MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Prince Charles’ meddling beyond his constitutional role is yet again in the press today. I was sent the 2nd batch of ‘spider memos’ yesterday, studied them and commented as follows:

The letters demonstrate yet again that Prince Charles relentlessly meddles in UK health politics and thus disrespects his constitutional role. His arguments in favour of CAM, and in particular homeopathy, show a devastating lack of knowledge and understanding; they are ill-informed, invalid and embarrassingly naïve – but at the same time they are remarkably persistent. Charles tries to give the impression that he is motivated by passion and compassion, but in health care such drivers need solid evidence and expertise. Charles has neither which is not just regrettable, it is arrogant on his part and potentially harmful for public health.

If you get the feeling that I have little patience with Charles’ meddling, you may be right. I have little doubt that it was his interfering that led to the closure of my research unit at Exeter. In my book, A SCIENTIST IN WONDERLAND, I provide the full details of what happened. Here I would just like to reproduce the incredible ‘spider memo’ in question.

It was not actually authored by Charles but by Sir Michael Peat, his 1st private secretary. On 22 September 2005, Peat wrote on Clarence House note-paper to the Vice Chancellor of Exeter University wrongly accusing me of a serious breach of confidentiality:

I am writing both as The Prince of Wales’ Private Secretary and as Acting Chairman of His Royal Highness’ Foundation for Integrated Health.

There has been a breach of confidence by Professor Edzard Ernst in respect of a draft report on the efficacy of certain complementary therapies sent to him by Mr. Christopher Smallwood. The report was commissioned by The Prince of Wales.

Mr. Smallwood sent Professor Ernst an early and, at that stage, incomplete draft of the report for comment. The accompanying e-mail requested and stressed the need for confidentiality. Professor Ernst implicitly agreed to comment on the report on this basis but then, as you probably saw, gave his views about the report to the national press. I attach a copy of a letter from the Editor of the Lancet published by The Times which summarises the issues well. I also attach a copy of the e-mail sent to Professor Ernst by Mr. Smallwood.

I apologise for troubling you, but I felt that you should have this matter drawn to your attention.

What followed was embarrassing and shameful: my uni started a 13 month investigation, eventually I was pronounced innocent but my unit was closed down. Unbelievably, Clarence house denied that Charles even knew about this amazing attempt to meddle in academic affairs. As I say, you need to read my memoir to understand this story fully.

19 Responses to The ‘spider memo’ which the press forgot

  • Where is Francis Urquhart when you need him?

  • Follow the money, always follow the money. Following the invention of tailor made cigarettes and hydrogenated vegetable oils in the early 20th century and a lag time of 20 years, heart attacks and coronary artery disease became a problem. President Eisenhower, a chain smoker, had his first heart attack in 1955. Dr. Ancel Keys, a physiology professor at my medical school, who selected the food for the WWII battle ration (K rations) claimed to have discovered the cause of atherosclerosis, cholesterol and saturated fats. A failed presidential candidate, Sen. McGovern pushed though a Senate commission report authored by a vegan assistant. The theory has become dogma and doubters were cut off from research grants and editorial boards rejected papers. Keys cherry picked data to support his theory. The USA and world has gotten fat and diabetic on a high carb low fat diet. The $40B statin industry was born.
    When government, bad science and big money gets together, bad things happen!

    • Have you ever heard of “honest mistakes” or assumptions that turned out to be false when tested? Or are you a brainless child with no decision power of your own?

      Have you ever heard about ingesting more energy than needed? As the Dutch saying goes: every pound goes through the mouth! We eat too much, and that is *not* the government’s fault, *not* “bad science’s” fault and *not* big money’s fault! Just because a drug dealer offers you illicit drugs is not a very good reason to get high and hooked on them. We get fat, because we eat too much, not because anyone force-feeds us like foie gras geese!

      And in spite of all factors that may/might/could possibly contribute/help, we are still autonomous and we still decide ourselves whether or not we eat something, and get fat because of it.

      • Bart,

        You should do a bit more study before making a caustic comment. I would suggest reading Gary Taubes who has an masters degree in physics discuss energy in; energy out or Nina Teicholz excellent book, THE BIG FAT SURPRISE. The current dietary theory is that the current obesity/diabetes epidemic is not caused by gluttony and sloth.

        • And you might want to learn to read. Gluttony and sloth certainly are causes of obesity, but only a complete ignoramus would say they are the only ones. Ask yourself this question: how many people and other animals have been shown to become fat on fewer calories than they burn? While the quack industry doesn’t like to talk about it, you will find that the answer, in round figures, is that roundest figure of all: zero.

          While consuming more energy than you burn *may* (and in the long run probably will) make you fat, consuming less energy than you burn *will* make you skinny and eventually kill you. There are NO known exceptions.

          As far as Gary Taubes is concerned: it doesn’t matter how many degrees he has. What matters is that he makes appropriate use of the knowledge he acquired in the hunt for those degrees. Taubes seems to be failing miserably in that requirement.

          • Bart,

            Quit being a simpleton The physiology of insulin, insulin resistance, leptin, fatty acids and carbohydrates metabolism is moderately complex but with some study, you might learn something. End of discussion.

          • Bart,

            Quit being a simpleton The physiology of insulin, insulin resistance, leptin, fatty acids and carbohydrates metabolism is moderately complex but with some study, you might learn something. End of discussion.

            I think it is now clear that I am but a miserable minus habens in comparison to your towering intellect, so please indulge me. Can you direct me to credible research that demonstrates beyond the reasonable doubt that people can indeed grow fat on fewer calories than they burn in order to stay alive? That would be wonderful, you would make an old fart very happy, and I would be in your debt. Thank you so much!

          • Brooks Butler, Two things are becoming increasingly clear to me: you do not understand the universal laws of physics; you either do not want to understand them, or you have reasons to deny or obfuscate them.

            If a fully-grown adult animal was able to gain weight despite metabolising a lower average power (in Calories/month or watts) from its food than the average power that it expends (via its resting state plus exercise), it would be a source of free energy — which does not exist in this universe, however, such claims are frequently made in the alternative universes of quackery.

          • Pete and Bart,

            I started looking into nutrition a year ago when I obviously was putting on fat since retiring. I tried eating vegan for 2+ months. Yuck
            Here are some links youtube videos that I have found valuable.

            15 min.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84AbIfDRAkQ

            90 min.—-the best medical lecture that I have ever heard
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv_ZA88ytg4

            The Big Fat Surprise: Worth the read
            http://www.amazon.com/Big-Fat-Surprise-Butter-Healthy/dp/1451624433/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433698878&sr=8-1&keywords=nina+teicholz+the+big+fat+surprise

            Regarding energy balance—–on high fat low carb, basal metabolism rate increases independent of exercise.—Dr. Peter Attia

          • Brooks,

            Energy absorbed from food (Ein) = Calorific value (C) x metabolic conversion efficiency (Q).
            Power input (Pin) = Ein / time.
            Power output (Pout) = basal metabolic rate (BMR) + non-resting state power (N).

            Taking long-term averages (say, six months) when Pout is less than Pin the body stores the excess energy as fat. When Pout is greater than Pin the body uses its store of fat to supply the shortfall. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another. Therefore, it is impossible to gain weight unless Pout is less than Pin. It is difficult to increase Pout, and simple to reduce Pin by eating less Calories per month.

            Diet woo-woo is all about distracting people from the simple physics by testiculating [waving your arms around while talking bollocks] about Q, BMR, N, and a whole load of science-y sounding biochemistry. This is why there are hundreds of conflicting diets. It’s pseudoscience.

            As we get older our BMR reduces and we tend to lead a more sedentary lifestyle, which reduces N. Therefore, we need to lower our Pin. There are ways of reducing Q, but this is a dangerous option. There and ways of increasing BMR, but this is a daft option. Regular exercise will increase N yet it will have only a small effect on Pout, furthermore, it will make us feel more hungry leading to increasing our Pin by much more than the increased value of N. Regular exercise is very important in maintain health; it’s not about controlling weight.

            The two main problems for most people are: when our Pout = Pin (zero weight change) we feel constantly peckish; we are hardwired to crave fatty foods, which is why they taste so irresistibly delicious.

            Following a science-y sounding diet just fools us into believing that we are addressing our weight gain/loss and it distracts us from actually addressing our weight by eating less and suffering the discomfort. Weight control is all about psychology, not about biochemistry. Obviously, the optimal diet for an athlete has nothing whatsoever to do with diets that are highly suitable for most people.

            Warning: Anyone who is concerned about their diet should consult a fully qualified and registered dietician; never follow the advice provided via books, magazines, websites, family, friends, self-proclaimed experts, or nutritionists who are masquerading as being qualified to provide advice.

          • Pete, this is so elegantly formulated, it has the same effect on me as a well-composed and well-performed piece of music. More important is that it is true, but it is also lovely, and that is great. Well done!

  • It won’t change anything in reality, the damage has been done, but I think Prince Charles should apologise for this, or be tried and go to prison for harming people. He has all the hallmarks of a con man.

  • This must have been an appalling experience for you.

  • Spiderman’s most recently revealed missive to Alan Johnson (Secretry of State for Health, 19 September 2007) claimed:
    “The only reason I persist in my efforts over integrated healthcare despite waves of invective over, the years from parts of the Medical and Scientific Establishments is because I cannot bear people suffering unnecessarily when a complementary approach could make a real difference.”
    And in connection with the impending demise of NHS homeopathic hospitals:
    “The point about all this, surely, is that the N.H.S. offer an holistic, patient-centred, low-risk, low-cost, low-tech approach that is cost-effective.”

    However, HRH has persistently refused to publish the evidence on which he bases his esteemed opinion that complementary approaches do, in fact, ‘make a real difference’; and that homeopathy has any significant effect at all, let alone is cost-effective.
    He abjectly refuses to enter into any meaningful debate which might expose his opinions to scrutiny and prefers to hide behind his mother’s skirts and protocol.
    This approach is to be deprecated as it denies patients the information they need if they are to give informed consent to treatment.

    The following motion has been proposed for debate at next week’s BMA Annual Conference (Liverpool, June 22nd-25th).
    Time constraints will probably mean it is not reached for debate, but it is still on the agenda and members might yet consider it as a motion chosen for debate.

    “This meeting: (i) Notes that BMA past President HRH the Prince of Wales “Believes in combining the best of evidence-based, conventional medicine, with an holistic approach to healthcare; treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms of disease.” (Spokesman, Daily Telegraph 21st January 2015); (ii) Reassures HRH that the best conventional medicine already incorporates holistic approaches; (iii) Requests that HRH publishes any evidence he has that homeopathic remedies are capable of outcomes any better than can be achieved by declared placebos.”

    HRH should be free to write all the letters he wishes.
    If he wishes to influence public policy, he should engage in open debate and the public should be free to question him on his beliefs.
    Otherwise ministers who receive spidergrams should simply reply ‘Thank you, your opinions are noted.’
    End of.

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