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