbal medicine). However, those same…
I’ve been writing about this topic so long—ever since the very beginning of this blog—that it seems as though I’ve always been doing it even though this blog has been in existence only 11 years and I didn’t really come to appreciate the problem until after I had started this blog. No, I’m not referring to the antivaccine movement, which is another longstanding concern of mine. This time, I’m referring to what I like to refer to as “quackademic medicine,” defined as the infiltration of unscientific and pseudoscientific medicine into medical academia. Indeed, there was a time when I tried to…
One of the most frequent complaints about evidence-based medicine (EBM), in contrast to science-based medicine (SBM), is its elevation of the randomized clinical trial as the be-all and end-all for clinical evidence for an intervention for a particular disease or condition. Unknown but enormous quantities of "digital ink" have been spilled explaining this distinction right here on this blog, and I tened to like to refer to this aspect of EBM as "methodolatry," a term I originally learned from another ScienceBlogs blogger (now moved on) and defined as profane worship of the randomized…
I sense a disturbance in the antivaccine force. I had meant to write about it the other day, but other things intervened. Really, there’s so much pseudoscience out there at times that on some days it’s hard to decide what to tackle, and sometimes I feel as though I’m writing about vaccines too much. However, this time around I felt as though I couldn’t ignore this one because it involves two highly annoying and fact-challenged antivaccine activists and an attempt to influence a Congressional Representative. The annoying antivaccine activists are Del Bigtree, the producer of Andrew Wakefield’s…