MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

death

Please allow me to write a post today that has nothing at all to do with so-called alternative medicine, not even with medicine.

Yesterday, 13 March, was my mother’s birthday. She was born in 1911 and died in 1989. I often think of her and the remarkable life she had, particularly, of course, on 13 March.

Going through my X-feed yesterday, I saw this post from the Auschwitz Memorial:

13 March 1911 | A Pole, Józef Kowalski, was born in Siedliska. A Catholic priest, Salesian. In Auschwitz from 26 June 1941. No. 17350 On 4 July 1942 he was drowned in a barrel of fecal matter in the Penal Company, where he was placed for refusing to trample a rosary.

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I am not a religious person but I was struck: this man was born on the same day as my mother and lived not far from where she did. He was brutally killed, while she, not far away, was peacefully trying to buid a future with my father,
I simply had to find out more about him. This turned out to be easy because there is plenty of information, even a Wiki page on him. Here is a short summary of his life:

Józef Kowalski was born in Siedliska on 13 March 1911 to Wojciech and Zofia Borowiec, the seventh of their nine children. He was ordained a priest on 29 May 1938 as member of the Salesian Religious Society. During the German occupation of Poland, the Salesians continued their educational work. The Gestapo arrested Kowalski on 23 May 1941, along with eleven other Salesians. They were taken to Montelupich Prison and tortured.

Kowalski was sent to Auschwitz on 26 June 1941. There, he ministered to his fellow prisoners usually in secret, but at least once in front of everyone at the moment of mass execution. He was ordered by Blockführer Gerhard Palitzsch to trample upon his rosary but refused. Palitzsch was one of the most brutal of all the SS officers of the camps (he later vanished from the records, possibly killed in action). As punishment, he was assigned to a penal company. In his last letter to his parents, Józef wrote:

Do not worry about me; I am in God’s hands. I want to assure you that I feel His help at every step. Despite the present situation, I am happy and completely at peace.

On 3 July 1942 he was mocked and severely beaten by the guards for being a priest. The same night, they pulled him out of his barracks, gravely beat him again and killed him. Kowalski’s body was found the next day and burned with others. He was 31 years of age.

Pope John Paul II who had known Kowalski personally beatified Kowalski on 13 June 1999.

____________________________

Please forgive me if you find this post irrelevant or inappropriate.

 

Traditional herbal medicine (THM) is frequently used in pediatric populations. This is perticularly true in many low-income countries. Yet THM has been associated with a range of adverse events, including liver toxicity, renal failure, and allergic reactions. Despite these concerns, its impact on multi-organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS) risk has so far not been thoroughly investigated.

This study aimed to investigate the incidence and predictors of MODS in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in Ethiopia, with a focus on the association between THM use and the risk of MODS. It was designed as a single-center prospective cohort study conducted at a PICU in the university of Gondar Comprehensive Specialized hospital, Northwest Ethiopia. The researchers enrolled eligible patients aged one month to 18 years admitted to the PICU during the study period. Data on demographic characteristics, medical history, clinical and laboratory data, and outcome measures using standard case record forms, physical examination, and patient document reviews. The predictors of MODS were assessed using Cox proportional hazards models, with a focus on the association between traditional herbal medicine use and the risk of MODS.

A total of 310 patients were included in the final analysis, with a median age of 48 months and a male-to-female ratio of 1.5:1. The proportion and incidence of MODS were 30.96% (95% CI:25.8, 36.6) and 7.71(95% CI: 6.10, 9.40) per 100-person-day observation respectively. Renal failure (17.74%), neurologic failure (15.16%), and heart failure (14.52%) were the leading organ failures identified. Nearly one-third of patients (32.9%) died in the PICU, of which 59.8% had MODS. The rate of mortality was higher in patients with MODS than in those without. The Cox proportional hazards model identified renal disease (AHR = 6.32 (95%CI: 3.17,12.61)), intake of traditional herbal medication (AHR = 2.45, 95% CI:1.29,4.65), modified Pediatric Index of Mortality 2 (mPIM 2) score (AHR = 1.54 (95% CI: 1.38,1.71), and critical illness diagnoses (AHR = 2.68 (95% CI: 1.77,4.07)) as predictors of MODS.

The authors concluded that the incidence of MODS was high. Renal disease, THM use, mPIM 2 scores, and critical illness diagnoses were independent predictors of MODS. A more than twofold increase in the risk of MODS was seen in patients who used TMH. Healthcare providers should be aware of risks associated with THM, and educate caregivers about the potential harms of these products. Future studies with larger sample sizes and more comprehensive outcome measures are needed.

I do fully agree with the authors about the high usage of herbal and other so-called alternative medicines by children. We have shown that, in the UK the average one-year prevalence rate was 34% and the average lifetime prevalence was 42%. We have furthermore shown that the evidence base for these treatments in children is weak, even more so than for general populations. Finally, we can confirm that adverse effects are far from rare and often serious.

It is therefore high time, I think, that national regulators do more to protect children from SCAM practitioners who are at best uncritical about their treatments and at worse outright dangerous.

Guest post by Ken McLeod

This week a Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Jarrad Antonovich resumes [1] in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia. Meanwhile, pending the outcome of Inquests and other investigations, the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission has imposed interim prohibition order on Mr Soulore Solaris, ‘….a Counsellor who facilitates Ayahuasca ceremonies.’

Under section 41AA of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 (Act), Mr Solaris: “….must not under any circumstances provide, or cause to be provided, any health services, either in paid employment or voluntary, to any member of the public.” [2] This applies until 11 March 2024, when the matter will be reconsidered.

So what is all this about? To go back a while, Mr Antonovich died from a perforated oesophagus after consuming ayahuasca and kambo frog toxin in October 2021, at the age of 46, while attending the ‘Dreaming Arts festival’, a six-day retreat at Arcoora near Kyogle in northern New South Wales. At the festival he had consumed ayahuasca and participated in a “Kambo” ceremony, involving secretions harvested from an Amazonian tree frog.

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic substance made from boiling plants that is used in ritualistic ceremonies in the Amazon basin. [3] Ayahuasca contains chemicals of concern, such as N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a highly psychedelic substance and a Schedule I drug under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Ayahuasca is illegal in many countries, and it is illegal to sell, import, produce and possess it in Australia. [4]

Kambo is made from secretions harvested from an Amazonian tree frog. Kambo is usually used in a group setting, called a Kambo circle or Kambo ceremony. Wikipedia lists a whole smorgasbord of dangerous consequences, including tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, psychosis, SIADH, kidney damage (including acute renal failure), pancreas damage, liver damage including toxic hepatitis, dermatomyositis, esophageal rupture, seizures, and death. [5]

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has listed it as a schedule 10 poison, in the category for “substances of such danger to health as to warrant prohibition of sale, supply and use”. [6]

Earlier in the Inquest we heard that:

  • – While Jarrad Antonovich‘s condition worsened there was resistance to calling for an ambulance. An ambulance was finally called at 11.30pm and took an hour to arrive because of the remote location.
  • -One ambulance officer reported that a female told them to “move away from Jarrad because it was affecting his aura” and no one told them he had consumed Kambo. [7]
  • -The event organiser Soulore “Lore” Solaris described Jarrad Antonovich’s death as ‘beautiful.’ [8]
  • -Fred Woller, the site manager at Arcoora, was unaware those running the event did not have any medical training. [9]
  • -Soulore “Lore” Solaris said Mr Antonovich ”…. had good support, a couple of kinesiologists with him and they couldn’t find anything wrong,” [10]
  • -Mr Antonovich “was surrounded by people who loved him and an Aboriginal elder called Uncle Andrew who was chanting sacred songs and calling the spirit out of his body” and “the koalas were making a special sound that is known to the elders when the land accepts a spirit”.
  • -“Mr Solaris has stated that he has plans to leave Australia for Brazil to visit his teachers.” [11]

We will keep you informed.

REFERENCES

  • 1 Court Lists http://tinyurl.com/3fzjd6uy
  • 2 Health Care Complaints Commission http://tinyurl.com/yh76rzc6
  • 3 The Guardian http://tinyurl.com/328manjt
  • 4 Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_status_of_ayahuasca_by_country
  • 5 Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kambo_(drug)
  • 6 The Guardian http://tinyurl.com/2s398psy
  • 7 The Guardian http://tinyurl.com/328manjt
  • 8 ABC http://tinyurl.com/5n7ejydy
  • 9 The Guardian http://tinyurl.com/59wa3rmn
  • 10 ABC http://tinyurl.com/5n7ejydy
  • 11 Byron Bay Echo http://tinyurl.com/44n78s2w

The French ‘National Assembly’ has yesterday adopted a major law aimed at reinforcing the prevention and combat against sectarian aberrations in France. This marks a significant step forward in strengthening the protection of citizens against abuse and manipulation by charlatans, gurus and other sectarian movements.

This bill, the result of particularly fruitful work and debate in both chambers, reflects the Government’s commitment to meeting the expectations of the victims of these sectarian movements.

Some of the key measures voted through by parliamentarians include:

  • The enshrinement in law of the powers of MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Combat against Sectarian Aberrations);
  • The reinforcement of the penal response with the creation of the offence of placing or maintaining in a state of psychological or physical subjection;
  • The creation of an offence of incitement to abandon or refrain from treatment, or to adopt practices which clearly expose the person concerned to a serious health risk;
  • Support for victims, with the extension of the categories of associations that can bring civil action;
  • Information for the judiciary, with the introduction of an “amicus curiae” role for certain government departments in legal cases relating to cults.

Despite sometimes heated debates, particularly around article 4, fuelled by the opinion of the Conseil d’Etat, the adoption of this law by the National Assembly bears witness to a shared desire to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals while providing better protection for our fellow citizens against sectarian aberrations.

This bill is part of a multi-annual national strategy for 2023-2027 resulting from the conference on sectarian aberrations held in spring 2023. It is a major step towards strengthening the penal arsenal and protecting victims.

_______________

Sabrina Agresti-Roubache, Secretary of State for Citizenship and Urban Affairs, commented:

“Long-awaited by victim support associations, this text aims to strengthen our legal arsenal in the fight against sectarian aberrations. I’m delighted that all the articles have been adopted, particularly Article 4, which creates an offence of incitement to abandon or abstain from treatment. There have been some passionate debates in the Chamber, but I’d like to reiterate the basis of this bill: the State is not fighting against beliefs, opinions or religions, but against all forms of sectarian aberrations, these dangerous behaviors which represent a threat to our social cohesion and put lives at risk.”

_______________

Obviously, we shall have to see how the new law will be applied. But, in any case, it is an important step into the right direction and could put an end to much of so-called alternative medicine that endangers the health of French consumers.

Other nations should consicer following the Franch example.

As we have often discussed on this blog, chiropractic spinal manipulations can lead to several complications and can result in vascular injury, including traumatic dissection of the vertebral arteries with often dire consequences – see, for instance, here:

 

This recent paper is a most unusual addition to the list. It is a case report of a 43-year-old woman who was admitted to the emergency department after performing a self-chiropractic spinal manipulation. She experienced headache and vomiting and was unresponsive with severe hypertension at the time of hospital admission. Clinical computerized tomography angiography showed narrowing of the right vertebral artery but was inconclusive for dissection or thrombosis.

The patient died a short while later. At autopsy, subacute dissection of the right vertebral artery was identified along with cerebral edema and herniation. A small peripheral pulmonary thromboembolism in the right lung was also seen. Neuropathology consultation confirmed the presence of diffuse cerebral edema and acute hypoxic-ischemic changes, with multifocal acute subarachnoid and intraparenchymal hemorrhage of the brain and spinal cord.

The authors concluded that this case presents a unique circumstance of a fatal vertebral artery dissection after self-chiropractic manipulation that, to the best of our knowledge, has not been previously described in the medical literature.

If I had a £ for each time I was asked during the last few days whether King Charles is going to treat his cancer with homeopathy, I would have my pockets full of cash. The question seems reasonable because he has been singing the praise of homeopathy for decades. But, as I have pointed out previously, he is unlikely to use homeopathy or any other unproven cancer cure; on the contrary he will certainly receive the most effective therapies available today.

In any case, the homeopathic treatment of cancer is currently a most popular topic. As if on command, an article appeared on my screen that promises to address the subject:

“Homoeopathy and Cancer – An Alternative Approach towards the path of Healing”

Here is the abstract of this remarkable paper:

Homoeopathy is a holistic system of medicine rooted on the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur”. It has gained attention for its potential therapeutic benefits. It offers a holistic approach that addresses both the physical symptoms and emotional well-being of individuals. While this alternative approach of healing has been explored in various health contexts, a notable gap remains in understanding its application in the realm of cancer care. This review seeks to fill this void by exploring the broader landscape of homoeopathy’s principles and applications. Through a critical examination of existing research and evidence, it aims to offer valuable insights into the potential role of homoeopathy as a complementary approach in cancer care and symptomatic relief. This review underscores the need for further research and a more nuanced understanding of homoeopathy’s place in healthcare, particularly in the context of cancer patients and their well-being.

I am sure you are as impressed as I am and keen to learn more. In the article itself, the authors offer some brand-new, cutting-edge science to back up their views:

According to Samuel Hahnemann, “When a person is ill, it is originally merely the spirit-like, autonomic life force (life principle), which is always there in the organism, that is mistuned by the dynamic effect of a morbific agent inimical to life.Only the life principle, tuned incorrectly to such an anomalyis capable of causing irregular functions the body. Cancer may initially be treated as a one-sided disease because the expanded pathology weakens the Vital Force. According to Hahnemann, “Diseases that seem to have just a few symptoms are called one-sided because only one or two prominent symptoms are indicated. This makes these diseases, which primarily fall under the category of chronic diseases, harder to cure. According to Arthur Hill Grimmer, the biggest challenge in treating advanced cancer cases is getting therapeutic individualization of symptoms. Even with all the typical symptoms, it is quite difficult to create a potent homoeopathic prescription. Burnett considered both the characteristic aspects of the patient as well as the ‘action’ or‘organ affinity’ of the remedy he prescribed.

Eventually, the authors (who are affiliated with prestigeous institutions: Rajasthan Ayurved University, Jodhpur; Swasthya Kalyan Homoeopathic Medical College & Research Centre, Jaipur) arrive at the following conclusion:

In the scientific literature, homoeopathy’s use in the treatment of cancer is still largely unexplored. Pioneers have offered intriguing perspectives on disease origins and treatment challenges. The miasmatic perspective offers a distinctive approach that emphasises individualised strategies based on symptoms and characteristics. Some studies suggest an improvement in quality of life of the individuals suffering from cancer. In the dynamic landscape of cancer treatment, more studies are warranted to enhance the scope of holistic, patient-centered care through homoeopathy.

Yes, homeopathy is a joke. This paper (and the many similar publications out there) could thus be intensely funny – except for the fact that these charlatans are playing with the lives of many vulnerable and desperate patients. I sincerely hope Charles manages to stay well clear of homeopathy and its irresponsible practitioners which clearly is one precondition for making a full recovery.

The so-called ‘Miracle Mineral Solution’ (MMS) – bleach for you and me – is a SCAM that keeps on giving. On this blog, we have featured MMS several times before, e.g.:

Now,it has been reported that a New Zealand anti-vaxxer has been jailed for selling more than $100,000 worth of an industrial bleach as a “miracle” cure for Covid-19. Roger Blake, who describes himself as a “human man”, was sentenced to just over 10 months’ imprisonment after being found guilty at trial of 29 charges in the Hamilton District Court.

Blake advertised and sold MMS products, claiming it could treat, prevent and cure coronavirus. However, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health had not approved the product, and detailed that when ingested became chlorine dioxide – a bleach commonly used for water treatment, bleaching textiles and paper.

The court heard Blake had marketed the product as a cure in New Zealand from the start of the pandemic between December 2019 and December 2020. Medsafe, the health ministry’s safety authority, said Blake’s company had sales of NZ$160,000 in that period – with sales spiking in March when the country was placed in lockdown.

Judge Brett Crowley said Blake’s behaviour had been “utterly disgraceful”. He added that Blake had “seized upon the tragedy” of the pandemic for financial gain. Before selling MMS as a “cure” for the coronavirus, Blake had marketed the product as a preventive of other diseases and illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and HIV.

Medsafe prosecuted him under the Medicines Act, with compliance manager Derek Fitzgerald saying the “fake cure” Blake spruiked presented a “significant public health risk”. “He targeted the vulnerable, preyed on public fears and exposed people to harm”, he said. “This decision sends a strong message that people who engage in selling so called ‘miracle cures’ will be held to account and face fines or imprisonment.”

The website which sold MMS in New Zealand was registered to US-based Mark Grenon, who set up the “Genesis II Church of Health and Healing”. As reported previously, Grenon and his three sons were jailed in October for several years in the US for selling more than US$1m of the product. Michael Homer, an assistant US lawyer who prosecuted the case, said at the time the family targeted people suffering from life-threatening illnesses. The Grenons poisoned thousands of people with their bogus miracle cure, which was nothing more than industrial bleach,” he said.

Medsafe warns: “Drinking MMS is the same as drinking bleach and can cause dangerous side effects, including severe vomiting, diarrhoea, and life-threatening low blood pressure. We strongly encourage people to only go to trusted sources, such as your doctor, to get reliable information”.

Medsafe received three reports of people requiring hospitalizations after drinking MMS. “His conduct presented a significant risk to public health, and that is why Medsafe acted. His actions were in stark contrast to the requirements of the Medicines Act 1981, which is public welfare legislation designed to protect the public” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Only a few years ago, measles – a potentially lethal disease – were deemed to be almost eradicated. Now we hear that, in the UK and the US, cases of measles have been rising again. The latest UK outbreaks are centered in the West Midlands and London. The UK Health Security Agency has thus declared a national incident after the outbreaks in the UK West Midlands. Health officials are encouraging people to have the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab, after figures showed uptake at the lowest level for more than a decade.

I have long warned that the rise in measle cases is due to proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Particularly implicated are:

  • doctors of anthroposophical medicine,
  • chiroparactors,
  • homeopaths,
  • naturopath,
  • other healthcare professionals who employ these methods.

A recent case seems to suggest that this is as true today as it was years ago.

A midwife in New York administered nearly 12,500 bogus homeopathic pellets to roughly 1,500 children in lieu of providing standard, life-saving vaccines, the New York State Department of Health reported yesterday. Jeanette Breen, a licensed midwife who operated Baldwin Midwifery in Nassau County, began providing the oral pellets to children around the start of the 2019–2020 school year, just three months after the state eliminated non-medical exemptions for standard school immunizations. She obtained the pellets from a homeopath outside New York and sold them as a series called the “Real Immunity Homeoprophylaxis Program.” The program falsely claimed to protect children against deadly infectious diseases covered by standard vaccination schedules, including diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (covered by the DTaP or Tdap vaccine); hepatitis B; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine); polio; chickenpox; meningococcal disease; Haemophilus influenzae disease (HiB); and pneumococcal diseases (PCV).

You might say that this is just one silly midwife, but I’m afraid you would be mistaken. Here is the very first websites that appeared today on my search for measles/alternative medicine:

Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for measles based on his or her knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.

    • Aconitum , for symptoms that come on suddenly including fever, conjunctivitis, dry cough, and restlessness. It is best used very early in the course of the disease.
    • Apis mellifica , for individuals with swollen lips and eyes and a rash that is not fully developed. Warmth increases itchiness as well as swelling.
    • Belladonna , can be used either during early stages of measles or after the rash has erupted. It is useful for those who have difficulty sleeping and symptoms that include fever, headache, and drowsiness.
    • Bryonia , for individuals with a delayed rash who have a dry, painful cough, headaches, and muscle pain that worsens with movement and warmth. This remedy is most appropriate for people with a rash primarily on the chest, a dry mouth, and a desire for cold drinks.
    • Euphrasia , for nasal discharge, red eyes, and tears associated with measles. This remedy is most appropriate for people who have a strong sensitivity to light.
    • Gelsemium , for the early stages of measles when there is a slow onset of fever and chilliness, cough, headache, weakness, and a watery nasal discharge that burns the upper lip. This remedy is most appropriate for people who are apathetic and have little or no thirst.
    • Pulsatilla , can be used at any stage of the measles but often used after fever has resolved. This remedy is most appropriate for people who may have thick, yellow nasal discharge, a dry cough at night, a productive cough in the daytime, and mild ear pain. Symptoms are frequently mild.
    • Sulphur , for measles in which the skin has a purplish appearance. The individual for whom this remedy is appropriate may have red mucus membranes with a cough and diarrhea that is worse in the mornings.

Similar nonsense can easily be found on ‘X’; here are but a few examples of the dangerous BS that fans of SCAM posted recently:

  • Measles are extremely mild, alternative medicine is better than petroleum-based drugs that don’t even promise to cure anything, and JK Rowling is a Christian.
  • 1. Can we now talk about the fact that MMR does not produce life long immunity? 2. Can we talk about the Hep A, tuberculosis and measles that are now community spread due to not vetting the health of illegals? 3. Can we finally discuss actual homeopathy remedies that work?
  • I so regret obeying our local school district and having my kids vaccinated. Homeopathy has SAFE medicines to prevent childhood illnesses such as chicken pox, measles, polio, small pox, etc, and more SAFE medicines to cure these illnesses. 
  • My kids had chicken pox and pertussis & covid. Cured all 3 with homeopathy. Never had measles.
  • How to Treatment of Measles with Dr.Reckweg R.No.62 Homeopathy Medicine

I think it is high time that:

  1. we realize that SCAM providers can be dangerous through the irresponsible advice they tend to give,
  2. we change their attitude through educating them adequately and, failing this, penalize them for endangering our health.

Proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) are often – as we had many opportunities to observe here on this blog – not impressed with the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccinations. This is despite the fact that several studies have demonstrated the huge number of lives saved by them, both at national and multi-country level in the earlier stages of the pandemic. I wonder whether the doubters will be convinced by new evidence.

This analysis estimates how many lives were directly saved by vaccinating adults against COVID in the Region, from December 2020 through March 2023.

The researchers estimated the number of lives directly saved by age-group, vaccine dose and circulating Variant of Concern (VOC) period, both regionally and nationally, using weekly data on COVID-19 mortality and COVID-19 vaccine uptake reported by 34 European areas and territories (CAT), and vaccine effectiveness (VE) data from the literature. They calculated the percentage reduction in the number of expected and reported deaths.

The authors found that vaccines reduced deaths by 57% overall (CAT range: 15% to 75%), representing ∼1.4 million lives saved in those aged ≥25 years (range: 0.7 million to 2.6 million): 96% of lives saved were aged ≥60 years and 52% were aged ≥80 years; first boosters saved 51%, and 67% were saved during the Omicron period.

The authors concluded that over nearly 2.5 years, most lives saved by COVID-19 vaccination were in older adults by first booster dose and during the Omicron period, reinforcing the importance of up-to-date vaccination among these most at-risk individuals. Further modelling work should evaluate indirect effects of vaccination and public health and social measures.

The authors feel that their results reinforce the importance of up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination, particularly among older age-groups. Communication campaigns supporting COVID-19 vaccination should stress the value of COVID-19 vaccination in saving lives to ensure vulnerable groups are up-to-date with vaccination ahead of periods of potential increased transmission.

Those SCAM proponents who are not convinced of the merits of COVID and other vaccinations will undoubtedly claim that this new analysis was biased and thus unreliable. Therefore, it seems worth stating that this work was supported by a US Centers for Disease Control cooperative agreement, who had no role in data analysis or interpretation. The authors affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO) are alone responsible for the views expressed in this publication and they do not necessarily represent the decisions or policies of the WHO.

The risks of chiropractic spinal manipulations (CSMs) feature regularly on my blog, not least because most chiropractors are in denial of this important issue and insist that chiropractic spinal manipulations are safe!!!. I therefore thought it might be a good idea to try and summarize the arguments they often put forward in promoting their dangerously fallacious and quasi-religious belief that CSMs are safe:

  1. There is not evidence to suggest that CSMs do harm. Such a statement is based on wishful thinking and ignorance motivated by the need of making a living. The evidence shows a different picture.
  2. There are hundreds of clinical trials that demonstrate the safety of CSMs. This argument is utterly unconvincing for at least two reasons: firstly clinical trials are far too small for identifying rare (but serious) complications; secondly, we know that clinical trials of CSM very often fail to report adverse events.
  3. Case reports of adverse effects are mere anecdotes and thus not reliable evidence. As there is no post-marketing surveillance system of adverse events after CSMs, case reports are, in fact, the most important and informative source of information we currently have on this subject.
  4. Case reports of harm by CSMs are invariably incomplete and of poor quality. Case reports are usually published by doctors who often have to rely on incomplete information. It would be up to chiropractors to publish case reports with the full details; yet chiropractors hardly ever do this.
  5. Case reports cannot establish cause and effect. True, but they do provide important signals which then should be investigated further. It would be up to chiropractors to do this; sadly, this is not what is happening.
  6. Adverse effects such as arterial dissections or strokes occur spontaneaously. True, but many have an identifiable cause, and it is our duty to find it.
  7. The forces applied during CSM are small and cannot cause an injury. This might be true under ideal conditions, but in clinical practice the conditions are often not ideal.
  8. If an arterial dissection occurs nevertheless, it is because there was a pre-existing injury. This argument is largely based on wishful thinking. Even if it were true, it would be foolish to aggravate a pre-existing injury by CSMs.
  9. Injuries happen only if the contra-indications of CSMs are ignored. This obviously begs the question: what are the contra-indications and how well established are they? The answer is that they are largely based on guess-work and not on systematic research. Thus chiropractors are able to claim that, once an adverse effects has occurred, the incident was due to a disregard of contra-indication and not due to the inherent risks of CSM.
  10. Only poorly trained chiropractors cause harm. This is evidently untrue, yet the argument provides yet another welcome escape route for those defending CSMs: if something went wrong, it must have been due to the practitioner and not the intervention!
  11. Chiropractors are an easy target. In my fairly extensive experience in this field, the opposite is true. Chiropractors tend to have multiple excuses and escape routes. As a consequence, they are difficult to pin down.
  12. Other causes, e.g. car accidents, are much more common causes of vascular injuries. Even if this were true, it does certainly not mean that CSM can be ruled out as the cause of serious harm.
  13. Patients who experience harm had pre-existing issues. Again, this notion is mostly based on wishful thinking and not based on sound evidence. Yet, it clearly is another popular escape route for chiropractors. And again, it is irresponsible to administer CSM if there is the possibility that pre-existing issues are present.
  14. The alleged harms of CSMs are merely an obsession for people who don’t really understand chiropractic. That is an old trick of someone trying to defend the indefensible. Chiropractors like to pompously claim that opponents are ignorant and only chiropractors understand the subject area. They use arrogance in an attempt to intimidate or scilence experts who disagree with them.
  15. Chiropractors do so much more than just CSN. True. They have ‘borrowed’ many modalities from physiotherapy and, by pointing that out, they aim at distracting from the dangers of CSMs. Yet, it is also true that practically every patient who consults a chiropractor will receive a CSM.
  16. Doctors are just jealous of the success of chiropractors. This fallacy is used when chiropractors run out of proper arguments. Rather than addressing the problem, they try to distract from it by claiming the opponent has ulterior motives.
  17. Medical treatments cause much more harm than CSM. Chiropractors are keen to mislead us into believing that NSAIDs, for instance, are much more dangerous than CSMs. The notion is largely based on one lousy article and thus not convincing. Even if it were true, it would obviously be no reason to ignore the risks of CSNs.

I am sure my list is far from complete. If you can think of further (pseudo-) arguments, please use the comments section below to let us know.

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