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.
Social prescribing (SP) has been mentioned here several times before. It seems important to so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), as some enthusiasts – not least King Charles – are trying to use it as a means to smuggle nonsensical treatments into routine healthcare.
SP is supposed to enable healthcare professionals to link patients with non-medical interventions available in the community to address underlying socioeconomic and behavioural determinants. The question, of course, is whether it has any relevant benefits.
This systematic review included all randomised controlled trials of SP among community-dwelling adults recruited from primary care or community setting, investigating any chronic disease risk factors defined by the WHO (behavioural factors: smoking, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and excessive alcohol consumption; metabolic factors: raised blood pressure, overweight/obesity, hyperlipidaemia and hyperglycaemia). Random effect meta-analyses were performed at two time points: completion of intervention and follow-up after trial.
The researchers identified 9 reports from 8 trials totalling 4621 participants. All studies evaluated SP exercise interventions which were highly heterogeneous regarding the content, duration, frequency and length of follow-up. The majority of studies had some concerns about the risk of bias. A meta-analysis revealed that SP likely increased physical activity (completion: mean difference (MD) 21 min/week, 95% CI 3 to 39, I2=0%; follow-up ≤12 months: MD 19 min/week, 95% CI 8 to 29, I2=0%). However, SP may not improve markers of adiposity, blood pressure, glucose and serum lipid. There were no eligible studies that primarily target unhealthy diet, smoking or excessive alcohol-drinking behaviours.
The authors concluded that SP exercise interventions probably increased physical activity slightly; however, no benefits were observed for metabolic factors. Determining whether SP is effective in modifying the determinants of chronic diseases and promotes sustainable healthy behaviours is limited by the current evidence of quantification and uncertainty, warranting further rigorous studies.
Great! Regular exercise improves physical fitness.
But do we need SP for this?
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against connecting patients with social networks to improve their health and quality of life. I do, however, object if SP is used to smuggle unproven or disproven SCAMs into EBM. In addition, I ask myself whether we really need the new profession of a ‘link worker’ to facilitate SP. I remember being taught that a good doctor should look after his/her patients holistically, and surely that includes mentioning and facilitating social networks for those who need them.
I, therefore, fear that SP is taking something valuable out of the hands of doctors. And the irony is that SP is favoured by those who are all too quick to turn around and say: LOOK AT HOW FRIGHTFULLY REDUCTIONIST AND HEARTLESS DOCTORS HAVE BECOME. WE NEED MORE HOLISM IN MEDICINE AND THAT CAN ONLY BE PROVIDED BY SCAM PRACTITIONERS!
The claim that homeopathy has a role in oncology does not seem to go away. Some enthusiasts say it can be used as a causal therapy, while others insist it might be a helpful symptomatic adjuvant. Almost all oncologists agree that homeopathy has no place at all in cancer care.
Who is right?
This systematic review included clinical studies from 1800 until 2020 to evaluate evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathy on physical and mental conditions in patients during oncological treatment.
In February 2021 a systematic search was conducted searching five electronic databases (Embase, Cochrane, PsychInfo, CINAHL and Medline) to find studies concerning use, effectiveness, and potential harm of homeopathy in cancer patients.
From all 1352 search results, 18 studies with 2016 patients were included in this SR. The patients treated with homeopathy were mainly diagnosed with breast cancer. The therapy concepts included single and combination homeopathic remedies (used systemically or as mouth rinses) of various dilutions. The outcomes assessed were:
- the influence on toxicity of cancer treatment (mostly hot flashes and menopausal symptoms),
- the time to drain removal in breast cancer patients after mastectomy,
- quality of life,
- global health,
- subjective well-being,
- anxiety and depression,
- safety and tolerance.
The included studies reported heterogeneous results: some studies described significant differences in quality of life or toxicity of cancer treatment favoring homeopathy, whereas others did not find an effect or reported significant differences to the disadvantage of homeopathy or side effects caused by homeopathy. The majority of the studies had low methodological quality.
The authors concluded that, the results for the effectiveness of homeopathy in cancer patients are heterogeneous, mostly not significant and fail to show an advantage of homeopathy over other active or passive comparison groups. No evidence can be provided that homeopathy exceeds the placebo effect. Furthermore, the majority of the included studies shows numerous and severe methodological weaknesses leading to a high level of bias and are consequently hardly reliable. Therefore, based on the findings of this SR, no evidence for positive effectiveness of homeopathy can be verified.
This could not be clearer. Some might argue that, of course, homeopathy cannot change the natural history of cancer, but it might improve the quality of life of those patients who believe in it via a placebo response. I would still oppose this notion: there are many effective treatments in the supportive treatment of cancer, and it seems much better to use those options and tell patients the truth about homeopathy.
This meta-analysis aimed “to provide better evidence of the efficacy of manual therapy (MT) on adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS)”.
All RCTs of MT for the management of patients with AIS were included in the present study. The treatment difference between the experimental and control group was mainly MT. The outcomes consisted of the total effective rate, the Cobb angle, and Scoliosis Research Society-22 (SRS-22) questionnaire score. Electronic database searches were conducted from database inception to July 2022, including the Cochrane Library, PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, Wanfang Data, CNKI, and VIP. The pooled data were analyzed using RevMan 5.4 software.
Four RCTs with 213 patients in the experimental groups were finally included. There are 2 studies of standalone MT in the experimental group and 3 studies of MT with identical conservative treatments in the control group. Three trials reported the total effective rate and a statistically significant difference was found (P = 0.004). Three trials reported Cobb angle; a statistical difference was found (P = 0.01). Then, sensitivity analysis showed that there was a significant difference in the additional MT subgroup (P < 0.00001) while not in the standalone MT subgroup (P = 0.41). Three trials reported SRS-22 scores (P = 0.55) without significant differences.
The authors concluded that there is insufficient data to determine the effectiveness of spinal manipulation limited by the very low quality of included studies. High-quality studies with appropriate design and follow-up periods are warranted to determine if MT may be beneficial as an adjunct therapy for AIS. Currently, there is no evidence to support spinal manipulation.
The treatment of idiopathic scoliosis depends on the age, curve size, and progression of the condition. Therapeutic options include observation, bracing, physiotherapy, and surgery. They do NOT include MT because it is neither a plausible nor effective solution to this problem. It follows that further studies are not warranted and should be discouraged.
And, even if you disagree with me here and feel that further studies might be justified, let me remind you that proper research is never aimed at providing better evidence that a therapy works (as the authors of this odd paper seem to think); it must be aimed at testing whether it is effective!
Austrian doctors recently received a notice in their mailbox about a postgraduate training event that is remarkable, to say the least.
The Vienna Medical Association is organizing a postgraduate training course on “Complementary Medical Homeopathy for Post- and Long Covid“. The date for the event is 20.4.2023. Registration for it is via the Association’s “Department of Complementary and Integrative Medicine”.
In case you ask, what is wrong with such a course? There is no scientific evidence that homeopathy has a specific, positive effect in long/post covid. Therefore the announced event has about the same validity as a lecture series for:
- BUNGEE JUMPING FOR DIABETES
- DOUGHNUT EATING FOR CORONARY HEART DISEASE
- CIGARETTE SMOKING IN CANCER PREVENTION
While relevant pseudomedicine training courses have in the past been organized by the relevant Austrian SCAM-organizations, the Vienna Medical Association itself is now joining the ranks of the organizers of pseudomedicine training courses. Whereas pseudomedicine has so far been the domain of physicians in private practice in Austria, it now appears to be promoted by the Vienna Medical Association in hospitals as well.
The Vienna Medical Association boldly claims that MEDICAL ETHICS IS THE BASIS OF OUR WORK. Well guess what, guys: teaching nonsense is not very ethical!
The ‘tasks and goals’ of the Association’s ‘Department for Complementary and Integrative Medicine’ of the Vienna Medical Association are explained on their website:
The aim of our department is to represent doctors with additional diplomas in the medical association and to inform about the value of their special therapeutic approaches better than previously – particularly in cases of serious side effects of conventional therapies.
In the sense of conveying up-to-date, high-quality, medical, and complementary education and training in complementary medicine, our department aims to publish relevant articles and announcements of dates of the respective professional societies in the chamber’s own media.
Practice-oriented introductory lectures or study groups on the following topics are also planned topics:
- medical homeopathy,
- psychosomatic relaxation therapy (bipolar harmonising abdominal breathing, autogenic training),
- regulation therapy based on skin resistance measurements at acupuncture points,
- herbal therapy, etc.
“Up-to-date, high-quality, medical, and complementary education and training in complementary medicine” – oh really? If the Association’s “Department of Complementary and Integrative Medicine” is truly interested in this, I herewith offer to give a free lecture series for them that would teach them the high-quality evidence truly shows.
Meanwhile, as there is no good evidence that homeopathy is an effective therapy for post/long Covid, the question of whether the ‘Vienna Medical Association’ has taken leave of its senses, must be answered in the affirmative.
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.
At first, I thought this was an ‘April fools’ joke. Then I looked at it a bit closer and realized that it seemed for real: Amazon is selling a placebo tablet. Here is how it is advertised:
- Honest Placebo Tablets by Zeebo Effect, inert ingredients, halal & kosher
- Focus on symptom relief, concentration, clarity, energy, calm, sleep
- Ze logo on each tablet, the original honest placebo brand trusted since 2014
- Randomized Controlled Trials with Zeebo Published in Journal for Pain, Nature, American Family Physician
- Each bottle is sealed with a transparent, tamper-proof neckband
Zeebo Tablets – Honest placebo tablets (white, round, 250mg each) are designed to help you create a safe placebo experience. Zeebo comes with the Ze logo on each tablet. Zeebo is made from an inert, natural fiber. Vegan, free of sugar or dyes. When it comes to Zeebo, You are the active ingredient. Users of Zeebo Tablets know they are taking a placebo containing only inert ingredients. Zeebo Tablets are taken intentionally obtain stress and pain relief, to release tension, irritability and nervousness, to help with calm and sleep serving as a sleep aid. Some of our customers take Zeebo Tablets to solicit placebo effects for increased mental focus, clarity, concentration, test performance and to sustain higher energy levels during physical exercise. Zeebo tablets are pure placebo, they are non-drowsy, non-homeopathic. There are no known interactions between Zeebo Placebo Tablets and other medications or supplements. Do not use Zeebo to delay or replace medical treatment. Visit zeeboeffect.com to learn about Zeebo. Look for the ebook The Placebo Cure to find out more about how to create your own Honest Placebo experience.
Take as needed. You may or may not respond to placebo. Do not use Zeebo to replace or delay medical treatment. Use Zeebo without deceit.*
* These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease.
Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.
Zeebo Tablets are an ethical placebo. People take it knowing it is a placebo. Take it without self-deceit. Zeebo is not made to look like any other ingestible. In fact, we think that the Zeebo branding can help enhance the experience. Have a look into ethical placebo or honest placebo studies. You will find a lot of research there, published in the journals Nature, Pain, for example. No need to trick yourself.
After reading all this, I am again not entirely sure whether this is a hoax. If it is, I failed to get the fun of it. If it isn’t, there might be reasons for concern. When a placebo was marketed, a few years ago, THE GUARDIAN published opinions about the idea:
Jennifer Buettner, whose company Efficacy is marketing the placebo, says it can stimulate “the body’s ability to repair itself and the miracle power of the brain”. She said the company planned to distribute the pills, which cost £3 for 50, in the UK. “When drugs are not needed and the patient still thinks that medicine would help, we believe that the placebo effect can work,” she said.
But Dr Clare Gerada, vice-chair of the Royal College of GPs, described the pill as “medicalising love”, adding: “This placebo disempowers parents. It is telling them that unless you give your children this pill there’s nothing else.” Douglas Kamerow, associate editor of the British Medical Journal, said giving placebos to children was a “deeply bad idea”. Writing in the latest edition of the journal, he said: “The problems are numerous. Firstly, whom are we treating here, children or their parents?” He added that if parents used placebos to comfort their children they were teaching them that tablets are the answer for all life’s aches and pains.
As we have seen previously, the evidence on ‘open placebos’ is less impressive than many think. It makes me wonder whether the sale of placebo tablets is a good idea.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
During the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, Ayurvedic herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies were promoted as immune boosters (IBs) and disease-preventive agents. This happened in most parts of the world but nowhere more intensely than in India.
The present study examined the clinical outcomes among patients with chronic liver disease who presented with complications of portal hypertension or liver dysfunction temporally associated with the use of IBs in the absence of other competing causes. This Indian single-center retrospective observational cohort study included patients with chronic liver disease admitted for the evaluation and management of jaundice, ascites, or hepatic encephalopathy temporally associated with the consumption of IBs and followed up for 180 days. Chemical analysis was performed on the retrieved IBs.
From April 2020 to May 2021, 1022 patients with cirrhosis were screened, and 178 (19.8%) were found to have consumed complementary and alternative medicines. Nineteen patients with cirrhosis (10.7%), jaundice, ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, or their combination related to IBs use were included. The patients were predominantly male (89.5%). At admission, 14 (73.75%) patients had jaundice, 9 (47.4%) had ascites, 2 (10.5%) presented with acute kidney injury, and 1 (5.3%) had overt encephalopathy. Eight patients (42.1%) died at the end of the follow-up period. Hepatic necrosis and portal-based neutrophilic inflammation were the predominant features of liver biopsies.
Ten samples of IBs, including locally made ashwagandha powder, giloy juice, Indian gooseberry extracts, pure giloy tablets, multiherbal immune-boosting powder, other multiherbal tablets, and the homeopathic remedy, Arsenicum album 30C, were retrieved from our study patients. Samples were analyzed for potential hepatotoxic prescription drugs, known hepatotoxic adulterants, pesticides, and insecticides, which were not present in any of the samples. Detectable levels of arsenic (40%), lead (60%), and mercury (60%) were found in the samples analyzed. A host of other plant-derived compounds, industrial solvents, chemicals, and anticoagulants was identified using GC–MS/MS. These include glycosides, terpenoids, phytosteroids, and sterols, such as sitosterol, lupeol, trilinolein, hydroxy menthol, methoxyphenol, butyl alcohol, and coumaran derivatives.
The authors concluded that Ayurvedic and Homeopathic supplements sold as IBs potentially cause the worsening of preexisting liver disease. Responsible dissemination of scientifically validated, evidence-based medical health information from regulatory bodies and media may help ameliorate this modifiable liver health burden.
The authors comment that Ayurvedic herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies sold as IBs, potentially induce idiosyncratic liver injury in patients with preexisting liver disease. Using such untested advertised products can lead to the worsening of CLD in the form of liver failure or portal hypertension events, which are associated with a high risk of mortality compared to those with severe AH-related liver decompensation in the absence of timely liver transplantation. Severe mixed portal inflammation and varying levels of hepatic necrosis are common findings on liver histopathology in IB-related liver injury. Health regulatory authorities and print and visual media must ensure the dissemination of responsible and factual scientific evidence-based information on herbal and homeopathic “immune boosters” and health supplements to the public, specifically to the at-risk patient population.