The importance of critical thinking in discerning reputable sources

The volume of material published and shared by anti-fluoride, anti-vaccine, pro “alternative” health – all which fall under the deceptive catch phrase of “pro-choice” – is notably bereft of critical thinking.

No doubt there will always be some attracted to the notion of oppressive governments and dark conspiracies. Research indicates the psychological predisposition to conspiracy theory is highly resilient. Yet the persistence of the claim vaccines are the cause of a host of childhood ailments, that homeopathy is effective or that fluoride is a poison added to water supplies, may in part indicate poor cognitive manipulation of available information.

It is not uncommon to find preposterous claims circulating as a purported superior health choice. Such material is favoured by those who contend they are exercising “pro-choice” as a result of having “done my research”. It’s clear that no independent, accredited source has evaluated this “research”. It is more evident that the person has not sought reputable source material or thoroughly investigated critiques of the main aspects of their research. Let’s try claims by one so-called alternative. Homeopathy.

A good example would be claims made by homeopath Isaac Golden. Golden claims homeoprophylaxis (homeopathic immunisations) are a safe and effective alternative to vaccination. In a very short time one can find that homeopathy has not been shown to offer any measurable effect beyond placebo.

Consider the National Health and Medical Research Council statement on homeopathy [PDF].

The media release opens:

The National Health and Medical Research Council today released a statement concluding that there is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is effective in treating health conditions. Its release follows a thorough review of the evidence, conducted as part of NHMRC’s responsibility to provide advice and support informed health care decisions by the Australian community.

The conclusion is based on the findings of a rigorous assessment of more than 1800 papers. Of these, 225 studies met the criteria to be included in NHMRC’s examination of the effectiveness of homeopathy. The review found no good quality, well-designed studies with enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy works better than a placebo, or causes health improvements equal to those of another treatment.

A little more time reading evidence based material will reveal the mechanism of homeopathy to be impossible. In short it simply cannot work without rewriting aspects of physics and chemistry. Homeopaths often actually admit this – while being dishonest about observed effects.

Homeopathy Plus

Golden himself makes much of having completed a PhD in homeoprophylaxis, leaving the uneducated listener or reader under the impression that this thoroughly discredited pseudoscience is in fact a safe option in health science. Or as opponents of vaccination insist: a Choice. Indeed Golden claims homeopathic vaccines are an option which is “comparably effective but which is non toxic, which provides no danger, no long term side effects”.

In June this year “Dr. Isaac Golden’s Academy” was offering a YesCourse.

IsaacGolden_YesCourse

Yet in his PhD abstract Golden admits;

The effectiveness of the program could not be established with statistical certainty given the limited sample size and the low probability of acquiring an infectious disease.

Indeed. Not to mention the reality of an ethics committee. Let’s be clear. No success was demonstrated with this paper. So Golden also writes:

However, a possible level of effectiveness of 90.3% was identified subject to specified limitations. Further research to confirm the effectiveness of the program is justified.

Possible efficacy, subject to specified limitations, that requires further research is a very, very clear way of documenting no effect. I apologise but there are no prizes for guessing Golden has not gone on to search for, much less publish, the possible efficacy. This won’t prevent him waxing lyrical on “my own PhD” as a source in defence of homeoprophylaxis.

Furthermore Golden’s work has been cited by Fran Sheffield of Homeopathy Plus in defence of her own business. The danger of Golden’s ambitious work and lax clarification can be summed up in Sheffield’s marketing. Referring to his inability to establish efficacy to any degree, she advertised:

Dr Isaac Golden confirmed that homeoprophylaxis provides the same degree, or better protection, than vaccines with none of their side effects or complications

In 2010, following a complaint from Dr. Ken Harvey, the TGA’s Complaints Resolution Panel ordered that a Retraction be published on site. Sheffield ignored the request. Regarding the TGA Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, Sheffield was also noted to have acted in a misleading manner, abusing the trust and exploiting the lack of knowledge of consumers. A summary and key details can be found here at the Skeptics’ Book of Pooh-Pooh.

The notion that parents who choose alternatives are not actually researching or seeking reputable advice on their apparently “informed choice” is in this case further highlighted by ongoing offending by Fran Sheffield and Homeopathy Plus! In May 2012 the ACCC announced it had responded to complaints from the medical industry about bogus claims on the Homeopathy Plus! website. Namely that the pertussis vaccine was ineffective and that Homeopathy Plus! offered an effective homeopathic immunisation for pertussis.

On February 21st 2013 the ACCC instigated Federal Court proceedings against Homeopathy Plus! as the pseudoscience recalcitrant persisted in endangering the health of Australian children and infants. The claims made were in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, and were misleading and deceptive. The ACCC media release included;

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted Federal Court proceedings over allegedly misleading claims on a homeopathy website regarding the effectiveness of the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine.

The ACCC has taken proceeding against Homeopathy Plus! Australia Pty Ltd and against the owners of the Homeopathy Plus! website.

The claims on the Homeopathy Plus! website include statements that the whooping cough vaccine is “unreliable” and “largely ineffective” in preventing whooping cough and that homeopathic remedies are a safe and effective alternative for the prevention and treatment of whooping cough.

On December 23rd, 2014, the ACCC reported that the Federal Court had found both Homeopathy Plus! and Frances Sheffield had engaged in misleading conduct and made false or misleading representations regarding the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine and homeopathic remedies as an alternative in breach of the Australian Consumer Law. Sheffield and Homeopathy Plus! had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. Put simply, Fran Sheffield had continued to use her website to lie to unfortunate visitors who were not in the habit of critically investigating such claims.

Harking back to the echo of Isaac (My own PhD) Golden we read (emphasis mine);

The Court also found that Homeopathy Plus! and Ms Sheffield engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false and misleading representations to the effect that there was an adequate foundation in medical science for the statement that homeopathic treatments are a safe and effective alternative to the whooping cough vaccine, when in fact no such foundation exists and the vaccine is the only treatment currently approved for use and accepted by medical practitioners for the prevention of whooping cough.

I should be clear. This is only one arm of a notable junk science making as a matter of course outrageous claims. To see that so many can be fooled into believing plain water can protect from disease in a manner no-one can explain, is to some, mind boggling. But to be even clearer the information to debunk such nonsense and thus protect yourself and family is there to be found.

It is plain that scam artists, conspiracy theorists and so on cannot be swayed by the findings of official investigations or years of scientific consensus. Thus it is better to ignore those who claim to hold an apparent truth or a wonderful therapy and subject their claims to robust and varied critique.

Critiques can be made for all of the pseudosciences purporting to offer a superior or natural alternative to evidence based medicine. The same applies to the unwarranted attacks on vaccines, fluoride, medical intervention and so on. A far better way to approach these topics is to do so with the confidence to review material from a bipartisan standpoint. Where claims of conspiracies or corporate corruption for profit are made be very skeptical.

Make a habit of visiting consumer advocacy groups, such as Choice. Spend some of that research time looking over the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. We looked at both of these and the NHMRC, above. Let’s say the best your new friends at Essence Of Moonbeam are offering in response is a claimed conspiracy, the mocking of “sheeple” or bemoaning the trampling of rights (or that “informed choice”). I’d say you’re pretty safe in concluding genuine evidence has caught up with debunking their claims.

No-one can develop the skills or knowledge base from the Internet to argue that “my research” on one topic is sufficient to make decisions that are traditionally overseen by specialists or experts. The skill we can develop is that by which we can discern between a reputable source and a disreputable source. And this process should include discussions with genuine, experienced practitioners.

There is too much information on individual areas of health to allow us to investigate fully and believe we may come away educated and/or able to advise others. Where new trends are jostling for our attention and money there are recurring themes that help reveal them to be useless.

The skills we develop in discerning the reputable from bogus information sources are increasingly the skills that will benefit us in more ways than seeking optimal health.

The man who draws ducks draws a long bow against vaccine science

Michael Leunig was a guest on ABC News Breakfast to chat about his new book Musings From The Inner Duck, his role as a cartoonist and the impact of his commentary both political and social.

It wasn’t long at all before discourse turned from reflections on the Leunig duck to Leunig’s support of quackery. Particularly his April 15th cartoon in response to Scott Morrison’s removal of up to $15,000 in tax payer funds to parents who seek to claim “conscientious objection” to vaccinating their children.

The awful piece of nonsense from our 1999 National Living Treasure firmly ran the ignorant antivaccinationist banner up Leunig’s flagpole. One doesn’t say so lightly, but the cartoon and subsequent interview ticked all the worst of the anti-vaccine boxes. I’ve also no doubt Leunig would have kept digging had he more time. Headed Some mothers do ‘ave ’em the piece continued;

They have maternal instincts
That contradict what science thinks.
They stand up to the state:
A mother’s love may be as great
As any new vaccine
That man has ever seen

Leunig_April15_2015Problems with Leunig’s thinking come across in the text.

Mothers have maternal instincts that contradicts what science “thinks”. I realise a rhyme is important here but there’s no reason why mothers can’t have maternal moods that contradict what science concludes. Because science must not drift off into thinking or feeling or musing. It follows a strict set of processes designed to invite replication and strident attempts at falsification. This doesn’t involve just one, two or a handful of variables. Multiple factors help form hypotheses in this process until a scientific consensus is formed. In the face of new evidence and conclusion a new consensus is formed in the same way.

Nor is this a matter for the famous Leunig “whimsy”. If we honestly made way for this new antivaccinationist insistence of maternal instinct ruling over what science “thinks” (because ‘science always changes its mind’) we would be beset with tragedy. Recent revelations about the conduct of midwife Gaye Demanuele give valuable insight as to what is at stake when ignorance and/or defiance clashes with evidence based health practice as recommended by national health experts.

Speaking of “the state”, Leunig tells us these mothers (who let’s face it are either part of, or misinformed by the anti-science in medicine chapter) also “stand up to the state”. Perhaps he’s referring to the reckless and abusive decisions they make in denying their children the protection of vaccination. He winds up letting readers know a mother’s love can apparently create antibodies and/or protect from vaccine preventable disease as well as any vaccine.

Underneath the text is a plainly shocking cartoon. A mother sprinting, baby in pram, away from giant flying syringes. It seems like the cartoon version of those Photoshopped images favoured by Natural News, Mercola, Age of Autism and other junk sites that depict lines of crying children or babies jabbed with multiple syringes.

“It does seem to be an odd thing to assert Michael Leunig, that a mother’s love may be more beneficial for a child than a vaccine”, offered Virginia Trioli.

Leunig tries to dodge this claiming he is “not taking a position publicly”… but is concerned that the maternal instinct is being asked to step aside and accept what the state is saying. Virginia challenges his claim of not taking a public position. Leunig works his way around to asking “…if we should sweep aside those mothers who in great conscience, intelligence and research feel they just can’t go ahead with this. Should we demonise them? Should we criminalise them? Should the whole society make them feel a pariah? That the traditional work of the cartoonist is to stand up for the improbable, the minority which seems to be of true heart and sincerity”.

“Isn’t it an issue about science?”, Virginia asks.

“Well science is… it depends on whether you believe science is the final say on everything”.

“Most people do”, offers Michael Rowlands.

“Well they did when they had Thalidomide…”, Leunig replies bizarrely with confidence, probably blissfully unaware what a cruel and ignorant fool on this topic he has just revealed himself to be. Dragging out the Thalidomide card in this instance is thunderously immoral. All antivaccine champions ignore the fact that drug trials and testing were forever changed for the better.

Virginia baulks at this nonsense and pulls the cartoonist up. “Ooh, that’s a difficult comparison, because there was a concerted cover-up about that for many, many years, and such corporate malfeasance that it’s probably unparalleled in medical history, so you’re not asserting something similar to that are you?”

And then it happens. The man who draws ducks proclaims, “There is a science against vaccines also”, masterfully ignoring that he just informed us that “…it depends on whether you believe science is the final say on everything”.

As Michael Rowland observes at this point, “It’s not science Michael”.

Leunig denies upholding “a lot of evidence (against vaccination safety)” and warns beware the crowd. He contends that science is not complete [yawn] then just to prove he’s reading lots of antivaccine dreck, poses “… and what is this impulse that’s universal, it’s not freakish but I’ve seen a lot of very intelligent women and parents hold a really grave concern… and there are really bad consequences of some vaccinations…”. He thinks the science is incomplete. Disagrees with the finding Wakefield is a fraud.

Delightfully, with the feel of a eulogy, Virginia’s next sentence is “But as someone who has been much loved as a cartoonist can I just show you one response to your cartoon”?

It’s a tweet from Hannah Gadsby (@Hannahgadsby) and reads;

After years of enduring Leunig staring at her, the duck finally spoke “I can’t give you the benefit of whimsy today. You’re a dickhead”.

HannahGadsby_tweet

Leunig is now worried that this means “so we don’t tolerate the outsider voice that says the improbable. That’s what my job is, it’s not to march entirely with science it’s to be the improbable”. He suggests Virginia and Michael should be getting fired up about criticism of the antivaccination lobby.

“What is this fierce anti anti-vaccination… why so emotional…?”.

“It’s called public health Michael”, Michael Rowland cuts of the rant.

Dismissively, the man who draws ducks reckons “If we cared about public health we wouldn’t design cities like this, …terrible television, dreadful media. Public health is in disarray at so many levels and all we’re worrying about is this little needle”.

You know that little needle – perhaps the greatest medical breakthrough of all time. Virginia tries to see him off.

“But I’m not standing against vaccination”, Leunig lies as all antivaccinationists do. “It’s this thing as a matter of conscience”.

He was a C.O. to the Vietnam war so knows what he’s talking about he finishes.

The biggest problem – or a very big problem – with Leunig is that he’s had a long time to work his way through the science around Wakefield’s fraud. Indeed, vaccine science in total. This was Leunig on January 29th 1997;

Leunig_Jan29_1997

This cartoon pushes the old and rather pointless defence of pseudoscience that argues “science doesn’t know everything”. Or rather, it’s that defence on steroids. Unapologetically we’re asked to believe a cruel and arrogant medico has jettisoned any capacity to be humane or understand the whole person as a patient and reacts aggressively to the mother. Nothing could be further from the truth, and no reaction could better impede the aim of vaccinating the mother’s baby. In fact it’s quite silly in that any medico so dangerously constrained by medical science would point out the heart is a pump and emotions, superstitions are seated in the brain. But the point is taken. Doctors and medical science are pathologically removed from understanding emotion, preferring to belittle human nature as some primitive throwback to be “immunised” against. “It is a disease in itself”. This nasty, inaccurate and combative message, dreamt up by opponents of medical science, is entirely without merit.

Thirteen months later Wakefield’s infamous fraud was published and public health has suffered immensely ever since. Largely thanks to fools and egos like Michael Leunig. To sit there and say “there is a science against vaccination also” and that he has detected “a universal impulse” and is standing up for intelligent people who have researched and hold “grave concerns”. These poor people treated as pariahs or criminals and pushed about by the state. The softly spoken champion for the maternal instinct. He’s not antivaccine – nooo – but just doing his job. What was it? Oh yes, “it’s not to march entirely with science it’s to be the improbable”.

Well I find it improbable in the extreme that Leunig had such views 18 1/2 years ago and just happens to have them again today because it’s “his job” to worry about one of the most dangerous and most cruel antiscience and antimedicine cults at the present time. Leunig is an antivaxxer, cut from the same mold of them all.

His duck will now be remembered for its quackery.

Still no apology from “vaccination is rape” culprits

More than a week after the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network posted an appalling Facebook meme likening vaccination to “forced penetration” rape, they are yet to apologise.

Rather, the group’s administrators have hidden behind a myth that the Facebook page is not owned by them, thus is out of their control. As noted below archaic definitions of the word rape have been offered to justify the insult, whilst trolls belonging to the cult have taken aggressive campaigning further via social media.

Why do the page owners continue this charade? Because the Facebook page is entitled “Australian Vaccination Network” – the groups old and deceptively official sounding name. The cult was ordered by NSW Department of Fair Trading (Fair Trading) to change it’s name to reflect (ABC) the utter and absolute anti-vaccination stance, activities and advice the group is known for.

The group lost it’s appeal (Administrative Decisions) against the name change order (ABC). At the time the cult released a statement which ironically reads:

We believe that the Administrative Decision Tribunal, in finding against the AVN, exemplified the current climate of government-sanctioned abuse and hatred of anyone who steps away from mainstream medical dogma.

Ah yes. “Abuse and hatred”. Need one elaborate?

Back to the Facebook page charade. A visit to their website shows the title as it is hyperlinked above – with a hyphen and lower case “s” for skeptic. In red font we read “Formally known as Australian Vaccination Network Inc”. The lie that the Facebook page is “owned” by someone else in another country is just sour grapes so that the group can cling to a sense of rebellion and in fact ignore in part, the Dept. of Fair Trading ruling.

This point is underscored by a Facebook comment from Meryl Dorey posting as her alter ego “B52″ just five days ago.

No AVSN_media_construct

“There is no AVSN – that is what the media incorrectly calls the AVN. Please don’t play into their hands”. And this is a page for fans of the AVN”. […]

Oh my. My, my, my. Yet the NSW Department of Fair Trading begs to differ. And the ADT plainly found against the AVsN appeal. The final paragraph of the announcement from Fair Trading reflects the very nature of this sham organisation and the deception that sustains it. The minister for Fair Trading at that time, Anthony Roberts observed:

We are asking the Australian Vaccination Network to be honest and upfront about what they stand for and to choose a new name reflecting their beliefs.

Today as the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network they are still dishonest and misleading about what they stand for, and appear unable to accept their name change or act in accordance with regulation.

Anti-vaccine cult liken immunisation to rape

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OotcOCy7JQQ


The owner of the Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network Facebook page, Meryl Dorey, has for the second time in her running of the groups page published a post likening immunisation to rape.
The first post of this nature was on January 15, 2011 in response to a court ordering a mother to have her 5 year old daughter vaccinated. Dorey wrote, “Court orders rape of a child. Think this is an exaggeration? This is assault without consent and full penetration too…”.
The result was an immediate loss of members followed by a puerile insistence by Dorey that some archaic definitions that list “plunder, despoil, seize and carry off by force” as types of rape justify her comment.
This time again disgusted page members rose in large number to condemn such an affront to reason with at least one member publicly announcing she would be quitting Dorey’s page immediately. Once the media got hold of the story the post was deleted, and childish lies claiming innocence began to surface – to great amusement on social media.

Dorey has reacted again, by predictably presenting her “dictionary” to insist rape is merely general medieval abuse – despite the image she used of a man attacking a woman from behind with the words, “Forced Penetration. Really it’s no big deal if it’s just a vaccination needle and he’s a doctor – do you really need control over your own choices?”
Incredibly, AVSN group leader Meryl Dorey, and Tasha David the current so-called “president” insist their page does not belong to the group – even though they hold administration privileges.
They pleaded innocence, further demolishing their credibility by insisting they have “no control” over what appears on the page – albeit content contains their signatures.
Australian Doctor reported on the public statement posted on the groups Facebook page with input from Meryl Dorey pushing the evidence-free myth that vaccines kill large numbers of children.

Australian Doctor attempted to contact the AVSN by phone, however the number listed for the organisation on its webpage was disconnected.
The group — based in Bangalow on the NSW north coast and formerly known as the Australian Vaccination Network — made a public statement over Facebook disowning any relationship between the AVSN Facebook page and the actual organisation.
It admitted the image posted was in poor taste but also queried why there was such great media interest in the meme when they apparently ignored “children who are killed”.
AVSN spokeswoman Meryl Dorey said: “I agree that the image was very much in-your-face and should not have been posted here, but I am also (once again) floored that this has become a media issue whilst the children who are killed and permanently injured, and their families that are often destroyed, remain in the shadows as far as the press is concerned.
“Let’s get back to the issue at hand and agree that the important thing to do is to focus on the immorality of forced vaccination.”

Media:
http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/anti-vaxxers-compare-vaccination-to-rape/
http://www.theage.com.au/national/australian-vaccination-skeptics-network-compares-vaccines-to-rape-20150422-1mr0wk.html
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/23/campaign-comparing-vaccination-rprepulsive-health-minister-says
http://reasonablehank.com/2015/04/22/tw-avn-claims-vaccination-is-rape-and-doctors-are-rapists-again/

Dangerous Food Fads

~ Superfood is a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits ~

superfoods1The growing uptake of truly ridiculous (and frankly quite dangerous) super food trends continues apace with much thanks to the internet and increasingly, social media.

Far from a byproduct of the “information super-highway”, the pseudoscience, deception and planned scamming that can be seen today is better considered a byproduct of a wild roller coaster ride through The Twilight Zone.

The humble blueberry is a so-called “superfood”. Nutritional information may be found here. The Wikipedia entry on superfoods notes that Blueberries [are] a so-called “superfood” that actually does not have an unusually dense nutrient content. These berries contain anthocyanin which is a flavinoid with antioxidant capability. Along with the semantics of “wellness” there are many similar miracles supposed to control toxins. It is best to ignore this marketing niche at all costs. Sometimes expensive costs.

Consider this con from a heartless long term offender who has made a fortune from misleading the public with his often very dangerous nonsense.

Imagine a plant that can nourish your body by providing most of the protein you need to live, help prevent the annoying sniffling and sneezing of allergies, reinforce your immune system, help you control high blood pressure and cholesterol, and help protect you from cancer. Does such a “super food” exist?

Yes. It’s called spirulina.

Unlike plants you may grow in your garden, this “miracle” plant is a form of blue-green algae that springs from warm, fresh water bodies.

The “wellness” push for foods that are supposed to be “super” and as such capable of proactive, reactive (or both) types of veritable nutritional magic is consonant with similar and supporting health beliefs and movements. The anti-vaccine movement spends a great deal of time in the superfood/antioxidant driving gear. Uncertain parents are led to believe that vaccines contain untested “poisons… toxins… chemicals” and thus can certainly harm.

The answer – albeit monumentally wrong – is to avoid vaccines and instead pursue all things natural. So too it is with illness and alarmingly, cancer. The author of The View From The Hills, Rosalie Hillman stepped up to the plate and asked some vital questions of a young lady, Jessica Ainscough. It is astonishing Jessica’s claims were going unchallenged. Rather than being challenged for promoting the impossible, she was virtually worshipped as the head of her own “tribe”. Ainscough was being presented as having (and who was basically claiming to have) cured cancer through diet, the well known alternative pseudoscientific and thoroughly discredited Gerson Therapy and positive thinking.

The Gerson Institute claims:

With its whole-body approach to healing, the Gerson Therapy naturally reactivates your body’s magnificent ability to heal itself – with no damaging side effects. This a powerful, natural treatment boosts the body’s own immune system to heal cancer, arthritis, heart disease, allergies, and many other degenerative diseases. Dr. Max Gerson developed the Gerson Therapy in the 1930s, initially as a treatment for his own debilitating migraines, and eventually as a treatment for degenerative diseases such as skin tuberculosis, diabetes and, most famously, cancer.

Basically Gerson approach concludes we are bombarded with toxins and carcinogens over our lifetime. Gerson plays the magic Ace card in claiming to “restore the body’s ability to heal itself”. This message is pushed hard. The body can heal itself. It is this amazing ability we have lost and which apparently demands kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables daily in conjunction with the thrice daily enemas. The infamous coffee enemas ensure toxins will be eliminated from the liver.

Jessica Ainscough passed away from epithelioid sarcoma on February 26th 2015. Her cancer progressed as evidence based medicine would suggest for a woman of her age diagnosed when she was in 2008. Tragically Jessica’s mother, Sharyn, chose to follow Gerson Therapy in an attempt to defeat breast cancer. This meant abandoning radiotherapy.

Addressing both cases the ABC wrote:

Despite Cancer Council advice that Gerson Therapy was not proven to work, Ms Ainscough persisted, embarking on an alcohol-free vegan diet, drinking raw juices, taking vitamin supplements and undergoing coffee enemas daily.

She made videos explaining how to administer enemas and posted them on YouTube, although that video is now marked private.

When Ms Ainscough’s mother, Sharyn, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she followed her daughter’s lead and put her faith in Gerson Therapy.

Sharyn died in October 2014.

Whilst there are many heartless scam artists, such as Hellfried Sartori, aka “Dr. Death” and those genuinely deluded by their beliefs, one person deserves special mention. It appears that Belle Gibson managed to sink as far as one Meryl Dorey in that pleas for money donations from the public accompanied promises donations would be passed to charity. Gibson had named charitable organisations. As with Dorey this was not the case, although now under the glare of media scrutiny she has indicated the promised donations will be paid.

Gibsons The Whole Pantry app made the grade as a permanent app for the Apple Watch. It now seems Apple have pulled the app from Australian and USA app stores, but it is unclear if it will be and it has also been removed from promotional material as a permanent app from the much anticipated Apple Watch and iPad Air 2.

Sarah Berry wrote in SMH:

Gibson has a top-rating health app that was one of the promoted apps on Apple’s new watch.

Its success and the empire she has built comes from her incredible story of triumph over adversity, of sickness into self-empowered health.

It is a story that we now know was at best embellished and at worst was an outright lie.

Penguin have already dropped her recipe book by the same name. One hopes arrangements can be made so the scam app never sees the light of day as a permanent app on Apple’s watch.

Dangerous Food Fads


As Jenny McCartney recently noted the urge to believe in the magic of change turns consumer gullibility into fertile ground for the absurd claims made by every type of entrepreneur from well meaning fools to cunning scam artists. Gibson is reportedly back in Australia, but seriously who cares?

The damage has been done. Research indicates that even with brutally thorough exposure and follow up high quality debunking of anti-medicine and anti-science lies, the misinformation sticks. In this case it is not the lie of vaccines causing autism. Yet sadly it is a louder echo of a trumpet the antivaccinationists love to blow. Primarily that surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy do little for successful treatment of cancer.

The scale of Gibson’s rort is truly frightening. How many will follow her manufactured rubbish is unknown. But the fact remains that her army of followers and supporters will continue to support her pantry nonsense. Certainly many will realise the scam, but others – particularly the hard core anti-medicine crew – will dig in and find comfort in the usual conspiracies.

Consumers must develop skills in recognising reputable sources. As with the misinformation relating to vaccination and vaccines. Doing “research” just doesn’t cut it. Far better to have the means by which we can identify good, trustworthy material and spot the signs that give away trickery that is simply too good to be true. With cancer time is vital and whilst eating well is in itself not harmful, time spent thinking it is “treatment” is time lost from actual proven treatments.

This handbook from The Cancer Council provides excellent advice and tips on identifying dodgy sources and outright scams. As mentioned in the last post consider, “How will I know if claims of a cure are false?”. On page 39 of this booklet they note that the dishonest and unethical may;

  • Try to convince you your cancer has been caused by a poor diet or stress: they will claim they can treat you or cure your cancer with a special diet
  • Promise a cure – or to detoxify, purify or revitalise your body. There will be quick dramatic and wonderful results – a miracle cure
  • Use untrustworthy claims to back up their results rather than scientific-based evidence from clinical trials. They may even list references. But if you look deeper these references may be false, nonexistent, irrelevant, based on poorly designed research and out of date
  • Warn you that medical professionals are hiding “the real cure for cancer” and not to trust your doctor
  • Display credentials not recognised by reputable scientists and health professionals

Always speak to your doctor and be aware that even the best intentions of friends can unwittingly disarm you through peer pressure. There is no cure for cancer, but there are excellent treatments.

Avoid food fads as a means to health and beware of the wellness trend.

UPDATE – April 2nd, 2015. Belle Gibson will not be facing police action over fraud. Consumer Affairs Victoria has noted that dishonest and misleading actions of the business, The Whole Pantry, “may constitute a breach of the Fundraising Act 1998 or Australian Consumer Law (Victoria)”. Presently CAV are “ascertaining the facts around Gibson and her companies collection of funds and promises of donations.

‘Wellness Warrior’ Jessica Ainscough dies from cancer

Comparing the eternally positive reflections of Jessica Ainscough with the reality of her recent passing from epithelioid sarcoma just two days ago, one cannot help feel somewhat disturbed. The ABC website has a leading description of Jessica’s struggle;

When initial mainstream cancer treatment didn’t work, one woman chose alternative methods that offer a different perspective on health and wellbeing.

Jessica initially underwent isolated limb perfusion. Her left upper limb was treated with chemotherapy. Initial signs were positive but within a year or so her tumor had returned. The surgical option she then faced involved amputation of not just her arm but the shoulder also. This disfiguring alternative may have offered some hope and Orac writes that before the choice of perfusion arose, Jessica may have been preparing herself to face the surgical option [2]. Ultimately she didn’t decide on surgery. A disturbing cornucopia of woo, “positive affirmations”, “cancer thriving”, coffee enemas, “the tribe”, etc… and surrendering to what the universe had in store led to The Wellness Warrior. Jessica also took on promoting the widely discredited quackery known as Gerson Therapy with gusto. You can read what Cancer Council Australia write about Gerson, and also check some citations here. This summary is from an article in today’s news.com.au;

Australia’s leading cancer organisations do not endorse Gerson therapy as a means of treating cancer. The National Cancer Institute says: “Because no prospective, controlled study of the use of the Gerson therapy in cancer patients has been reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, no level of evidence analysis is possible for this approach. “The data that are available are not sufficient to warrant claims that the Gerson therapy is effective as an adjuvant to other cancer therapies or as a cure. At this time, the use of the Gerson therapy in the treatment of cancer patients cannot be recommended outside the context of well-designed clinical trials. Cancer Australia says there is “little evidence” that alternative therapies are effective in cancer treatment. “Most have not been assessed for efficacy in randomised clinical trials, though some have been examined and found to be ineffective.” If you’d like to know more about cancer treatment in Australia, visit cancer.org.au or call 13 11 20.

The scale of denial Aiscough was in for so many years comes across in her piece published on ABC’s The Drum website. Eg;

How have I managed to escape the frail, sickly appearance that is so firmly stamped on the ‘cancer patient’ stereotype? I refused to follow the doctor’s orders. […] Our bodies are designed to heal themselves. It is really that simple. Our bodies don’t want to die. […] This is the basis of natural cancer-fighting regimes. While conventional treatment is hell bent on attacking the site of the disease and destroying tumors with drugs, radiation and surgery, the natural approach aims to treat the body as a whole. […] This stuff isn’t new. Reading Plato shows that holistic modalities have been understood for centuries: “You ought not to attempt to cure the eyes without the head, or the head without the body, so neither ought you to attempt to cure the body without the soul… […] …I will spend three weeks being treated at the Gerson Clinic. The basis of the Gerson Therapy is a diet, which includes eating only organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking 13 glasses of freshly squeezed juice per day in hourly intervals. The idea is to strengthen the immune system and load you up with heaps of minerals, enzymes, beta-carotene, Vitamins A and C, and other antioxidants that attack free radicals and ultimately the cancer.  According to the late Dr Max Gerson, if you can stick to the strict regime for a minimum of two years, Gerson Therapy has the ability to cure cancer like no drug can. Alternative treatments like Gawler and Gerson offer patients hope, choice and understanding. They also offer them a cure, not just remission. To me, that sounds like the much more attractive option.

The Cancer Council of Victoria has some great advice on the topic, “How will I know if claims of a cure are false?”. On page 39 of this booklet they note that the dishonest and unethical may;

  • Try to convince you your cancer has been caused by a poor diet or stress: they will claim they can treat you or cure your cancer with a special diet
  • Promise a cure – or to detoxify, purify or revitalise your body. There will be quick dramatic and wonderful results – a miracle cure
  • Use untrustworthy claims to back up their results rather than scientific-based evidence from clinical trials. They may even list references. But if you look deeper these references may be false, nonexistent, irrelevant, based on poorly designed research and out of date
  • Warn you that medical professionals are hiding “the real cure for cancer” and not to trust your doctor
  • Display credentials not recognised by reputable scientists and health professionals

Comparing Jessica’s beliefs and a small amount of advice from Cancer Council (Victoria) indicates Ainscough was entertaining a range of dangerous ideas about what both caused and might treat or even “cure” her cancer. Plainly the Cancer Council would reject Gerson Therapy based on its major traits. Tragically Jessica’s mother died from breast cancer after following her into trusting the disproved belief system. Orac writes in October 2013;

From what I can gather, it is the story of a death from quackery, a death that didn’t have to occur. Even worse than that, it appears to be a death facilitated by the daughter of the deceased, a woman named Jessica Ainscough, who bills herself as the “Wellness Warrior.” It’s a horrifying story, the story of a woman who followed her daughter’s lead and put her faith in the quackery known as the Gerson therapy.

An excellent blog is The View From The Hills by Rosalie Hilleman. It is an excellent examination – through postulation, questioning and evidence – of Jessica’s extensive deception and manipulation of her readers in order to maintain two illusions. One being that Gerson offers some efficacy. The second being that Jessica’s epithelioid sarcoma was not progressing with the morbidity expected for that condition diagnosed at the time it was.

EDIT: Jessica insisted she was “thriving”. Readers could easily be left with the impression that Gerson Therapy is effective. All the more because most don’t associate “cancer” with the bright, positive Jessica. This is why questions raised in The View From The Hills were and are so necessary. Gerson was actually doing nothing. In reality her cancer was markedly indolent – very slow to progress.

But it was progressing. It always was. Clinically, just as cancer of this type does progress. And now like her mother, Jessica Ainscough has died from cancer.

JessAinscough

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