Some times the quackery makes me laugh

There’s a lot that distresses me about naturopaths and other quacks. They are a genuine danger to the health of all those who encounter them. This may be in the form of an active danger – cases abound of them prescribing contra-indicated drugs – or it may be in the form of a more passive danger, such as when someone with an easily treatable but potentially deadly disease is misdiagnosed by one of these poorly trained charlatans – but they are a danger any way one wishes to look at it. That said, that doesn’t mean the ineffective methods of these quacks can’t be hilarious. Take this interview with Portland quack Sarah Kotzur:

To determine the best course of treatment, including an appropriate homeopathic remedy, Dr. Kotzur spends two hours with a new patient. “I’m trying to know you as a whole person,” she says. “I’m going to ask about what kind of dreams you have, what kind of food you crave. What is your body temperature? Do you sweat? Are you thirsty?”

Emphasis mine, hilarity Kotzur’s. One wonders how she decides to interpret this arbitrary information when ‘treating’ one of her ‘patients’. If the person has dreams where they can’t run fast, does that mean she prescribes a dose of treadmill time? Tough to tell, but I’d venture a guess that most of her ‘treatments’ come down to garlic, some sort of berry, and/or what is basically water.

The rest of the article goes into attempting to legitimize the practice by noting how it works with insurance and licensing:

Naturopathy has come a long way since the 1980s. There are currently six accredited schools of naturopathic medicine in the United States and 16 states now offer practice licenses. Maine has been licensing naturopathic doctors since 1996.

What the article failed to mention, and what naturopaths don’t want people to know, is that naturopathy is specifically banned in South Carolina and Tennessee. It isn’t medicine, it isn’t related to science, and every single one of its practitioners is a quack.

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More on the destruction of the Fourth Amendment

In case you missed it: The Supreme Court has ruled that the police can take a DNA sample from a person without probable cause, without a warrant, and without a conviction. So long as a person has been arrested for a felony, he is subject to an intrusion upon his body. It’s an overt violation of the Fourth Amendment that, given the specific arguments of the Court, will undoubtedly lead to DNA sampling for absolutely any crime for which one may be arrested, including jaywalking or running a red light.

There are incredible problems with all this. First, unlike with fingerprinting, the point of DNA sampling is not to identify a suspect. The sole point is to solve other crimes. This is the explicit intent of the state legislatures that have passed such laws. It is exactly the same as if a state legislature declared that a person’s home was automatically subject to being searched upon that person’s arrest. The police are now allowed to go on horseshit fishing expeditions.

Second, while there are often restrictions placed upon what the police are allowed to do with your DNA, that can be changed on a whim by a given state’s governing body. Moreover, do you trust the government to keep its blinders on? If you had a 100 page journal and a judge told the prosecution that it could read it but it had to stick to pages 14-17, do you really think that would happen? Of course not. Pages 1-13 and 18-100 would be absolutely scoured, regardless whether or not the information found therein could be used directly against you.

The only civil liberties decisions of the past 100 years more important than this one are Brown v Board of Education and Loving v Virginia. Every American is forever subject to suspicionless searches and seizures, less the states pass a sorely needed amendment to the constitution.

What killed Andreas Moritz?

Andreas Moritz, a man who put people in danger by directing them away from real medical treatment, died at least two weeks ago. According to various places on the Interwebs, his cause of death would be released soon after his funeral. However, that doesn’t appear to have been accurate information. There is no information available anywhere on his website to date, and people on his Facebook page are getting upset that quotes by him keep getting posted without anyone saying a single thing about how he died. I suppose there isn’t really a hard timeline when it comes to funerals, but it has always been my experience that they occur within a week of death. Something seems fishy. Just take a look at this tribute on his website:

It is natural for all of us to wonder about the cause of a dear one’s passing. As we know, the soul will find an effective way – an ‘exit strategy,’ if you will – to accomplish its loving, compassionate journey home to the higher realms once our Mission and soul’s work is complete on Earth. Many of us have read about spiritual teachers, including well-known yogis and Masters, who have transcended into the Light in any number of ways. When it is ‘our time,’ the soul will find an outlet to accomplish this transition purpose.

I usually only find myself thinking about topic sentences when someone misuses the concept of them. This is one of those times. It appears as though whoever wrote this tribute thought about addressing questions over Moritz’s cause of death, but quickly changed course. That leads me to the unfortunate conclusion that it is unlikely anyone outside Moritz’s family and friends will ever know what killed him.

But let’s not be coy: I strongly suspect he died of cancer or some other disease he spent decades upon decades campaigning against getting treated properly. If that is the case, then it makes sense that his family and followers wouldn’t want to go public with the cause of death. It isn’t hard to figure out why that is, but I’ll spell it out: If he died of a treatable type of cancer, then everything he worked to do will be undermined. His death would likely be the result of his own negligence and the ineffectiveness of the malarkey he practiced and promoted. Everything people in the sciences have been telling him would be bolstered and his career as a snake oil salesman would be exposed.

Let me emphasize one thing, though: This is only a suspicion of mine. I am not claiming that he died of any particular cause. If it turns out that he was in a car accident, it can’t be said I ever denied that as a possibility. I just simply suspect there is a compelling reason why his people refuse to say anything.

Don’t buy the alternative medicine cancer cure testimonials

Orac, that defender of all things good, has yet another excellent post about how quackery gets peddled. In this case, some of the promotion is done by the very people who will get hurt by it:

[M]any breast cancer cure testimonials involve either lesions that are not cancer, lesions where it’s unclear whether the cancer has changed, or, most commonly, stories in which the cancer has been removed surgically and the woman refuses adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy, such as Suzanne Somers’ or Hollie Quinn’s breast cancer cure testimonial. In these latter forms of breast cancer cure testimonials, it was the surgery that cured the cancer, but naturally the woo-prone, having refused the adjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiation that decrease the chance of the cancer coming back, decide that it was the woo du jour that they chose that actually saved them.

The post goes on to talk about a woman by the name Inger Hartelius who, after being diagnosed with cancer, was given a book by our old friend Andreas Moritz. Through that book and a desire to seek out alternative ‘help’, Hartelius found some other quack by the name of Robert O. Young. I’ve never heard of the guy before, but he apparently believes that acid is the root of all cancer. It isn’t and he is a quack. Unfortunately, Hartelius was able to find Young; now she has a testimonial:

My health is now much better than it was before, I sleep at night, my weight is stable, my lung capacity has grown – I feel so much more alive – which is hard to explain. I have no signs that I’m sick with cancer and now I know I am not going to die of this cancer.

I’m just going to point out what Orac points out in his post: She never says anything objective about her tumor. She doesn’t tell us if it has shrunk, if it is stable, if it has grown. She doesn’t tell us if it was removed during the biopsy, as is sometimes the case. She doesn’t tell us anything other than that she feels better. And that’s often how these testimonials go. We are given little information much of the time, and when we are given better details, it is often forgotten to attribute progress properly. For instance, some people will undergo surgery but forgo chemotherapy and radiation therapy, instead opting for some line of quackery. When they get lucky and their cancer doesn’t return (or when they give their testimonial prior to its return), they attribute their progress to whatever quack treatment they’ve been receiving. The reality is that the surgery is what got them to a better state of health. The alternative medicine just cost them more money.

Deepak Chopra quote generator

I love this:

Via Unreasonable Faith we find that there is a robotic program, “The Wisdom of Chopra,” that can generate Deepak Deepities. Before going there, try the Unreasonable Faith quiz: which of these four statements was actually said by Chopra, and which were generated by the program:

“Perception is inherent in cosmic possibilities”;
“Interdependence inspires quantum life”;
“Hidden meaning is serving your own evolution”;
“Freedom heals self-righteous knowledge”.

My guess was the first one. I’ll let readers copy and paste the quotes into Google to find out the answer for themselves.

Anyway, here is the description of the quote generator:

It has been said by some that the thoughts and tweets of Deepak Chopra are indistinguishable from a set of profound sounding words put together in a random order, particularly the tweets tagged with “#cosmisconciousness”. This site aims to test that claim! Each “quote” is generated from a list of words that can be found in Deepak Chopra’s Twitter stream randomly stuck together in a sentence.

Here is my first result:

Eternal stillness is inherent in cosmic facts.

Seen on Facebook

Here’s a ridiculous status I recently saw on Facebook:

Incredible outbreak of healings tonight at the [Connecticut] outpouring!! Life debilitating diseases and ailments instantly healed! Yay God!

I left a couple of comments asking who would be receiving the Nobel Prize for this discovery, but they were quickly deleted. It’s almost as if there is absolutely no proof that prayer works in the least. Let me break it down in this flowchart:

What’s the harm in naturopathy?

It’s no secret that naturopathy is pure quackery. Indeed, part of its premise is vitalism, a concept which has no physical basis. It is the practice and love of those who are no better than 9/11 conspiracy nuts or birthers; it’s nothing more than a hipster-like reaction to something that has been established as true. And it comes with great harm:

Anne M. Adkins
Wichita, Kansas – Kidney failure
January 6 – 26, 2004
She traveled to Utah to be treated by a holistic naturopath. She received large doses of vitamin C, chelation therapy and colonics among other things. Within weeks she was suffering from kidney failure.

Lorie Atikian
Age: 17 months
Ontario, Canada
Died (malnutrition, pneumonia)
September 25, 1987
Lorie’s parents, concerned about modern food additives, were advised to give her an organic vegetarian diet. She was also treated with herbal & homeopathic remedies and an energy machine. Her parents were convicted of neglect.

Cameron Ayres
Age: 6 months
Fulham, west London, England
Died
May 1999
Cameron was born with a rare but treatable disorder, but his parents distrusted conventional medicine. A nurse/homeopath begged them to take him to a doctor, but they refused. He died.

Raj Bathija
Age: 69
Westminster, London, England
Both legs amputated
September 2005
He saw a “natural health practitioner” famous for treating celebrities. He was given nutritional advice and massages. Later, he was taken to a hospital where his legs had to be amputated. He is suing the practitioner.

Debbie Benson
Age: 55
Fort Bragg, California
Died (cancer)
July 15, 1997
She had a deep distrust of traditional medicine, so she sought out naturopaths and other alternative practitioners for her breast cancer. It raged out of control and she died.

Catherine “Cat” Elizabeth Bresina
Age: 17
Wheatridge, Colorado (from Wisconsin)
Cardiac arrest
March 25, 2004
Cat’s family took her to Colorado for what they thought was an inventive therapy for her disease. An injection she was given during the treatment caused her heart to stop. Charges were later filed against the naturopath.

I’ve only given 5 of the 200 instances of naturopathy-induced harm from that one website. Just imagine how many more there are every year throughout the world. And not instances of simple malpractice or clerical errors or bad luck. These are instances of ignorant, untrained individuals trying to play doctor. I have no respect for these people.