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

doctors

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The UK medical doctor, Sarah Myhill, has a website where she tells us:

Everyone should follow the general approach to maintaining and restoring good health, which involves eating a paleo ketogenic diet, taking a basic package of nutritional supplements, ensuring a good night’s sleep on a regular basis and getting the right balance between work, exercise and rest. Because we live in an increasingly polluted world, we should probably all be doing some sort of detox regime.

She also happens to sell dietary supplements of all kinds which must surely be handy for all who want to follow her advice. Dr. Myhill boosted her income even further by putting false claims about Covid-19 treatments online. And that got her banned from practicing for nine months after a medical tribunal.

She posted videos and articles advocating taking vitamins and other substances in high doses, without evidence they worked. The General Medical Council (GMC) found her recommendations “undermined public health” and found some of her recommendations had the potential to cause “serious harm” and “potentially fatal toxicity”. The tribunal was told she uploaded a series of videos and articles between March and May 2020, describing substances as “safe nutritional interventions” which she said meant vaccinations were “rendered irrelevant”. But the substances she promoted were not universally safe and have potentially serious health risks associated with them, the panel was told. The tribunal found Dr. Myhill “does not practice evidence-based medicine and may encourage false reassurance in her patients who may believe that they will not catch Covid-19 or other infections if they follow her advice”.

Dr. Myhill previously had a year-long ban lifted after a General Medical Council investigation into her claims of being a “pioneer” in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, the hearing was told there had been 30 previous GMC investigations into Dr. Myhill, but none had resulted in findings of misconduct.

Dr. Myhill is also a vocal critic of the PACE trial and biopsychosocial model of ME/CFS. Dr. Myhill’s GMC complaint regarding a number of PACE trial authors was first rejected without investigation by the GMC, after Dr. Myhill appealed the GMC stated they would reconsider. Dr. Myhill’s action against the GMC for failing to provide reasoning for not investigating the PACE trial authors is still continuing and began a number of months before the most recent GMC instigation of her practice started.

The recent tribunal concluded: “Given the circumstances of this case, it is necessary to protect members of the public and in the public interest to make an order suspending Dr. Myhill’s registration with immediate effect, to uphold and maintain professional standards and maintain public confidence in the profession.”

It has been reported that a naturopath from the US who sold fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and fraudulent vaccination cards during the height of the coronavirus pandemic has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison. Juli A. Mazi pleaded guilty last April in federal court in San Francisco to one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters. Now District Judge Charles R. Breyer handed down a sentence of 33 months, according to Joshua Stueve, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice. Mazi, of Napa, was ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on or before January 6, 2023.

The case is the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards for COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In August, Breyer denied Mazi’s motion to withdraw her plea agreement after she challenged the very laws that led to her prosecution. Mazi, who fired her attorneys and ended up representing herself, last week filed a letter with the court claiming sovereign immunity. Mazi said that as a Native American she is “immune to legal action.”

She provided fake CDC vaccination cards for COVID-19 to at least 200 people with instructions on how to complete the cards to make them look like they had received a Moderna vaccine, federal prosecutors said. She also sold homeopathic pellets she fraudulently claimed would provide “lifelong immunity to COVID-19.” She told customers that the pellets contained small amounts of the virus and would create an antibody response. Mazi also offered the pellets in place of childhood vaccinations required for attendance at school and sold at least 100 fake immunization cards that said the children had been vaccinated, knowing the documents would be submitted to schools, officials said. Federal officials opened an investigation against Mazi after receiving a complaint in April 2021 to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General hotline.

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On her website, Mazi states this about herself:

Juli Mazi received her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon where she trained in the traditional medical sciences as well as ancient and modern modalities that rely on the restorative power of Nature to heal. Juli Mazi radiates the vibrant health she is committed to helping her patients achieve. Juli’s positive outlook inspires confidence; her deep well of calm puts people at immediate ease. The second thing they notice is that truly she listens. Dr. Mazi’s very presence is healing.

On this site, she also advocates all sorts of treatments and ideas which I would call more than a little strange, for instance, coffee enemas:

Using a coffee enema is a time-tested remedy for detoxification, but it is not without risks. If you are not careful, the process can cause internal burns. In addition, improperly brewed coffee can lead to electrolyte imbalances and dehydration, and coffee enemas are not recommended for pregnant women or young children.

To make coffee enemas safe and effective, always choose quality organic coffee. A coffee enema should be free of toxins and pesticides. Use a reusable enema kit with stainless steel or silicone hosing for safety. Moreover, do not use a soft plastic or latex enema bags. It is also essential to limit the length of time that the coffee spends in the container.

A coffee enema should be held for 12 to 15 minutes and then released in the toilet. You may repeat the process as necessary. Usually, the procedure should be done once or twice a day. However, if you are experiencing acute toxicity, you can use a coffee enema as often as needed. Make sure you have had a bowel movement before making the coffee enema. Otherwise, the process may be hindered.

Perhaps the most interesting thing on her website is her advertisement of the fact that her peers not just tolerate such eccentricities but gave Mazi an award for ‘BEST ALTERNATIVE HEALTH & BEST GENERAL PRACTITIONER’.

To me, this suggests that US ‘doctors of naturopathy’ and their professional organizations live on a different planet, a planet where evidence counts for nothing and dangerously misleading patients seems to be the norm.

The AMA has recently published a short article that – even though not addressing so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) directly – has considerable relevance for the field:

It’s increasingly common for patients to encounter nonphysician practitioners as members of their health care teams. Meanwhile, ever more nonphysician practitioners have received advanced training resulting in a doctorate degree, such as the doctor of nursing practice.

To help patients keep pace with these changes, physicians should make new strides to clarify their roles and credentials vis-a-vis other members of the health care team and also promote collaboration among all health professionals, according to an AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs report that was adopted at the 2022 AMA Interim Meeting.

The core issue is that “the skill sets and experience of nonphysician practitioners are not the same as those of physicians.” Thus, when nonphysician practitioners identify themselves as “doctors”—consistent with the doctoral-level degrees they earned—“it may create confusion and be misleading to patients and other practitioners,” says the report.

In fact, surveys (PDF) performed as part of the AMA Truth in Advertising Campaign have found that while patients strongly support physician-led health care teams, many are confused about the level of education and training of health professionals—and the confusion isn’t limited to nonphysician practitioners who hold doctorates. For example, roughly one-fifth of respondents think psychiatrists are not physicians, while a similar number think nurse practitioners are physicians.

The AMA Code of Medical Ethics touches on this issue in an opinion on collaborative care, which provides guidance on the roles of physicians in team-based settings where a mix of health professionals provide care.

In SCAM, we have the problem that practitioners often call themselves doctors or physicians without having a medical degree. This confuses patients who might consult and trust these practitioners assuming they have studied medicine. We recently discussed the case of a naturopath who called himself a doctor and failed to diagnose a rectal tumor of his patient. Much more dramatic was the case of a UK-based chiropractor who called herself a doctor, thus attracting a patient suffering from complex health issues contraindicating spinal manipulations. She nonetheless manipulated his neck and promptly killed him.

I know that patients are being misled every day by SCAM practitioners (ab)using the ‘Dr.’ title. Therefore, the AMA reminder is an important, timely, and necessary lesson for SCAM. I feel that the professional organizations of SCAM providers should issue similar reminders to their members and make sure they behave appropriately.

It has been reported that a Vancouver naturopath has been fined and temporarily suspended after a patient complained he failed to notice a rectal tumor during four months of treatment for hemorrhoids.

Jordan Atkinson will have to pay $5,000 and lose his license for 16 days after signing a consent agreement with the College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C., according to a public notice posted by the COLLEGE OF NATUROPATHIC PHYSICIANS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA.

A former patient had filed the complaint when another medical professional diagnosed a tumor on the rectum following “several appointments” with Atkinson for hemorrhoid treatment. “The patient complained that Dr. Atkinson failed to detect the tumor because he did not perform a competent examination,” the college notice says.  ‘Doctor’ Atkinson disagreed with that allegation but admitted that he didn’t fully document his appointments with the patient.

The college’s inquiry committee, which investigates complaints, found that “Dr. Atkinson’s treatment of the patient fell short of the standard of practice required of a naturopathic doctor in these circumstances.”  Atkinson who is also the subject of a lawsuit from a patient who alleges he seriously injured her while injecting Botox into her face at the base of her nose, has also agreed to a reprimand and “to make reasonable efforts when a language barrier exists to ensure that his patients understand the treatment plan and provide informed consent.” 

Personally, I find it hard to believe that any health professional can administer a prolonged treatment for hemorrhoids, while the patient is actually suffering from a rectal tumor which might well be malign. I find it even harder to believe that, after a complaint had been filed by a victim, the professional body of this professional suspends his license for just 16 days.

In my view, this suggests that this professional body (like so many in the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)) is not fit for purpose. That is to say, it does clearly not fulfill its main task adequately which is to protect the public from the malpractice of its members. Rather it seems to prioritize the interests of the member over those of the public. Yet, on its website the COLLEGE OF NATUROPATHIC PHYSICIANS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA state that “the College protects the public interest by ensuring that naturopathic physicians in British Columbia practice safely, ethically, and competently.” As so often in SCAM, what is being stated and what is being done differs dramatically.

At the heart of this and many similar cases, I fear, is that consumers find it difficult to differentiate between well-educated healthcare professionals and poorly trained charlatans. And who could blame them? Calling naturopaths ‘doctors’ cannot be helpful, particularly if the ‘Dr.-title’ is used without a clear qualification that the person who carries it has never seen the inside of a medical school; instead he has learned an abundance of nonsense taught by a quack institution.

In summary one is tempted to conclude that this case yet again confirms that naturopaths are medically incompetent graduates of schools of incompetence protected by organizations of incompetence.

Quackery is rife in India. On this blog, I have occasionally reported on this situation, e.g.:

Now the Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana has pointed out that legislation needs to be brought in to save people “from falling prey to fraudulent practices in the name of treatment”. Speaking at the inaugural National Academy of Medical Sciences on ‘Law and Medicine’, the CJI said: “Quackery is the biggest disease affecting India” and that hospitals are “being run like companies, where profit-making is more important than service to society”. The CJI added, “another side of lack of accessible healthcare is giving space to quacks. Quackery begins where awareness ends. Where there is room for myths, there is room for quackery”. He continued, “Owing to the financial and time constraints, a huge majority of the Indian population approaches these untrained and uncertified doctors. Lack of awareness and knowledge, misplaced belief, and sheer inaccessibility have massive ramifications on the health of the country, particularly the rural and underprivileged Indian … The need of the hour is to bring in legislation to save people from falling prey to fraudulent practices in the name of treatment … Private hospitals are being opened at an exponential rate. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a glaring need for balance. We are seeing hospitals being run like companies, where profit-making is more important than service to society.”

I am sure the CJI is correct; India does have a quackery problem. If nothing else, the fact that one website lists a total of 746 Alternative Medicine Colleges in India, leaves little doubt about it.

It has been reported that America’s Frontline Doctors (a right-wing organization that is associated with the ‘Tea Party’) is suing one of its founders in a battle for control over the controversial group, which gained national notoriety for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 treatments and vaccines during the pandemic.

The organization and its current board chairman have sued Simone Gold, MD, alleging that she misused the nonprofit organization’s funds to buy a $3.6 million Florida mansion, purchase a Mercedes-Benz and other luxury vehicles, and take trips on private planes.

The lawsuit, filed November 4 in federal court, comes just months after Gold was released from prison for her role in the January 6 US Capitol insurrection. Gold pleaded guilty to trespassing in the Capitol and was sentenced to 60 days in federal prison.

The group and the board chairman, Joseph Gilbert, claim that after her release from prison, Gold attempted to reassert control of the group, take over its website, and fraudulently represent herself as its director, according to the complaint. The complaint referred to Gold as a “rogue founder,” alleging that she spent almost $50,000 monthly on personal expenses using the organization’s credit cards.

Gold resigned from the group’s board in February ― before she pled guilty ― so that she could pursue her goal of opening health and wellness centers nationwide, according to the complaint. At that time, the board voted Gilbert to be its chairman and agreed to have Gilbert negotiate an agreement for Gold to serve as a consultant. Gold sought a “signing bonus” of $1.5 million, along with $50,000 to be paid monthly as a consulting fee, according to the complaint.

Another report has more details on Gold’s alleged wrong-doing: The complaint claims that in November 2021, Gold used “AFLDS charitable funds to purchase a $3.6 million home in Naples, Florida for her personal rent-free use, and at least three vehicles and has otherwise used AFLDS funds to resource her personal lifestyle and expenses since she formed AFLDS.” Plaintiffs also allege that Gold “currently lives in this home with John Strand, rent free.” Strand is a former underwear model and boyfriend of Gold’s who was arrested with her in connection with the January 6, 2021 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol. She moved with Strand to Florida this year from Los Angeles, where she had been an emergency room physician. Strand allegedly was paid $10,000 per month as an AFLDS employee and allegedly spent $15,000 to $17,000 a month using those credit cards. He was terminated from AFLDS in summer 2022, according to the complaint. In addition to purchasing the house with AFLDS funds, the complaint said Gold purchased a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, a Hyundai Genesis, and a GMC Denali. After taking possession of the Naples home, she used AFLDS funds to pay a personal security officer $12,000, a personal housekeeper $5,600 a month, and charged “nearly $50,000 per month” to AFLDS credit cards.

I tried to find some information on th health and wellness centers that Simone Gold wanted or did open. Alas I was unsuccessful in my endeavor. However, I found an interesting passage she once wrote:

The World Health Organization, the FDA, the NIH, and the CDC are proven liars who have lost all credibility and common-sense, while jeopardizing YOUR health and safety. What disgusts me most is how their failed prescriptions have exposed the most vulnerable: our elderly and our children. The New York Times, CNN, NPR, and hundreds of other news outlets have censored the truth in order to preserve their power. Twitter, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Apple, and dozens of other Tech companies are throttling down content, suppressing information, and de-platforming those with whom they disagree.

I find it hard to find words for a comment – except perhaps this: maybe it is not such a bad thing when anti-vaxxers fight each other; it means they have less time, energy, and money to confuse the public with their lies.

In recent weeks, I have been thinking a lot about ‘INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE‘. Skeptics mostly see it as a way of smuggling quackery into conventional healthcare. This is undoubtedly true and important. But it occurred to me that there also is a somewhat different perspective that has so far been neglected. Let me try to explain by recounting a story. It is fictive, of course, but the fiction is based on the observation of many cases during previous decades.

The story is about a doctor – let’s call him George – who, to be frank, is not the most gifted of his colleagues. Already at medical school, he was not as dedicated as his teachers would have hoped. In fact, medicine had not been his first choice at all. Yet he ended up as a general practitioner and eventually became a partner in a practice with 5 GPs.

Over the years, it became clear that George lacked something to be a good doctor. He knew his stuff, alright, got most of the diagnoses correct, and made not too many mistakes. But something was not quite right. One could say that, relative to his colleagues, he lacked kindness, dedication, compassion, and empathy. He often found it unnecessary to respect his patients. Sometimes, he even joked about them and about what he perceived as their stupidity.

If we view medicine as being both a science and an art, one might conclude that George was just about alright with the science but notably deficient in the art of healthcare. Most of his patients were aware that something was amiss; many even avoided him and tried to consult one of his colleagues instead. On more than one occasion, patients had told George that they were disappointed with his attitude. Some had even told him to the face that he lacked kindness. Such conversations made George think. He had to admit to himself that his colleagues were better at building good relationships with their patients. Eventually, George decided that something ought to change.

As it happened, George’s wife had a friend who was a Reiki healer. One day, he asked the healer – let’s call her Liz – whether she would like to try working alongside the GPs in his practice. Liz was delighted and accepted. George did not believe for a minute that Reiki was more than hocus-pocus, but he knew that Liz was kind and had loads of the compassion that he was so obviously lacking.

Hence force George and Liz formed a team: George looked after his patients the best he could and whenever he felt that more empathy and compassion were required, he would send the patient to Liz. This partnership changed everything. The patients were content, George was happy, and Liz was beaming.

As some patients frowned at the idea of Reiki, George soon recruited an aromatherapist as well. After that, a lay homeopath and a reflexologist were employed. George’s GP partners (who made little use of the alternative practitioners) were sure that none of these therapies had any specific effects (incidentally, a belief not shared by the practitioners in question who felt they were doing wonders). But for George, the therapists clearly did supplement his limited interpersonal skills. Patients were delighted and the GP practice began to thrive. As for George, he became an increasingly outspoken and prominent advocate of INTEGRATED MEDICINE. The fact that there was no evidence to support it did hardly matter to him; what counted was that it rendered his own incompetence less visible.

About a year later, George convinced his slightly bewildered partners to rename their practice ‘THE INTEGRATIVE HEALTH CENTRE’.

End of story

In case you did not get my point, let me make it more bluntly: INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE can be a way for some doctors to delegate the art of medicine to quacks. Good doctors don’t need to do this because they are able to show compassion and treat their patients as whole human beings. Less gifted doctors, however, find INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE a practical solution to their own incompetence.

So, is INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE a good compromise then?

No, certainly not!

The last thing we need in healthcare is for doctors to start delegating the art of medicine to others. It would be a serious mistake, nothing less than abandoning the core values of medicine to charlatans.

But what is the solution?

Obviously, it is to make sure all doctors are competent. We need to select medical students adequately, tell them much more about the importance of kindness, compassion, empathy, holism, etc., and teach them how to show and use these qualities. We need to train doctors to be competent in both the science and the art of medicine. This has to begin in medical school and must continue throughout their professional career. We need to make sure that doctors like George understand the message; if they prove to be unable to do so, we should direct them to professions where compassion is not essential.

The worst solution we can possibly envisage is to allow charlatans to cover up the incompetence of people like George and call it INTEGRATED MEDICINE.

 

Camilla spent ten days at the end of October in a sophisticated meditation and fitness center in southern India. Life has recently been hectic for the Queen Consort: at 75, she has been in a non-stop succession of various ceremonies for the funeral of Elizabeth II, always one step behind her husband, not to mention her new status as sovereign… Enough to block her chakras in no time.

She came to the resort with her bodyguards and a handful of friends and was able to take advantage of the tailor-made treatments concocted for her by the master of the house, Dr Issac Mathai, who created this high-end holistic centre on a dozen hectares of scented gardens near Bangalore. The program includes massages, herbal steam baths, yoga, naturopathy, homeopathy, meditation, and Ayurvedic treatments to “cleanse, de-stress, soothe and revitalize the mind, body and soul”, as the establishment’s website states.

Guests are required to follow an individualized, meat-free diet, with organic food from the resort’s vegetable gardens, based on lots of salads or soups – Camilla is said to be a fan of sweet corn soup with spinach. Cigarettes and mobile phones are not allowed, although it is assumed that Camilla must have some privileges due to her status… and the basic rate for the suites, which starts at $950 a night – the price of the rooms varies between $260 and $760, the rate including a consultation with the doctors.

Charles and Camilla have been fans of the Soukya Centre in India for a decade. The place corresponds in every way to their deep-rooted convictions about health. Like her husband, Camilla is a follower of organic food, she also practices yoga and treats her face with creams made from nettle and bee venom. For his part, Charles has long been an advocate of alternative medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and also hypnosis… He even set up a foundation to support complementary medicine by lobbying the British health service to include it in complementary therapies for certain patients, which caused an uproar among the pundits of traditional medicine.

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If you suspected I was (yet again) sarcastic about the royal couple, you are mistaken. The text above is only my (slightly shortened) translation of an article published in the French magazine LE POINT (even the title is theirs). I found the article amusing and interesting; so, I looked up the Indian health center. Here are some of the things I found:

The 1st impression is that they are not shy about promotion calling themselves THE WORLD’S BEST AYURVEDA TREATMENT CENTER. The doctor in charge was once a ‘Consultant Physician’ at the Hale Clinic in London, where he treated a number of high-profile people. As his professional background, he offers this:

M.D. (Homeopathy); Hahnemann Post-Graduate Institute of Homeopathy, London M.R.C.H, London; Chinese Pulse Diagnosis and Acupuncture, WHO Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, China; Trained (Mind-Body Medicine Programme) at Harvard Medical School, USA

The approach of the center is described as follows:

The fundamental principle underlying Holistic Treatment is that the natural defense and immune system of an individual when strengthened, has the potential to heal and prevent diseases. In the age of super-specialisation where human beings are often viewed as a conglomeration of organs, it is crucial to understand ourselves as multi-dimensional beings with a body, mind and spirit. These interconnected dimensions need to be in perfect harmony to ensure real well-being.

And about homeopathy, they claim this:

Homeopathy originated in 1796 in Germany, and was discovered by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German scientist. Homeopathy is popular today as a non-intrusive, holistic system of medicine. Instead of different medicines for different parts of the body, one single constitutional remedy is prescribed. As a system of medicine, Homeopathy is highly scientific, safe, logical and an extremely effective method of healing. For over 200 years people have used Homeopathy to maintain their good health, and also to treat and cure a wide range of illnesses like allergies, metabolic disorders, atopic dermatitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Auto-immune disorders.

At this stage, I felt I had seen enough. Yes, you are right, we did not learn a lot from this little exploration. No, hold on! We did learn that homeopathy is highly scientific, safe, logical, and extremely effective!

 

The question, however, is should we believe it?

Guest post by Norbert Aust and Viktor Weisshäupl

Readers of this blog may remember the recent study of Frass et al. about the adjunct homeopathic treatment of patients suffering from non-small cell lung cancer (here). It was published in 2020 by the ‘Oncologist’, a respectable journal, and came to stunning results about to the effectiveness of homeopathy.

In our analysis, however, we found strong indications for duplicity: important study parameters like exclusion criteria or observation time were modified post hoc, and data showed characteristics that occur when unwanted data sets get removed.

We, that is the German Informationsnetzwerk Homöopathie and the Austrian ‘Initiative für wissenschaftliche Medizin’, had informed the Medical University Vienna about our findings – and the research director then asked the Austrian Agency for Scientific Integrity (OeAWI) to review the paper. The analysis took some time and included not only the paper and publicly available information but also the original data. In the end, OeAWI corroborated our findings: The results are not based on sound research but on modified or falsified data.

Here is their conclusion in full:

The committee concludes that there are numerous breaches of scientific integrity in the Study, as reported in the Publication. Several of the results can only be explained by data manipulation or falsification. The Publication is not a fair representation of the Study. The committee cannot for all the findings attribute the wrongdoings and incorrect representation to a single individual. However following our experience it is highly unlikely that the principal investigator and lead author, but also the co-authors were unaware of the discrepancies between the protocols and the Publication, for which they bear responsibility. (original English wording)

Profil, the leading news magazine of Austria reported in its issue of October 24, 2022, pp 58-61 (in German). There the lead author, Prof. M. Frass, a member of Edzard’s alternative medicine hall of fame, was asked for his comments. Here is his concluding statement:

All the allegations are known to us and completely incomprehensible, we can refute all of them. Our work was performed observing all scientific standards. The allegation of breaching scientific integrity is completely unwarranted. To us, it is evident that not all documents were included in the analysis of our study. Therefore we requested insight into the records to learn about the basis for the final statement.

(Die Vorwürfe sind uns alle bekannt und absolut unverständlich, alle können wir entkräften. Unsere Arbeit wurde unter Einhaltung aller wissenschaftlichen Standards durchgeführt. Der Vorhalt von Verstößen gegen die wissenschaftliche Intergrität enbehrt jeder Grundlage. Für uns zeigt sich offenkundig, dass bei der Begutachtung unserer Studie nicht alle Unterlagen miteinbezogen wurden. Aus diesem Grunde haben wir um Akteneinsicht gebeten, um die Grundlagen für das Final Statment kennenzulernen.)

The OeAWI together with the Medical University Vienna asked the ‘Oncologist’ for a retraction of this paper – which has not occurred as yet.

One of my recent posts prompted the following comment from a chiropractor: “… please don’t let me stop you…while we actually treat patients“. It was given in the context of a debate about the evidence for or against chiropractic spinal manipulations as a treatment of whiplash injuries. My position was that there is no convincing evidence, while the chiropractor argued that he has been using manipulations for this indication with good results. Here I do not want to re-visit the pros and cons of that particular debate. Since similar objections have been put to me so many times, I want rather to raise several more principal points.

Before I do this, I need to quickly get the personal stuff out of the way: the comment implies that I  don’t really know what I am talking about because I don’t see patients and thus don’t understand their needs. The truth is that I started my professional life as a clinician, then I went into basic science, then I went back into clinical medicine (while also doing research), and eventually, I became a full-time clinical researcher. I have thus seen plenty of patients, certainly enough to empathize with both the needs of patients and the reasoning of clinicians. In fact, these provided the motives for my clinical research during the last decades of my professional career (more details here).

Now about the real issue that is at stake here. When offered by a clinician to a scientist, the comment “… please don’t let me stop you…while we actually treat patients” is an expression of an arrogant feeling of superiority that clinicians often harbor vis a vis professionals who are not at the ‘coal face’ of healthcare. Stripped down to its core, the argument implies that science is fairly useless because the only knowledge worth having stems from dealing with patients. In other words, it is about the tension that so often exists between clinical experience and scientific evidence.

Many clinicians feel that experience is the best guide to correct decision-making.

Many scientists feel that experience is fraught with errors, and only science can lead us towards optimal decisions.

Such arguments emerge regularly on this blog and are constant company to almost any type of healthcare. The question is, who is right and who is wrong?

As I indicated, I can empathize with both positions. I can see that, in the context of making therapeutic decisions in a busy clinic, for instance, the clinician’s argument weighs heavily and can make sense, particularly in areas where the evidence is mixed, weak, or uncertain.

However, in the context of this blog and other discussions focused on critical evaluation of the science, I am strongly on the side of the scientist. In fact, in this context, the argument “… please don’t let me stop you…while we actually treat patients” seems ridiculous and resembles an embarrassing admission of having no rational argument left for defending one’s own position.

To put my view of this in a nutshell: it is not a question of either or; for optimal healthcare, we obviously need both clinical experience AND scientific evidence (an insight that is not in the slightest original, since it is even part of Sackett’s definition of EBM).

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