The increasing demand for fertility treatments has led to the rise of private clinics offering so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) treatments. Even King Charles has recently joined in with this situalion. One of the most frequently offered SCAM infertility treatment is acupuncture. However, there is no good evidence to support the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating infertility.
This study evaluated the scope of information provided by SCAM fertility clinics in the UK. A content analysis was conducted on 200 websites of SCAM fertility clinics in the UK that offer acupuncture as a treatment for infertility. Of the 48 clinics that met the eligibility criteria, the majority of the websites did not provide sufficient information on:
- the efficacy,
- the risks,
- the success rates
of acupuncture for infertility.
The authors concluded that this situation has the potential to infringe on patient autonomy, provide false hope and reduce the chances of pregnancy ever being achieved as fertility declines during the time course of ineffective acupuncture treatment.
The authors are keen to point out that their investigation has certain limitations. The study only analysed the information provided on the clinics’ websites and did not assess the quality of the treatment provided by the clinics.
Therefore, the study’s fndings cannot be generalized to the quality of the acupuncture treatment provided by the clinics.
Nonetheless the paper touches on very important issues: far too many health clinics that offer SCAM for this or that indication operate way outside the ethically (and legally) acceptable norm. They advertise their services without making it clear that they are neither effective nor safe. Desperate consumers thus fall for their promises. In the case of infertility, this might result merely in frustration and loss of (often substantial amounts of) money. In the case of serious disease, such as cancer, this often results in premature death.
It is time, I think, that this entire sector is regualted in a way that it does not endanger the well-being, health, or life of consumers.
A German paper reported the following horrific story about a Heilpraktiker, an alternative practitioner without a medical degree:
Starting July 7, Torben K. (46) from Solingen will have to answer to the Wuppertal Regional Court. The Heilpraktiker is said to have injected silicone oil into the penis and testicles of a man († 32) at his request. Shortly thereafter, the patient developed health problems and later died.
The prosecution accuses the Heilpraktiker from Solingen of bodily injury resulting in death and violation of the Heilpraktikergesetz.
According to the report, the victim had traveled to Solingen in June 2019, where the defendant had given him the injection in his apartment.
Back home, the 32-year-old patient suddenly developed shortness of breath, had to be hospitalized, then transferred to the university hospital in Giessen. Seven months after the injection, he is dead. According to the indictment, the patient suffered multiple organ failure as a result of blood poisoning.
Three days of trial are scheduled. The defendant faces up to 15 years in prison.
I had never heard of intra-testicular injections. So, I did a Medline search and found just two papers of the procedure in human patients:
Blunt trauma is the most common mechanism of injury to the scrotum and testicle. Surgical exploration with primary repair, hematoma evacuation, and de-torsion are common surgical interventions. A 20-year-old male with no previous medical history presented after a high-speed motor vehicle collision. Ultrasonography demonstrated heterogeneous changes of the tunica albuginea and decreased arterial flow to bilateral testicles. He was subsequently taken to the operating room for surgical exploration, which revealed bilateral mottled testes with questionable viability. Papaverine was injected into each testicle, which resulted in visibly increased perfusion and subsequent preservation of the testicles. Conclusion: Current evidence on the use of papaverine is isolated to testicular torsion. Additional research should be conducted on the use of papaverine in blunt testicular trauma. Papaverine injection may be a valuable treatment option when inadequate perfusion is observed intra-operatively.
Purpose: We describe a simple technique to deliver local anaesthetic for percutaneous testis biopsies.
Materials and methods: With the testis held firmly, a 25 gage needle is used to inject lidocaine, without epinephrine, into the skin and dartos superficial to the testis, then the needle is advanced through the tunica albuginea and 0.5 mL to 1.0 mL of lidocaine is injected directly into the testis. The testis becomes slightly more turgid with the injection. A percutaneous biopsy is then immediately performed.
Results: Intra-testicular lidocaine, (without the need of a cord block or any sedation) was used on a total of 45 consecutive patients having percutaneous testicular biopsies. Procedure time was short (averages less than 5 minutes) and anaesthesia was profound. There was no change in the number of seminiferous tubules for evaluation compared to biopsies on men using a cord block. Only 1/45 men had a post-procedure testicular hematoma (this resolved in 4 weeks).
Conclusions: Intra-testicular lidocaine appears to be a simple, rapid and safe method to provide anaesthesia for a percutaneous testis biopsy.
All the other papers on intra-testicular injections were about animal experiments, mostly for exploring means of castration. This renders the above case even more unusual. The Heilpraktiker’s defense might stress that the patient wanted the treatment. That may be so but is it a valid excuse? No, of course not. In my view – and I am just a medic, not a lawyer – the Heilpraktiker is responsible for the treatment regardless of how much the patient insisted on it.
‘Spagyric’ is a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) based on the alchemy of Paracelsus (1493-1541). Paracelsus borrowed the term from “separate” (spao) and “combine” (ageiro) to indicate that spagyric preparations are based on the “separation”, “extraction” and “recombination” of the active ingredients of a substance. Plant, mineral as well as animal source materials are used.
The production of spagyric remedies is based on a complex process of maceration and fermentation of a plant extract in alcohol. It takes place in dark, thick-walled glass flasks that are hermetically sealed and kept at a controlled temperature of 37 °C for 28 days. The tincture thus obtained is then decanted and the drug residue is removed from the solution, completely dried, and burned to ash to recover the inorganic components of the plant material. The ash is subsequently dissolved in the alcoholic solution of maceration, and the finished spagyric preparation is left for 12 days before use.
Spagyric is not the most popular of all SCAMs but it certainly does have a significant following. One enthusiast claims that “spagyric essences work on a vibrational level in their action upon the emotional/mind and physical spheres and can be employed in numerous situations. Most people seek help to relieve physical symptoms. Even so, it is often necessary to address the emotional and psychological aspects which may predispose the illness or imbalance. In an era where many people are experiencing life-changing events, the ability to transition smoothly is essential for well-being and vitality. Guidance and help are required to maintain homeostasis. These medicines can help the patient to understand the root cause of their illness and learn to regain control of their lives. Some medicine systems appear to be less effective than in previous times. It has been suggested that the energetic frequency of both the earth and human organism are changing. Therefore these systems may no longer be a vibrational match for the changing frequencies. Spagyric Medicine is designed to ‘tune in with’ these current frequencies. Research suggests that the Spagyric essences may instigate improved health by energetically influencing DNA.”
After reading such weird statements, I ask myself, is there any evidence that spagyric remedies work? In my search for robust studies, I was unsuccessful. There does not seem to be a single controlled study on the subject. However, there are fragmentary reports of a study initiated and conducted by a now largely unknown healer named Karl Hann von Weyhern.
Von Weyhern (1882 – 1954) had taken a few semesters of pharmacy and medicine in Freiburg but remained without a degree. In 1930, he became a member of the NSDAP (Hitler’s Nazi party) and in 1940 he joined the SS. Around 1935, he settled in Munich as a non-medical practitioner (Heilpraktiker), and Heinrich Himmler who has a soft spot for SCAM enlisted as one of his patients. By then von Weyhern had by then made a steep career in the Nazi hierarchy, and he managed to convince Himmler that his spagyric remedies could cure tuberculosis, which was still rampant at the time. They decided to carry out experiments in this regard in the Dachau concentration camp.
Thus, von Weyhern was allowed to test spagyric remedies on forcibly recruited concentration camp prisoners. These experiments lasted for about one year and included around 150 patients who, according to von Weyhern’s iridology diagnosis, suffered from tuberculosis. Half of them were treated with spagyric remedies and the others with conventional treatments. At the end of the experiment, 27 persons were reportedly released into everyday concentration camp life as ‘fit for work’. How many of the 150 prisoners lost their lives due to these experiments is not known. Von Weyhern never filed a final report. It is to be feared that the death toll was considerable. 
After the war, von Weyhern denied belonging to the SS, claimed that he had ‘sacrificed himself’ for his patients in the concentration camp, merely had to pay a fine, and was ‘denazified’ in 1948. Subsequently, he resumed his work as a ‘Heilpraktiker’ in Olching, a village near Dachau. 
Of course, these infamous experiments cannot be blamed on spagyric medicine. Yet, I feel they are nevertheless important, not least because they seem to reveal the only thing remotely resembling something like evidence. Die Ärzte der Nazi-Führer: Karrieren und Netzwerke : Mathias Schmidt (Hg.), Dominik Groß (Hg.), Jens Westemeier (Hg.): Amazon.de: Books
I came across an article entitled “Consent for Paediatric Chiropractic Treatment (Ages 0-16)“. Naturally, it interested me. Here is the full paper; I have only inserted a few numbers in square brackets which refer to my comments below:
By law, all Chiropractors are required to inform you of the risks and benefits of chiropractic spinal manipulation and the other types of care we provide. Chiropractors use manual therapy alongside taking a thorough history, and doing a neurological, orthopaedic and chiropractic examination to both diagnose and to treat spinal, cranial and extremity dysfunction. This may include taking joints to the end range of function, palpating soft tissues (including inside the mouth and the abdomen), mobilisation, soft tissue therapy and very gentle manipulation . Our Chiropractors have been educated to perform highly specific types of bony or soft tissue manipulation and we strive to follow a system of evidence-based care . At the core of our belief system is “Do No Harm”. We recognise that infants and children are not tiny adults. The force of an adjustment used in a child is at least less than half of what we might use with a fully grown adult. Studies by Hawk et al (2016) and Marchand (2013) agreed that Chiropractors use 15 – 35 x less force in the under 3-month age group when compared to medical practitioners doing manipulation (Koch, 2002) . We also use less force in all other paediatrics groups, especially when compared to adults (Marchand, 2013). In addition to using lower force, depth, amplitude and speed in our chiropractic adjustments , we utilise different techniques. We expect all children under the age of 16 years to be accompanied by a responsible adult during appointments unless prior permission to treat without a consenting adult e.g., over the age of 14 has been discussed with the treating chiropractor.
- Research into chiropractic care for children in the past 70 years has shown it to have a low risk of adverse effects (Miller, 2019) . These effects tend to be mild and of short duration e.g., muscular or ligament irritation. Vorhra et al (2007) found the risk of severe of adverse effects (e.g. fracture, quadriplegia, paraplegia, and death) is very, very rare and was more likely to occur in individuals where there is already serious underlying pathology and missed diagnosis by other medical profession . These particular cases occurred more than 25 years ago and is practically unheard of now since research and evidence-based care has become the norm .
- The most common side effect in infants following chiropractic treatment includes fussiness or irritability for the first 24 hours, and sleeping longer than usual or more soundly. (Miller and Benfield, 2008) 
- In older children, especially if presenting with pain e.g., in the neck or lower back, the greatest risk is that this pain may increase during examination due to increasing the length of involved muscles or ligaments . Similarly, the child may also experience pain, stiffness or irritability after treatment (Miller & Benfield, 2008) . Occasionally children may experience a headache. We find that children experience side effects much less often than adults.
- Your child might get better with chiropractic care.  If they don’t, we will refer you on .
- Low risk of side effects and very rare risk of serious adverse effects .
- Drug-free health care. We are not against medication, but we do not prescribe .
- Compared with a medical practitioner, manual therapy carried out by a chiropractor is 20 x less likely to result in injury (Koch et al 2002, Miller 2009).
- Children do not often require long courses of treatment (>3 weeks) unless complicating factors are present.
- Studies have shown that parents have a high satisfaction rate with Chiropractic care .
- Physical therapies are much less likely to interfere with biomedical treatments. (McCann & Newell 2006) 
- You will have a better understanding of diagnosis of any complain and we will let you know what you can do to help.
We invite you to have open discussions and communication with your treating chiropractor at all times. Should you need any further clarification please just ask.
- Hawk, C. Shneider, M.J., Vallone, S and Hewitt, E.G. (2016) – Best practises recommendations for chiropractic care of children: A consensus update. JMPT, 39 (3), 158-168.
- Marchand, A. (2013) – A Proposed model with possible implications for safety and technique adaptations for chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy for infants and children. JMPT, 5, 1-14
- Koch L. E., Koch, H, Graumann-Brunnt, S. Stolle, D. Ramirez, J.M., & Saternus, K.S. (2002) – Heart rate changes in response to mild mechanical irritation of the high cervical cord region in infants. Forensic Science International, 128, 168-176
- Miller J (2019) – Evidence-Based Chiropractic Care for Infants: Rational, Therapies and Outcomes. Chapter 11: Safety of Chiropractic care for Infants p111. Praeclarus Press
- Vohra, S. Johnston, B.C. Cramer, K, Humphreys, K. (2007) – Adverse events associated with paediatric spinal manipulation: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics, 119 (1) e275-283
- Miller, J and Benfield (2008) – Adverse effects of spinal manipulative therapy in children younger than 3 years: a retrospective study in a chiropractic teaching clinic. JMPT Jul-Aug;31(6):419-23.
- McCann, L.J. & Newell, S.J. (2006). Survey of paediatric complementary and alternative medicine in health and chronic disease. Archives of Diseases of Childhood, 91, 173-174
- Corso, M., Cancelliere, C. , Mior., Taylor-Vaise, A. Côté, P. (2020) – The safety of spinal manipulative therapy in children under 10 years: a rapid review. Chiropractic Manual therapy 25: 12
- “taking joints to the end range of function” (range of motion, more likely) is arguably not “very gently”;
- “we strive to follow a system of evidence-based care”; I do not think that this is possible because pediatric chiropractic care is hardy evidence-based;
- as a generalizable statement, this seems to be not true;
- ” lower force, depth, amplitude and speed”; I am not sure that there is good evidence for that;
- research has foremost shown that there might be significant under-reporting;
- to blame the medical profession for diagnoses missed by chiropractors seems odd;
- possibly because of under-reporting;
- possibly because of under-reporting;
- possibly because of under-reporting;
- possibly because of under-reporting;
- possibly because of under-reporting;
- your impressions are not evidence;
- your child might get even better without chiropractic care;
- referral rates of chiropractors tend to be low;
- possibly because of under-reporting;
- chiropractors have no prescription rights but some lobby hard for it;
- irrelevant if we consider the intervention useless and thus obsolete;
- any evidence for this statement?;
- satisfaction rates are no substitute for real evidence;
- that does not mean they are effective, safe, or value for money;
- this is perhaps the strangest statement of them all – do chiropractors think they are the optimal diagnosticians for all complaints?
According to its title, the paper was supposed to deal with consent for chiropractic pediatric care. It almost totally avoided the subject and certainly did not list the information chiropractors must give to parents before commencing treatment.
Considering the arguments that the article did provide has brought me to the conclusion that chiropractors who treat children are out of touch with reality and seem in danger of committing child abuse.
I am pleased to announce that our regular contributors ‘DC‘ as well as ‘mimi‘ both correctly guessed the person responsible for the quote about informed consent that was the subject of yesterday’s post. Congratulations to both; that certainly wasn’t easy!
The quote is by Karl Brandt.
Who was Karl Brandt?
Brandt was a young and evidently gifted doctor when, during a series of coincidences, he became a member of Hitler’s ‘inner circle’ and acted as one of Hitler’s personal physicians (originally, he had wanted to join the team of Albert Schweitzer!). Hitler liked the good-looking, ambitious Brandt and thus gave him greater and greater responsibilities and power. Amongst other things, Brandt managed to become in charge of the German euthanasia program which killed about 70 000 patients who the Nazis considered to be ‘useless eaters’ and unworthy of their support. It had the cynical purpose of freeing up hospital beds for the war and cleansing the German gene pool. Brandt also was responsible for many of the unspeakably cruel and immoral medical experiments in the concentration camps.
After the war, Brandt was put on trial in Nuremberg. The trial became known as the ‘Doctors’ Trail‘. Twenty of the 23 defendants were medical doctors (Viktor Brack, Rudolf Brandt, and Wolfram Sievers were Nazi officials). They were accused of having been involved in Nazi human experimentation and mass murder under the guise of euthanasia. Brandt insisted that he had never done anything wrong, had followed orders, and had been guided by the highest morals, solid medical ethics, and his determination to do the very best for the German people.
During his interrogations, he stated the sentences that fascinated me when I first read it: ” On the one hand, there are experiments that are carried out for or with someone on a voluntary basis; on the other hand, there are those that take place against the will of the person concerned. A further subdivision indicates whether they are particularly dangerous or comparatively harmless and without any potential for danger. A further distinction must be made as to whether the result of the experiment is important or whether it is merely a ridiculous game played by a scientifically educated person. These six criteria form a kind of guideline that enables one to say YES or NO from a medical point of view.”
The quote is cited in the book by Ulf Schmidt which is extremely well-researched and worth reading for anyone with an interest in the subject. In my view, it gives a unique insight into the thinking of someone who clearly was bright yet power-hungry, scrupulous and deeply immoral:
- experiments “against the will of the person concerned” always were unlawful, immoral, and unethical according to the guidelines that existed at the time;
- “particularly dangerous” experiments should have never been considered;
- research that is merely a “ridiculous game played by a scientifically educated person” is pseudoscience and not ethical.
Brandt tried to present himself as the ‘honest’, upright Nazi who did what he did because of a deep conviction and because he wanted the best. He seemed to have fooled others and possibly even himself. Several influential personalities rallied to his support. Yet, the judges at Nuremberg did neither believe his version of events nor were they inclined to pardon his behavior. Brandt was found guilty of:
- War crimes: performing medical experiments, without the subjects’ consent, on prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, in the course of which experiments the defendants committed murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts. Also planning and performing the mass murder of prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, stigmatized as aged, insane, incurably ill, deformed, and so on, by gas, lethal injections, and diverse other means in nursing homes, hospitals, and asylums during the Euthanasia Program and participating in the mass murder of concentration camp inmates;
- Crimes against humanity: committing crimes also on German nationals;
- Membership in a criminal organization, the SS. The charges against him included special responsibility for, and participation in, Freezing, Malaria, LOST Gas, Sulfanilamide, Bone, Muscle and Nerve Regeneration and Bone Transplantation, Sea-Water, Epidemic Jaundice, Sterilization, and Typhus Experiments.
Brandt was executed on 2 June 1948.
The discussions around informed consent at the Nuremberg ‘doctors trial’ brought this subject into a renewed focus and eventually led to the formulation of the now famous ‘Nuremberg Code‘.
I have often blogged about informed consent. Recently, I have come across a quote about informed consent to medical research that I find remarkable in several ways. It was made by a German physician and I present you with the original and with my translation of it.
The person who correctly guesses the author of the quote will – if he/she wants – receive a free copy of one of my books delivered through the post.
Here we go:
Zum einen gibt es Versuche, die fuer order mit jemandem auf freiwilliger Basis durchgefuehrt werden; zum anderen solche, die gegen den Willen der betroffenen Person stattfinden. Eine weitere Unterteilung gibt an, of sie besonders gefaehrlich offer vergleichsweise unbedenklich und ohne Gefahrenpotenzial sind. Zu unterscheiden ist ausserdem, ob das Ergebnis des Versuchs wichtig ist oder ob es sich nur um eine laecherliches Spiel einer wissenschaftlich gebildeten Person handelt. Aus diesen sechs Kriterien ergibt sich eine Art Richtlinie, die es einem vom medizinischen Standpunkt aus ermoeglicht JA oder NEIN zu sagen.
On the one hand, there are experiments that are carried out for or with someone on a voluntary basis; on the other hand, there are those that take place against the will of the person concerned. A further subdivision indicates whether they are particularly dangerous or comparatively harmless and without any potential for danger. A further distinction must be made as to whether the result of the experiment is important or whether it is merely a ridiculous game played by a scientifically educated person. These six criteria form a kind of guideline that enables one to say YES or NO from a medical point of view.
I don’t think you will find the author by googling the text. So, don’t bother.
The author, a German physician, is no longer alive but was very famous at one time. I will disclose his – yes it was a man – identity as soon as someone got the correct answer. If nobody does guess correctly, I will disclose it in a few days.
If you are unable to guess the author, I would still be interested in what you think of the quote and the frame of mind of the physician who said these intriguing sentences.
A German newspaper reported the experience of two journalists who went undercover to consult several practitioners of so-called alternative medicine to receive treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. Here are several passages from their important article (my translation, my bolding)
… Doctor Uwe Reuter invites us in. He is sitting behind an iMac on which he sometimes shows me pictures of his therapies. He is around 50, tall and lean, his face looks particularly serious through frameless glasses. I tell him my story. He listens attentively, and then it seems for a while as if he can’t decide what to advise me. Finally, he has it: I should first do a “diagnostic series” in his clinic, three or even better five days, for about 1000 Euros. This would include “electromagnetic measurements” for the “energy balance of individual organs”. Only then can he determine which therapy might be indicated in my case. “Hypnosis, homeopathy, vitamin B17 infusions” will probably play a role, says Reuter, and a “fever therapy” in which I will be injected with dead bacteria.
“In addition to chemotherapy or alone?”, I ask. The doctor says he can’t make this decision for me, I should make it from my “inside”. I have to understand that my illness does not come from the outside and that therapies only have a supporting effect – the healing “has to come from within”.
… In the end, Reuter suggests postponing chemotherapy for a quarter of a year and using his therapy to “push aside everything that prevents healing” – toxins, distractions, and fears. The cost? Around 10,000 Euros for the entire therapy…[Next doctor is] the well-known alternative doctor Klaus Maar in Düsseldorf… His wrinkled face is dominated by a large nose, his hair is enviably thick and black for a man of his age. “Well,” he says in his comforting voice, “why don’t you describe what happened to you?” I am nervous. Will he believe that I am terminally ill? I stammer and tell my story. He listens to me, looks at me, answers calmly, and takes his time – and attention that few orthodox doctors can afford today, which is one of the reasons that drive people into the arms of alternative healers.
Finally, Maar advises a “heat therapy” in which the tumor is heated locally. Yet Klaus Maar is still one of the more serious healers. He does not directly advise against chemotherapy, but warns about the side effects. In the end, he recommends postponing it for a fortnight and starting the 8,000-euro heat treatment as soon as possible. “But don’t delay, don’t blame me and say I delayed the chemotherapy,” Maar says. I guess that’s his way of hedging his bets: If he were to successfully dissuade me from chemotherapy, my family could sue him one day. I come across such phrases again and again.
… next visit; the alternative practitioner Ursula Stoll specializes in “Germanic New Medicine”. Ryke Geerd Hamer, a former doctor, founded this doctrine in the early 1980s as a reaction to “Jewish” orthodox medicine. No wonder it enjoys great popularity in völkisch circles. Hamer’s abstruse and dangerous theories led to the withdrawal of his license. He continued to practice illegally, however, and several of his patients died… Even Ursula Stoll thinks he was crazy – but not his theory… Stoll practices in Öhringen, an idyllic little town north of Stuttgart, in her nondescript detached house. She wears a white shirt and horn-rimmed glasses, her brown hair pinned back in a plait, an accurate governess with a stern look.
As I tell her about my suffering, she quickly interrupts me: “What is cancer?” she asks. We have to get rid of the term. There is no such thing as cancer. All I have is a swelling of the lymph nodes in my neck. That’s all. The cause: a self-deprecation of a professional nature. In my case, there is also an existential fear, and like a fish on land, I store water in my body in order to survive. Hence the swollen lymph nodes. Metastases? There are none. The medical report? She skims over it casually and asks: Did you sweat when you were sick? Did the sweat smell? Did it have a color? Where exactly was the itch?
I tell her about the lecture I gave and that my boss didn’t like. Yes! That could be the reason for the cancer. She says my symptoms are a reaction to this slight, my body is trying to heal itself, but the first chemotherapy interrupted and disrupted the process. Her advice to beat the cancer: I should move back in with my parents, life as a single person is too much for me, Berlin is a terrible city anyway… I ask again about chemotherapy. “I personally wouldn’t do it,” she says, “and for my children and my parents I would decide the same.” There it is again, this nappy-soft formulation with which the healers evade their legal responsibility. One more question: isn’t it dangerous to forego chemotherapy? The alternative practitioner Ursula Stoll: “Humans can withstand a lot.”
… Since the spiritual healers Wolfgang Bittscheidt and Teresa Schuhl were favorably discussed on German TV, their practice in Siegburg near Bonn has enjoyed great popularity: appointments are made only months in advance. When we are asked into the treatment room, it is dark, the blinds are half closed. A candle burns on the dark wooden desk. Teresa Schuhl is blond, has blue eyes, and seems cool and aloof, gesticulating strangely with her hands. She whispers more than she speaks; I have to lean forward to understand her. Her advice? “If you were my son right now, I would say, hands off chemo!” For herself, she would decide the same. “One possibility is vitamin B17. Have you heard of it?”
I have heard of it. The so-called vitamin B17 is in fact not a vitamin at all, but a toxic substance, related to prussic acid. It is currently experiencing a boom in the alternative scene and has no proven benefit for cancer. Several people have died from overdoses.
Schuhl is now poking around in my spiritual life and in the relationship between me and my parents. She also suspects a trauma behind my cancer. “The thyroid represents the hormonal. The balance between male and female. Do you know where you belong? Male or female?” What is she trying to say?
“I come from Tajikistan,” he says, “where they say: sickness is a sacred time. When you are sick, God talks to you. He tells you what life really is. What we live is not life, it’s shit. Sickness asks us to make a change.” He continues, “Death is the most beautiful thing there is. Like a trip to the Caribbean. Why are we afraid of it? On this tortured planet here?”
After this introduction, my head is spinning, but now the actual treatment begins. I lie down on a couch. Schuhl runs her hands over my stomach and holds my shoulder. At the same time, she says prayers. She changes into the extinct Aramaic that is sometimes used in Christian services. Then she leaves me alone. Later, her partner, a licensed doctor, recommends that I read up on vitamin B17, come to them once a month and light a candle in a church in Cologne. I walk out of the practice befuddled…
The practitioners protect themselves legally. They make the patients sign contracts stating that the patient has been informed about orthodox medicine and that they reject it willy-nilly, even though the information is often not worth mentioning. What would be the solution?
… The doctor Achim Schuppert in Bonn suspects mobile phone radiation as the cause of my tumor and wants to measure my magnetic aura. It was important to him to “exclude electrosmog as a possible damaging factor”, he writes later.
Lothar Hollerbach, who runs an alternative practice in a Heidelberg city villa, gives a philosophical lecture: “We are spiritual beings and only for a short time in a mobile home we call a body.” Every crisis is a lesson, he says, but perhaps that lesson is for the next life. One of the things he recommends to me for recovery is Rudolf Steiner‘s lectures. How many patients has he successfully treated? He doesn’t count them, Hollerbach waves off. And after all, it’s not just about surviving. Some of his patients could have led a totally different life “in the next incarnation”. For those who long for death – his practice is highly recommended…
… The “medical director” Elke Tegel, a blonde alternative practitioner, leads me through the bright house, shows me the “inner world travel room” where traumatic situations are processed, the room for “healing music“, and also the impressive machine for “high-frequency therapy“, in which electrical energy is supplied to the cells. Costs: 13670 Euros for five weeks.
Cancer, says the alternative practitioner, is “suppressed anger and suppressed resentment”; Hodgkin’s lymphoma in particular is about guilt. She asks: “Where do you feel guilty? Guilty of being a man?” Later she advises a “biological chemotherapy” of highly concentrated vitamin C. This, she says, is far superior to conventional chemo. She confuses my well-treatable Hodgkin’s lymphoma with the fundamentally different non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And justifies herself: “With us, it’s not about diagnosis, that’s not of interest.” …
What I like about this report is that they exposed both doctors and non-medically trained practitioners, i.e. Heilpraktiker. We see yet again that the study of medicine does not protect people from becoming dangerous charlatans. Yet, there are important differences between doctors and Heilpraktiker:
- Only a very small proportion of doctors would treat Hodgkin lymphoma with ineffective quackery, whereas the proportion with Heilpraktiker would, I guess, be not far from 100%.
- Doctors will get struck off for such behavior, whereas this happens to Heilpraktiker as good as never.
Osteopathy is currently regulated in 12 European countries: Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland, and the UK. Other countries such as Belgium and Norway have not fully regulated it. In Austria, osteopathy is not recognized or regulated. The Osteopathic Practitioners Estimates and RAtes (OPERA) project was developed as a Europe-based survey, whereby an updated profile of osteopaths not only provides new data for Austria but also allows comparisons with other European countries.
A voluntary, online-based, closed-ended survey was distributed across Austria in the period between April and August 2020. The original English OPERA questionnaire, composed of 52 questions in seven sections, was translated into German and adapted to the Austrian situation. Recruitment was performed through social media and an e-based campaign.
The survey was completed by 338 individuals (response rate ~26%), of which 239 (71%) were female. The median age of the responders was 40–49 years. Almost all had preliminary healthcare training, mainly in physiotherapy (72%). The majority of respondents were self-employed (88%) and working as sole practitioners (54%). The median number of consultations per week was 21–25 and the majority of respondents scheduled 46–60 minutes for each consultation (69%).
The most commonly used diagnostic techniques were: palpation of position/structure, palpation of tenderness, and visual inspection. The most commonly used treatment techniques were cranial, visceral, and articulatory/mobilization techniques. The majority of patients estimated by respondents consulted an osteopath for musculoskeletal complaints mainly localized in the lumbar and cervical region. Although the majority of respondents experienced a strong osteopathic identity, only a small proportion (17%) advertise themselves exclusively as osteopaths.
The authors concluded that this study represents the first published document to determine the characteristics of the osteopathic practitioners in Austria using large, national data. It provides new information on where, how, and by whom osteopathic care is delivered. The information provided may contribute to the evidence used by stakeholders and policy makers for the future regulation of the profession in Austria.
This paper reveals several findings that are, I think, noteworthy:
- Visceral osteopathy was used often or very often by 84% of the osteopaths.
- Muscle energy techniques were used often or very often by 53% of the osteopaths.
- Techniques applied to the breasts were used by 59% of the osteopaths.
- Vaginal techniques were used by 49% of the osteopaths.
- Rectal techniques were used by 39% of the osteopaths.
- “Taping/kinesiology tape” was used by 40% of osteopaths.
- Applied kinesiology was used by 17% of osteopaths and was by far the most-used diagnostic approach.
Perhaps the most worrying finding of the entire paper is summarized in this sentence: “Informed consent for oral techniques was requested only by 10.4% of respondents, and for genital and rectal techniques by 21.0% and 18.3% respectively.”
I am lost for words!
I fail to understand what meaningful medical purpose the fingers of an osteopath are supposed to have in a patient’s vagina or rectum. Surely, putting them there is a gross violation of medical ethics.
Considering these points, I find it impossible not to conclude that far too many Austrian osteopaths practice treatments that are implausible, unproven, potentially harmful, unethical, and illegal. If patients had the courage to take action, many of these charlatans would probably spend some time in jail.
If you go on Twitter you will find that chiropractors are keen like mustard to promote the idea that, after a car accident, you should consult a chiropractor. Here is just one Tweet that might stand for hundreds, perhaps even thousands:
Recovering from a car accident? If you have accident-related injuries such as whiplash, chiropractic care may provide relief. Treatments like spinal manipulation and soft tissue therapy can aid in your recovery.
In case you don’t like Twitter, you could also go on the Internet where you find hundreds of websites that promote the same idea. Here are just two examples:
A frequent injury arising from an automobile accident … is whiplash. After an accident, a chiropractor can help treat resulting issues and pain from the whiplash… Proceeding reduction in swelling and pain, treatment will then focus on manipulation of the spine and other areas.
There is no question, chiropractors earn much of their living by treating patients suffering from whiplash (neck injury caused by sudden back and forth movement of the neck often causing neck pain and stiffness, shoulder pain, and headache) after a car accident with spinal manipulation.
There are two not mutually exclusive possibilities:
- They think it is effective.
- It brings in good money.
I have no doubt about the latter notion, yet I think we should question the first. Is there really good evidence that chiropractic manipulations are effective for whiplash?
When I was head of the PMR department at the University of Vienna, treating whiplash was my team’s daily bread. At the time, our strategy was to treat each patient according to the whiplash stage and to his/her individual signs and symptoms. Manipulations were generally considered to be contra-indicated. But that was about 30 years ago. Perhaps the evidence has now changed. Perhaps manipulation therapy has been shown to be effective for certain types of whiplash injuries?
To find out, I did a few Medline searches. These did, however, not locate compelling evidence for spinal manipulation as a treatment of any stage of whiplash injuries. Here is an example of the evidence I found:
In 2008, the Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders (Neck Pain Task Force) found limited evidence on the effectiveness of manual therapies, passive physical modalities, or acupuncture for the management of whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) or neck pain and associated disorders (NAD). This review aimed to update the findings of the Neck Pain Task Force, which examined the effectiveness of manual therapies, passive physical modalities, and acupuncture for the management of WAD or NAD. Its findings show the following: Evidence from 15 evaluation studies suggests that for recent neck pain and associated disorders grades I-II, cervical and thoracic manipulation provides no additional benefit to high-dose supervised exercises.
But this is most puzzling!
Why do chiropractors promote their manipulations for whiplash, if there is no compelling evidence that it does more good than harm? Again, there are two possibilities:
- They erroneously believe it to be effective.
- They don’t care but are in it purely for the money.
Whatever it is – and obviously not all chiropractors would have the same reason – I must point out that, in both cases, they behave unethically. Not being informed about the evidence related to the interventions used clearly violates healthcare ethics, and so does financially not informing and exploiting patients.
Trevor Zierke is a D.C. who published several videos that have gone viral after saying that “literally 99% of my profession” is a scam. “When I say almost all the usual lines chiropractors tell you are lies, I mean almost all of them,” he stated. Zierke then went on to give examples of issues chiropractors allegedly make up, including someone’s spine being “misaligned,” tension on nerves causing health problems, and someone having back pain because their hips are off-center. “Almost all of these aren’t true,” he concluded.
In a follow-up video, he claimed that the reasons most people are told they need to go to a chiropractor are “overblown or just flat out lies proven wrong by research.” He also noted that, while there are many scams, that “doesn’t mean you can’t get help from a chiropractor.”
In a third TikTok video, Zierke offered some valid reasons to see a chiropractor. He said that one can seek help from a chiropractor if one has musculoskeletal pain that has been ongoing for more than one to two days, and that’s about it. He stated that issues that a chiropractor couldn’t really fix include “GI pain, hormonal issues, nutrition,” among others.
In comments, users were largely supportive of Zierke’s message.
One said: “As a physiotherapist, I’ve been trying to tell this but I don’t want to like offend any chiropractor in doing so,” a commenter shared.
“Working in a chiropractic office, this is fair,” a further user wrote. “I have issues that I know an adjustment will help & other pain that would be better stretched/released.”
In an email, Zierke reiterated the intention of his videos: “I would just like to clarify that chiropractors, in general, are not a scam or are inherently scammers (I myself am a practicing chiropractor), but rather a lot of very popular sales tactics, phrases, and wording used to imply patients need treatment, and methods of treatment, have never been proven to be true,” he explained. “When chiropractors say & use these methods stating things that are not factually true—I believe it’s scammy behavior and practices. There are still a lot of very good, honest, and integral chiropractors out there,” he concluded. “They can provide a lot of help and relief to patients. But that’s unfortunately not the majority, and I’ve heard too many stories of people falling victim to some of these scam-like tactics from bad apple chiropractors.”
None of what DC Zierke said can surprise those who have been following my blog. On the contrary, I could add a few recent posts to his criticism of chiropractic, for example:
- Pediatric chiropractic seems to be on the rise
- Catastrophic injuries after chiropractic treatment
- Chiropractic: “a safe form of treatment”?
- Malpractice Litigation Involving Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation
- Best Practices for the Chiropractic Care of Children
- No effect from adding chiropractic manipulations to exercises for neck pain
- Hurray! The new professional standard by the General Chiropractic Council protects UK chiropractors
- Manual therapy (mainly chiropractic and osteopathy) does not have clinically relevant effects on back pain compared with sham treatment
- Chiropractic Paediatric Courses … it is high time to stop this dangerous nonsense
- Chiropractic ‘subluxation’ is by no means a notion of the past
- Another indirect risk of chiropractic
- And again: chiropractic for infant colic
- Chiropractic misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic
- The lack of chiropractic ethics: “valid consent was not obtained in a single case”
I rest my case.