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.

Colloidal silver and naturopaths

If someone randomly asked me what I thought of the idea of injecting silver into the body, I would say I presume it’s toxic, but I don’t know. I would then do a 30 second search on the effects of the stuff and discover that it offers no medical benefits and, in fact, can lead to the condition known as argyria. This is when the skin turns a grey/blue color for life. Apparently it’s only cosmetic, but so are many other disfigurements:

Now, if someone asked the same question to a naturopath or any other quack, the result might be this, especially in Vermont: “Oh, sure, it’s great stuff. Really great stuff. Do you want an injection? I’m legally allowed to put this poison into your body, after all.” They would say this because Vermont, like several other states, allows naturopaths to prescribe certain things for ‘patients’. One of these things is colloidal silver, which is just silver suspended in a solution. My hope is the Green Mountain State is unique in its allowance to naturopaths to poison people, but I’m not sure.

Check out the anger of one person afflicted with argyria:

If NDs had known as much about medicine as I, an educated consumer, do, they would have searched the medical literature before including anything in their formulary. If they had done that, they would have seen that: there are no studies showing that ingesting silver in any form or amount offers benefits; colloidal silver does not treat eye infections; taking silver internally or putting it in your eye can result in permanent discoloration.

If NDs had checked common toxicology reference books, they would have seen that silver causes argyria. If they had looked at old pharmacology books, they would have found warnings about the uselessness and danger of taking it internally. If they had checked current ones, they would have discovered that those practicing scientific medicine discarded silver long ago.

If NDs followed notices published by NCCAM, the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, or the FDA, they would have seen consumer warnings as well as the FDA rule in the Federal Register stating that silver cannot be used as a drug because ingesting it offers no benefits and is dangerous.

If NDs had googled “silver” or “colloidal silver”, they would have learned all of the above.

If they followed the mainstream media, they would have seen Paul Karason or me. The local, national and international media has covered our stories extensively. Paul was on Oprah. Consumers Reports listed “colloidal silver” among its latest list of “dirty dozen” supplements to be avoided. The Wall Street Journal said, “federal regulators say it a total scam”.

(Paul Karason is the guy pictured above.)

I find it just deplorable that we license these people at all, but to allow them prescription rights is actively dangerous. Even if they manage to not prescribe contraindicated drugs – something I doubt most of them are even aware should be a concern – they still have the right to effectively give people poison. It’s awful.

via SBM

Sunny cream

As my guide in Africa frequently said, bring much sunny cream. It’s going to protect against both sunburns and cancer. (Get the stuff with UVB and UVA protection.)

If anyone is wondering, yes, I’ve been trawling a few random naturopath sites. I find it extremely disheartening that these evil little quacks are so eager to increase the rate of cancer by discouraging the use of sun lotion. I’m sure a few wouldn’t mind having more ‘patients’ to abuse financially, but I think the majority of them just hate science so much that they’re willing to do anything so long as it builds up their anti-science street cred among fellow quacks.

Naturopaths and oncology

It is wildly, spectacularly, crushingly and crashingly unacceptable that naturopaths think they know a damn thing about treating cancer.

The mind boggles that this “specialty” has its own board certification. How long before naturopathic oncologists push for special privileges in the states that license naturopaths? It’s not even beyond my imagination to visualize them applying for, and getting, the prescribing power to administer chemotherapy along with their herbs, supplements, and other woo. Why would naturopathic oncologists even want this? Easy. For the same reason that naturopaths in general seem to be seeking prescribing power: Real drugs work, and if one mixes real drugs with naturopathy then patients will tend to attribute the success not to the evil pharmaceutical drug but rather to the naturopathic nostrum.

These quacks are an unsavory bunch.

Read the rest of Orac’s article to really get a grasp on how naturopaths are going to harm the well-being of cancer patients.

Richard Maurer is a quack

I was going over an old post when I realized I had spelled the name of a naturopathic quack incorrectly. I referred to Richard Maurer as Richard Mauler. Whoops.

Immediately after correcting his name, I did a quick search and found his blog. It’s a lot of the traditional malarkey from naturopaths: a lot of noise and a smidgen of Gish Gallop from non-experts who are out of their amateurish field. But this post stood out to me in particular.

In this case the study summary says it all.

“Vitamin D3 supplementation during the winter is linked to lower incidence of influenza A, particularly in specific subgroups of schoolchildren, according to the results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial reported online in the March 10 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”

Sounds reasonable enough, right? Of course it does. There actually is a study which draws that link. But that’s all it does. It cites its small sample size alongside the lack of testing for most compounding factors (such as antibodies) as weaknesses in the research. Anyone who concludes that there is anything more than a link between vitamin D3 and a decreased incidence in influenza A is a quack. And you all know what’s coming. But hang out, I’ll even quote the abstract from the study.

RESULTS: Influenza A occurred in 18 of 167 (10.8%) children in the vitamin D(3) group compared with 31 of 167 (18.6%) children in the placebo group [relative risk (RR), 0.58; 95% CI: 0.34, 0.99; P = 0.04]. The reduction in influenza A was more prominent in children who had not been taking other vitamin D supplements (RR: 0.36; 95% CI: 0.17, 0.79; P = 0.006) and who started nursery school after age 3 y (RR: 0.36; 95% CI: 0.17, 0.78; P = 0.005). In children with a previous diagnosis of asthma, asthma attacks as a secondary outcome occurred in 2 children receiving vitamin D(3) compared with 12 children receiving placebo (RR: 0.17; 95% CI: 0.04, 0.73; P = 0.006). CONCLUSION: This study suggests that vitamin D(3) supplementation during the winter may reduce the incidence of influenza A, especially in specific subgroups of schoolchildren.

It’s an interesting result, but no competent doctor is going to make recommendations based upon it. That isn’t to say doctors don’t have other reasons for recommending vitamin D; this just isn’t one of them. But does that stop the quack brigade from marching in the streets? Nah. Check out the title of Maurer’s blog post.

Vitamin D, as suspected, prevents the flu.

Christopher Maloney tried pulling this same garbage when he claimed black elderberry can “block” H1N1. Given the drubbing Maloney got back then in December, it’s curious that Maurer would repeat the same sort of anti-medical trash just a few months later. Vitamin D does no such thing. Maurer is either lying or incompetent. I won’t argue against anyone who claims he’s both.

It’s this sort of stuff that helps to solidify the naturopath’s leadership among charlatans.

“Do you wish to file a complaint?”

The title of this post is also the content of an email I received from someone in the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, Office of Licensing and Registration. To what was she responding, you ask?

A naturopathic doctor is not allowed to claim he is a doctor under Maine law. He must use the term “naturopathic doctor” or some similar phrasing. The intent behind this law is clearly to avoid confusing naturopaths with standard doctors.

That is why Christopher Maloney is so concerning. On his website, he expressly says he is a doctor under his “WHO AM I?” section.

Also, in a comment section on a blog post, he claims to practice medicine. This is also prohibited under Maine law.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/02/christopher_maloney_still_a_qu.php#comment-2285801

Of course, my answer to her question is a certain yes. Naturopaths like Christopher Maloney are legitimately dangerous by the very virtue of naturopathy.

If anyone else would like to file a complaint against Maloney, it can be done so by sending an email here.

Is Scienceblogs going to shutdown PZ?

Will Scienceblogs.com follow in the brilliant footsteps of WordPress.com? When non-doctor doctor Christopher Maloney whined when I called him not a doctor on FTSOS, WordPress shut me down for two days without an explanation (shoot first, ask questions later!). So I wonder if Scienceblogs will do the same thing to PZ Myers?

A doctor in Texas was peddling herbal crap on the side, got reported, and retaliated by charging the whistleblowers with a crime. Oh, well…at least we can console ourselves with the idea that he wasn’t really a doctor, but just a fraud with an M.D.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! He can’t say that a doctor isn’t really a doctor! That’s libel!

Wait.

Wait.

That’s right. It would be moronic to think it was libel. More importantly, PZ noted the guy had a degree and was credentialed under state law, but that that’s irrelevant to a good definition of what a doctor is. It’s almost like I can read basic English! So,

Dear WordPress and non-doctor doctor Christopher Maloney,

If you would like a detailed explanation of how to analyze PZ’s post, please leave a comment below. If you would like a bonus explanation of how this relates to what I said, I will be glad to help you out.

Also, Chris, please stop “treating” patients.

~Yours,
English departments and scientists everywhere

The placebo effect

Hear that naturopaths? Lying is not ethical.

WordPress, naturopaths, and whining

Some of my more regular readers will have noticed a recent lack of posting here. The reason isn’t that I’ve been crazy busy, had computer troubles, or anything of that nature. It’s actually that WordPress decided to block me from posting at all. I couldn’t even save drafts. It took nearly two days until anyone managed to tell me a damn thing about this message:

Warning: We have a concern about some of the content on your blog.

It then goes on to give a link for contacting them to resolve the issue but then inanely tells me to send a report. No, WordPress. The onus isn’t on me to tell you why you’re fucking up.

Before I say what the response was, I want to point out the sort of irresponsible crap WordPress does. It’s similar to what YouTube does: someone makes a complaint about content and a video gets taken down. The user must then wait to have someone review his material before it gets put back up. WordPress does the same thing with its bloggers. Unless one is an utter idiot, it isn’t difficult to see how this opens the system up to abuse. In fact, WordPress knows about the abuse.

TOS reports are currently overwhelmed by a politically motivated flood of complaints. Sorry.

Any jamoke can make a complaint and get someone shut down for no good reason. And sometimes it gets worse – somewhere buried in those forums was an instance where a user uploaded illegal music, was told to take it down, took it down, and then was blocked from posting 4 hours later. WordPress has an irresponsible system that needs as much fixing as YouTube.

But my case is slightly different. Here’s the response I finally got from “Mark”.

Hi,

You wrote:
“I cannot overstate this fact: Naturopaths are not doctors and they are not
qualified. They cherry-pick evidence, often lie and misrepresent facts.
Recently, a local naturopathic “doctor,” Christopher Maloney, wrote a letter
in which he committed himself to that third possibility”

“Maloney is NOT a doctor! He has NO qualifications which earn him that title.”

We were sent:
Dr Maloney is a licensed Maine State Doctor, license number ND240. He is
recognized under Maine state law: Title 32: PROFESSIONS AND OCCUPATIONS
Chapter 113-B: COMPLEMENTARY HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS HEADING: PL 1995, C. 671,
§13 (NEW) Subchapter 3: NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE LICENSING REQUIREMENTS AND
SCOPE OF PRACTICE HEADING: PL 1995, C. 671, §13.

Please edit your statements to include his qualifications or delete your statements.

Thank you.

Mark

Ah, so there it is. Naturopaths know they practice quackery. They know reasonable people do not trust them. They know the medical community rejects their bullshit. All they have is attacking a two month old post based upon a technicality.

I have since edited the post to read as follows:

Maloney is NOT a doctor by any reasonable measures – and Maine’s measures are not reasonable! He has NO qualifications which earn him that title beyond the state’s bogus measurements!**

**Maloney whined to WordPress to make me change this. I originally said he was not a doctor at all. Under the technicality of Maine law, he is a doctor. But he’s a dangerous one because he lies about the efficacy of treatments to suit his purposes. And, again, he is not allowed to practice naturopathy in two states.

But I shouldn’t have to make that alteration. In that same post I said this.

…but let’s not pretend that these people are actually qualified to be doling out medical advice. As I note in my letter, people run the risk of taking contra-indicated drugs if we start treating naturopaths as real doctors.

As a naturopath, Chris Maloney is not qualified to tell anyone jackshit about anything to do with their health – because naturopaths are not actually qualified according to normal medical standards. God damn it. I hate throwing up all these qualifiers. Is WordPress as bad at reading as Maloney evidently is? I clearly made a distinction between naturopaths and traditional doctors. I don’t care what the state of Maine says. It’s all a bunch of legalese bull designed to force people to respect quacks.

I shouldn’t need to point out in every sentence that Maloney is a doctor, but not per my and the medical community’s standards. Hell, look at the original letter I had written to my local paper (which is also contained in that same aforementioned post).

But it hits closer to home than that. Maine is just one of several states that give these vastly underqualified “doctors” such [prescription] rights.

I noted that Maloney gets rights under Maine law. My beef is that he shouldn’t.

This is as if a state made voodoo doctors members of the medical community and WordPress made threats every time someone said these people weren’t actually doctors or qualified for anything.

Naturopaths are dangerous quacks

Over at Terra Sig on scienceblogs.com there is an article about the current danger facing some people in Canada who may fall for the charlatan work of naturopaths. The Ontario legislature is considering passing a bill which will allow naturopathic quacks to give out prescriptions. It’s utter lunacy.

Naturopaths (I’m not sure if that’s the proper term, but they aren’t proper doctors, so fuck them) are not qualified to do anything substantial. These people run the risk of prescribing contra-indicated medicines, offering ‘treatments’ which actually ignore the real problem, and allowing them prescription rights will give them respect they have not earned. People may actually seek out these mountebanks thinking they are getting real help. They aren’t.

I recently wrote about Christopher Maloney, charlatan-extraordinaire. He wrote into the local paper implying that black elderberry has vaccination properties for H1N1. He completely misrepresented a small study (which wasn’t even directly on H1N1) and he has put people at risk. He’s a dangerous liar who is unqualified to be giving out medical advice in such a manner. The worst thing about him is that he isn’t an exception – he’s an example, an example of the sort of cherry-picking, misrepresenting, lying, dangerous people who populate the yellow pages under “naturopathic ‘medicine'”.

Here I am reposting a laundry list (originally by Steve Thomas) of why naturopaths should not be given the considerations we offer real doctors.

1) With 23,000 doctors in Ontario, and fewer then 1000 naturopaths, the argument that granting naturopaths prescription rights will ease the burden on the healthcare system is a bit silly.

2) The assertion that the body has the potential to heal itself is not a scientific one. When given “natural” support only, the body will die by the age of 45, probably of infectious diseases. Modern advances in medicine make long-life possible, not herbs and roots from a 2,000 year old playbook.

3) Saying “science” doesn’t make it so. The call of “the healing power of nature at work” to be not magic, but good science, is ridiculous on its face….the human body is really good at succumbing to pathogens and injury, and the “natural” world is really good at killing us.

4) Old and tradition do not a science make. Yes, herbal supplements have been around for centuries. So has prostitution. Old doesn’t mean effective. It means old. I want my medicine to be new, awesome, and if possible, administered by a robot from the future.

5) Regulation does not a science make, even if it was 85 years ago.

6) I wonder, what is the naturopathic remedy for a broken bone? For that matter, how effective is naturopathic birth control?

7) Why the natural fetish? If you’re dying from a disease, do you really care if your treatment is “natural” or not? Why take an herbal supplement that a person tells you *might* work, when you could take the most recent advances in medical technology that we know *will* work?

8) Natural doesn’t mean safe. It doesn’t mean effective. Arsenic, poisonous mushrooms, gravel and bird-crap are also natural and you don’t see me putting them into my body.

9) Lets not forget that many people see a naturopath because they’re dazzled by the word “Naturopathic Doctor, or ND”. Let’s be perfectly clear: Naturopaths are NOT doctors. The Naturopathy Act, 2007 allows them to be called “Naturopaths”, not “doctors.” You need to go to medical school to be called a doctor. Naturopaths just granted themselves that title as a subtle PR stunt.

10) What is the diagnostic method a naturopath uses to test if a body is “in balance”? What laboratory equipment can you use to check for “wellness”?

11) The calls that naturopaths aim to treat the root cause is nonsense, otherwise they wouldn’t be asking to prescribe pain-killers, and anti-inflammatories.

12) If naturopathy is just as effective as medicine, then why don’t these naturopaths just go to med school?

13) The medical community is constantly advocating good health, diet, nutrition and exercise…naturopaths don’t have a monopoly on knowing the merits of preventative health.

14) Naturopathic college of Ontario requires a 4-year Bachelor’s eduction, but does not require for a Bsc or any science pre-requisites. The historical GPA for entry to the CCNM is 3.3 (ranging from 2.8-3.7). Compare that to Med school, which is turning away people with 4.0 averages.

15) The length of time for training is meaningless if the education quality is so lackluster. I can study levitation for 20 years but it doesn’t mean that I could fly.

16) “Every review of our record has recognized the safety of the more natural approach of naturopathic care.” Every review? Really? Black Cohosh, anyone?

17) The authors conveniently left out the deaths attributed to naturopathic prescriptions in Washington and Oregon, showing once again their contempt for honest data-gathering and fondness for cherry-picking whatever information suits their pre-conceived narrative.

18) The CCNM is NOT associated with ANY Canadian university, and it’s dishonest to artificially conflate the two together, even if you’re being indirect about it.

19) “The need for NDs to have prescribing authority was accepted by every other regulated health profession” Not even close to accurate! The bill passed the first two readings because the relevant health care communities had approved of their OWN amendments, and was not reflective of the naturopathy amendments.

20) The CCNM also is also teaching homeopathy and colonic irrigation, neither of which do anything beyond a placebo effect….Back from your cherry-picking trip yet?

21) If passed, the committee to decide which drugs would be prescribed would be made up of naturopaths! Unelected naturopaths deciding what they can prescribe!

22) Since naturopaths *are unqualified* to prescribe medication, granting them these powers will create needless risk of drug contra-indications.

23) This is not about freedom of choice for the patient, and it never has been. This is about granting naturopathy legislative and legal legitimacy because it can’t do so under the rules of science and evidence.

The scientific community is crystal clear on medicine, yet these people would have our very modern system degenerate with some very 19th century modalities.

Oh, and this is actually a rather important post beyond trying to save the health of people. Whereas I had created a category specifically for Andreas Moritz, King Snake Oil Salesman, I think I can expand it to naturopathic ‘medicine’: all naturopathy posts shall go under Pure Bullshit from now on.