Bioresonance is an alternative therapeutic and diagnostic method employing a device developed in Germany by the scientology member Franz Morell in 1977. The bioresonance machine was further developed and marketed by Morell’s son in law Erich Rasche and is also known as ‘MORA’ therapy (MOrell + RAsche). Bioresonance is based on the notion that one can diagnose and treat illness with electromagnetic waves and that, via resonance, such waves can influence disease on a cellular level. Bioresonance instruments are akin to the scientologists’ ‘E-meter’ which essentially consists of an electronic circuit measuring skin conductivity.
Until recently, just three studies of bioresonance had been published.
- The first was from Germany and suggested that it is effective for treating GI symptoms. This trial was, however, tiny and its findings are likely to be false-positive.
- The second study is from Turkey and suggested that it works for smoking cessation. It is a ‘pilot study’ that has never been followed by a definitive trial.
- The third trial was a double-blind, parallel group study in children with long-lasting atopic dermatitis. Over a period of 1.5 year, 32 children were randomised to receive conventional inpatient therapy and either a putatively active or a sham (placebo) bioresonance treatment. Short- and long-term outcome within 1 year were assessed by skin symptom scores, sleep and itch scores, blood cell activation markers of allergy, and a questionnaire. The results showed that bioresonance had no effect on the outcome.
Now a most ingenious study can be added to this list. Unfortunately, I was published in German, but bear with me, I will explain below. First the original abstract for those who can read German:
Trotz aller Aufklärungsarbeit wird die Bioresonanz weiter benutzt. Seit einigen Jahren sind modifizierte Geräte auf dem Markt, die auch in Reformhäusern zum Einsatz kamen.
Zwei moderne Bioresonanzgeräte, Bioscan-SWA und Vieva Vital-Analyser, wurden untersucht: Neun freiwillige Probanden (vier Frauen, fünf Männer), zwei männliche Patienten, eine Leiche, jeweils frischer Leberkäse (Fleischbrät) und ein feuchtes Tuch nahmen teil. Unter gleichen oder fingierten Angaben von Namen, Geburtsdatum, Geschlecht, Körpergröße und Gewicht der Probanden beziehungsweise Patienten wurden wiederholt Einzelmessungen und Vergleichsuntersuchungen von Proband/Patient, Leberkäse und feuchtem Tuch durchgeführt (nach den Angaben der Hersteller).
Bestehende Diagnosen schwer erkrankter Patienten wurden nicht erkannt, der Leiche beste Gesundheit neben einer Fülle potenzieller Gesundheitsrisiken attestiert, ebenso wie allen Probanden. Messungen an frischem Leberkäse sowie an einem feuchten Tuch unter verschiedenen Angaben zu Alter, Geschlecht, Körpergröße, Gewicht und Namen führten zu unterschiedlichsten Befunden mit relativen Standardabweichungen bis über 200 %. Andererseits waren Ergebnisse, die unter gleichen Probanden- beziehungsweise Patientendaten am feuchten Tuch und dem Fleischbrät gewonnen wurden, nahezu identisch mit denen, die von den Probanden beziehungsweise Patienten erzielt wurden.
Die Gerätschaften waren nicht imstande, die jeweiligen Testmaterialien zu unterscheiden. Es wird vermutet, dass die Überbrückung der beiden Pole der Untersuchungssonde durch schwach leitende Materialien eine Software aktiviert, die gesundheitsrelevante Befunde erzeugt. Wir empfehlen als einfache Tests für die Validität von Bioresonanzergebnissen den Leberkäse- oder verwandte Tests.
And here is my explanation.
The study tested the diagnostic validity of two different bioresonance machines commercially available in Germany. The tests were carried out on:
- 9 healthy volunteers
- 2 seriously ill patients
- 1 human corpse
- 1 liver pate
- 1 wet towel
The results show that the bioresonance method
- failed to diagnose serious diseases in the patients,
- produced a clean bill of health for the corpse,
- diagnosed a host of health risks in the volunteers,
- produced variable results for the liver pate and the wet towel with standard deviations for repeated tests exceeding 200%,
- generated no real differences between the wet towel and the healthy volunteers.
This study was published in 2019. It would be interesting to monitor whether the sales figures for bioresonance machines will now dwindle. Even though I am an incorrigible optimist, I shall not hold my breath.
Here is an open letter published yesterday, initiated by SENSE ABOUT SCIENCE and signed by many UK scientists and other experts. If you agree with it, you can still add your name to the signatories (see below):
Dear Mr Johnson
We urge you to start publishing the government’s evolving plans for coronavirus testing, and the evidence they are based on.
Testing is key to understanding the risks and to how people can get back to work and normal life. It is what major decisions will be based on, but there are also limits to what it can tell us.
People are frustrated and confused about the scientific and logistical challenges of testing and what the government is doing about it. The internet and media are awash with rumours and the public are valiantly trying to work their way through fragments of information. People in senior positions in healthcare, in government departments, in research and in the related industries are struggling to see whether their input is needed and how to give it.
Why is testing delayed? Is there a shortage of tests? Is there a shortage of chemicals? Do they only work 30% of the time? Will there be tests to see whether someone’s had the virus? Can people test themselves or does it have to be done by a clinic? These are just a handful of the many questions being asked. Scientists and government representatives are trying to answer them but it’s a losing battle with volume and reach.
The UK government’s response to this epidemic started by levelling with people in a clear way about the emerging evidence and transparency on the government’s evolving thinking about that evidence. Of course, continuing to tell people what is happening has become complex and challenging. But that won’t be brought under control by limiting communication to behavioural instructions or by your efforts to clamp down on misinformation. The government cannot clamp down on misinformation without substituting information in its place. Would the government please maintain its commitment to evidence transparency and put its evolving plans and evidence on testing on an open site where the public, experts and government agencies can follow them and to which those who are trying to address confusion can direct people.
Tracey Brown OBE, director, Sense about Science
Carl Heneghan, director, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine
Justine Roberts, CEO, Mumsnet
Emma Friedmann, campaign director, FACSaware
Professor Sarah Harper, The Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford
Mairead MacKenzie, Independent Cancer Patient Voices
Rose Woodward, Founder, Patient & Advocate, Kidney Cancer Support Network
Dr Bu’Hussain Hayee PhD FRCP AGAF, Clinical Lead for Gastroenterology
I.Chisholm-Bunting, School of Nursing and Allied Health
Rachael Jolley, editor in chief, Index on censorship
Caroline Fiennes, director, Giving Evidence
Dr Ritchie Head, director, Ceratium
Tommy Parker, KiActiv
Professor Annette Dolphin FRS, FMedSci, President of British Neuroscience Association
Dr James May, Vice Chair, Healthwatch and GP
Peter Johnson, Patient representative with respiratory conditions
A. P. Dawid, FRS Emeritus Professor of Statistics, University of Cambridge
Stafford Lightman FMedSci FRS, Professor of Medicine, University of Bristol
Dr Christie Peacock CBE PhD FRAgS FRSB Hon DSc, Founder and Chairman, Sidai Africa (Kenya) Ltd
Caroline Richmond, Medical journalist
Professor Stephan Lewandowsky FAcSS, Chair in Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol
Hugh Pennington CBE, Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology, University of Aberdeen
Prof. Wendy Bickmore FRS, FRSE, FMedSci, Director: MRC Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh
Benjamin Schuster-Böckler, PhD, Research Group Leader, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
Dr Max Pemberton, Daily Mail columnist and NHS Doctor
Diana Kornbrot, Emeritus Professor of Mathematical Psychology, University of Hertfordshire
Professor Patrick Eyers, Chair in Cell Signalling, University of Liverpool
Lelia Duley, Emeritus Professor, University of Nottingham
Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor University of Exeter
Ianis Matsoukas, Biomedical Sciences, University of Bolton
Dr Lorna Gibson, Radiology Registrar, New Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
Sylvia Schröder, Senior Research Fellow, UCL
Dr Emma Dennett, St George’s University of London.
Ellie Wood, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh
Sophie Faulkner, clinical doctoral research fellow / occupational therapist
Dr Maya Hanspal, research assistant, UK Discovery Lab
Dr John Baird, University of Aberdeen
Martin Stamp, managing director, Ionic Information
Saša Jankovic, Journalist
Kate Ravilious, Freelance Science Writer
Charise Johnson, policy advisor
Dr Sophie Millar, University of Nottingham
Bissera Ivanvoa, Research Assistant in Linguistics, The University of Leeds
Baroness Jolly, House of Lords
Dr. Simon Keeling MSc, PhD, RMet, FRMetS, The weather centre
Laurie van Someren, Aleph One Ltd
Prof Chris Kirk, former Hon. Sec. Royal Society of Biology.
Sergio Della Sala, Professor of Human Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh
Dr. Wilber Sabiiti,Senior Research fellow in Medicine, University of St Andrews
Prof. Bob Brecher, Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics, University of Brighton
Dr Sabina Michnowicz, UCL Hazard Centre
David Orme, Research Assistant, Cortex Lab
Rebecca Dewey PhD, Research Fellow in Neuroimaging
Dr Ricky Nathvani, Imperial College London.
Rita F. de Oliveira, Senior lecturer Sport and Exercise Science, London South Bank University
Prof Christopher C French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London
Kirstie Tew, Lead Scientist, KiActiv®
Dr Ben Martynoga, Freelance writer
Nigel Johnson, Patient representative with respiratory conditions
Dr Mimi Tanimoto – Science Communications Consultant
Till Bruckner, TranspariMED
Lesley-Anne Pearson, The University of Dundee
Sue O’Connell, retired consultant microbiologist, Health Protection Agency
Hao Ni, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, UCL, The Turing Fellow, the Alan Turing Institute
Dr Simon Underdown, FSA, FRSB, Director – Centre for Environment and Society
Matthew A Jay, PhD Student in Legal Epidemiology, University College London
Michael Butcher, Chairman, dataLearning Ltd
Professor Tom Crick, Swansea University
Dr J K Aronson, Consultant Physician and Clinical Pharmacologist, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine
Dr Thomas O’Mahoney, Anglia Ruskin University
Professor Ianis G. Matsoukas PhD (Biomedical Sciences), University of Bolton
Emeritus Professor Nigel Brown, Blackah-Brown Consulting
Danae Dodge, Ask for Evidence Ambassador
Ieuan Hughes, Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke’s Hospital
Mandy Payne, Freelance Medical Editor
Lyssa Gold, University of St Andrews
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wiki states that George Vithoulkas has been described as “the maestro of classical homeopathy” and is “widely considered to be the greatest living homeopathic theorist”. Others call him a “contemporary master of homeopathy” or credit him with the revival of the credibility of homeopathy.
A few days ago, THE MAESTRO has given an interview about the coronavirus which, I believe, is too hilarious to miss:
Q. What is your opinion of coronavirus, what homeopathy can do ?
A. Unless we have selected the real symptoms of the different stages of this influenza from the clinicians who are dealing at this moment with the infected cases, we cannot do anything substantial.
We should know the symptomatology of the beginning stages -before the pneumonia- and propose remedies for this stage in order to reduce the victims of going to the second stage. Also we should know the symptomatology of the later stage of pneumonia or diarrhea to propose different remedies for this advanced stage.
But the symptomatology has to be taken by an experienced homeopath in order to be reliable.
I think the best would be to establish contact with the clinicians in order to give us a fist hand information.
To give at random remedies as a prophylaxis and to make people think that they are protected it is irresponsible.
Q. What do you think about those homeopaths who advertise that are treating cancer cases using homeopathic remedies while at the same time the patients are treated with allopathic drugs?
Advertising that cancer cases can be cured by homeopathy in spite of the fact patients are treated with conventional drugs is an unethical act that should be avoided at all costs by any honest homeopath.
The reasons are simple.
A. The homeopathic remedy will act if it is prescribed according to the symptoms of the case. But in such a situation where the patient is under chemotherapy, the symptoms are suppressed by the allopathic drugs. Therefore the prescriptions at best are not prescribed according to the law of similars but are given in an arbitrary way, therefore instead of the similimum, several remedies are prescribed at random. Actually in this way, the case becomes more and more confused and the organism is more and more disorganised.
B. The homeopathic remedy acts on the energy level -on the vital force- inciting the organism to increase its response (initial aggravation) so the two treatments are antagonistic, the one suppresses the defense mechanism, the other strengthens it.
C. Out of such a confusion within the organism, no one can say what actually has happened in such a patient.
Of course each doctor is free to apply any treatment that according to his understanding will benefit the patient, but to claim publicly that homeopathy can cure cancer under such conditions is totally immoral.
Obviously patients will flock around such physicians in the beginning and can make them rich but in the end the disappointments will be for both parties, the doctors and the patients but mostly on the part of doctors.
Q. Perhaps because of the guilt for all the lies and false hopes?
Homeopathy is an amazing therapeutic system, that can make doctors and patients extremely happy but has limits and the doctors should not transgress these boundaries for material gain.
It is a great pity that homeopathy will be reduced to a routine massive therapy with meagre results by those who are advertising polypharmacy with such mongrel practices like the ones with prearranged therapeutic protocols or mixopathy.
If such practices prevail, finally the real classical homeopathy, that can have such amazing results, if it is learned and practiced correctly, will die out amidst an aggressive and competitive society.
So, essentially the great Vithoulkas seems to be saying that treating even the most serious diseases with homeopathy is fine, as long as homeopaths use no treatments other than homeopathy and as long as they do exactly what Vithoulkas proclaims or – even better – Vithoulkas does it himself.
I know, this is very similar to what Hahnemann, the creator of this cult, stated about 200 years ago … but it is nevertheless totally bonkers.
An article in the ‘Long Island Press’ caught my attention. Here are some excerpts:
A simple painless spinal adjustment by a chiropractor could be the latest breakthrough in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction… Bridge Back to Life, an outpatient addiction treatment program, has teamed up with New York Chiropractic College (NYCC) … to offer the latest breakthrough therapy for substance use disorder. The first-of-a kind partnership, the brainchild of Bridge Back to Life’s medical director Dr. Russell Surasky, brings doctors from NYCC to evaluate and treat the center’s patients undergoing addiction therapy. Several diagnostic tests are performed at the base of the brainstem to determine if a misalignment exists. If present, the practitioners are taught to incorporate gentle painless, corrective spinal adjustments into the patient’s care plan. This treatment reduces stress on the spinal column and limbic system of the brain…
“Safe, painless adjustments to the upper cervical spinal bones can help normalize the brain’s limbic system by helping with the overall circulation of cerebrospinal fluid of the brain… I truly believe that this agreement with the college will serve as a national model for drug rehabilitation centers throughout the country,” says Surasky, who is triple board certified in neurology, addiction medicine, and preventive medicine. “Not only can spinal adjustments reduce the chronic pain issues that may have led patients into drug addiction in the first place, but now we also have evidence that spinal adjustments actually accelerate the healing of the brain from addiction.”
Surasky points to a study done in 2001 in the journal Nature: Molecular Psychiatry, which looked at the impact of spinal manipulations at an inpatient addiction treatment facility in Miami. The study found that chemically dependent patients who received specific spinal adjustments as part of their treatment reported fewer drug cravings and mental health symptoms. Moreover, 100 percent of the study patients who received chiropractic care completed the inpatient program, while about half of those not receiving treatments dropped out prior to completion. Yet no further studies were performed, and the information languished. Surasky began treating patients with the spinal adjustments at his private practice in Great Neck before bringing the treatment to Bridge Back to Life.
Mary W. came to Surasky’s Great Neck office for help with alcohol addiction nearly one year ago. She received monthly Vivitrol shots and had marked success in curbing her cravings and drastically reducing her drinking. But Mary still had one-day “slips” from time to time. She also complained of insomnia and migraine headaches. She recalled an accident in the past, where she hit her head. Dr. Surasky took X-rays of her upper neck and performed a Tytron scan. He said the digital images showed she had misalignments at the C1 vertebral level, likely putting pressure on the lower brainstem area. In addition to Vivitrol shots, Mary started receiving upper cervical adjustments and has remained sober since. Her migraines have dropped from five per month to one or none and she is sleeping better.
Where to start?
There is much to be concerned about in this short article. Let me mention just a few obvious points:
- A treatment that is not backed by solid evidence is hardly a ‘breakthrough’.
- The ‘misalignments’ they are looking for do not exist.
- Spinal manipulation is not as safe as presented here.
- The assumption that it reduces stress on the limbic system is far-fetched.
- To suggest this approach as a ‘national model’, is simply ridiculous.
- The notion that adjustments increase the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid is not evidence-based.
- What are ‘chronic pain tissues’?
- The claim that spinal manipulation accelerates healing of the brain is not evidence-based.
- The study in Nature Molecular Psychiatry does not seem to exist (I could not find it, if anyone can, please let me know).
- X-ray diagnostics cannot diagnose ‘misalignments’.
- Tytron scans are used mostly by chiropractors are not a reliable diagnostic method.
- Anecdotes are not evidence.
In short: this article reads like an advertisement for chiropractic as a treatment of addictions. As there is no evidence that chiropractic spinal manipulations are effective for this indication, it is hard to think of anything more irresponsible than that.
And here is the question that I often ask myself:
Are there any bogus, profitable, unethical claims that chiropractors would shy away from?
The University College London Hospitals (UCLH) include the ‘Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine’ (RLHIM). The RLHIM offers a range of so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs), including acupuncture.
This is how they advertise traditional acupuncture to the unsuspecting public:
Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This is a system of healing which has been practised in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years.
Although often used as a means of pain relief, it can treat people with other illnesses. The focus is on improving the overall well-being of the patient, rather than the isolated treatment of specific symptoms.
You will be seen individually and assessed by an acupuncturist trained in TCM. They will use traditional Chinese techniques including pulse, tongue and abdominal diagnosis. They will also ask you about your medical history and lifestyle.
The TCM trained acupuncturist can stimulate the body’s own healing response and help to restore its natural balance.
The principal aim of acupuncture in treating the whole person is to create balance between your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It can help to relax, improve mood and sleep, relieve tension and improve your sense of well-being, as well as improving symptoms.
We will assess your individual needs and discuss a treatment plan with you during your initial consultation.
The treatment may include the use of the following:
- The use of fine acupuncture needles
- Moxibustion (burning of the herb mugwort close to the surface of the skin)
- Cupping therapy (to create local suction on the skin)
- Acupressure (pressure applied to acu-points to stimulate energy flow)
- Electro-acupuncture (a low voltage current is passed between 2 needles)
How reliable is this information? I will try to answer this question by discussing the 6 statements that, in my view, are most questionable.
Although often used as a means of pain relief, it can treat people with other illnesses
Whether acupuncture is effective for pain relief is debatable. A recent analysis cast considerable doubt on the assumption. The notion that acupuncture ‘can treat people with other illnesses’ seems like a ‘carte blanche’ for treating virtually any condition regardless of evidence.
Improving the overall well-being of the patient
I am not aware of sound evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for improving overall well-being.
Traditional Chinese techniques including pulse, tongue and abdominal diagnosis
These diagnostic techniques have not been adequately validated and have no place in evidence-based healthcare.
The TCM trained acupuncturist can stimulate the body’s own healing response and help to restore its natural balance
I am not aware of sound evidence to show that acupuncture stimulates healing. The statement seems like another ‘carte blanche’ for treating anything the therapist feels like, regardless of evidence.
The principal aim of acupuncture in treating the whole person is to create balance between your physical, emotional and spiritual needs
The claim that acupuncture is a holistic treatment is based on little more than wishful thinking by acupuncturists.
It can help to relax, improve mood and sleep, relieve tension and improve your sense of well-being, as well as improving symptoms
I am not aware of sound evidence that acupuncture is effective in treating any of the named conditions. The end of the sentence (‘as well as improving symptoms’) is another ‘carte blanche’ for doing anything the acupuncturists feels like.
The UCLH are firmly committed to EBM. The RLHIM claims to be ‘a centre for evidence-based practice’. This claim is not supported by the above advertisement of acupuncture which is clearly not based on good evidence. Moreover, it has the potential to mislead vulnerable patients and thus cause considerable harm. In my view, it is high time that the UCLH address this problem.
This survey investigated how many chiropractors in the Canadian province of Alberta promote a theory of subluxation, which health ailments or improvements were linked to subluxation, and whether the subluxation discourse was used to promote chiropractic for particular demographics.
Using the search engine on the Canadian Chiropractic Associations’ website, the researchers made a list of all clinics in Alberta. They then used Google searches to obtain a URL for each clinic with a website, totalling 324 URLs for 369 clinics. They then searched on each website for “subluxation” and performed content analysis on the related content.
One hundred twenty-one clinics’ websites (33%) presented a theory of vertebral subluxation. The ailments and improvements discussed in relation to subluxation were wide-ranging; they included the following:
- back pain,
- bed wetting
- blood pressure,
- ear infection,
- heart disease,
- hormonal imbalance,
- learning problems,
- menstrual cramps,
- Parkinson’s disease,
- problems with hearing,
- problems with vision,
- prostate cancer,
- respiratory disease,
- sleeping problems,
- spinal decay,
- sudden infant death syndrome,
- and many more.
The marketing of chiropractic for children was observed on 8% of the clinic websites.
The researchers concluded that, based on the controversy surrounding vertebral subluxation, the substantial number of clinic websites aligning their practice with vertebral subluxation should cause concern for regulatory bodies.
Why do so many chiropractors cling so tightly to the long obsolete concept of subluxation? The way I see it there are at least three reasons:
- If they abandoned subluxation, they would quickly become physiotherapists, only with a much reduced scope of practice.
- Using the subluxation myth avoids the need of the knowledge of any complicated pathophysiology.
- Subluxation is ever so good for business, as it renders chiropractic manipulation a cure all.
D. D. Palmer, the magnetic healer who invented chiropractic about 120 years ago, claimed that a vital energy, which he called the “innate”, controls all body functions. In the presence of “vertebral subluxation,” it cannot work adequately, he postulated. In other words, subluxations block the flow of the innate which, in turn, is the cause of all disease. Palmer therefore developed spinal manipulations to correct such subluxations and de-block the flow of the innate. Palmer defined chiropractic as a system of healing based on the premise that the body requires unobstructed flow through the nervous system of innate intelligence. This effectively makes the adjustment of subluxation a panacea.
To put it simply: subluxation is the carte blanche required for making unlimited bogus claims, while ripping off the public.
I almost forgot!
This would have been no good, after all, Charles has for decades been the most influential supporter of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) in the UK. He is one of SCAM’s greatest proponent.
So, here is my up-dated, extended and illustrated summary of his achievements in this area.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHARLES!
Charles went on a journey of ‘spiritual discovery’ into the wilderness of northern Kenya. His guru and guide at the time was Laurens van der Post (later discovered to be a fraud and compulsive fantasist and to have fathered a child with a 14-year old girl entrusted to him during a sea voyage).
Van der Post wanted to awake Charles’ mind and attune it to the vitalistic ideas of Carl Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’, and it is this belief in vitalism that provides the crucial link to alternative medicine: virtually every form of alternative therapies is based on the assumption that some sort of vital force exists. Charles was so taken by van der Post that he made him the godfather of Prince William. After Post’s death, he established an annual lecture in his honour (the lecture series was discontinued after Van der Post was discovered to be a fraud).
Some time in the 1970s, Charles met Jimmy Saville and befriended him. Apparently, Saville later advised Charles on several occasions in various health-related matters.
Throughout the 1980s, Charles lobbied for the statutory regulation of chiropractors and osteopaths in the UK. In 1993, this finally became reality. These two SCAM professions are to this day the only ones regulated by statute in the UK.
Osteopathy has strong Royal links: Prince Charles is the President of the GOsC; Princess Diana was the President of the GCRO; and Princess Anne is the patron of the British School of Osteopathy (statement dated 2011).
In 1982, Prince Charles was elected as President of the British Medical Association (BMA) and promptly challenged the medical orthodoxy by advocating alternative medicine. In a speech at his inaugural dinner as President, the Prince lectured the medics: ‘Through the centuries healing has been practised by folk healers who are guided by traditional wisdom which sees illness as a disorder of the whole person, involving not only the patient’s body, but his mind, his self-image, his dependence on the physical and social environment, as well as his relation to the cosmos.’ The BMA-officials ordered a full report on alternative medicine which promptly condemned this area as implausible nonsense.
Six years later, a second report, entitled Complementary Medicine – New Approaches to Good Practice, heralded an astonishing about-turn stating that: “the demand for non-conventional therapies had become so pressing that organised medicine in Britain could no longer ignore its contribution”. At the same time, however, the BMA set in motion a further chapter in the history of SCAM by insisting that it was “unacceptable” to allow the unrestricted practice of non-conventional therapies, irrespective of training or experience.
In 1993, Charles founded his lobby group which, after being re-named several times, ended up being called the ‘Foundation for Integrated Health’ (FIH). It was closed down in 2010 amidst allegations of money laundering and fraud. Its chief executive, George Gray, was later convicted and went to jail. The FIH had repeatedly been a little economical with the truth.
In 2000, Charles wrote an open letter to The Times stating that…It makes good sense to evaluate complementary and alternative therapies. For one thing, since an estimated £1.6 billion is spent each year on them, then we want value for our money. The very popularity of the non-conventional approaches suggests that people are either dissatisfied with their orthodox treatment, or they find genuine relief in such therapies. Whatever the case, if they are proved to work, they should be made more widely available on the NHS…But there remains the cry from the medical establishment of “where’s the proof?” — and clinical trials of the calibre that science demands cost money…The truth is that funding in the UK for research into complementary medicine is pitiful…So where can funding come from?…Figures from the department of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter show that less than 8p out of every £100 of NHS funds for medical research was spent on complementary medicine. In 1998-99 the Medical Research Council spent no money on it at all, and in 1999 only 0.05 per cent of the total research budget of UK medical charities went to this area…
In 2001, Charles worked on plans to help build a model hospital of integrated medicine. It was to train doctors to combine conventional medicine and alternative treatments, such as homeopathy, Ayurvedic medicine and acupuncture, and was to have up to 100 beds. The prince’s intervention marked the culmination of years of campaigning by him for the NHS to assign a greater role to alternative medicine. Teresa Hale, founder of the Hale Clinic in London, said: “Twenty-five years ago people said we were quacks. Now several branches, including homeopathy, acupuncture and osteopathy, have gained official recognition.” The proposed hospital, which was due to open in London in 2003/4, was to be overseen by Mosaraf Ali, who runs the Integrated Medical Centre (IMC) in London. But the hospital never materialised.
This might be due to Mosaraf Ali falling in disrepute: Raj Bathija, 69 and from India, went for a massage at the clinic of Dr Mosaraf Ali and his brother Imran in 2005 after suffering from two strokes. However, he claims that shortly after the treatment, his legs became pale and discoloured. Four days afterwards, Mr Bathija was admitted to hospital, where he had to have both legs amputated below the knee due to a shortage of blood. According to Mr Bathija, Dr Ali and his brother were negligent in that they failed to diagnose his condition and neglected to advise him to go to hospital. His daughter Shibani said: “My father was in a wheelchair but was making progress with his walking. He hoped he might become a bit more independent. With the amputations, that’s all gone.” Dr Ali was sued (if anyone knows the outcome of this case, please let me know).
At the age of 53, Mrs Parker Bowles went on a trek to the Himalayas to ‘re-energise’ her spirits and encourage her to give up smoking. She was in a party of 12 accompanied by the Prince of Wales’s favourite health guru, Dr Mosaraf Ali. Mrs Parker Bowles subsequently became a regular visitor to Dr Ali’s London practice where she has been encouraged to take up yoga both to combat her back pain and to help her give up smoking.
In the same year, Charles published an editorial in the BMJ promoting his ideas around integrative medicine. Its title: THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.
In 2003, Prince Charles’ FIH launched a five-year plan which outlined how to improve access to alternative therapies.
In 2004, Charles publicly supported the Gerson diet as a treatment for cancer and Prof Baum, an eminent oncologist, was invited to respond in an open letter to the British Medical Journal: …Over the past 20 years I have treated thousands of patients with cancer and lost some dear friends and relatives to this dreaded disease…The power of my authority comes with knowledge built on 40 years of study and 25 years of active involvement in cancer research. Your power and authority rest on an accident of birth. I don’t begrudge you that authority but I do beg you to exercise your power with extreme caution when advising patients with life-threatening diseases to embrace unproven therapies.
In 2005, the ‘Smallwood-Report’ was published; it had been commissioned by Charles and paid for by Dame Shirley Porter to inform health ministers. It stated that up to 480 million pounds could be saved, if one in 10 family doctors offered homeopathy as an “alternative” to standard drugs for asthma. Savings of up to 3.5 billion pounds could be achieved by offering spinal manipulation rather than drugs to people with back pain. Because I had commented on this report, Prince Charles’ first private secretary asked my vice chancellor to investigate my alleged indiscretion; even though I was found to be not guilty of any wrong-doing, all local support at Exeter stopped which eventually led to my early retirement. ITV later used this incident in a film entitled THE MEDDLING PRINCE, I later published a full account of this sad story in my memoir.
In a 2006 speech, Prince Charles told the World Health Organisation in Geneva that alternative medicine should have a more prominent place in health care and urged every country to come up with a plan to integrate conventional and alternative medicine into the mainstream. But British science struck back. Anticipating Prince Charles’s sermon in Geneva, 13 of Britain’s most eminent physicians and scientists wrote an “Open Letter” which expressed concern over “ways in which unproven or disproved treatments are being encouraged for general use in Britain’s National Health Service.” The signatories argued that “it would be highly irresponsible to embrace any medicine as though it were a matter of principle.”
In 2008, The Times published my letter asking the FIH to withdraw two guides promoting alternative medicine, stating: “the majority of alternative therapies appear to be clinically ineffective, and many are downright dangerous.” A speaker for the FIH countered the criticism by stating: “We entirely reject the accusation that our online publication Complementary Healthcare: A Guide contains any misleading or inaccurate claims about the benefits of complementary therapies. On the contrary, it treats people as adults and takes a responsible approach by encouraging people to look at reliable sources of information… so that they can make informed decisions. The foundation does not promote complementary therapies.”
In 2009, the Prince held talks with the health Secretary to persuade him to introduce safeguards amid a crackdown by the EU that could prevent anyone who is not a registered health practitioner from selling remedies. This, it seems, was yet another example of Charles’ disregard of his constitutional role.
In the same year, Charles urged the government to protect alternative medicine because “we fear that we will see a black market in herbal products”, as Dr Michael Dixon (LVO,2015; OBE 2001), then medical director of Charles’ FIH, put it.
In 2009, the health secretary wrote to the prince suggesting a meeting on the possibility of a study on integrating complementary and conventional healthcare approaches in England. The prince had written to Burnham’s predecessor, Alan Johnson, to demand greater access to complementary therapies in the NHS alongside conventional medicine. The prince told him that “despite waves of invective over the years from parts of the medical and scientific establishment” he continued to lobby “because I cannot bear people suffering unnecessarily when a complementary approach could make a real difference”. He opposed “large and threatened cuts” in the funding of homeopathic hospitals and their possible closure. He complained that referrals to the Royal London homeopathic hospital were increasing “until what seems to amount to a recent ‘anti-homeopathic campaign’”. He warned against cuts despite “the fact that these homeopathic hospitals deal with many patients with real health problems who otherwise would require treatment elsewhere, often at greater expense”.
In 2009, it was announced that the ‘College of Integrated Medicine’ (the name was only later changed to ‘College of Medicine’, see below) was to have a second base in India. An Indian spokesman commented: “The second campus of the Royal College will be in Bangalore. We have already proposed the setting up of an All India Institute of Integrated Medicine to the Union health ministry. At a meeting in London last week with Prince Charles, we finalized the project which will kick off in July 2010”.
In 2010, Charles publicly stated that he was proud to be perceived as ‘an enemy of the enlightenment’.
In 2010, ‘Republic’ filed an official complaint about FIH alleging that its trustees allowed the foundation’s staff to pursue a public “vendetta” against a prominent critic of the prince’s support for complementary medicines. It also suggested that the imminent closure of Ernst’s department may be partly down to the charity’s official complaint about him after he publicly attacked its draft guide to complementary medicines as “outrageous and deeply flawed”.
In 2010, former fellows of Charles’ disgraced FIH launched a new organisation, The College of Medicine’ supporting the use of integrated treatments in the NHS. One director of the college is Michael Dixon, a GP in Cullompton, formerly medical director of the Foundation for Integrated Health. My own analysis of the activities of the new college leaves little doubt that it is promoting quackery.
In 2011, after the launch of Charles’ range of herbal tinctures, I had the audacity to publicly criticise Charles for selling the Duchy Herbals detox tincture which I named ‘Dodgy Originals Detox Tincture’.
In 2011, Charles forged a link between ‘The College of Medicine’ and an Indian holistic health centre (see also above). The collaboration was reported to include clinical training to European and Western doctors in ayurveda and homoeopathy and traditional forms of medicine to integrate them in their practice. The foundation stone for the extended campus of the Royal College known as the International Institution for Holistic and Integrated Medicine was laid by Dr Michael Dixon in collaboration with the Royal College of Medicine.
In 2012, Charles was nominated for ‘THE GOLDEN DUCK AWARD’ for his achievements in promoting quackery. However, Andrew Wakefield beat him to it; Charles certainly was a deserving runner-up.
In 2013, Charles called for society to embrace a broader and more complex concept of health. In his article he described a vision of health that includes the physical and social environment, education, agriculture and architecture.
In 2013, Charles’ Highgrove enterprise offered ‘baby-hampers’ for sale at £195 a piece and made a range of medicinal claims for the products it contained. As these claims were not supported by evidence, there is no way to classify them other than quackery.
By 2013, the ‘Association of Osteomyologists’ were seeking to become regulated by statute, with the help of Prince Charles as their patron. The chairman and founder of this organisation was knighted for services to alternative medicine. Osteomyologists encourage the use of techniques including cranio-sacral therapy and claim that “we all know that Colleges, Institutions, and Medical Practitioners, are brain washed from the very outset into believing that their discipline is the only way to go.”
In November 2013, Charles invited alternative medicine proponents from across the world, including Dean Ornish, Michael Dixon, chair of College of Medicine, UK and Issac Mathai of Soukya Foundation, Bangalore, to India for a ‘brain storm’ and a subsequent conference on alternative medicine. The prince wanted the experts to collaborate and explore the possibilities of integrating different systems of medicines and to better the healthcare delivery globally, one of the organisers said.
In June 2014, BBC NEWS published the following text about a BBC4 broadcast entitled ‘THE ROYAL ACTIVIST’ aired on the same day: Prince Charles has been a well-known supporter of complementary medicine. According to a… former Labour cabinet minister, Peter Hain, it was a topic they shared an interest in. He had been constantly frustrated at his inability to persuade any health ministers anywhere that that was a good idea, and so he, as he once described it to me, found me unique from this point of view, in being somebody that actually agreed with him on this, and might want to deliver it. Mr Hain added: “When I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 2005-7, he was delighted when I told him that since I was running the place I could more or less do what I wanted to do.*** I was able to introduce a trial for complementary medicine on the NHS, and it had spectacularly good results, that people’s well-being and health was vastly improved. And when he learnt about this he was really enthusiastic and tried to persuade the Welsh government to do the same thing and the government in Whitehall to do the same thing for England, but not successfully,” added Mr Hain. On this blog, I have pointed out that the research in question was fatally flawed and that Charles, once again, overstepped the boundaries of his constitutional role.
In 2015, two books were published which are relevant in this context. My memoir A SCIENTIST IN WONDERLAND recounts most of my dealings with Charles and his sycophants, including how an intervention from his first private secretary eventually led to the closure of my department. The book by Catherine Meyer CHARLES, THE HEART OF A KING is far less critical about our heir to the throne; it nevertheless severely criticises his stance on alternative medicine.
In October 2015, the Guardian obtained the infamous “black spider memos” which revealed that Charles had repeatedly lobbied politicians in favour of alternative medicine (see also above).
In 2016, speaking at a global leaders summit on antimicrobial resistance, Prince Charles warned that Britain faced a “potentially disastrous scenario” because of the “overuse and abuse” of antibiotics. The Prince explained that he had switched to organic farming on his estates because of the growing threat from antibiotic resistance and now treats his cattle with homeopathic remedies rather than conventional medication. “As some of you may be aware, this issue has been a long-standing and acute concern to me,” he told delegates from 20 countries “I have enormous sympathy for those engaged in the vital task of ensuring that, as the world population continues to increase unsustainably and travel becomes easier, antibiotics retain their availability to overcome disease… It must be incredibly frustrating to witness the fact that antibiotics have too often simply acted as a substitute for basic hygiene, or as it would seem, a way of placating a patient who has a viral infection or who actually needs little more than patience to allow a minor bacterial infection to resolve itself.”
In 2017, the ‘College of Medicine’ mentioned above was discretely re-named ‘College of Medicine and Integrated Health’
In the same year, Charles declared that he will open a centre for alternative medicine in the recently purchased Dumfries House in Scotland. Currently, the College of Medicine and Integrated Health is offering two-day Foundation Courses at this iconic location. Gabriel Chiu, a US celebrity cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon, and his wife Christine, joined the Prince of Wales as he opened the integrated health and wellbeing centre on the Dumfries House Estate in East Ayrshire in 2019. As he unveiled a plaque at the event, Prince Charles said: “I’m so glad that all of you have been able to get here today, particularly because I could not be more proud to see the opening of this new integrated health centre at Dumfries House. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for the last 35 years. I’m also so proud of all the team at Dumfries House who built it, an all in-house team.
“To reach this point where we can now offer a range of social prescribing opportunities is enormously encouraging and I hope it will be able to make some difference to a lot of the health issues that exist in this area.”
Also in 2017, ‘Country News’ published an article about our heir to the throne stating that Prince of Wales has revealed he uses homeopathic treatments for animals on his organic farm at Highgrove to help reduce reliance on antibiotics, the article stated. He said his methods of farming tried wherever possible to ‘‘go with the grain of nature’’ to avoid dependency on antibiotics, pesticides and other forms of chemical intervention.
In 2018, The Prince of Wales accompanied the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to the Science Museum in London, and praised Asian medicine practices. The heir to the throne and the Indian Prime Minister then jointly unveiled a plaque for the UK’s first centre of excellence for Indian traditional medicine.
In the same year, it was revealed that UK farmers are being taught how to treat their livestock with homeopathy “by kind permission of His Royal Highness, The Prince Of Wales”
In 2019, the Faculty of Homeopathy announced that His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales had accepted to become Patron of the Faculty of Homeopathy. Dr Gary Smyth, President of the Faculty of Homeopathy comments, “As the Faculty celebrates its 175th anniversary this year, it is an enormous honour for us to receive the Patronage of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and I am delighted to announce this news today.” Charles’ move amazed observers who saw it as a deliberate protest against the discontinuation of reimbursement of homeopathy by the NHS.
In 2019, Prince Charles said that yoga had “proven beneficial effects on both body and mind,” and has “tremendous social benefits” that help build “discipline, self-reliance and self-care.”
So again, Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness – and please don’t forget: it’s not too late to start doing good in the realm of healthcare by supporting good science, critical thinking and evidence-based medicine.
Many so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) traditions have their very own diagnostic techniques, unknown to conventional clinicians. Think, for instance, of:
- applied kinesiology,
- tongue diagnosis,
- pulse diagnosis,
- Kirlean photography,
- live blood cell analysis,
- the Vega test,
(Those interested in more detail can find a critical assessment of these and other diagnostic SCAM methods in my new book.)
And what about homeopathy?
Yes, homeopathy is also a diagnostic method.
Let me explain.
According to Hahnemann’s classical homeopathy, the homeopath should not be interested in conventional diagnostic labels. Instead, classical homeopaths are focussed on the symptoms and characteristics of the patient. They conduct a lengthy history to learn all about them, and they show little or no interest in a physical examination of their patient or other diagnostic procedures. Once they are confident to have all the information they need, they try to find the optimal homeopathic remedy.
This is done by matching the symptoms with the drug pictures of homeopathic remedies. Any homeopathic drug picture is essentially based on what has been noted in homeopathic provings where healthy volunteers take a remedy and monitor all that symptoms, sensations and feelings they experience subsequently. Here is an example:
Now, here is the thing: most SCAM diagnostic techniques have been tested (and found to be useless), but homeopathy as a diagnostic tool has – as far as I know – never been submitted to any rigorous tests (if you know otherwise, please let me know). And this, of course, begs an important question: is it right – ethical, legal, moral – to use homeopathy without such evidence being available?
The simplest such test would be quite easy to conduct: one would send the same patient to 10 or 20 experienced homeopaths and see how many of them prescribe the same remedy.
Simple! But I shudder to think what such an experiment might reveal.
A new paper reminds us that so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) has been increasing in the United States and around the world, particularly at medical institutions known for providing rigorous evidence-based care. The use of SCAM may cause harm to patients through interactions with prescribed medications or by patients choosing to forego evidence-based care. SCAM may also put financial strain on patients as most SCAM expenditures are paid out-of-pocket.
Despite these drawbacks, patients continue to use SCAM due to a range of reasons, e.g. media promotion of SCAM therapies, dissatisfaction with conventional healthcare, a desire for more holistic care. Given the increasing demand for SCAM, many medical institutions now offer SCAM services. Several leaders of SCAM centres based at a highly respected academic medical institution have publicly expressed anti-vaccination views, and non-evidence-based philosophies run deep within SCAM.
Although there are financial incentives for institutions to provide SCAM, it is important to recognize that this legitimizes SCAM and may cause harm to patients. The poor regulation of SCAM allows for the continued distribution of products and services that have not been rigorously tested for safety and efficacy.
As I have tried to point out many times, the potential for harm caused by the increasing integration of SCAM can thus be summarised as follows:
- direct harm due to adverse effects such as toxicity of an herbal remedy, stroke after chiropractic manipulation, pneumothorax after acupuncture;
- direct harm through the use of bogus diagnostic techniques;
- direct harm by using materials from endangered species;
- indirect harm through incompetent advice such as recommendation not to immunize or discontinue prescribed medications;
- neglect due to using SCAM instead of an effective therapy for a serious condition;
- harm due to medicalising trivial states of reduced well-being;
- financial harm due to the costs of SCAM;
- harm through making a mockery of evidence-based medicine;
- harm caused by undermining rational thinking in the society at large;
- harm caused by inhibiting medical progress and research.
In case you see other ways in which SCAM can cause harm, please let me know by posting a comment.
Prince Charles is visiting Germany. According to the British press, he will say (or, by now, probably has said):
“… Our countries and our people have been through so much together… As we look towards the future, I can only hope that we can also pledge to redouble our commitment to each other and to the ties between us… For some of us, of course, these connections are particularly personal…”
And right he is!
Charles is Britain’s staunchest supporter of and meddler in SCAM, while the Germans seem to be the most prolific innovators of SCAM.
Just think of
- von Bingen, Hildegard – inventor of a form of herbal medicine;
- Hahnemann, Samuel – inventor of homeopathy;
- Hamer, Ryke Geerd – inventor of New German Medicine;
- Huneke, Ferdinand – inventor of neural therapy;
- Kneipp, Sebastian – co-inventor of naturopathy;
- Mesmer, Anton – inventor of hypnotherapy;
- Morlell, Franz – inventor of bioresonance;
- Reckeweg, Hans -inventor of homotoxicology;
- Schimmel, Helmut – co-inventor of the Vega test;
- Schulz, Heinrich – inventor of autogenic training;
- Steiner, Rudlof – inventor of anthroposophical medicine;
- Voll, Reinhold – inventor of a form of electroacupuncture;
- Wegman, Ita – co-inventor of anthroposophical medicine.
Why did I compile this list?
Actually, I am not quite sure. But now that it is in front of me, a few thoughts go through my mind:
- Germany seems to be the promised land for quacks; in addition to the list above, think of the Heilpraktiker or the German alternative cancer clinics.
- On this blog, we have discussed most of these SCAMs, yet the list gave me several ideas for future posts;
- With only three exceptions, these SCAMs are fairly recent. They were invented when conventional medicine was already making big strides towards progress. There was no need for them. Why then were they invented?
- Almost all of these treatments were the brainchild of a single person. Could this be a hallmark for quackery?
- With only two exceptions, the inventors were male. Is the innovation of SCAM a male prerogative?
- With just one or two exceptions, these SCAMs are ineffective, useless and superfluous. Not attributes, of course, that would link them to Charles!