Almost 10 years ago, I posted this:
When I decided to become a doctor I, like most medical students, did so mainly to help suffering individuals. When I became a researcher, I felt more removed from this original ideal. Yet I told myself that, by conducting research, I might eventually contribute to a better health care of tomorrow. Helping suffering patients was still firmly on the agenda. But then I realised that my articles in peer-reviewed medical journals somehow missed an important target: in alternative medicine, one ought to speak not just to health care professionals but also to consumers and patients; after all, it is they who often make the therapeutic decisions in this area.
Once I had realised this, I started addressing the general public by writing for The Guardian and other newspapers, giving public lectures and publishing books for a lay audience, like TRICK OR TREATMENT…The more I did this sort of thing, the more I noticed how important this activity was. And when a friend offered to help me set up a blog, I did not hesitate for long.
So, the reason for my enthusiasm for this blog turns out to be the same as the one that enticed me to go into medicine in the first place. I do believe that it is helpful for consumers to know the truth about alternative medicine. Considering the thousands of sources of daily misinformation in this area, there is an urgent need for well-informed, critical information. By providing it, I am sure I can assist people to make better therapeutic decisions. In a way, I am back where I started all those years ago: hoping to help suffering patients in the most direct way my expertise allows.
Helping vulnerable patients often means warning them from dangerous charlatans, and this is precisely what I frequently try to do with this blog. But how successful are my endeavors?
More often than not, I have no idea and can only hope for the best. Sometimes I do get some feedback that is encouraging and motivates me to carry on. Rarely, however, do I witness immediate, tangible success. And this is why the recent story is so remarkable:
- On 6 June, an Australian acquaintance from the FRIENDS OF SCIENCE IN MEDICINE sent me some material about a planned lecture in the UK by someone promoting dangerous quackery.
- I looked into it and published a blog post about it a few hours later.
- A reader then suggested in the comments section of this post alerting the UK press to it.
- Another reader contacted THE TIMES, and I wrote to several other journalists.
- THE TIMES turned out to be interested in the story.
- They did some research and interviewed Michael Marshall from the GOOD THINKING SOCIETY (and myself).
- Today, THE TIMES published an article about the planned event.
- Finally, a kind person made the article available to those who don’t want to pay for it.
The whole thing amounts to superb teamwork, in my view. It shows how like-minded people who do not even all know each other can manage to achieve a respectable result with little more than goodwill and dedication.
A respectable result?
Of course, the optimal result would be to stop Barbara O’Neill’s UK lectures. Let’s hope this is what eventually will happen – and please let me know if you know more.