I have been informed by the publisher, that my book has been published yesterday. This is about two months earlier than it was announced on Amazon. It is in German – yes, I have started writing in German again. But not to worry, I translated the preface for you:
Anyone who falls ill in Germany and therefore needs professional assistance has the choice, either to consult a doctor or a non-medical practitioner (Heilpraktiker).
– The doctor has studied and is licensed to practice medicine; the Heilpraktiker is state-recognized and has passed an official medical examination.
– The doctor is usually in a hurry, while the Heilpraktiker takes his time and empathizes with his patient.
– The doctor usually prescribes a drug burdened with side effects, while the Heilpraktiker prefers the gentle methods of alternative medicine.
So who should the sick person turn to? Heilpraktiker or doctor? Many people are confused by the existence of these parallel medical worlds. Quite a few finally decide in favor of the supposedly natural, empathetic, time-tested medicine of the Heilpraktiker. The state recognition gives them the necessary confidence to be in good hands there. The far-reaching freedoms the Heilpraktiker has by law, as well as the coverage of costs by many health insurances, are conducive to further strengthening this trust. “We Heilpraktiker are recognized and respected in politics and society,” writes Elvira Bierbach self-confidently, the publisher of a standard textbook for Heilpraktiker.
The first consultation of our model patient with the Heilpraktiker of his choice is promising. The Heilpraktiker responds to the patient with understanding, usually takes a whole hour for the initial consultation, gives explanations that seem plausible, is determined to get to the root of the problem, promises to stimulate the patient’s self-healing powers naturally, and invokes a colossal body of experience. It almost seems as if our patient’s decision to consult a Heilpraktiker was correct.
However, I have quite significant reservations about this. Heilpraktiker are perhaps recognized in politics and society, but from a medical, scientific, or ethical perspective, they are highly problematic. In this book, I will show in detail and with facts why.
The claim of government recognition undoubtedly gives the appearance that Heilpraktiker are adequately trained and medically competent. In reality, there is no regulated training, and the competence is not high. The official medical examination, which all Heilpraktiker must pass is nothing more than a test to ensure that there is no danger to the general public. The ideas of many Heilpraktiker regarding the function of the human body are often in stark contradiction with the known facts. The majority of Heilpraktiker-typical diagnostics is pure nonsense. The conditions that they diagnose are often based on little more than naive wishful thinking. The treatments that Heilpraktiker use are either disproven or not proven to be effective.
There is no question in my mind that Heilpraktiker are a danger to anyone who is seriously ill. And even if Heilpraktiker do not cause obvious harm, they almost never offer what is optimally possible. In my opinion, patients have the right to receive the most effective treatment for their condition. Consumers should not be misled about health-related issues. Only those who are well-informed will make the right decisions about their health.
My book provides this information in plain language and without mincing words. It is intended to save you from a dangerous misconception of the Heilpraktiker profession. Medical parallel worlds with the radically divergent quality standard – doctor/Heilpraktiker – are not in the interest of the patient and are simply unacceptable for an enlightened society.
I recently came across this editorial from the NEJM. I find it extremely relevant to the many discussions we have about so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) we have on this blog. I, therefore, take the liberty to copy a small section of it here without further comment, and encourage everyone to read the full paper:
…expertise and authority are increasingly seen as means for elites to establish and support existing hierarchies. There is, of course, some substance to this argument: although orthodox doctors may believe that their dominance and privilege are attributable to the rigor of the methods they use and that other schools of medicine were vanquished because of the superior results achieved by science-based practice, another version of the story sees the suppression of other approaches to healing (e.g., naturopathy, homeopathy, or chiropractic) as the result of ruthless actions by the American Medical Association and other forms of organized medicine. These critiques aren’t new; as Lewis Grossman writes in Choose Your Medicine, “medical freedom” arguments have long been used to oppose institutions intended to protect consumers, such as medical licensure and the FDA.3 The difference today is that the antiexpertise perspective has moved into the mainstream. With Google and Amazon having created a world in which people can frictionlessly obtain both information and nearly any product they want, it’s not hard to portray expert gatekeepers as barriers to patients’ ability to exercise choice.
Perhaps the most substantial threat to expertise is that members of the public are coming to believe that facts don’t exist — that all facts are political and therefore a matter of opinion. This mindset is fundamentally incompatible with the scientific practice of medicine, which depends on a shared commitment to backing up hypotheses with empirical evidence. Indeed, modern medicine owes much of its privileged position to a broad acceptance that the methods it uses can be relied on to make medical choices that are likely to do more good than harm.
A 1902 Supreme Court case, American School of Magnetic Healing v. McAnnulty, offers an instructive example of what could happen if all medical facts were seen as purely matters of opinion. The American School of Magnetic Healing in Nevada, Missouri, received 3000 pieces of mail every day, largely consisting of checks, money orders, and cash to purchase the healing services that the school advertised in newspapers throughout the United States. Patients who sent payments were instructed to lie down at a specified time wherever they were, and the healers at the magnetic school would, from Nevada, channel the healing energy of the universe into their bodies to heal them.3 The Post Office Department (which predated the Postal Service) concluded that this practice was a fraudulent operation using the mail and, after a hearing conducted by the postmaster general, stopped delivering mail to the school. The school sued, and the case went to the Supreme Court, which found in its favor.
Writing for the Court, Justice Rufus Peckham essentially rejected the existence of medical facts. “Just exactly to what extent the mental condition affects the body,” he wrote, “no one can accurately and definitely say.… Because the [school] might or did claim to be able to effect cures by reason of working upon and affecting the mental powers of the individual… who can say that it is a fraud?… Those who might deny the existence or virtue of the remedy would only differ in opinion from those who assert it. There is no exact standard of absolute truth by which to prove the assertion false and a fraud.”4 Although this decision was never expressly overruled, both Congress and the courts have since rejected the premise that the efficacy of treatments is purely a matter of opinion.
Differences of opinion within medicine are necessary for progress, and both licensing and certifying boards must therefore be careful to leave room for the expression of divergent views. Moreover, there is ongoing debate regarding the extent to which free-speech protections cover professional speech. But despite the existence of divergent views and areas for legitimate debate, there are some opinions that have been so thoroughly repudiated by existing evidence as to be considered definitively wrong.5 Constructive debates are possible only within a shared epistemic framework and with a commitment to the idea of verifiable facts. It’s incumbent on licensing and certifying boards to defend the existence of facts and to give the public a way to know when practitioners are making claims that are incompatible with reality.
When it comes to disciplining doctors, boards haven’t always lived up to public expectations — but that’s not a reason they should fall short yet again, especially during a lethal pandemic. Although there are many gray areas in medicine, some propositions are objectively wrong. For example, when a licensed physician insists that viruses don’t cause disease or that Covid-19 vaccines magnetize people or connect them to cell towers, professional bodies must be able to take action in support of fact- and evidence-based practice.
The public relies on the medical profession in times of grievous vulnerability and need. For the profession to earn and maintain the public’s trust — along with the privileges associated with the status of being licensed practitioners — medical boards must be able to differentiate practitioners who are providing fact-based advice from those who are not.
I have featured the ‘Münster Circle‘ before. The reason why I do it again today is that we have just published a new Memorandum entitled HOMEOPATHY IN THE PHARMACY. Here is its summary which I translated into English:
Due to questionable regulations in German pharmaceutical law, homeopathic medicines can be given the status of a medicinal product without having to provide valid proof of efficacy. As medicinal products, these preparations may then only be dispensed to customers in pharmacies, which, however, creates an obligation to also supply them on request or prescription. Many pharmacies go far beyond this and advertise homeopathic medicines as a useful therapy option by advertising them prominently in the window. In addition, customers are recommended to use them, corresponding lecture events are supported, and much more. Often, homeopathic preparations are even produced according to pharmacies’ own formulations and marketed under their own name.
For pharmacists and pharmaceutical technical assistants (PTAs) to perform their important task in the proper supply of medicines to the population, they must have successfully completed a scientific study of pharmacy or state-regulated training. This is to ensure that customers are informed and properly advised about their medicines according to the current state of knowledge.
After successfully completing their training or studies, PTAs and pharmacists are undoubtedly able to recognize that homeopathic medicines cannot be effective beyond placebo. They do not have any significant content of active ingredients – if, for example, the high potencies that are considered to be particularly effective still have any active ingredients at all. Consequently, pharmacists and PTAs act against their better knowledge to the detriment of their customers if they create the impression through their actions that homeopathic medicines represent a sensible therapeutic option and customers are thereby encouraged to buy and use them.
Although homeopathics have no potential for direct harm in the absence of relevant amounts of pharmacologically active substances in the preparations, their distribution should nevertheless be viewed critically. The use of homeopathy can mean losing valuable time and delaying the start of effective therapy. It is often accompanied by criticism, even rejection of scientifically oriented medicine and public health, for example when homeopathy is presented as the antithesis to a threatening “pharmaceutical mafia”.
The Münster Circle appeals to pharmacists and PTAs to stop advertising homeopathic medicines as an effective therapeutic option, to stop producing and marketing them themselves, and to advise their customers that homeopathic preparations are not more effective than placebo. The professional organizations of pharmacists and other providers of further training are called upon to no longer offer courses on homeopathy – except for convincingly refuting the often abstruse claims of the supporters.
I have pointed out for at least 20 years now that pharmacists have an ethical duty toward their clients. And this duty does not involve misleading them and selling them useless homeopathic remedies. On the contrary, it involves advising them on the basis of the best existing evidence.
When I started writing and talking about this, pharmacists seemed quite interested (or perhaps just amused?). They invited me to give lectures, I published an entire series of articles in the PJ, etc. Of late, they seem to be fed up with hearing this message and the invitations have well and truly stopped.
They may be frustrated with my message – but not as frustrated as I am with their inertia. In my view, it is nothing short of a scandal that homeopathic remedies and similarly bogus treatments still feature in pharmacies across the globe.
I recently came across a truly baffling article. As it is in German, I translated it for you:
Supply shortages have kept pharmacies on tenterhooks for months, with more than 400 common medicines missing. The German Central Association of Homeopathic Doctors (DZVhÄ) suggests switching to alternative medicine as a solution: “We have homeopathic medicines that have been tried and tested in practice for more than 200 years and can replace many medicines that are currently not available,” says the president of the DZVhÄ , Dr Michaela Geiger.
The DZVhÄ is convinced that homeopathic medical practices can replace fever-reducing medicines, but in many cases also antibiotics and much more. However, Geiger qualifies: “Due to our medical training, we also know that cancer drugs such as the often cited Tamoxifen cannot be replaced by homeopathy”.
The homeopathic doctors respond directly to the sharpest argument of their critics: “But let’s assume that homeopathy only works via the placebo effect, as is being rumored, even then it would be an option, especially if other options are lacking,” says DZVhÄ vice-president Dr. Ulf Riker. Since homeopathically trained doctors can judge the general course of a disease, they can also distinguish a placebo effect from a medicinal effect.
If fever medication for children is lacking, parents should not be deprived of another “therapy option”, Riker said. “If you do not get your conventional fever medication in the coming weeks, visit a specialist pharmacy for naturopathy and homeopathy. If you are due for a medical consultation, experienced homeopathic doctors can prescribe a suitable homeopathic medicine for you,” he says.
Why do I find this so intriguing?
Essentially, what we have learned from the article is the following:
- “Tried and tested in practice for more than 200 years” is ‘homeopathy speak’ for “effective”, even if the evidence tells us otherwise.
- Homeopathic remedies can replace many evidence-based conventional medications such as fever-reducing medicines, antibiotics, and much more, even if the evidence tells us otherwise.
- Homeopaths know that cancer drugs cannot be replaced by homeopathy – except for those homeopaths who seem to have forgotten this simple lesson.
- Homeopathic placebos are a realistic option when there is a supply problem with effective drugs, even if the evidence tells us otherwise.
- Homeopathically trained doctors can distinguish a placebo effect from a medicinal effect, even if there is no evidence that any clinician can reliably do this.
- Homeopathic doctors prescribe suitable homeopathic medicine. Suitable for whom? As it is ineffective, it is unsuitable for the patient. Therefore, Riker is probably talking about the homeopath.
So, what have we really learned from this article? I don’t know about you, but I got the impression that the president and the vice president of the DZVhÄ do not seem to mind putting patients in danger, as long as they can promote homeopathy.
The UK medical doctor, Sarah Myhill, has a website where she tells us:
Everyone should follow the general approach to maintaining and restoring good health, which involves eating a paleo ketogenic diet, taking a basic package of nutritional supplements, ensuring a good night’s sleep on a regular basis and getting the right balance between work, exercise and rest. Because we live in an increasingly polluted world, we should probably all be doing some sort of detox regime.
She also happens to sell dietary supplements of all kinds which must surely be handy for all who want to follow her advice. Dr. Myhill boosted her income even further by putting false claims about Covid-19 treatments online. And that got her banned from practicing for nine months after a medical tribunal.
She posted videos and articles advocating taking vitamins and other substances in high doses, without evidence they worked. The General Medical Council (GMC) found her recommendations “undermined public health” and found some of her recommendations had the potential to cause “serious harm” and “potentially fatal toxicity”. The tribunal was told she uploaded a series of videos and articles between March and May 2020, describing substances as “safe nutritional interventions” which she said meant vaccinations were “rendered irrelevant”. But the substances she promoted were not universally safe and have potentially serious health risks associated with them, the panel was told. The tribunal found Dr. Myhill “does not practice evidence-based medicine and may encourage false reassurance in her patients who may believe that they will not catch Covid-19 or other infections if they follow her advice”.
Dr. Myhill previously had a year-long ban lifted after a General Medical Council investigation into her claims of being a “pioneer” in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, the hearing was told there had been 30 previous GMC investigations into Dr. Myhill, but none had resulted in findings of misconduct.
Dr. Myhill is also a vocal critic of the PACE trial and biopsychosocial model of ME/CFS. Dr. Myhill’s GMC complaint regarding a number of PACE trial authors was first rejected without investigation by the GMC, after Dr. Myhill appealed the GMC stated they would reconsider. Dr. Myhill’s action against the GMC for failing to provide reasoning for not investigating the PACE trial authors is still continuing and began a number of months before the most recent GMC instigation of her practice started.
The recent tribunal concluded: “Given the circumstances of this case, it is necessary to protect members of the public and in the public interest to make an order suspending Dr. Myhill’s registration with immediate effect, to uphold and maintain professional standards and maintain public confidence in the profession.”
It has been reported that a naturopath from the US who sold fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and fraudulent vaccination cards during the height of the coronavirus pandemic has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison. Juli A. Mazi pleaded guilty last April in federal court in San Francisco to one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters. Now District Judge Charles R. Breyer handed down a sentence of 33 months, according to Joshua Stueve, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice. Mazi, of Napa, was ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on or before January 6, 2023.
The case is the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards for COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In August, Breyer denied Mazi’s motion to withdraw her plea agreement after she challenged the very laws that led to her prosecution. Mazi, who fired her attorneys and ended up representing herself, last week filed a letter with the court claiming sovereign immunity. Mazi said that as a Native American she is “immune to legal action.”
She provided fake CDC vaccination cards for COVID-19 to at least 200 people with instructions on how to complete the cards to make them look like they had received a Moderna vaccine, federal prosecutors said. She also sold homeopathic pellets she fraudulently claimed would provide “lifelong immunity to COVID-19.” She told customers that the pellets contained small amounts of the virus and would create an antibody response. Mazi also offered the pellets in place of childhood vaccinations required for attendance at school and sold at least 100 fake immunization cards that said the children had been vaccinated, knowing the documents would be submitted to schools, officials said. Federal officials opened an investigation against Mazi after receiving a complaint in April 2021 to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General hotline.
On her website, Mazi states this about herself:
Juli Mazi received her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon where she trained in the traditional medical sciences as well as ancient and modern modalities that rely on the restorative power of Nature to heal. Juli Mazi radiates the vibrant health she is committed to helping her patients achieve. Juli’s positive outlook inspires confidence; her deep well of calm puts people at immediate ease. The second thing they notice is that truly she listens. Dr. Mazi’s very presence is healing.
On this site, she also advocates all sorts of treatments and ideas which I would call more than a little strange, for instance, coffee enemas:
Using a coffee enema is a time-tested remedy for detoxification, but it is not without risks. If you are not careful, the process can cause internal burns. In addition, improperly brewed coffee can lead to electrolyte imbalances and dehydration, and coffee enemas are not recommended for pregnant women or young children.
To make coffee enemas safe and effective, always choose quality organic coffee. A coffee enema should be free of toxins and pesticides. Use a reusable enema kit with stainless steel or silicone hosing for safety. Moreover, do not use a soft plastic or latex enema bags. It is also essential to limit the length of time that the coffee spends in the container.
A coffee enema should be held for 12 to 15 minutes and then released in the toilet. You may repeat the process as necessary. Usually, the procedure should be done once or twice a day. However, if you are experiencing acute toxicity, you can use a coffee enema as often as needed. Make sure you have had a bowel movement before making the coffee enema. Otherwise, the process may be hindered.
Perhaps the most interesting thing on her website is her advertisement of the fact that her peers not just tolerate such eccentricities but gave Mazi an award for ‘BEST ALTERNATIVE HEALTH & BEST GENERAL PRACTITIONER’.
To me, this suggests that US ‘doctors of naturopathy’ and their professional organizations live on a different planet, a planet where evidence counts for nothing and dangerously misleading patients seems to be the norm.
Pancoast tumors, also called superior sulcus tumors, are a rare type of cancer affecting the lung apex. These tumors can spread to the brachial plexus and spine and present with symptoms that appear to be of musculoskeletal origin. Patients with an advanced Pancoast tumor may thus feel intense, constant, or radiating pain in their arms, around their chest wall, between their shoulder blades, or traveling into their upper back or armpit. In addition, a Pancoast tumor may cause the following symptoms:
- Swelling in the upper arm
- Chest tightness
- Weakness or loss of coordination in the hand muscles
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the hand
- Loss of muscle tissue in the arm or hand
- Unexplained weight loss
This case report details the story of a 59-year-old Asian man who presented to a chiropractor in Hong Kong with a 1-month history of neck and shoulder pain and numbness. His symptoms had been treated unsuccessfully with exercise, medications, and acupuncture. He had a history of tuberculosis currently treated with antibiotics and a 50-pack-year history of smoking.
Cervical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed a small cervical disc herniation thought to correspond with radicular symptoms. However, when the patient did not respond to a brief trial of chiropractic treatment, the chiropractor referred the patient back to the chest hospital for further testing, which confirmed the diagnosis of a Pancoast tumor. The patient was then referred for medical care and received radiotherapy and chemotherapy. At 2 months’ follow-up, the patient noted feeling lighter with less severe neck and shoulder pain and numbness. He also reported that he could sleep longer but still had severe pain upon waking for 2–3 hours, which subsided through the day.
A literature review identified six previously published cases in which a patient presented to a chiropractor with an undiagnosed Pancoast tumor. All patients had shoulder, spine, and/or upper extremity pain.
The authors concluded that patients with a previously undiagnosed Pancoast tumor can present to chiropractors given that these tumors may invade the brachial plexus and spine, causing shoulder, spine, and/or upper extremity pain. Chiropractors should be aware of the clinical features and risk factors of Pancoast tumors to readily identify them and refer such patients for medical care.
This is an important case report, in my view. It demonstrates that symptoms treated by chiropractors, osteopaths, and physiotherapists on a daily basis can easily be diagnosed wrongly. It also shows how vital it is that the therapist reacts responsibly to the fact that his/her treatments are unsuccessful. Far too often, the therapist has an undeniable conflict of interest and will say: “Give it more time, and, in my experience, symptoms will respond.”
The chiropractor in this story was brilliant and did the unusual thing of not continuing to treat his patient. However, I do wonder: might he be the exception rather than the rule?
In a previous post, I explained that anthroposophic education was founded by Steiner in 1919 to serve the children of employees of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Pupils of Waldorf or Steiner schools, as they are also frequently called, are encouraged to develop independent thinking and creativity, social responsibility, respect, and compassion.
Waldorf schools implicitly infuse spiritual and mystic concepts into their curriculum. Like some other alternative healthcare practitioners – for instance, doctors promoting integrative medicine, chiropractors, homeopaths, and naturopaths – doctors of anthroposophic medicine tend to advise against childhood immunizations. For this and other reasons, Waldorf schools have long attracted criticism.
Now it has been reported that the district government of Münster has withdrawn the school permit of a Waldorf school in Rheine, Germany, because of “serious deficiencies in the teaching operation”. For the 71 children, school operation ends with the start of the fall vacations at the beginning of October, as the district government announced on Tuesday. Already since the end of 2020 there had been numerous complaints. The school board had not succeeded in eliminating the deficiencies, a proper operation is currently and prospectively not guaranteed.
The list of problems described by the district government is long: there were repeated violations in the health protection of children. A spokesman for the district government said that there had been massive and repeated violations of Corona’s protective measures. In addition, there was a risk of accidents in the playground. The school board had also been unable to stop the misconduct of individual teachers, the district government criticized. “In addition, there is an insufficient supply of teachers, school organizational deficits and a massively disturbed school peace,” it said.
In the end, the basis of trust required for continued operation of the school was no longer given, so the school permit had to be revoked for the sake of the children. “This is an absolutely exceptional case,” the spokesman said. It is presumably the first case under the jurisdiction of the Münster district government, he added.
Israel’s Health Ministry announced the revocation of Dr. Aryeh Avni’s medical license, after he called to violate the ministry’s COVID guidelines during the pandemic and published defamatory articles against the medical community. The Jerusalem District Court rejected Avni’s appeal following the decision to revoke his medical license. Avni, who was a specialist in general surgery, engaged for years in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and had previously been caught forging vaccination certificates. He claimed in court that he operates in the context of freedom of expression and that his objective is to help the public and to rescue patients from the harm caused by medications and vaccines.
About a year and a half ago, the Health Ministry’s disciplinary committee recommended that Avni’s license be suspended for two years, but former Judge Amnon Shtrashnov, who was granted authority by the health minister, rejected the recommendation and ordered the permanent revocation of Avni’s license. In his decision, Shtrashnov called Avni “a charlatan, a clear coronavirus denier and a dangerous trickster, who behaves that way under the aegis of a licensed doctor.” “There must be a distinction between expressing an opinion and incitement, while conducting a smear campaign against medical authorities in order to dissuade the public from acting in accordance with their directive,” District Court Judge Nimrod Flax said in his decision. “A doctor who chooses to conduct a delegitimization campaign of this kind excludes himself, and is behaving in a manner unbefitting a licensed doctor. “And we will say once again – expressing an opinion, absolutely; conducting a campaign of incitement and defamation against his fellow doctors, while attempting to bias public opinion and to prevent the public from acting in accordance with the recommendations of the medical authorities, absolutely not,” added Judge Flax. “In general, criticism of the directives and decisions of the health care system and those who head it is legitimate, but that’s when these things are said in polite language and are based on true facts,” added the judge. “Granting approval to the appellant to continue to possess a medical license, while he continues with his previous practices, and in particular preaches to violate medical directives given by the authorized bodies, cannot accord with the public interest,” added the judge.
Dr. Avni has a website where he writes about himself: “During his work in the hospital but also in his private life, Dr. Avni was exposed to the dismal results of conventional cancer treatments, he lost his wife and sister. The difficult events made him think that allopathic medicine is not the only option and he started looking for other solutions. Better, and less dangerous in terms of “do no harm”.
This is how Dr. Avni came in his decades of journey to many methods and treatments that have in common that they treat problems from the root and not only the symptom, they are not harmful, in repairing one disease they do not increase the risk of new disease, they treat the person and do not see only the “disease” And their natural origin.
The more he delved into his research, the more Dr. Avni discovered to his amazement that there were powerful forces trying to silence and obscure vital information about these treatments. In the United States, for example, several dozen doctors died prematurely and for “strange” reasons, these were doctors who opposed vaccines or conventional cancer treatments. In recent years, Dr. Avni has also faced constant persecution by the media and the Ministry of Health, and once his license was suspended. But Dr. Avni did not flinch or fold, this is his life mission and for that we appreciate him and thank him! And we are not the only ones.
Personally, I feel that the world is a safer place without anti-vax doctors in clinical practice. Other countries should perhaps follow the example of Israel and be more ready to revoke the licenses of anti-vax charlatans.
An article in THE TIMES seems worth mentioning. Here are some excerpts:
… Maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) is the subject of an inquiry, prompted by dozens of baby deaths. More than 450 families have now come forward to take part in the review, led by the expert midwife Donna Ockenden. The trust now faces further scrutiny over its use of aromatherapy, after experts branded guidelines at the trust “shocking” and not backed by evidence. Several bereaved families have said they recall aromatherapy being heavily promoted at the trust’s maternity units.
It is being prosecuted over the death of baby Wynter Andrews just 23 minutes after she was born in September 2019. Her mother Sarah Andrews wrote on Twitter that she remembered aromatherapy being seen as “the answer to everything”. Internal guidelines, first highlighted by the maternity commentator Catherine Roy, suggest using essential oils if the placenta does not follow the baby out of the womb quickly enough… the NUH guidelines say aromatherapy can help expel the placenta, and suggest midwives ask women to inhale oils such as clary sage, jasmine, lavender or basil, while applying others as an abdominal compress. They also describe the oils as “extremely effective for the prevention of and, in some cases, the treatment of infection”. The guidelines also suggest essential oils to help women suffering from cystitis, or as a compress on a caesarean section wound. Nice guidelines for those situations do not recommend aromatherapy…
The NUH adds frankincense “may calm hysteria” and is “recommended in situations of maternal panic”. Roy said: “It is shocking that dangerous advice seemed to have been approved by a team of healthcare professionals at NUH. There is a high tolerance for pseudoscience in NHS maternity care … and it needs to stop. Women deserve high quality care, not dangerous quackery.” …
The journalist who wrote the article also asked me for a comment, and I emailed her this quote: “Aromatherapy is little more than a bit of pampering; no doubt it is enjoyable but it is not an effective therapy for anything. To use it in medical emergencies seems irresponsible to say the least.” The Times evidently decided not to include my thoughts.
Having now read the article, I checked again and failed to find good evidence for aromatherapy for any of the mentioned conditions. However, I did find an article and an announcement both of which are quite worrying, in my view:
Aromatherapy is often misunderstood and consequently somewhat marginalized. Because of a basic misinterpretation, the integration of aromatherapy into UK hospitals is not moving forward as quickly as it might. Aromatherapy in UK is primarily aimed at enhancing patient care or improving patient satisfaction, and it is frequently mixed with massage. Little focus is given to the real clinical potential, except for a few pockets such as the Micap/South Manchester University initiative which led to a Phase 1 clinical trial into the effects of aromatherapy on infection carried out in the Burns Unit of Wythenshawe Hospital. This article discusses the expansion of aromatherapy within the US and follows 10 years of developing protocols and policies that led to pilot studies on radiation burns, chemo-induced nausea, slow-healing wounds, Alzheimers and end-of-life agitation. The article poses two questions: should nursing take aromatherapy more seriously and do nurses really need 60 hours of massage to use aromatherapy as part of nursing practice?
My own views on aromatherapy are expressed in our now not entirely up-to-date review:
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oil from herbs, flowers, and other plants. The aim of this overview was to provide an overview of systematic reviews evaluating the effectiveness of aromatherapy. We searched 12 electronic databases and our departmental files without restrictions of time or language. The methodological quality of all systematic reviews was evaluated independently by two authors. Of 201 potentially relevant publications, 10 met our inclusion criteria. Most of the systematic reviews were of poor methodological quality. The clinical subject areas were hypertension, depression, anxiety, pain relief, and dementia. For none of the conditions was the evidence convincing. Several SRs of aromatherapy have recently been published. Due to a number of caveats, the evidence is not sufficiently convincing that aromatherapy is an effective therapy for any condition.
In this context, it might also be worth mentioning that we warned about the frequent usage of quackery in midwifery years ago. Here is our systematic review of 2012 published in a leading midwifery journal:
Background: in recent years, several surveys have suggested that many midwives use some form of complementary/alternative therapy (CAT), often without the knowledge of obstetricians.
Objective: to systematically review all surveys of CAT use by midwives.
Search strategy: six electronic databases were searched using text terms and MeSH for CAT and midwifery.
Selection criteria: surveys were included if they reported quantitative data on the prevalence of CAT use by midwives.
Data collection and analysis: full-text articles of all relevant surveys were obtained. Data were extracted according to pre-defined criteria.
Main results: 19 surveys met the inclusion criteria. Most were recent and from the USA. Prevalence data varied but were usually high, often close to 100%. Much use of CATs does not seem to be supported by strong evidence for efficacy.
Conclusion: most midwives seem to use CATs. As not all CATs are without risks, the issue should be debated openly.
I am tired of saying ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’ but nevertheless find it a pity that our warning remained (yet again) unheeded!