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

fraud

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As pointed out previously on this blog, unethical research practices are prevalent in China, but little research has focused on the causes of these practices.

Drawing on the criminology literature on organisational deviance, as well as the concept of cengceng jiama, which illustrates the increase of pressure in the process of policy implementation within a top-down bureaucratic hierarchy, this article develops an institutional analysis of research misconduct in Chinese universities. It examines both universities and the policy environment of Chinese universities as contexts for research misconduct. Specifically, this article focuses on China’s Double First-Class University Initiative and its impact on elite universities that respond to the policy by generating new incentive structures to promote research quality and productivity as well as granting faculties and departments greater flexibility in terms of setting high promotion criteria concerning research productivity. This generates enormous institutional tensions and strains, encouraging and sometimes even compelling individual researchers who wish to survive to decouple their daily research activities from ethical research norms. The article is written based on empirical data collected from three elite universities as well as a review of policy documents, universities’ internal documents, and news articles.

The interviewer, sociologist Zhang Xinqu, and his colleague Wang Peng, a criminologist, both at the University of Hong Kong, suggest that researchers felt compelled, and even encouraged, to engage in misconduct to protect their jobs. This pressure, they conclude, ultimately came from a Chinese programme to create globally recognized universities. The programme prompted some Chinese institutions to set ambitious publishing targets, they say. In 2015, the Chinese government introduced the Double First-Class Initiative to establish “world-class” universities and disciplines. Universities selected for inclusion in the programme receive extra funding, whereas those that perform poorly risk being delisted, says Wang.

Between May 2021 and April 2022, Zhang conducted anonymous virtual interviews with 30 faculty members and 5 students in the natural sciences at three of these elite universities. The interviewees included a president, deans and department heads. The researchers also analysed internal university documents.

The university decision-makers who were interviewed at all three institutes said they understood it to be their responsibility to interpret the goals of the Double First-Class scheme. They determined that, to remain on the programme, their universities needed to increase their standing in international rankings — and that, for that to happen, their researchers needed to publish more articles in international journals indexed in databases such as the Science Citation Index. As the directive moved down the institutional hierarchy, pressure to perform at those institutes increased. University departments set specific and hard-to-reach publishing criteria for academics to gain promotion and tenure. Some researchers admitted to engaging in unethical research practices for fear of losing their jobs. In one interview, a faculty head said: “If anyone cannot meet the criteria [concerning publications], I suggest that they leave as soon as possible.”

Zhang and Wang describe researchers using services to write their papers for them, falsifying data, plagiarizing, exploiting students without offering authorship and bribing journal editors. One interviewee admitted to paying for access to a data set. “I bought access to an official archive and altered the data to support my hypotheses.” An associate dean emphasized the primacy of the publishing goal. “We should not be overly stringent in identifying and punishing research misconduct, as it hinders our scholars’ research efficiency.”

The larger problem, says Xiaotian Chen, a library and information scientist at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, is a lack of transparency and of systems to detect and deter misconduct in China. Most people do the right thing, despite the pressure to publish, says Chen, who has studied research misconduct in China. The pressure described in the paper could just be “an excuse to cheat”.

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It is hard not to be reminded of what I reported in a recent post where it has been announced that a Chinese acupuncture review was retracted:

The research “Acupuncture for low back and/or pelvic pain during pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials,” published in the open access journal BMJ Open in 2022, has been retracted.

This research was press released in November 2022 under the title of “Acupuncture can relieve lower back/pelvic pain often experienced during pregnancy.”

Following publication of the research, various issues concerning its design and reporting methods came to light, none of which was amenable to correction, prompting the decision to retract.

The full wording of the retraction notice, which will be published at 23.30 hours UK (BST) time Tuesday 11 June 2024, is set out below:

“After publication, multiple issues were raised with the journal concerning the design and reporting of the study. The editors and integrity team investigated the issues with the authors. There were fundamental flaws with the research, including the control group selection and data extraction, not amenable to correction.” doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-056878ret

Please ensure that you no longer cite this research in any future reporting.

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After studying Chinese TCM papers for more than 30 years, I feel increasingly concerned about the tsumani of either very poor quality or fabricated research coming out of China. For more details, please read the following posts:

 

 

In November 2022, we discussed a dodgy acupuncture review. Let me show you my post from back then again:

Acupuncture is emerging as a potential therapy for relieving pain, but the effectiveness of acupuncture for relieving low back and/or pelvic pain (LBPP) during pregnancy remains controversial. This meta-analysis aimed to investigate the effects of acupuncture on pain, functional status, and quality of life for women with LBPP pain during pregnancy.

The authors included all RCTs evaluating the effects of acupuncture on LBPP during pregnancy. Data extraction and study quality assessments were independently performed by three reviewers. The mean differences (MDs) with 95% CIs for pooled data were calculated. The primary outcomes were pain, functional status, and quality of life. The secondary outcomes were overall effects (a questionnaire at a post-treatment visit within a week after the last treatment to determine the number of people who received good or excellent help), analgesic consumption, Apgar scores >7 at 5 min, adverse events, gestational age at birth, induction of labor and mode of birth.

Ten studies, reporting on a total of 1040 women, were included. Overall, acupuncture

  • relieved pain during pregnancy (MD=1.70, 95% CI: (0.95 to 2.45), p<0.00001, I2=90%),
  • improved functional status (MD=12.44, 95% CI: (3.32 to 21.55), p=0.007, I2=94%),
  • improved quality of life (MD=−8.89, 95% CI: (−11.90 to –5.88), p<0.00001, I2 = 57%).

There was a significant difference in overall effects (OR=0.13, 95% CI: (0.07 to 0.23), p<0.00001, I2 = 7%). However, there was no significant difference in analgesic consumption during the study period (OR=2.49, 95% CI: (0.08 to 80.25), p=0.61, I2=61%) and Apgar scores of newborns (OR=1.02, 95% CI: (0.37 to 2.83), p=0.97, I2 = 0%). Preterm birth from acupuncture during the study period was reported in two studies. Although preterm contractions were reported in two studies, all infants were in good health at birth. In terms of gestational age at birth, induction of labor, and mode of birth, only one study reported the gestational age at birth (mean gestation 40 weeks).

The authors concluded that acupuncture significantly improved pain, functional status and quality of life in women with LBPP during the pregnancy. Additionally, acupuncture had no observable severe adverse influences on the newborns. More large-scale and well-designed RCTs are still needed to further confirm these results.

What should we make of this paper?

In case you are in a hurry: NOT A LOT!

In case you need more, here are a few points:

  • many trials were of poor quality;
  • there was evidence of publication bias;
  • there was considerable heterogeneity within the studies.

The most important issue is one studiously avoided in the paper: the treatment of the control groups. One has to dig deep into this paper to find that the control groups could be treated with “other treatments, no intervention, and placebo acupuncture”. Trials comparing acupuncture combined plus other treatments with other treatments were also considered to be eligible. In other words, the analyses included studies that compared acupuncture to no treatment at all as well as studies that followed the infamous ‘A+Bversus B’ design. Seven studies used no intervention or standard of care in the control group thus not controlling for placebo effects.

Nobody can thus be in the slightest surprised that the overall result of the meta-analysis was positive – false positive, that is! And the worst is that this glaring limitation was not discussed as a feature that prevents firm conclusions.

Dishonest researchers?

Biased reviewers?

Incompetent editors?

Truly unbelievable!!!

In consideration of these points, let me rephrase the conclusions:

The well-documented placebo (and other non-specific) effects of acupuncture improved pain, functional status and quality of life in women with LBPP during the pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, acupuncture had no observable severe adverse influences on the newborns. More large-scale and well-designed RCTs are not needed to further confirm these results.

PS

I find it exasperating to see that more and more (formerly) reputable journals are misleading us with such rubbish!!!

Now, it has been announced that the paper has been retracted:

The research “Acupuncture for low back and/or pelvic pain during pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials,” published in the open access journal BMJ Open in 2022, has been retracted.

This research was press released in November 2022 under the title of “Acupuncture can relieve lower back/pelvic pain often experienced during pregnancy.”

Following publication of the research, various issues concerning its design and reporting methods came to light, none of which was amenable to correction, prompting the decision to retract.

The full wording of the retraction notice, which will be published at 23.30 hours UK (BST) time Tuesday 11 June 2024, is set out below:

“After publication, multiple issues were raised with the journal concerning the design and reporting of the study. The editors and integrity team investigated the issues with the authors. There were fundamental flaws with the research, including the control group selection and data extraction, not amenable to correction.” doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-056878ret

Please ensure that you no longer cite this research in any future reporting.

One down, dozens of further SCAM papers to go!

It has been reported that HomeoCare Laboratories Inc. is recalling two batches of Homeopathic StellaLife Oral Care Products citing microbial contamination. The recall involves Homeopathic Stella Life Vega Oral Care Spray Unflavored and Advanced Formula Peppermint Oral Care Rinse manufactured in 2024, which are marketed to promote oral health, hydrate oral cavities and support healthy gums. The recall is to be performed at the consumer level.

StellaLife VEGA Oral Care, Spray Unflavored comes with NDC 69685-121-01, lot no. 2552 and expiration date of 02-2026. StellaLife Advanced Formula Peppermint VEGA Oral Care Rinse comes with NDC 69685-143-16, lot no. 2550, and expiration date of 02- 2026.

The affected products were manufactured at HomeoCare Laboratories, shipped nationwide, and distributed through various dental practices. As per the FDA, higher than acceptable levels of TAMC was found in the Advanced Formula Peppermint Vega Oral Care Rinse, while Bacillus sp was found in the StellaLife Vega Oral Spray, Unflavored. Bacillus is a common species found in the environment and are generally non-pathogenic, while patients with oral disease, undergoing dental surgical procedures or with compromised immune systems hold potential risks. In the immunocompromised population, the impacted product may cause severe or life-threatening adverse events due to the introduction of bacteria to the disrupted oral mucosa, possibly leading to bacteremia and sepsis. However, the manufacturer of homeopathic products has not received any reports of adverse events related to these two recalled products so far.

Dental practices and consumers, who have the recalled products, are urged to return the impacted products to HomeoCare Laboratories or to the place of purchase or discard them. The company said it is implementing enhanced quality control measures to prevent recurrence.

On the manufacturer’s website, we find the following:

Homeopathy is a safe, gentle, and natural system of healing that works with your body to relieve symptoms, restore itself, and improve your overall health. It is safe to use and has none of the side effects of many traditional medications, because it is made from the natural substances and is FDA regulated. Homeopathic medicines – known as “remedies” – are made from natural sources (e.g., plants, minerals), and are environmentally friendly and cruelty free.

Homeopathic remedies when used as directed, are completely safe for everyone. They are given in such small doses that they don’t cause side effects.* Homeopathy is not a general or “umbrella” term that describes a variety of different natural therapies. Although homeopathic remedies are derived from natural substances, homeopathy should not be confused with herbal medicine, Chinese medicine, or other types of natural medicines. It is its own, unique therapeutic system.

The FDA’s present policy does not require homeopathic medicines to go through the FDA approval process.  The homeopathic ingredients monographed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States have been reviewed for homeopathic efficacy, toxicology, adverse effects and clinical use. The historical safety record with the use of homeopathic drugs, some for close to 200 years. The FDA drug monitoring process does not reveal any significant instances of problems with homeopathic drug products, thus establishing a positive safety profile.

Homeopathy’s Basic Principle: The Law of Similars It is accepted knowledge that every plant, mineral, and chemical can cause in overdose its own unique set of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. It also is readily acknowledged that individuals, when ill, have their own idiosyncratic physical, emotional, and mental symptom patterns, even when people have the same disease. Homeopathic medicine is a natural pharmaceutical science in which a practitioner seeks to find a substance which would cause in overdose similar symptoms to those a sick person is experiencing. When the match is made, that substance then is given in very small, safe doses, often with dramatic effects.

Homeopaths define the underlying principle for this matching process as the “law of similars.” The “law” is not unknown to conventional medicine. Immunizations are based on the principle of similars. No less a person as Dr. Emil Adolph Von Behring, the “father of immunology,” directly pointed to the origins of immunizations when he asserted, “By what technical term could we more appropriately speak of this influence than by Hahnemann’s word “homeopathy.”

Homeopathy is a natural form of medicine used by over 200 million people worldwide.  The holistic nature of homeopathy means each person is treated as a unique individual and their body, mind, spirit and emotions are all considered in the management and prevention of disease. Taking all these factors into account a homeopath will select the most appropriate medicine based on the individual’s specific symptoms and personal level of health to stimulate their own healing ability.

Homeopathic medicines are safe to use as they rarely cause side-effects. This means when used appropriately under the guidance of a qualified homeopath they can be taken by people of all ages*.

* Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated. Individual results may vary.

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I feel like congratulating the manufacturer: not only have they managed to produce normally harmless products in such a way that they are dangerous, but also they are promoting a plethora of untruth and misleading statements about homeopathy. A most remarkable effort!

 

The over-use of X-ray diagnostics by chiropractors has been the topic of previous posts, e.g.:

The authors of this review state that many clinicians use radiological imaging in efforts to locate and diagnose the cause of their patient’s pain, relying on X-rays as a leading tool in clinical evaluation. This is fundamentally flawed because an X-ray represents a “snapshot” of the structural appearance of the spine and gives no indication of the current function of the spine. The health and well-being of any system, including the spinal motion segments, depend on the inter-relationship between structure and function. Pain, tissue damage, and injury are not always directly correlated. Due to such a high incidence of abnormalities found in asymptomatic patients, the diagnostic validity of X-rays can be questioned, especially when used in isolation of history and/or proper clinical assessment. The utility of routine X-rays is, therefore, questionable. One may posit that their application promotes overdiagnosis, and unvalidated treatment of X-ray findings (such as changes in postural curvature), which may mislead patients into believing these changes are directly responsible for their pain. A substantial amount of research has shown that there is no association between pain and reversed cervical curves. Accuracy can also be questioned, as X-ray measurements can vary based on the patient’s standing position, which research shows is influenced by an overwhelming number of factors, such as patient positioning, patient physical and morphological changes over time, doctor interreliability, stress, pain, the patient’s previous night’s sleep or physical activity, hydration, and/or emotional state. Furthermore, research has concluded that strong evidence links various potential harms with routine, repeated X-rays, such as altered treatment procedures, overdiagnosis, radiation exposure, and unnecessary costs. Over the past two decades, medical boards and health associations worldwide have made a substantial effort to communicate better “when” imaging is required, with most education around reducing radiographic imaging. In this review, we describe concerns relating to the high-frequency, routine use of spinal X-rays in the primary care setting for spine-related pain in the absence of red-flag clinical signs.

Many chiropractors over-use X-rays (not least because it is a significant source of income) and claim to be able diagnose subluxations with X-ray diagnostics. The authors of the review state are unimpressed by this habit:

Spinal X-rays can lead to the detection of radiographic findings that can be used as an overdiagnosis for the patient, even though they may be asymptomatic. These include spinal anomalies, osteophytes, reduced disc heights, low-grade spondylolisthesis, transitional segments, and spina bifida occulta. The chiropractor can use all radiographic findings as “scare tactics” or “fear-mongering” to retain a patient under a specific frequency of care, thus creating unnecessary concern for the patient. Multiple studies have concluded that radiographic findings do not always correlate with a patient’s symptomatology. Brinjikji et al. (2015) concluded that disc degeneration was present in asymptomatic individuals, ranging from 37% in 20 year olds to 96% in 80 year olds.

Many chiropractors use “phases of degeneration” as a method of communication in order for patients to adhere to excessive treatment plans. It is unnecessary and unethical to scare patients to obtain compliance with chiropractic care. These “scare tactics” can negatively influence patients’ behavior, especially those who already experience reduced levels of self-efficacy. This unnecessary use of communication can cause negative thoughts, leading to fear of avoidance of physical activity and management advice as there is a concern for further damage. In addition, the likelihood that a patient will experience chronic pain may arise due to the belief that they won’t get better until the radiographic findings are resolved.

Vertebral subluxation is a term and condition created by chiropractors that refers to misalignment of the vertebra, a bone out of place, causing pressure on the spinal nerve and interference with mental impulses. Subluxation is a legitimate medical condition; however, this completely differs from the condition used by chiropractors. Over the years, there have been numerous definitions and takes on what “vertebral subluxation” is – even though the term and concept date back to 1902, it is still commonly used in the chiropractic community. It has been described that the misalignment of the vertebra causes occlusion of where the spinal nerve travels, thus causing nerve pressure and disrupting the “mental impulse,” which is part “intelligence,” a synonym for “spirit” and part of the “mental realm,” and part neural impulse; which is part of the physical realm. Many chiropractors believe that when bones press on nerves, the corresponding organ on the other end of the nerve will suffer disease. At this point, it appears more like religion; however, it is crucial that we include this as many clinicians use this “condition” as grounds to order unnecessary radiographic imaging. Extensive medical research has shown that bones do not slip out of place, squishing nerves causing various and different pathologies – and there is certainly no way to scientifically prove the interference of a “spirit” or life force. Nonetheless, none of this is grounds for ordering an X-ray and does not qualify as any type of “red flag,” raising concern about how and when chiropractors are using radiographic imaging.

The authors conclude that the importance of medical imaging cannot be overstated. Medical professionals, on the other hand, must adhere to ethical and responsible standards. These guidelines may be ambiguous in some situations, professions, and countries, resulting in many gray areas of practice. As discussed in this review, the ongoing justification many use to justify the excessive, repetitive, and ongoing use of X-rays for reasons that research does not support is highly concerning. This article highlights potential unvalidated practices within the chiropractic field relating to poor utility imaging.

 

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also named Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), is a common condition characterized by stomach contents flowing into the esophagus, causing distressing symptoms and potential complications. GERD is primarily linked to lower esophageal sphincter dysfunction, and its symptoms can impact quality of life. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery. Homeopathy is sometimes advocated as an alternative to conventional orally administered drugs for GERD.

This review examined the clinical evaluation of homeopathic treatments for GERD, highlighting their potential role by analysing existing clinical studies. The authors conducted a comprehensive database search for clinical studies RCT, open label, retrospective, perspective, and observational studies on homeopathic treatments for GERD, adhering to inclusion criteria related to homeopathy in GERD treatment.

Six clinical studies were identified:

  • 1 open label study,
  • 3 retrospective studies,
  • 1 prospective study,
  • 1 observational study.

Renu Mittal’s study demonstrated significant symptom improvement and enhanced quality of life with homeopathic
treatment. Dr. Leena Dighe’s study reinforced the effectiveness of homeopathic medicines in GERD, Acid-Peptic Disorder (APD), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), while Sitharthan’s retrospective analysis supported the potential of homeopathy for gastrointestinal disorders. A study exploring Robinia pseudoacacia in GERD treatment showed positive results.

The authors conclused that these studies suggest the potential of homeopathic treatments in managing GERD and related gastrointestinal disorders. These findings encourage future studies and applications of homeopathic interventions in GERD management. Further research, including randomized trials, is needed to solidify homeopathy’s role in gastroenterological care.

Does anyone really think that this paper is worth publishing?

Its authors and the editors of the INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HIGH DILUTION RESEARCH evidently do:

  • Parth AphaleDR D Y PATIL VIDYAPEETH PUNE
  • Dharmendra SharmaDr. D.Y. Patil Homoeopathic Medical College & Research Centre, Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University), Pimpri, Pune, Maharashtra, India
  • Himanshu ShekharDr. D.Y. Patil Homoeopathic Medical College & Research Centre, Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University), Pimpri, Pune, Maharashtra, India

But I don’t!

Why?

Because none of the primary studies come anywhere near of being reliable evidence.

I think that reviews of this nature drawing such unwarranted conclusions are counter-productive – counter-productive even to those people whose aim it is to promote homeopathy. Nobody with an ounce of critical thinking capacity can take such nonsense seriously. The only possible conclusion that can be drawn from the presented evidence is along the following lines:

This review failed to generate any sound evidence that homeopathy is an effective therapy for GERD.

 

For some time I have had the impression that research into SCAM is on its knees. Specifically, I seemed to notice that less and less of it is getting published in the best journals of conventional medicine. So, today I decided to put my impression to the test.

I went on Medline and serached for ‘COMPLEMENTARY ALTERNATIVE THERAPY + NEJM or Ann Int Med or Lancet or JAMA. This gave me the number of papers each of these four top medical journals published during the last decades. These figures alone seemed to indicate that I was on to something. To get a more reliable overall pivture, I added them up to get the total number of SCAM articles per year published in all four jurnals. As these figures indicated a lot of noise, I grouped them into periods of 4 years.

Here are the results:

  • Number of papers in the four journals published between 1999 and 2002 =115
  • Number of papers in the four journals published between 2003 and 2006 = 44
  • Number of papers in the four journals published between 2007 and 2010 = 20
  • Number of papers in the four journals published between 2011 and 2014 = 23
  • Number of papers in the four journals published between 2015 and 2018 = 38
  • Number of papers in the four journals published between 2019 and 2022 = 36

These figures confirm my suspicion: top medical journals publish far less SCAM articles than they once used to. But how do we interpret this finding?

The way I see it, there are several possible explanations:

  1. The editors are becoming increasingly anti-SCAM.
  2. Less and less SCAM research is of high enough quality to merit publication in a top journal.
  3. Numerous SCAM journals have sprung up which absorb most of the SCAM research but which are largely ignored by the broader medical community.

Personally, I think all of these explanations apply. They are the expression of a phenomenon that I discussed often before: over the years, SCAM has managed to discredit and isolate itself. Thus, it is no longer taken seriously and in danger of becoming a bizarre cult.

I fear that serious healthcare professionals get increasingly irritated by:

  • the embarrassing unreliability of much of SCAM research (as discussed so many times on this blog);
  • the fact that some research group manage to publish nothing but positive results (see my ‘ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE HALL OF FAME);
  • the news that a substantial proportion of SCAM research seems fabricated (see, for instance, here);
  • the fact that too much of SCAM research is of dismal quality (as disclosed regularly on this blog);
  • the fact that many SCAM proponents are unable of (self)critical thinking (as demonstrated regualrly by the comments left on this blog).

If I am correct, this would mean that, in the long-term, one of the biggest enemy of SCAM are the SCAM researchers who, instead of testing hypotheses, abuse science by trying to confirm their hypotheses. As Bert Brecht said: the opposite of good is not evil, but good intentions.

Terry Power had been registered as a chiropractor since 1988, and as a Chinese medicine practitioner since 2012. In 2020, two female patients (Patient A and Patient B), made separate and unrelated complaints about Power to NSW Police and subsequently to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

Patient A alleged that, during a consultation in May 2020, Power kneaded and squeezed her right breast. Patient B alleged that during a consultation on 14 July 2020, Dr Power inserted two fingers into her vagina. On 27 August 2020, in proceedings conducted under Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW), the Chiropractic and Chinese Medical Council of New South Wales imposed several conditions on Power’s registration including that he must not consult or treat female clients. Subsequently, Power did not practised as a chiropractor, or a Chinese medicine practitioner, since those conditions were imposed.

Power admits inserting his fingers into Patient B’s vagina but denies that he did not do so without “proper and sufficient clinical indications” as alleged by the Commission. In addition, Power denies kneading and squeezing Patient A’s right breast.

In January 2023, following investigation of complaints referred by the Council, the Commission lodged a complaint about Power with the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). With the leave of the Tribunal, the Commission amended that complaint. In May 2024, NCAT found Power to be guilty of professional misconduct. NCAT will determine the appropriate disciplinary orders at a future hearing.

The statements of Patient B are harrowing:

After being escorted to a treatment room and changing into a hospital gown, Patient B said to Power “I am in a lot of pain due to my chronic pain”. Power then put his hand on Patient B’s pubic bone, which was “right on the pain”, “my legs gave out and I collapsed down. I was in pain” … Power lifted her up to crack her back, a procedure he had undertaken before and with which she was comfortable. Power then instructed her to lie down on her side on the treatment table and began to manipulate her hips. He said that her right hip was “out of place” and then cracked her neck. She was still in pain. Power then said, “you can say no, but how do you feel about an internal?”, to which she replied “if it is going to help then yes”. While standing to her side, Power put on white latex gloves and then inserted two gloved fingers into her vagina. This caused some pain and discomfort. Patient B could feel Power’s fingers pressing on parts of her body inside her vagina, “it hurt like hell and I wanted to scream”. After a minute Power pulled out his fingers. Patient B then asked, “what did you find?”, Power responded by walking over to a skeleton in the treatment room and showing her what he had done. He talked about the muscles and said, “I felt where your ovary was missing. The muscles are really tight around where the ovary was and your uterus”. Power then administered acupuncture above and below her breasts. The entire consultation lasted about an hour. At the end Power said words to the effect “we will see you next time”.

Patient B got dressed and walked out without making another appointment … On 29 July 2020 … when she told the GP “what happened with the chiropractor”, Patient B “broke down in tears and was an emotional wreck”. On return to her grandmother’s house, Patient B collapsed into her mother’s arms and rang the Commission and the Health Board, who instructed her to “make a police report and contact the Health Professional Council”. In conclusion Patient B said: “When I saw Terry Power on the 14th of July 2020, I trusted his professional opinions. When he asked me to consent to him doing an internal on me, I thought at the time this was a normal procedure and l trusted him. My pain is at a stage that I would do anything to have it relieved. At no time during the procedure was another person with Terry.”

__________________________

Was patient B’s right hip was “out of place”?

No.

Is there any justification for a chiropractor to insert two fingers into a patient’s vagina?

No.

Does the question: “you can say no, but how do you feel about an internal?” amount to anything like informed consent?

No.

Is the description “he muscles are really tight around where the ovary was and your uterus” credible?

No.

But this is merely a case report of a chiropractor whom others might classify as a ‘rotten apple’ within their profession. I would, however, point out that such cases are not as rare as we might hope.

A retrospective review of data from the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners, for instance, was aimed at determining categories of offense, experience, and gender of disciplined doctors of chiropractic (DC) in California and compare them with disciplined medical physicians. The authors concluded that the professions differ in the major reasons for disciplinary actions. Two thirds (67%) of the doctors of chiropractic were disciplined for fraud and sexual boundary issues, compared with 59% for negligence and substance misuse for medical physicians. 

And what’s the explanation?

Could it be that chiropractors have no or too little education and training in medical ethics?

 

Dr Julian Kenyon is no stranger to this blog:

I met him once or twice in the mid 1990s. Then he was the GP partner of the late George Lewith. It took me not long to find that I thought of the former even less than the latter.

Now it has been reported that Julian Kenyon was struck off the UK medical register. Apparently, he put pressure on a patient with advanced cancer to pay £13,000 for so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), including sound and light therapy. He ran the former Dove Clinic, a private health centre at Twyford, Hampshire and wrongly told his patient: “You have had all the standard treatments and you are running out of treatment options”. Kenyon’s prescription in May 2022 included sonodynamic/photodynamic therapy as well as the supplements cannabidiol, claricell and similase. The patient was asked to pay a further £20,000 if the initial course of treatment was unsuccessful, the tribunal heard.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) ruled that the doctor’s conduct was “wholly unacceptable, morally culpable and disgraceful”. Kenyon told his patient that there was a 10% chance of his stage 4 prostate cancer being cured. This was a “total fabrication”, the MTPS found. The patient “was vulnerable and… made to feel under pressure to have expensive treatment that was not in his best interests”, it added.

Kenyon has form:

  • In 2003, an undercover investigation by the BBC Inside Out programme accused Dr Kenyon of using spurious tests for allergies.
  • In 2013, a tribunal found he failed to give good care.
  • The following year, it said he made a misleading cancer cure claim.

The latest MTPS ruling bars Dr Kenyon from practising medicine in the UK. His former clinic went into liquidation in March 2023 and has debts of more than £154,000, according to Companies House. Despite all this, it was deemed to be “safe” and “effective”, according to its latest Care Quality Commission report, external in 2019.

We have discussed the LIGHTNING PROCESS before:

Now, the BBC reports that it is promoted as a treatment of Long-COVID. Oonagh Cousins was offered a free place on a course run by the Lightning Process, which teaches people they can rewire their brains to stop or improve long Covid symptoms quickly. Ms Cousins, who contracted Covid in March 2020, said it “exploits” people.

Ms Cousins had reached a career goal many athletes can only dream of – being selected for the Olympics – when she developed long Covid. By the time the cancelled 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo were rescheduled for 2021, Ms Cousins was too ill to take part. When she went public with her struggles, she was approached by the Lightning Process. It offered her a free place on a three-day course, which usually costs around £1,000.

“They were trying to suggest that I could think my way out of the symptoms, basically. And I disputed that entirely,” the former rower said. “I had a very clearly physical illness. And I felt that they were blaming my negative thought processes for why I was ill.” She added: “They tried to point out that I had depression or anxiety. And I said ‘I’m not, I’m just very sick’.

In secret recordings by the BBC, coaches can be heard telling patients that almost anyone can recover from long Covid by changing their thoughts, language and actions. Over three days on Zoom, the course taught the ritual that forms the basis of the programme. Every time you experience a symptom or negative thought, you say the word “stop”, make a choice to avoid these symptoms and then do a positive visualisation of a time you felt well. You do this while walking around a piece of paper printed with symbols – a ritual the BBC was told to do as many as 50 times a day.

In some cases the Lightning Process has encouraged participants to increase their activity levels without medical supervision, against official advice – which could make some more unwell, according to NHS guidelines. Lightning Process founder, Dr Phil Parker, who’s not a medical doctor but has a PhD in psychology of health, told us his course was “not a mindset or positive thinking approach,” but one that uses “the brain to influence physiological changes”, backed by peer-reviewed evidence. The coach on the course the BBC attended said “thoughts about your symptoms, your worry about whether it’s ever going to go – that’s what keeps the neurology going. Being in those kind of thoughts is what’s maintaining your symptoms. They’re not caused by a physical thing any more.”

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As I pointed out previously, The Lightning Process  (LP) is a therapy based on ideas from osteopathy, life coaching, and neuro-linguistic programming. LP is claimed to work by teaching people to use their brains to “stimulate health-promoting neural pathways”.

LP teaches individuals to recognize when they are stimulating or triggering unhelpful physiological responses and to avoid these, using a set of standardized questions, new language patterns, and physical movements with the aim of improving a more appropriate response to situations.

Proponents of the ‘LP’ in Norway claim that 90% of all ME patients get better after trying it. However, such claims seem to be more than questionable.

  • In the Norwegian ME association’s user survey from 2012 with 1,096 participants, 164 ME patients stated that they had tried LP. 21% of these patients experienced improvement or great improvement and 48% got worse or much worse.
  • In Norway’s National Research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NAFKAM’s survey from 2015 amongst 76 patients 8 had a positive effect and 5 got worse or much worse.
  • A survey by the Norwegian research foundation, published in the journal Psykologisk, with 660 participants, showed that 62 patients had tried LP, and 5 were very or fairly satisfied with the results.

Such figures reflect the natural history of the condition and are no evidence that the LP works.

Is there any evidence supporting the LP specifically for long COVID?

My Medline search retrieved just one single paper. Here is the abstract:

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Long COVID (LC) is now prevalent in many countries. Little evidence exists regarding how this chronic condition should be treated, but guidelines suggest for most people it can be managed symptomatically in primary care. The Lightning Process is a trademarked positive psychology focused self-management programme which has shown to be effective in reducing fatigue and accompanying symptoms in other chronic conditions including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Here we outline its novel application to two patients with LC who both reported improvements in fatigue and a range of physical and emotional symptoms post-treatment and at 3 months follow-up.

Well, that surely convinced everyone! Except me and, of course, anyone else who can think critically.

So, I look further and find this on the company’s website:

Do you know how it feels to…

  • …be exhausted and tired no matter how much rest you get?
  • …be stuck with re-occurring pain, health symptoms and issues?
  • …get so stressed by almost everything?
  • …feel low and upset much of the time?
  • …want a better life and health but just can’t find anything that works?

If any, or all, of these sound familiar then the Lightning Process, designed by Phil Parker, PhD, could be the answer that you’re looking for.  There are lots of ways you can find out more about the suitability of the Lightning Process for you, have a look through below…

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Let me try to summarise:

  • The LP is promoted as a cure for long-Covid.
  • There is no evidence that LP is effective for it.
  • The claim is that it has been shown to work for ME.
  • There is no evidence that LP is effective for it.
  • A 3-day course costs £1 000.
  • Their website claims it is good for practically everyone.

Does anyone think that LP or its promoters are remotely serious?

I am glad to hear that the Vatican is issueing  new guidelines on supernatural phenomena. The document, compiled by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, will lay out rules to assess the truthfulness of supernatural claims. Reports of such phenomena are said to have soared in recent years in an era of social media – sometimes spread through disinformation and rumour. The guidelines are likely to tighten criteria for the screening, analysis, and possible rejection of cases.

Apparitions have been reported across the centuries. Those recognised by the Church have prompted pilgrims, and popes, to visit spots where they are said to have taken place. Millions flock to Lourdes in France, for example, or Fatima in Portugal, where the Virgin Mary is alleged to have appeared to children, promising a miracle – after which crowds are said to have witnessed the sun zig-zagging through the sky. The visitation was officially recognised by the Church in 1930.

But other reports are found by church officials to be baloney. In 2016, an Italian woman began claiming regular apparitions of Jesus and Mary in a small town north of Rome after she brought back a statue from Medjugorje in Bosnia, where the Virgin Mary is also said to have appeared. Crowds prayed before the statue and received messages including warnings against same-sex marriage and abortion. It took eight years for the local bishop to debunk the story.

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Perhaps the Vatican should also have a look at faith healing*, the attempt to bring about healing through divine intervention. The Bible and other religious texts provide numerous examples of divine healing, and believers see this as a proof that faith healing is possible. There are also numerous reports of people suffering from severe diseases, including cancer and AIDS, who were allegedly healed by divine intervention.

Faith healing has no basis in science, is biologically not plausible. Some methodologically flawed studies have suggested positive effects, however, this is not confirmed by sound clinical trials. Several plausible explanations exist for the cases that have allegedly been healed by divine intervention, for instance, spontaneous remission or placebo response. Another explanation is fraud. For instance, the famous German faith healer, Peter Popoff, was exposed in 1986 for using an earpiece to receive radio messages from his wife giving him the home addresses and ailments of audience members which he purported had come from God during his faith healing rallies.

Faith healing may per se be safe, but it can nevertheless do untold indirect harm, and even fatalities are on record: “Faith healing, when added as an adjuvant or alternative aid to medical science, will not necessarily be confined to mere arguments and debates but may also give rise to series of complications, medical emergencies and even result in death.”

Alternatively, the Vatican might look at the healing potential of pilgrimages*, journeys to places considered to be sacred. The pilgrims often do this in the hope to be cured of a disease. The purpose of Christian pilgrimage was summarized by Pope Benedict XVI as follows:

To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendour and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.

There are only few scientific studies of pilgrimages. The purpose of this qualitative research was to explore whether pilgrims visiting Lourdes, France had transcendent experiences. The authors concluded that visiting Lourdes can have a powerful effect on a pilgrim and may include an “out of the ordinary” transcendent experience, involving a sense of relationship with the divine, or experiences of something otherworldly and intangible. There is a growing focus on Lourdes as a place with therapeutic benefits rather that cures: our analysis suggests that transcendent experiences can be central to this therapeutic effect. Such experiences can result in powerful emotional responses, which themselves may contribute to long term well-being. Our participants described a range of transcendent experiences, from the prosaic and mildly pleasant, to intense experiences that affected pilgrims’ lives. The place itself is crucially important, above all the Grotto, as a space where pilgrims perceive that the divine can break through into normal life, enabling closer connections with the divine, with nature and with the self.

Other researchers tested the effects of tap water labelled as Lourdes water versus tap water labelled as tap water found that placebos in the context of religious beliefs and practices can change the experience of emotional salience and cognitive control which is accompanied by connectivity changes in the associated brain networks. They concluded that this type of placebo can enhance emotional-somatic well-being, and can lead to changes in cognitive control/emotional salience networks of the brain.

The risks involved in pilgrimages is their often considerable costs. It is true, as the text above points out that “millions flock to Lourdes in France”. In other words, pilgrimiges are an important source of income, not least for the catholoc church.

A more important risk can be that they are used as an alternative to effective treatments. This, as we all know, can be fatal. As there is no good evidence that pilgrimiges cure diseases, their risk/benefit balance as a treatment of disease cannot be positive.

So, will the new rules of the Vatican curtail the risks on supernatural healing practises? I would not hold my breath!

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* for references see my book from where this text has been borrowed and modified.

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