Naturopathy in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire House recently had before it a measure to require health insurers to cover patients using naturopaths as primary physicians. (I don’t know how NH defines naturopaths, but in Maine they are not physicians.) The NH House did not pass that measure, though they have passed something which isn’t much better:

Instead, the requirement will be limited to the individual market, where people already had the option to use a naturopath, since consumers in that market pay a percentage of the cost of each visit, unlike an HMO-type system in which a physician acts as a gatekeeper to prevent the over-utilization of specialists…

Committee Chair Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, said insurers are upset because under current contracts, physicians are supposed to be able to refer patients to a specialist, not naturopaths.

Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, argued that it was good public policy not to discriminate. Besides, she said, naturopaths are less likely to refer patients to specialists, meaning lower costs.

What’s really unfortunate here is that Schlachman does not understand the reason naturopaths are less likely to refer patients to specialists: they do not have the requisite knowledge needed to make a proper determination for what the best course of medical action is for an individual. Go take a look at the few accredited naturopathic schools around the country – the course loads include a bunch of homeopathy, acupuncture, something known as cupping, and other forms of malarkey. Hardly any of it is science. People would be better offer finding a first semester pre-med student than going to a naturopath. (The same goes for people who seek any form of alternative medicine. After all, if it was medicine, it would just be called that: medicine.)

The end result of this measure in NH will be less cost for insurers, more business for naturopaths, and less health for consumers. It’s a bad deal.

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Steve Jobs and woo

I didn’t especially want to make a serious post about Steve Jobs. The outpouring of grief on Facebook and elsewhere has struck me as disingenuous bandwagon bullshit. Yes, he was a smart guy who by all accounts was a good person who loved his family. I can’t imagine anyone being happy over his death. But he wasn’t some figure who personally touched the hearts of us all. He was a good guy and it’s unfortunate that he died, but I don’t see why he deserves this particular level of grief from complete strangers.

That said, I do want to make a serious post about Jobs after reading this Skepticblog article:

Seven or eight years ago, the news broke that Steve Jobs had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but considering it a private matter, he delayed in informing Apple’s board, and Apple’s board delayed in informing the shareholders. So what. The only delay that really mattered was that Steve, it turned out, had been treating his pancreatic cancer with a special diet and other alternative therapies, prescribed by his naturopath. (I can’t find the original source for this, so I’m striking the statement that his self-treatment by diet had beed (sic) recommended by a naturopath.)

Most pancreatic cancers are aggressive and always terminal, but Steve was lucky (if you can call it that) and had a rare form called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, which is actually quite treatable with excellent survival rates — if caught soon enough. The median survival is about a decade, but it depends on how soon it’s removed surgically. Steve caught his very early, and should have expected to survive much longer than a decade. Unfortunately Steve relied on a diet instead of early surgery. There is no evidence that diet has any effect on islet cell carcinoma. As he dieted for nine months, the tumor progressed, and took him from the high end to the low end of the survival rate.

Here are the facts: Steve Jobs had a treatable form of cancer with an expectation of living at least 8 years after removal of the tumor. In his case, he caught it very early plus he had access to the best doctors, so he should have expected to live over 10 years. But instead of getting it removed, he went on an alternative ‘medicine’ diet. He then failed to improve, possibly getting sicker, until he finally turned to the evidenced-based successes of real medicine. His surgery prolonged his life significantly, but damage was probably done.

And here are some more facts: There is a direct correlation between when pancreatic cancer is detected/removed and how long a patient will live. Jobs detected it early, but did not have it removed right away. We can’t say what’s what in his exact case, but we do know that if every person with his type of cancer followed his path – waiting 9 months before taking real action – survival rates would drop. That is, if people wait to treat their cancer, they will die earlier than if they seek out established medical treatment.

The only positive thing to take from all of this is that Jobs was a very private person. He never did interviews to talk about himself (only speaking to reporters and the public on behalf of Apple), so we can be thankful he never promoted any unproven cancer treatments. In fact, we can infer from his abandonment of his ‘alternative’ diet in favor of surgery and real medical care that he would be unlikely to promote such treatments were he still alive today.

University of Westminster gets rid of naturopathy

PZ has a post about quackery at two different universities. One is his own university, and he has a pretty good take down. The other is the University of Westminster where alternative ‘medicine’ degrees have been getting phased out over the years:

At the end of 2006, Westminster was offering 14 different BSc degrees in seven flavours of junk medicine. In October 2008, it was eleven. This year it’s eight, and next year only four degrees in two subjects. Since “Integrated Health” was ‘merged’ with Biological Sciences in May 2010, two of the original courses have been dropped each year. This September there will be a final intake for Nutrition Therapy and Naturopathy. That leaves only two, Chinese Medicine (acupuncture and (Western) Herbal Medicine.

I’m particularly happy about the demise of the courses in naturopathy given my familiarity with that non-science subject, but I’m just as happy about to hear the other programs that are getting shut down. I just wish more American universities and states would start putting bans on the spread of all this malarkey. It’s silly stuff that is based upon magical thinking. It needs to go.

I get mail, too

I have to admit I was pretty disappointed when PZ got a cease and desist notice from Christopher Maloney and I didn’t. I mean, what am I, not good enough? Haven’t I been offensive enough? I know I don’t have PZ’s following, but I thought I had made a perfectly valiant effort to be as disrespectful as possible in my fight against the anti-science nature of naturopathy. Yet still, Maloney struck me a blow, an insult, a real dig to my ego. No notice. No letter. Woe was me.

But all that has changed. You see, Maloney has decided that the trickle of posts I make only in response to him nowadays needs challenging. (Click to enlarge.)

(The bottom two lines read: “…cherry-pick evidence, often lie and misrepresent facts. Recently a local naturopathic “doctor” Christopher Maloney…” You wrote this response in reply to Dr. Maloney’s editorial on October 29, 2009 which…”)

There is also a cover page (which would not scan for the life of me). Titled “NOTICE TO CEASE HARASSMENT & NO TRESPASS NOTICE”, it continues:

Pursuant to 17-A M.R.S.A. 506-A(1), you are hereby being served with notice to immediately cease and desist from engaging in any course of conduct with the intent to harass, torment or threaten Dr. Christopher Maloney, N.D., 4 Drew St., Augusta, Maine, whether on or off of premises, in person, or via electronic means. Violation of this Notice is a Class E crime under the laws of the State of Maine, pursuant to 17-A M.R.S.A. 506-A(1).

In conjunction with the foregoing Notice to Cease Harassment, you are also hereby prohibited from coming within 100 feet of the above-described premises for any reason. Violation of this No Trespass Notice may result in your arrest and/or civil and criminal trespass charges being filed against you pursuant to 17-A M.R.S.A. 402(1)(D)-(E).

Where to start, where to start.

How about my publication, Without Apology? Never billed as a newspaper (I would never produce such a vile thing), it is a publication I put out from 2009-2010 over the course of roughly 6 months. Contrary to the lies implied by Maloney, the idea for the publication was hatched long before I had even heard of naturopathy. And even when I had heard of that quackery, the first 3 editions were about politics, social concerns, local issues, and science. It wasn’t until the forth edition that I even mentioned Maloney, and even then it was only in two articles. There was also an article about objective morality and another about poker. (A fifth edition came out that said nothing of the quack; a sixth edition featuring Ashley F. Miller will be out soon.) The paper was not made for him.

Next take a look at the fourth paragraph in the first image. Maloney says I add the keywords “Christopher Maloney” to all of my blog posts daily. To prove the point, March 25, 2011 is cited as an instance where I did this three times. Goodness. How wrong can one sentence be? First, it isn’t even possible to add the same keywords more than once to a single post. Get with the times, you old fogies. Second, I don’t even post about Maloney on a daily basis. Go ahead, do a quick search. The last time I posted about him was February 20th (and gee, wouldya look at that, it was a response to something he said; crazy that). Third, I didn’t make any post about him on March 25. Not March 25, 2011, not March 25, 2010, not March 25, 2009. So why mention that date in particular? Look near the top of the page. It was the date that Maeghan Maloney (once she was done creating the ugliest header in history) wrote the letter. Totally professional, huh?

Oh, and how about those “impeccable credentials”? It looks like some more bullshit to me:

Not that I doubt that a naturopath could come out of Harvard—the university has produced its share of creationists—but as a Harvard University alum, I had to see if Christopher Maloney was also one. I found one, but the one listed, who lives in Hawaii, earned an MBA and a MPA (public administration, probably from the Kennedy School) in 2006. None with a Diploma in Continuing Health Studies, whatever that is, is listed. I suspect Maloney took a couple of extension course in the Harvard Extension School (a night school opened to any and all who have the money) and possibly one which awards some kind of diploma. But it’s a stretch to claim as his lawyer/wife does that he has a “…pre-medical degree from Harvard.” Harvard issues no such animal.

And I thought the alt-med crowd was above reproach.

The most laughable part of the whole letter (aside from the @live.com email address) is the accusation that I make these posts in order to boost my search engine results. Trust me, Maloney is not the big draw on FTSOS. In fact, a ctrl+f look at all the search terms that have landed people here over the past year yields 16 results for the word “Maloney”. In contrast, searches that use the word “Hubble” number around 27,000.

Wondering about the CC at the bottom of the page? That would be my father, the good man. Apparently Maloney thought it would be okay to investigate my family, the sneaky little creeper pants. I think his point was to tattle on me, as if I haven’t kept my mother, my brother, my cousins, my aunt, my uncle, my grandmother, and, yes, my father, all in the loop about his shenanigans this whole time. Given Maloney’s endlessly immature actions, I guess it isn’t surprising that he would think an adult might be afraid of basic communication with his parents.

I really don’t see the point in all this. I have been crystal clear: If Christopher Maloney stops effectively begging me to post about him by virtue of his continued chirps, then I will stop. Threatening me, especially after whining about everyone on the Internet (rightly) calling him censorious, isn’t going to help anything. I’m not one to be intimidated, especially on such flimsy, pathetic, and unprofessional grounds.

P.s., Christopher Maloney is a quack.

Christopher Maloney wants to appear on FTSOS

That’s the only reasonable conclusion. After all, I have explicitly told him if shuts up, slinks away, only hurts people in silence, then I won’t be forced to post about him. But not only can he not do any of these things, he has to even make sure he directly references me.

Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor said…
Dear Wendy Pollack,

Terribly sorry to see that you’ve been Pharyngulaed by the esteemed PZ Myers (made himself famous by destroying the Catholic host) and his zombie horde.

Having had them attack me, I can say with complete sincerity that they haven’t an open mind among them.

One local follower had the gall to compare his own sightseeing tour of Tanzania with your humanitarian work, as if he contributed anything to anyone while he was there.

Keep up the great work!

At least he used the qualifier “naturopathic” so as not to fool anyone into thinking he was actually useful for doing anything medically meaningful.

But let’s get to the bulk of the post. Maloney is writing to Wendy Pollack, a quack who is bringing woo to Tanzania. As with most woo artists, she wants to hide from criticism. Maloney did the same thing by sending PZ a cease and desist notice. (That notice becomes all the more hilarious given that Maloney is the one that keeps talking about PZ; the quack brings it on himself.) It isn’t surprising that one outed quack would feel bad for a fellow outed quack. And at this point, I can’t say the continued lying is surprising either. Notice where Maloney says the local follower (that’s me!) compared Pollack’s “humanitarian” efforts to sightseeing. Here is what I actually said:

The area [Pollack] 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.

I didn’t compare Pollack’s “humanitarian” efforts to the sightseeing I did. The amazing group and amazing guides and amazing porters I had were far too good for me to compare to trash like her.

No, the point is obvious: Tanzania is desperately poor and desperately needs medical help. Real medical help. I doubt Pollack has any idea just how bad it is there. Hell, until I live in squalor and abject poverty and see members of my family die at age 50, there is no way I can really grasp the situation. But to tease the Tanzanian people with woo? To taunt them with pure fucking quackery? I fully grasp what an awful, awful person it takes to do something like that.

Anyway. Let me say it again because honestly – honestly, honestly – I hate making these posts: If Maloney ever wants to regain his web presence so that he may once again better give people fake medicine, he has to stop practically contacting me. Don’t give me a reason to post.

Update: I almost forgot. PZ’s fame comes from his flowing beard, not the cracker incident.

Maloney to Myers: Cease and desist

I only have a moment since I am co-hosting trivia at The Liberal Cup in Hallowell tonight, so this post will be brief. It looks like Christopher Maloney has sent PZ Myers a cease and desist notice.

What I find really interesting about this is that the board that oversees Maloney actually said this about him:

The Board cautions you to take care to clearly identify yourself as a “naturopathic doctor” at all times as required pursuant to 32 M.R.S.A. 12521 of the enabling statute which governs your licensure. The unqualified reference to yourself as a “doctor” at points in your website might cause confusion on the part of prospective patients as to the nature of services which you are authorized to perform even though other references therein specify naturopathic services.

Emphasis mine.

Again, I have to unfortunately cut this post short. To date I have not received any letter like the one above.

Update: It struck me today in a discussion about language I was having that the way I am portraying the word “unqualified” could be misinterpreted. The use here is as in qualifier. At times on his website – many times, and still, in fact – Maloney has not used a qualifier like “naturopathic” in front of the word doctor.

Oversight board: Maloney unqualified to refer to himself as a doctor

As I said in my last post about Christopher Maloney, once I received the Board of Complementary Health Care Providers’ letter concerning Maloney’s review, I would post it here. If someone really wants to see an image of the letter, I can get that, but it’s such a pain so I would rather not.

So here it is. All the bold sections are as they appear in the letter.

Re: Complaint Nos. 2010-ACU-6268 and 6442

Letter of Guidance

Dear Mr. Maloney:

At its meeting on October 29, 2010, the Board of Complementary Health Care Providers voted to dismiss the above-referenced complaints filed against your naturopathic doctor license by Daniel S. Johnson and Michael L. Hawkins, respectively, on the ground that any errors alleged do not rise to the level of a violation of the Board’s laws and Rules. However, the Board voted to issue the following letter of guidance pursuant to 10 M.R.S.A 8003 (5-A)(F). Pursuant to that statute, this letter of guidance “is not a formal proceeding and does not constitute an adverse disciplinary action of any form.” The Board voted to place this letter of guidance in the file for a period of 10 years from the date of this letter. This letter may be accessed and considered by the board in any subsequent, relevant disciplinary action commenced against your license within that time frame.

The letter of guidance is as follows:

The Board cautions you to take care to clearly identify yourself as a “naturopathic doctor” at all times as required pursuant to 32 M.R.S.A. 12521 of the enabling statute which governs your licensure. The unqualified reference to yourself as a “doctor” at points in your website might cause confusion on the part of prospective patients as to the nature of services which you are authorized to perform even though other references therein specify naturopathic services.

I want to reiterate that this letter of guidance is not the imposition of discipline. The purpose of this letter is to educate and reinforce your knowledge in these areas in order to avoid a future situation where a failure to heed this guidance might lead to a disciplinary situation.

Sincerely,
Sarah T. Ackerly
Board Chair

I have no idea who Daniel S. Johnson is or anything about the nature of his complaint. And yes, they still have my middle initial wrong.

As everyone who follows FTSOS knows, my complaint focused on Maloney calling himself a doctor. In fact, while in cahoots with another quack, Maloney got my site shut down for 6 days (and then lied about it, citing a WordPress glitch) on the basis that I said he is not a doctor. It looks like the Board agrees with me at least that it would be unfortunate for someone to confuse what he can offer versus what a real doctor offers. So I will say it again – and now without fear of WordPress shutting me down on the basis of pathetic threats:

Christopher Maloney is not a doctor.