Wendy Pollack will hurt Tanzania

As regular FTSOS readers know, I visited Tanzania last year. It was an amazing experience filled with amazing people, both in my hiking group up Kilimanjaro and in the citizens I met. I can have nothing but goodwill for everyone I was fortunate enough to encounter. That’s why I find a Maine-based homeopathy group so distressing.

Homeopathy for Health in Africa is affiliated with Homeopaths Without Borders. The Mission of Homeopathy for Health in Africa: To relieve the suffering of as many HIV/AIDS patients as possible using classical homeopathy.

The leader of the group is Wendy Pollack, holder of a quacking chiropractic license in Maine. The area she will specifically be visiting is the Kilimanjaro region. I’ve been all through it. It’s composed of rampant poverty. The medical “facilities” consist of small shacks of basic medicine, most of which can be found in the first half of aisle 14 at your local Rite-Aid. I made sure to purchase evacuation insurance before departing because I wasn’t about to find my way into a Tanzanian hospital if anything happened; I never needed it, but seeing that part of the country only confirmed that I had made a good purchase.

All Pollack and her gang of anti-science quacks are going to achieve is the raising of ignorant hopes. It’s deplorable and horribly saddening. A whole bunch of very poor, very needy people are about to get a false helping hand.

I’ve been considering making a post or two describing how best to save money, which company to use, etc, when going to Kilimanjaro. I think I’ll wait until Pollack has left.

Thought of the day

While in Vegas I expected a lot of people itching to get money any way they could, no matter how dishonest they had to be. That’s why the excessive foot reflexology and chiropractic practices really didn’t surprise me.

Simon Singh wins

Simon Singh is a physicist and author who has been facing legal challenges from a bunch of U.K. chiropractors who sued after he called them out for being quacks. His legal woes at first looked mournful as decisions were going against him, but he has just won his appeal.

Dr Singh questioned the claims of some chiropractors over the treatment of certain childhood conditions.

The High Court had said the words were fact not opinion – meaning Dr Singh could not use the fair comment defence.

However, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley ruled High Court judge Mr Justice Eady had “erred in his approach” last May, and allowed Dr Singh’s appeal.

BBC News science correspondent Pallab Ghosh says that, had Justice Eady’s ruling stood, it would have made it difficult for any scientist or science journalist to question claims made by companies or organisations without opening themselves up to a libel action that would be hard to win.

Two things. First, the U.K. has extravagant names for its justices. Second, this is great news for science. It’s an all too common tactic of quacks to threaten lawsuits. Their goal is to quash criticism; they damn well know what they pedal has little to no evidence. To expose that fact is to undermine the whole PR machine that keeps these people in business.

Dr Singh described the ruling as “brilliant”, but added that the action had cost £200,000 “just to define the meaning of a few words”.

Again, the hope of the chiropractors was that this excessive cost associated with these legal matters would result in a settlement. The Guardian, where Singh’s article originally appeared, had even offered to pay to settle. Fortunately, Singh fought for the intergrity of the scientific process and pushed ahead with all the court proceedings. (The Guardian still chose to pay for his legal advice.)

The British Chiropractic Association said it was disappointed to lose the appeal but it was “not the end of the road”.

BCA president Richard Brown said: “We are considering whether to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and subsequently proceed to trial.

“Our original argument remains that our reputation has been damaged. The BCA brought this claim only to uphold its good name and protect its reputation, honesty and integrity”.

The distinction between chiropractors with real medical training who can actually offer people help and sometimes even effective therapy versus those who are just quacks is becoming increasingly useless because the field has such low standards. I have no idea what Richard Brown is thinking when he actually claims his association has this so-called honesty and integrity. Perhaps it’s fair to say a few individuals are reputable (within particular constraints and boundaries), but as a whole? No. Even if this decision went against Singh (forcing him to defend his comments as fact as opposed to opinion), he would still eventually win. It’s just too implausible to think so many people can honestly think so many things to be true without any evidence.

Oh wait.

Not that hard to believe

Chiropractors in Connecticut are fighting against a proposal that would require them to inform ‘patients’ about the link between cervical manipulation and strokes. The article here is more or less an op-ed, but it had one part that especially stood out.

I just can’t believe that chiropractors are against informing patients because they fear losing business.

Really? Really? They’re chiropractors. They range from offering vaguely effective physical therapy (which is a manner of non-chiropractic training) to being expensive masseuses to causing strokes. Maybe worst of all, they are always attempting to raise their status.

“This measure would be redundant,” Pagano said, because it would be “singling out” chiropractors. Under state law, all doctors must inform patients about potentially risky treatment.

Since chiropractors are not doctors, it would not be redundant.