Vaccines contain no aborted fetal cells

One of the most offensive lies peddled about vaccines is that they “contain aborted foetal cells”.

Consider this April 2013 screenshot from AVN Facebook:

Aborted fetal tissue

I noticed an even more absurd take when reading Anti-vaccine chiropractors redux-1, c/o reasonablehank. He was reviewing the anti-vaccine rantings of one “Dr” Koe Davidson who is a chiropractor running Peak Potential Health and Wellness in Mentone, Melbourne. One screenshot includes Davidson addressing vaccine ingredients as listed by the CDC. It includes:

Oh and “egg protein” = fancy word for aborted fetus cells. This wording was changed in mid 2012… Scary stuff.

For a document last updated in February 2012 I’m not sure what he’s trying to convey. The CDC cannot have changed egg protein to aborted “fetus” cells in 2012 as this would be complete nonsense. Thus one must conclude he is either utterly confused on the topic of cell cultures or – as is common with chiropractors aligned with the CAA – misinforming readers.

The CDC write about egg protein as a vaccine additive:

Egg protein is found in yellow fever and most influenza vaccines, which are prepared using chicken eggs. Ordinarily, persons who are able to eat eggs or egg products safely can receive these vaccines.

So how can such confusion on cell cultures come to pass? Today strains of human diploid cell culture are grown in containers in laboratories. In the manufacture of vaccines, viruses that infect humans are grown in these human diploid cell lines. One strain of human diploid cell culture was made in the USA in 1961. Labelled WI-38 this strain came from the lung tissue of an aborted female of three months gestation.

Another human diploid cell culture was produced in the UK in 1966. The tissue came from the lungs of a 14 week old male foetus and the strain is labelled MRC-5. W.I. refers to the Wistar Institute. M.R.C. refers to the Medical Research Council.

The abortions did not take place with the intent of producing human diploid cell culture for use in vaccine manufacture. The biologists who produced the diploid cultures did not induce the abortions. Both abortions were intentional and would have been carried out whether the foetal tissue had that fate or not, post abortion.

These cells used to grow viruses have been reproducing since 1961 (WI-38) and 1966 (MRC-5), respectively. The viruses produced this way are further processed and sterilised in the production of the vaccine. In this way any potential for contamination with foetal material is eliminated. Furthermore, strict quality control measures are employed to examine each vaccine to ensure no foetal material is present.

♣ The USA National Network for Immunization Information state (bold mine):

These two cell strains have been growing under laboratory conditions for more than 35 years. The cells are merely the biological system in which the viruses are grown. These cell strains do not and cannot form a complete organism and do not constitute a potential human being. The cells reproduce themselves, so there is no need to abort additional fetuses to sustain the culture supply. Viruses are collected from the diploid cell cultures and then processed further to produce the vaccine itself. ♣

Vaccines produced using WI-38 and MRC-5 human diploid cell lines include hepatitis A, rabies, rubella, MMR, varicella and Pentacell DTaP-IPV/Hib.

Another abortion was performed on a rubella virus-infected mother in 1968. Both mother and foetus were infected with wild rubella and this posed the risk of major birth defects. Foetal tissues were obtained and wild rubella virus (RA27/3) was isolated. This has been grown in human foetal diploid cell line WI-38. No foetal tissue is present in the vaccine. No further abortions are necessary to produce more vaccines.

Prior to isolation of RA27/3 the USA experienced 800 cases of congenital rubella annually. At the turn of the century only three babies with congenital rubella were born. Research was carried out to study the possibility of using other animal cells to produce the RA27/3 rubella vaccine. However these proved less effective and less safe.

The Vatican accepts the use of human diploid cells in the manufacture of vaccines. A June 9th 2005 Vatican City Statement on Aborted Fetal Vaccines acknowledges this. It notes use of these cell lines is:

…to avoid a serious risk not only for one’s own children but also, and more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole – especially for pregnant women.

For example, the severe epidemic of German measles which affected a huge part of the United States in 1964 thus caused 20,000 cases of congenital rubella2, resulting in 11,250 abortions (spontaneous or surgical), 2,100 neonatal deaths, 11,600 cases of deafness, 3,580 cases of blindness, 1,800 cases of mental retardation. It was this epidemic that pushed for the development and introduction on the market of an effective vaccine against rubella, thus permitting an effective prophylaxis against this infection.

[And observes that]

…the parents who did not accept the vaccination of their own children become responsible for the malformations [due to rubella infection] in question.

Think of an apple orchard. The organic material nourishing the trees includes (say) manure, bird droppings, animal carcases, rotting vegetation and so on. If one eats an apple one is not eating manure or the carcass of an unfortunate passing mammal. To say vaccines contain cellular material is to employ exactly such flawed thinking.

A vaccine initially made using human diploid cells that passed FDA requirements via another production method is the RabAvert rabies vaccine by Chiron Corporation. When safe and effective alternatives can replace the methodology involving human diploid cells we shall begin to see them. It is a fact that the human strains are superior in many ways. However they are not, in any way shape or form, “aborted foetal cells”.

The claim that vaccines contain the cells of aborted foetuses or are contaminated with any organic material is quite simply false.

Of chiropractic tripe and the odd zebra stripe

When we think of chiropractic and Equidae, it’s usually unicorns that come to mind.

The search for the chiropractic subluxation has been as fruitful as the search for the unicorn. In fact perhaps less fruitful, as we know with a high degree of accuracy what the unicorn looks like. Yet with the chiropractic subluxation our fairy tale is limited to conjuring mystical malaise or blaming dastardly disease as the work of this elusive evil.

chiro face palm

Do not be alarmed. This man has not seen a unicorn.

Rather, he had just been told that chiropractic subluxations

involve some type of “static” in the spinal cord.

Doctors (real doctors) report that he made a full recovery

after his palm was removed from his face.

Interestingly enough, whilst chiropractic teaches that areas of subluxation are invisible and can be “detected” only by the presence of symptoms, Simon Floreani, erstwhile president of the Chiropractors Association of Australia, has other ideas.

Check out the Catalyst video below at 1min, 45sec. Using the apparently magical Activator – or the “stick that goes click” – on an infant, Floreani announces:

Areas of subluxation that I can feel there, that are immediately improved after you adjust it like that…

You can read more about the Sonic Screwdriver-like Activator here in The Medical Observer. Just be prepared for some tongue in cheek observations. In September 2011 it was reported in Australian Doctor that the Federal Government had been asked to investigate both the Activator and “the Nervoscope” as they had been reported as having, “no biomechanical or physiological effect and cannot diagnose or treat any health condition”.

Fortunately, whilst new-age chiropractors continue to push their ineffective devices, practices and claims onto an unsuspecting public, genuinely motivated supporters of evidence based medicine are busy exposing their scams.

Check out the videos below to see just how devoid of facts claims made by the resurgent followers of Daniel David Palmer, really are. And keep an eye out for Simon and his zebra.

Catalyst – July 11th 2013


Floreani’s penchant for cutting his own path may help explain why he has chosen the zebra over the unicorn.

zebra floreaniFloreani positions a young subluxee on his treatment table cunningly disguised as a zebra

Lateline – July 6th 2009


Zebra floreani2

Floreani seems to be watched over by a zebra

Today Tonight – December 2011


Today Tonight – March 14th 2013

Complementary medicines’ problem with evidence

Evidence aplenty for complementary medicines-by ex-head of the AMA-Take THAT Friends of Science-enemies of truth!

Anti-vaccine lobbyist Meryl Dorey seizing legitimacy from Dr. Kerryn Phelps

Last week Dr. Kerryn Phelps wrote an article for The Australian defending the view that alternatives to medicine are in fact, a type of medicine.

The article’s heading, Evidence aplenty for complementary medicines itself touched on a unique feature of the massive Wellness Industry. Semantics. We have witnessed natural medicine become alternative medicine become complementary medicine become integrative medicine or more frequently complementary and integrative medicine. These are semantic costume changes designed to market integrity. To divert attention away from the fact that evidence for the efficacy of alternatives to medicine is lacking. Simply put, this is not medicine.

Dr. Phelps criticised Friends Of Science In Medicine [FSM], suggesting their “agenda was a declaration of war”. Yet I would conclude FSM are providing a long overdue and organised response to the rise of demonstrably non efficacious and potentially dangerous practices gaining undeserved academic credence. These have always shared a hostility toward evidence based medicine and science itself.

FSM president Professor John Dwyer writes:

We strongly support sound research to determine the effectiveness or otherwise of any biologically plausible areas of ‘alternative’ interventions. We do not seek to prevent consumers from making informed choices about alternative interventions, but wish to see the public better informed and therefore protected from false claims.

I do not doubt for a moment that Dr. Phelps and many other GPs who support alternatives to medicine are above reproach. Nor am I suggesting that all naturopaths and chiropractors (for example) are incapable of establishing a meaningful patient-focused reciprocal relationship with conventional medicine. What I am suggesting is that they are a minority and it is thus in error to suggest alternatives to medicine are generally based on evidence. Dr. Phelps’ insistence that these practices “compliment” or effectively “integrate” with conventional medicine is simply wishful thinking.

I strongly agree with Kerryn Phelps in that individuals taking more responsibility for their health is positive. I support and defend the right of patients to have more choice in managing their health. What I find deeply troubling is that once these two conditions are met, patients and wellness consumers are faced with bogus claims, unnecessary expense and a cornucopia of charlatans. That this is in no small part due to paper tiger regulation reflects that the system itself is broken and failing Australians.

That 19 of Australia’s 39 universities offer courses in scientifically implausible practices is alarming. The role of FSM in highlighting the perils of affording academic credibility to these practices is vital. It can be argued, as Dr. Phelps has previously, that universities will ensure rigid standards are met. Or as now, that FSM should support “an increase in university-based education for practitioners”. Sound reasoning to be sure. Until one considers that these very practices depend upon denial of the scientific method and graduates often emerge highly defensive of an ideology.

There is also an inescapable convolution of practice, integrity and accountability. A belief system associated with one modality may open the way for increasingly absurd practices. The anti-science, anti-medicine, post modernist culture so crucial to new age chiropractic is conducive to opposition, not integration.

This convolution raises the question of where the line is drawn. Few understand what constitute homeopathic principles beyond assuming they provide a “natural” therapy. Yet I would be surprised and disappointed if Dr. Phelps agued it had a role in medicine beyond placebo. Basic chemistry confirms there is no ingredient at all in homeopathic products, beyond expensive sugar. For those who seek to understand more about this “informed choice” there await increasingly bizarre claims most often concluding quantum physics will one day reveal all. This is the same mechanism behind theta healing – even remote theta healing.

For the purposes of this post it’s important to focus primarily on Dr. Phelps’ defence of chiropractic. But what type of chiropractor? John Reggars is past president of the Chiropractors Registration Board of Victoria and present vice president of the Chiropractic and Osteopathic College of Australasia. Focused on science, he is concerned by the rise of “ideological dogma” and the anti-scientific fundamentalist training that FSM have identified as problematic. In a paper by Reggars published in May 2011 he notes that in Australia the 1990s saw a resurgence of “chiropractic philosophy” and with it the belief in VSC, or Vertebral Subluxation Complex.

Reggars is highly critical of such chiropractic pseudoscience, pointing out misuse of diagnostic treatment, schemes to “double your income”, selling the notion of lifelong chiropractic care “to an ignorant public” and locking patients into contract plans. He also writes:

For the true believer, the naive practitioner or undergraduate chiropractic student who accepts in good faith the propaganda and pseudoscience peddled by the VSC teachers, mentors and professional organisations, the result is the same, a sense of belonging and an unshakable and unwavering faith in their ideology.

Belief in the unseen VSC is accompanied by the insistence all disease – including infectious disease – has its origin or cure in the spine. Chiropractic is the invention of 19th century magnetic healer Daniel David Palmer. Perhaps nothing reinforces the value of Friends Of Science In Medicine better than this modern scam of chiropractic. Represented in Australia by the Chiropractor’s Association of Australia [CAA] its aim is:

To achieve a fundamental paradigm shift in healthcare direction where chiropractic is recognised as the most cost efficient and effective health regime of first choice that is readily accessible to all people.

In other words they seek to displace the GP as the primary care physician. It is impossible to broach the many areas of medicine or do the same with the many pseudosciences chiropractic endorses to elaborate on this. Yet from vitamin therapy to homeopathy new age chiropractors have a positive word. Efficacy matters not. The CAA seem to instill fear and confusion about conventional medicine as a key mechanism in their “fundamental paradigm shift in healthcare direction”.

When we understand what seeking to usurp the family doctor entails, we can see that FSM can scarcely be accused of declaring war. The article Recent Controversies in Chiropractic and RMIT courses/clinic provides exceptional insight into the very concerns FSM seek to address with quackery in universities. Palmer argued humans have “a god-given energy flow” which when disrupted leads to illness. Exhuming such nonsense and contending that the doctrine is “evidence-based education and practice”, as suggested by Dr. Ray Myers, head of RMIT University’s School of Health Sciences is shameful.

One area the CAA has chosen to immerse itself in is the anti-vaccine movement. Many graduates emerge convinced that vaccination is a toxic medical trick. As one put it, raging on Meryl Dorey’s anti-vaccine Facebook page; “Of course we don’t support vaccination, it’s the biggest medical sham since bloodletting!”. The reason for his outburst was the article Doctors accuse chiropractors of selling anti-vaccination message.

To better understand why we must travel back over 100 years. In 1909 D.D. Palmer’s son, Bartlett Joshua (or B.J.) Palmer wrote (Ref; 2003), (Ref; 2014):

If we had one hundred cases of small-pox, I can prove to you where, in one, you will find a subluxation and you will find the same conditions in the other ninety-nine. I adjust one and return his functions to normal… . There is no contagious disease… . There is no infection… . ♠

Herein lies a major problem for Dr. Phelps who is under no such illusions about vaccination. As seen above Meryl Dorey has hitched a ride on Dr. Phelps’ reputation. On another email list Dorey simply copied the entire article and sent it off with the opening line, “If only we could get her to look at the vaccination issue as well… <sigh>”.

As well?! Dr. Phelps opined in The Australian about the “us and them” attitude. Yet these two words reflect just how rusted on and integral to many who entertain alternatives to medicine the “us and them” mindset is.

Some months back Dorey was also using Phelps’ prior role as AMA president, in the AVN attack on all conventional medicine. I wondered if Dr. Phelps knew of her unofficial patronage.

Past president of the CAA, Simon Floreani, has promoted homeoprophylaxis, showcasing Isaac Golden. Anti-vaccine activist and “paediatric chiropractor” Warren Sipser went as far as testifying in the family court against the immunisation of a five year old girl. Sipser informed reporters at the time “there is credible evidence they [vaccines] may do more harm than good”. Nimrod Weiner of Newtown Chiropractic ran anti-vaccine workshops using information garnered from the same AVN to whom Dr. Phelps is “diametrically opposed”.

Weiner informed pregnant mothers at a public talk that homeopathic immunisation (water) was superior to regular immunisation. That Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent paper attempting to causally link MMR to autism was “scientifically good”. Last July Dr. Phelps tweeted:

WIN News Wollongong recently aired a comment from Meryl Dorey claiming that “all vaccines” are linked to autism in the medical literature. This is complete opportunistic nonsense and is now quite properly the subject of a complaint to ACMA. As Jonathon Holmes observed on Media Watch “there’s evidence and there’s bulldust” and that “Dorey’s claim about the medical literature linking vaccination and autism is pure, unadulterated baloney.”

Quite right. Which raises my point on convolution again. Where do we draw the line? Of the 222 listed professional members of Dorey’s anti-vaccine group over 60%, or 135 are chiropractors. The next largest is homeopaths with 16 members, or a comparatively small 7%. Naturopaths number 15 members. Then kinesiologists, then acupuncturists with 5 and 4 members respectively. Aside from one physiotherapist and one occupational therapist, all “professional members” sell alternatives to medicine of some description.

A US study published in Vaccine showed that parents who deny their children vaccination are four times more likely to see a chiropractor as the primary care physician. When Floreani was CAA president his chiropractor wife wrote of their newborn son’s pertussis. Including [bold hers]:

We performed chiropractic checks on our baby daily and utilised a whooping cough homeopathic. I dosed myself with an array of vitamins to boost his immunity via breast milk and kept him hydrated with constant breastfeeding. Whooping cough is often slow to develop and may respond well to conservative management, including chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, herbs, acupuncture or acupressure.

Magically, it resolved within two weeks. Which means it wasn’t pertussis but a self limiting infection and all that woo did nothing but correlate to the illness. But I am sure Dr. Phelps would be the first to agree herbs, acupressure, homeopathy and so on would do nothing to manage pertussis. It is very dangerous misinformation with potentially fatal consequences.

So not only are unvaccinated children more likely to see a chiropractor and be subject to such abuse, but by not seeing a GP they are unlikely to become a recorded notification. Officially whilst only 5% of 0-4 year olds in Australia are not fully vaccinated for pertussis they make up 27% of cases. Thus, this figure may well be conservative. Dr. Phelps must ask herself; If vaccine deniers will choose chiropractors, might chiropractors influence parents to reject vaccination? The above rubbish is by Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani – B.App.Clin.Sci, B.Chiropractic after all.

Australian Doctor wrote in part about the study in Vaccine:

Are naturopathic and complementary healthcare providers reinforcing parental concerns and ‘anti-vaccine’ opinions or promoting exemptions, or are they providing healthcare without emphasizing vaccinations?

I hope Dr. Phelps is asking herself that question also. As I stress above I’m sure Dr. Phelps and her colleagues are above reproach. But that’s not the point. The larger message being advanced here is that alternatives to medicine not only complement but “integrate” with conventional medicine. Not only does available evidence show this is not true but to generalise is to lend credence to dangerous charlatans.

This post has focused primarily on chiropractors, because they not only serve as a hub for health focused pseudosciences, but also seek to replace the family GP. I will contend that my point on convoluted overlap is valid. Once a patient is referred to one pseudoscience how does the referring GP control for pollution as it were? More material on the dubious ethics of new age chiropractic, including catastrophic neck injury and paediatric “improvement” by parental proxy can be found here.

St. John’s Wort seems to be trotted out in almost every article claiming alternatives to medicine have an evidence base. What is forgotten is that hyperforin, the antidepressant extract of St. John’s Wort, and other extracts are both inducers and inhibitors of P450 cytochrome enzymes. These liver cytochromes are involved in the metabolism of over 50% of marketed medication.

In the case of opioid pain relief studies have demonstrated a decrease of blood plasma levels of oxycodone of up to 50% and reduced half life of 27%. In the case of alprazolzm (a benzodiazapine), prescribed for anxiety and panic attacks a doubling of clearance rate has been documented.

Chronic pain is associated with depression and depression with anxiety. Opioids and benzodiazapines are causally linked to respiratory depression overdose death. Hence the clinical significance of any “integration” of serious pain management with a herbal choice for the depression it may cause is likely to be anything but “complementary” for the patient. Many patients choose not to inform their GP of herbal supplements.

Proper diagnosis following treatment with medication will be hampered by St. John’s Wort. Excessive doses of actual medication may be prescribed. Should a patient cease St. John’s Wort whilst on opioid, benzodiazapine or both medication regimes a spike in blood plasma of the active metabolites will ensue. More likely, as St. John’s Wort is improperly regulated and dose concentration varies widely a patient may unwittingly expose themselves to respiratory depression and possibly death with no change in their daily medication/St. John’s Wort routine.

In short whilst the concentration (dose) of actual medication is stable, the drug interaction outcome due to St. John’s Wort mimics an unstable medication dose. Patients may easily find themselves unsuitable to drive, work, operate machinery, bathe or sleep without potential for disaster. Consequently many medication regimes may be deleteriously effected by St. John’s Wort.

Thus the wider picture of evidence pertaining to St. John’s Wort is not quite the basis for “integration” proponents of alternatives to medicine would have us believe.

My response to the ongoing insistence that placebo effects derived from acupuncture constitute evidence is likely to be here in Acupuncture: essential facts about a major scam. Over and again it emerges that subjects who think they are receiving acupuncture, whether they are or not, demonstrate a response.

Findings aside, how would Dr. Phelps explain meridians, invisible forces, chakra or vital energies? It is too easy to point to apparently positive findings when the mechanism by which they arise is implausible, unknown or assumed to be related to endorphin release. The technology to manufacture acupuncture needles did not exist until the 1600s and the only nation to seriously try to ban acupuncture was China under the Chinese Nationalist Government. Western marketing has done much for this “traditional” Chinese medicine.

What of naturopaths who insist on Black Salve [2]? Or who use herbal balls from China with high levels of elemental mercury, arsenic and lead? What of poor hygiene and bacterial infection from acupuncturists or masseurs? The astonishing story of Monika Milka and non-sterile syringes used in biomesotherapy, leaving her patients seriously infected with mycobacterium chelonae?

Tragic cases like Penelope Dingle and Isabella Denley indicate that the notion of integration or proper supervision is seriously flawed. One point raised repeatedly by FSM is that whilst ill patients waste time being exploited by pseudoscience acting as a health choice, the chance of genuine care, full recovery or even survival is lost.

These are the real issues Dr. Phelps could constructively help Aussies understand before raging at FSM. How is it that so many various practices have come to exist that are beholden to ideology, not evidence? How is it they can convince parents to withhold treatment from their children and in doing so undermine the health of our entire community?

FSM exists to address an unacceptable situation in our educational institutions. They have taken a stand because those in a position to defend academia seemingly chose to act unethically. When it comes to “informed choice” there is an excess of non evidence based, expensive pseudoscience. It is pervaded by a combative, arrogant anti-science and anti-medicine mindset. It is amply equipped with scams.

This madness must stop and Dr. Kerryn Phelps is most welcome to clearly state just what aspects of non conventional medicine are high risk ideology and what is safe, effective and backed by evidence. Real evidence that can be trusted alone.

Presently, there appears to be a scarcity.

♠ This quote has been attributed to D.D. Palmer. However in 2013 the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, cited the author as B.J. Palmer.

A response to the defence of chiropractic

Paul; your writings are amusing, but you have only 183 followers! My 14 year old daughter has three times that on a silly facebook page!

In the spirit of genuine laziness and as one of the “waspish witch-hunters of political medicine”, I’ve reproduced my response to a comment on the About page written by a giant in the art of selective topic pertinence.

Keith. Mate!

Your daughter has a bigger number than mine. On Facebook! Well, I’m sure that every one is a dedicated and true friend engaged in a deeply meaningful personal relationship. Or… maybe quality isn’t what matters, if I’m to take the meaning.

Yes I agree chiropractic will be around for years to come. Chiropractors will tweak and change to keep in line with shifts in superstition and trends in gullibility to ensure they maintain a large slice of the health scam market. They will also fight and defend like skilled con artists and fraudsters to hold onto the empty title of “doctor”, being only too aware of the psychology that drives the gullible to their doors. Mimicry of actual medicine and misuse of technology is vital to the illusion.

Also I agree on the history. Palmer certainly wasn’t the first person to rattle and dance, poke and prod whilst intoning godly laws about the human body and human health. He was however the first to market his touchy brand of magic as “science” and made liberal use of the most modern tools at his disposal.

I note your journey to last century to exhume the Wilk case. A splendid diversion. Yet since then, not only was your daughter born but chiropractic shifted into a fundamentalist ideology that denies every rule of medical science and the very laws of nature itself. Of it’s own accord it has become the “go to discipline” for glowing appraisals of alternatives to medicine and solemn condemnation of conventional medicine.

More so, it has again of it’s own accord inserted itself in serious health debates way beyond the beliefs ensconced behind the battlements of it’s extradimensional reality. The vaccination issue. Pre natal, neo natal and extended post natal proclamations designed solely to scare vulnerable and gullible new parents to sign those lucrative “treatment contracts”. Paediatric chiropractic – perhaps more amusing than you realise if not for the conclusive demonstrations of inefficacy.

To my knowledge the only scheme to actually provoke symptoms of Munchausens Syndrome By Proxy it is responsible for creating nervous wrecks and genuine psychological patients of innocent parents. The invention of “syndrome” after “syndrome” and the terrifying warnings of what awaits those who do not succumb to regular “maintenance”.

However as we read in Quacks galore in facade of quirky medicine:

SCIENTISTS spent $374,000 recently asking people to inhale lemon and lavender scents to see if it helped their wounds to heal. It didn’t.

The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the US also outlaid $700,000 to show that magnets are no help in treating arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or migraines.

The centre spent $390,000 to find that old Indian herbal remedies do not control type 2 diabetes and $406,000 to prove coffee enemas do not cure pancreatic cancer.

It’s the same story around the globe. One by one, weirdo treatments are being exposed as bunkum.

Why are people so gullible, handing over their hard-earned cash for unproven alternative therapies? […]

Latest research says dietary supplements and megavitamins, acupuncture and chiropractic are of little use – and may even be harmful. […]

Chiropractors have now been discredited by every reputable medical organisation from the Royal Society down, yet people still spend up on these bone-crunchers and state and federal governments seem unwilling to shut them down.

Recently I reported on two experts on alternative medicine who reviewed all the evidence and concluded chiropractic was “worthless”.

“Harmful, worthless, discredited by every reputable medical organisation from the Royal Society down”. Keith, mate! And that’s coming from proponents of alternatives to medicine.

Like all magical claims chiropractic has been sternly examined and found wanting. It’s claims of efficacy crushed under the simple application of RCTs and it’s claims of safety evaporate before a monumental collection of research into death, permanent injury and disability or injury and complications with frequent cases of lengthy recovery. To be sure this happens in medicine also but to those already on death’s doorstep, significantly ill, disabled or in need of life saving surgery. And they are well informed of the risks that apply to a strictly evidence based choice.

That chiropractors scheme and trick people who are absolutely perfectly healthy – indeed many fatalities in robust health, the prime of life – to believe they need attention is itself a grave insult to common altruism and a thunderously immoral application of psychology. That healthy and vital people can be killed or injured and experience levels of morbidity that equal high impact vehicle accidents is a statement about chiropractic no-one can ignore.

Again addressing your mine’s bigger than yours argument I note the “fast-dwindling group of activists” reference. Of course nothing could be more inaccurate. Advocacy for science based medicine and skeptical defence and examination of consumer rights in health and beyond, is at an all time high. But it is not quantity that matters, and your obsession with quantity reveals your lack of appreciation for quality.

It is evidence that matters. Including evidence explaining what drives the interest in so many health scams we have seen rise up of late. The search for Truth is indeed vital, but skeptics and other scientists will accept the evidence as it comes. This happens to include that which explains the manipulation of individuals to believe the equivalent of magic is fact. Should the evidence indicate an increase in the future this too will be sought for further elucidation.

To comment on evidence gleaned from the methods that can be trusted to inform us of our world is not to be waging war. Much less a “self created turf war” as you put it. Of course people will continue to believe in fallacy and illusion. Magic has been a feature of our species for countless thousands of years, yet today we can discern the mechanics by which false displays are executed and the primary role of the believer themselves.

Many things will persist with health scams. Wars, cults, belief in the supernatural and our disposition to internalise superstitious belief to name a few. People are hard wired to believe in fantasy. Yet in a democracy I would not have it any other way for it reflects on my freedom. Your real concern should be with a.) the lack of evidence for chiropractic and b.) the ultimate goal of regulators.

Seeking to impede exploitation of fellow community members when evidence irrefutably confirms this, is the democratic right of skeptics and science advocates. When perpetrators of scams confirm malignant intent by misrepresenting evidence it becomes a moral obligation – a duty to our species.

Of course, with real freedom we find expression and belief should not be inhibited. In this light the freedom to be stupid is your democratic right.

I too have found great amusement in this exchange.

I fear however, your return to the lives of schoolgirls on Facebook is perhaps well justified.

Here’s lookin’ at ya Keith.

Manipulation, not gullibility may be driving alternatives to medicine

We hear so much about what alternatives to medicine are not doing, it’s perhaps worth pondering what they might be doing.

Beyond producing a placebo effect, which I stress is nothing to sniff at, it seems we can articulate other accompanying features we would do well to understand. One usually thinks of prescription writing conventional doctors upon hearing expressions like “we expect a pill for every ill”. This is not without good cause. As we saw medicine leap forward and family consulting rooms multiply, the gap between symptom severity and seeking attention quite naturally narrowed.

Yet whatever was going on in our minds that modified our part in closing that gap is a restless beast indeed. Part worry, part suspicion, part urgency, part ignorance, part arrogance, part fear, part expectation, part assumed knowledge and more, it can play a role in convincing us we’re ill – or far more ill than we are. Doctors now know that pandering to this aspect can lead to over-prescription, self medication and hypochondriacs. As a result the medical profession has learned how to manage certain traits with placebo and/or skilled bedside manner.

However, the industry to far and away exploit the sole notion of people needing attention for absolutely no reason is the so-called Wellness Industry. It is aptly named, proffering entirely useless or arguably harmful potions, rituals, observances, gizmos, pokes, prods, states of mind and more, to the entirely well.

But why? As one woman informed ABC’s Lateline some time back as they examined the scams used by chiropractors, It’s “…maintenance… making sure everything’s working properly, making sure everything’s working at it’s best”.

Sure enough the chiropractor asked her to bend to the left, then right. “How that going for you?”, he asked in the tone real doctors might use when examining an actual problem. The woman gets a check up every 4 to 6 weeks. The question we need to ask is about the driving force for her to ask someone if she is in good health. Is it a type of hypochondria? Is it a type of “self medication” in which one seeks out excessive treatment? Is not this chiropractor simply pandering to a psychological state, when his best advice would be to encourage less dependence?

I’m sure she felt better after paying, because just like with Cold Reading all the action occurs within the patients mind. In this case a complex array of cues, sciency stuff, repetition, anatomy posters and models, machines that go “Bing!”, tones of voice and even payment lead up to a nice squirt of dopamine upon completion. The woman is simply conditioned to associate the entire hanky panky with feeling good and thus, better health.

Of course take away this experience without the woman’s consent, and the more time that passes the more anxiety will mess with critical thinking and the usual creaks and twangs she’d ignore become directly attributable to not making it to her “maintenance”. This is the truly brilliant aspect of Wellness Scams. Even when their “patients” are well away from them the urge to return is steadily growing.

People don’t need chiropractic rituals as “maintenance” of health. Thus to continue to exploit this woman is unethical abuse simply for monetary gain. Get them hooked on this notion and it’s easy money. When challenged for evidence of efficacy these visits are trotted out, as if volume of attendance equates to success.

This is why chiropractors, shady nutritionists, reflexologists, reiki magicians, homeopaths, traditional therapists/masseurs work so hard at reinforcing “hits” between their scam and the patient verbalising an association. In the case of New Age diagnostics – often combined with a “therapy” (say iridology and vitamin therapy) – it’s quite simple to create a syndrome that just might be about to run amok.

“Hmmm. We’d better double the selenium, calcium and vitamin E and get you to come in at least twice a week. Let’s see if we can’t nip this in the bud, shall we?”.

It is actually a welcome trait seeing individuals wanting to take more charge of their own health. Certainly that plays a role in the viability of ongoing pseudosciences that masquerade as health services. Perhaps combined with the highly visual and ritualised capers pretending to offer health people are feeling in more control of their health than with brief doctors consultations. It may be that in our present uncertain world of such frequent change to once permanent features, that one seeks out modes of reassurance.

What is certainly a concern is that as people seem intent on taking more control over, and playing more active roles in their own health management, there are charlatans highly skilled at taking advantage of human needs. Nothing is too  difficult for them, nothing cannot be understood, all can be managed and all will be well.

At the top of the scam pyramid reign chiropractors, at once tuning, “diagnosing” and “curing” entirely made up syndromes that engender fear, anxiety, poor decision making and dependence upon ritual in innocent people. So good are chiropractors at this that pregnant patients, fed lies about the needs of newborns, express an impatience for delivery. All so that their neonate can begin chiropractic and thus, start to overcome the abnormalities they believe all children are born with.

Chiropractors run workshops on increasing income. The malleable state of women in a state of hormone flux either side of gestation is well understood. Not for the “patients” benefit. For the benefit of profit born of maternal anxiety and parental fear. It becomes a matter of urgency. The longer left, the more “abnormal” the child will be. Antivaxxers make use of the maternal instinct also, as do renegade home birth groups.

It’s a trait that has served our species well. If mum receives bogus input suggesting the foetus or bub is under threat, no harm comes to either if mum acts upon it. But if mum hangs around to weigh up the risks or ignores constant cues for some time and the risk is real, the chance of this remaining as a successful evolutionary trait is zero. The strength of this trait is notable in that addiction to harmful substances can overrun it. Yet this is following changes in the reward-pleasure centre of the brain, that then initiate neuronal projections into the frontal lobe that serve to inhibit reasoning, decision making, self control and inhibition of behaviour.

Antivaccination lobbyist, AVN member, anti-medicine advocate, homeopathic immunisation promoter and chiropractor Simon Floreani who has children making up 60% of his client base once told Today Tonight:

Babies often come directly from the hospital. They’re referred from the obstetricians, the doctors, the pediatricians, the nurses because chiropractic care’s so safe for them. Many of the current medical procedures just don’t work and parents aren’t silly. They’re looking for good alternatives from people that care and are prepared to look into diet and lifestyle.

As one time Skeptic of the year, Loretta Marron contends, “what they are is faith healers”. Traditional chiropractor John Reggars insists it’s a case of self limiting conditions or perceived changes. From an evidence viewpoint there’s nothing to support chiropractic – even with sore backs. In fact studies show the locus lies with parental belief. If parents think the kids are getting treatment they report improvement even if they are not. Conversely if they believe the child is not being treated when it is, they report deterioration.

The Courier Mail reported recently:

SCIENTISTS spent $374,000 recently asking people to inhale lemon and lavender scents to see if it helped their wounds to heal. It didn’t.

The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the US also outlaid $700,000 to show that magnets are no help in treating arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or migraines.

The centre spent $390,000 to find that old Indian herbal remedies do not control type 2 diabetes and $406,000 to prove coffee enemas do not cure pancreatic cancer.

It’s the same story around the globe. One by one, weirdo treatments are being exposed as bunkum.

Why are people so gullible, handing over their hard-earned cash for unproven alternative therapies?

Why do usually sane people get sucked in by pseudo-scientific fiddle-faddle such as homeopathy, reiki, reflexology, naturopathy, aromatherapy, iridology and crystals? […]

Chiropractors have now been discredited by every reputable medical organisation from the Royal Society down, yet people still spend up on these bone-crunchers and state and federal governments seem unwilling to shut them down.

Recently I reported on two experts on alternative medicine who reviewed all the evidence and concluded chiropractic was “worthless”.

Professor Edzard Ernst and Peter Canter found no convincing data to support claims the technique was effective.

With the possible exception of the relief of some back pain – where spinal manipulation is as good but no better than conventional treatments – the technique is worthless, the review in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine concluded.

Another impacting feature is the “legitimising” tricks buffering complete rubbish. “Diplomas” in homeopathy. “Degrees” in chiropractic. The meaningless but very powerful use of the term Doctor. Flashy titles given to Boards or National Bodies. Misleading titles such as The Australian Vaccination Network that supports zero vaccines calling them “instruments of death”. “Pro-choice” groups. All this is strictly designed to mislead from the outset.

Yet I’m not sure asking only about gullibility is enough. Gullibility persists often due to a conscious decision to not examine criticism of what has become a comforting belief or set of beliefs. More so we are hard wired to seek out information that confirms what we think we know as fact and associate with people who reinforce our beliefs. Even internalising contradictory information about our beliefs can in time lead to reinterpretation that reinforces the opposite of the information we took in. Cognitive bias is a powerful master.

An admirable foe to conventional medicine who pops up here, Meryl Dorey, completely dismisses the findings above. Yet, when criticising vaccines she relies upon respect for the same scientific approach. “The gold standard of scientific research”, she argues, is the Randomised Controlled Trial. As RCT’s mow down alternatives to medicine Meryl insists that until vaccines are subject to RCT’s they cannot be regarded as “properly tested”. Although Meryl is beyond reason (as evidenced by this level of ignorance about how RCTs work) it’s a fine example of how belief can eliminate respect for evidence.

Perhaps we should be asking more about what leads people to internalise so much misinformation about the world we live in and the basics about how it works. So much of the market sustaining disproved alternatives to medicine also accept without question that our environment is highly toxic, it pollutes our health and natural new age “cures” are needed. They also believe conventional medicine, hiding the truth about “natural cures”, is irrevocably corrupt, peddles poison as medication and is ironically creating a world of sickness from which it profits.

Much of this is provided to them from so-called “alternative practitioners”. Detox’ is necessary. No, it’s quite dangerous. Medicines treat the symptoms not the cause. Quite true, I hasten to add in many cases. I’m just not sure why this is assumed to be a blanket flaw. Figures on medical mishaps draw concern. Yes real doctors are accountable and mishaps are still a small percentage. Adverse reactions from drugs prove medicine is lethal. Quite wrong. Primarily ADR’s underscore patient error, and again given the millions of scripts dispensed is another small symptom of accountability.

The truth is, Conventional Medicine is not peddling sickness and keeping you ill for profit. But Alternatives to Medicine are profiting from the false belief you need maintenance and from keeping you splendidly ignorant.

This continued misinformation about real medicine takes up an exorbitant amount of the message coming from the supposed “complimentary”, “alternative” or “integrative” chapters. From antivaccination messages to the vast bulk of alternatives to medicine the claim of “efficacy” is buoyed upon a childish notion. “We are good, because they are bad”. The more “bad” squeezed in the less the need for evidence to show Theta Healing could possibly work or that oscillococcinum isn’t plain nonsense.

Still this doesn’t explain everything and I don’t imagine I could. What causes one mother to accept antivaccination hogwash in a maternal embrace and another to sink her teeth into it’s carotid artery, so to speak? Personal experience can shape belief but even here outside forces tend to be the final decider. Certainly scientific literacy and the awareness that one must trust experts in certain fields is crucial to good decision making.

Alternatively, having “researched” every crackpot self affirming, disreputable source whilst avoiding reputable – indeed any source – material is intellectual sabotage. Likewise being affluent and highly skilled in one area doesn’t immediately make a person “educated” as the media insist on telling us.

At best one could argue that so many scams continue to attract patronage because they offer an emotional and psychological package of oneself taking control. Lengthy consultation sessions provide for bonding and a sense of loyalty.

Much of the practice or ritualised session is designed to instil reliance and dependence upon the so-called practitioner. Bogus symptoms and syndromes are tacked on whilst alienation from conventional medicine evoking feelings of betrayal and self-superiority sinks in. Reading material and other patrons readily reinforce this.

Some charlatans often claim their Wonder Woo is suppressed by Big Pharma, as was the case with Francine Scrayen, Dr. Death Sartori charged in multiple countries and QLD MMS wielding cancer curing, scam artist Jillian Newlands. Although most often this is announced to the very desperate and the most ill.

Ultimately it appears that if we are to push down this bubble of bogus practices we need to understand just why so many of us are seeking attention to our state of being. It is not last ditch desperation or even seeking treatment for obvious illness. People need attention and in seeking it they are being sold dependence.

Dependence upon forces, rituals, cleanses and superstitions they previously never knew existed. That so much of this comes with ready packaged insults toward conventional medicine instills distrust of the very regulators who must act for the public good.

Perhaps as more and more scams are shown to be clinically useless, those that have depended upon them need to be educated in how they’ve been manipulated.