MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

satire

One of the perks of researching alternative medicine and writing a blog about it is that one rarely runs out of good laughs. In perfect accordance with ERNST’S LAW, I have recently been entertained, amused, even thrilled by a flurry of ad hominem attacks most of which are true knee-slappers. I would like to take this occasion to thank my assailants for their fantasy and tenacity. Most days, these ad hominem attacks really do make my day.

I can only hope they will continue to make my days a little more joyous. My fear, however, is that they might, one day, run out of material. Even today, their claims are somewhat repetitive:

  • I am not qualified
  • I only speak tosh
  • I do not understand science
  • I never did any ‘real’ research
  • Exeter Uni fired me
  • I have been caught red-handed (not quite sure at what)
  • I am on BIG PHARMA’s payroll
  • I faked my research papers

Come on, you feeble-minded fantasists must be able to do better! Isn’t it time to bring something new?

Yes, I know, innovation is not an easy task. The best ad hominem attacks are, of course, always based on a kernel of truth. In that respect, the ones that have been repeated ad nauseam are sadly wanting. Therefore I have decided to provide all would-be attackers with some true and relevant facts from my life. These should enable them to invent further myths and use them as ammunition against me.

Sounds like fun? Here we go:

Both my grandfather and my father were both doctors

This part of my family history could be spun in all sorts of intriguing ways. For instance, one could make up a nice story about how I, even as a child, was brain-washed to defend the medical profession at all cost from the onslaught of non-medical healers.

Our family physician was a prominent homeopath

Ahhhh, did he perhaps mistreat me and start me off on my crusade against homeopathy? Surely, there must be a nice ad hominem attack in here!

I studied psychology at Munich but did not finish it

Did I give up psychology because I discovered a manic obsession or other character flaw deeply hidden in my soul?

I then studied medicine (also in Munich) and made a MD thesis in the area of blood clotting

No doubt this is pure invention. Where are the proofs of my qualifications? Are the data in my thesis real or invented?

My 1st job as a junior doctor was in a homeopathic hospital in Munich

Yes, but why did I leave? Surely they found out about me and fired me.

I had hands on training in several forms of alternative medicine, including homeopathy

Easy to say, but where are the proofs?

I moved to London where I worked in St George’s Hospital conducting research in blood rheology

Another invention? Where are the published papers to document this?

I went back to Munich university where I continued this line of research and was awarded a PhD

Another thesis? Again with dodgy data? Where can one see this document?

I became Professor Rehabilitation Medicine first at Hannover Medical School and later in Vienna

How did that happen? Did I perhaps bribe the appointment panels?

In 1993, I was appointed to the Chair in Complementary Medicine at Exeter university

Yes, we all know that; but why did I not direct my efforts towards promoting alternative medicine?

In Exeter, together with a team of ~20 colleagues, we published > 1000 papers on alternative medicine, more than anyone else in that field

Impossible! This number clearly shows that many of these articles are fakes or plagiaries.

My H-Index is currently >80

Same as above.

In 2012, I became Emeritus Professor of the University of Exeter

Isn’t ’emeritus’ the Latin word for ‘dishonourable discharge’?

I HOPE I CAN RELY ON ALL OF MY AD HOMINEM ATTACKERS TO USE THIS INFORMATION AND RENDER THE ASSAULTS MORE DIVERSE, REAL AND INTERESTING.

To write an AT FAP seems far from easy. The reason for this is simple: the reality of alternative medicine is often more fantastic than what our fantasy can make up. I hope you give it a try nevertheless and send me your stories. Here are AT FAPs 10, 11 and 12.

AT FAP No 10 (by Edzard Ernst)

IMPORTANT NEW ARTICLE IN ‘SOS’

A little-known but nevertheless important monthly journal called ‘Snake-Oil Salesman’ (SOS) has just published a remarkable article which, I think, deserves a mention here. The paper entitled HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN HARD TIMES – A ROAD-MAP TO HEALTH AND WEALTH was authored by the chief executive of ‘Dutchy Originals Herbal Tinctures’ (DOHT) but the grapevine has it that Prince Charles had important input as well. The article explains that, during recessions, snake-oil salesmen are the ones who suffer most. People are just not educated enough to realise the importance of snake oil to public health and wealth, the paper stated. The sale figures for Dutchy Originals Herbal Detox Tincture, for instance, have been declining steadily ever since the world financial crisis started. And that during a time when people need our products most, the SOS-paper stressed. In view of this dire situation, the experts at DOHT have conducted a multi-facetted research project funded by HRH with the aim of designing an effective strategy that will boost sale figures of any snake-oil product, even during hard times. The main part of the SOS-article goes into the strategy point by point. Here I take the liberty of listing from the executive summary the main landmarks on the road to snake-oil success:

  • snake-oil is natural and natural means good, effective and foremost safe
  • synthetic medicines have none of these qualities, on the contrary, they are amongst the leading causes of death in most countries
  • snake-oils have stood the test of time; they were used much before today’s pharmaceuticals were even invented; in other words, they have been field tested for hundreds of years on millions of patients, and that is certainly more important than a few clinical trials
  •  snake-oils are thus supported by thousands of anecdotes and satisfied customers
  • highly respected pharmacies like Boots sell snake-oil and some are even available on the NHS
  • famous people, politicians and other pillars of society regularly use snake-oil; some even have a Royal warrant!
  • several Nobel-prize winners endorse snake-oil
  • compared to some modern drugs, snake-oil is cheap
  • snake-oil is not just for one or two conditions, it is a ‘cure all’
  • snake-oil is holistic, i.e. it takes care not just of your physical symptoms, like conventional drugs might do, it also increases wellness on the emotional and spiritual levels
  • snake-oil is in tune with the current emphasis on patient choice in health care

The SOS-article concludes with the advice for snake-oil manufacturers to employ the above-listed elements for an effective sales-strategy wisely. Do not use all you ammunition at once, writes the paper states, if you adapt a small selection of them carefully to optimally suit your product, you will be able to sell your snake-oil well, and your customers will be delighted forthwith. It really is a win/win situation.

AT FAP No 11 (by Edzard Ernst)

THE ‘NO BRAIN DRAIN’

At a recent meeting of the ‘International Medical Research Standard Panel’ (IMRSP), a governance body of major research funding bodies across the globe aimed at watching over, as well as increasing the quality of medical research, members surprised the world of science: in an official statement, they expressed their pleasure with and approval of alternative medicine.

The panel had commissioned an investigation into the impact on research standards of the plethora of alternative medicine research groups (AMRGs). The investigators applied powerful statistical methods and demonstrated an unexpected but consistent effect: In regions where particularly many AMRGs had emerged, the quality of mainstream medical research seemed to improve; there was even something akin to a dose-effect relationship: the more AMRGs, the larger the improvement in quality.

The panel concluded that alternative medicine seems to attract those researchers who are “perhaps not the brightest buttons in the drawer”, as they elegantly put it. This ‘no brain drain’, they argued, has the effect that the less gifted scientists are drawn away from mainstream research which, in turn, means that the quality of mainstream science increases. A spokesman said: “we are pleased that so many AMRGs are emerging these days and hope the trend continues for the benefit of real medicine”.

AT FAP No 12 (submitted by ‘stopthequacks’)

CASE REPORT:

Homeopathy successfully treats heart attack

As part of the intensive on-going research effort in the School of Homeopathy Education and Denialism (Shed) in our garden we’re delighted to report another success for homeopathy.

One of our leading researchers Del Usional was investigating homeopathic preparations of mains voltage alternating current. In these highly technical and detailed scientific experiments Del first cut the end off a kettle lead and  removed the shielding from the live and neutral wires. He then plugged in the cable and put the exposed copper ends into some fresh tap water in a clean jam jar.

This resulted in Del being thrown backwards and landing on the lawnmower and suffering a cardiac arrest. Luckily a colleague witnessed this and called the paramedics. However, with great presence of mind, he began to succus and dilute the water that remained in the jar. The paramedics arrived and despite defibrillating Del were having no success, the race was on. !0, 20, 30C and Del was still in problems, chest compressions and oxygen  were doing nothing. Finally 200C, we’d need a really potent remedy for this situation.

Just as the paramedics shocked Del again some of the 200C Alt Curr preparation was dripped on Del’s lips. Instantly he coughed and opened his eyes. He made a full recovery and the burns on his hands were successfully treated with homeopathic preparations (after skin grafting).

This clear and unequivocal result shows the power of homeopathy. The sceptics may well say we “don’t know” that it wasn’t quantum nano-bollock particles of copper from the wire rather than the electricity itself. But that’s just stupid – like cures like so it couldn’t be the copper, it is obviously the memory of the electricity in the water that had the effect.

We offered some of this highly potent medicine to the paramedic crew but they mysteriously declined, we can only assume they are in the pay of big Pharma.

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