It has been reported that two London councils have written to parents to warn that children who are not vaccinated against measles may need to self-isolate for 21 days if a classmate is infected with the disease. It comes after modelling by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warned that up to 160,000 cases could occur in the capital alone as a result of low vaccination rates. Just three-quarters of London children have received the two required doses of the MMR jab, which protects against measles. This is 10 per cent lower than the national average.
Barnet Council wrote to parents on July 20 warning that any unvaccinated child identified as a close contact of a measles case could be asked to self-isolate for up to 21 days. “Measles is of serious concern in London due to low childhood vaccination rates. Currently we are seeing an increase in measles cases circulating in neighbouring London boroughs, so now is a good time to check that your child’s MMR vaccination – which not only protects your child against measles but also mumps and rubella – is up to date,” the letter reads. “Children who are vaccinated do not need to be excluded from school or childcare,” the letter added.
Neighbouring Haringey Council also warned that children without both MMR doses may be asked to quarantine for 21 days. Just over two-thirds (67.9 per cent) of children in the area had received both doses by the age of five. The councils stated that they had sent the letters based on guidance by the UKHSA, but the agency said that headteachers should consider “excluding” unvaccinated pupils who become infected with measles rather than instructing them to self-isolate.
Data published by the UKHSA showed that 128 cases of measles were recorded between January 1 and June 30 this year, compared to 54 cases in the whole of 2022. Two-thirds of the cases were detected in London. The agency have said that there is a high risk of cases linked to overseas travel leading to outbreaks in specific population groups such as young people and under-vaccinated communities.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, a consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “When there are measles cases or outbreaks in nurseries or schools, the UKHSA health protection team will assess the situation, together with the school and other local partners, and provide advice for staff and pupils. “Those who are not up to date with their MMR vaccinations will be asked to catch up urgently to help stop the outbreak and minimise disruption in schools.”
Measles is a significant concern with approximately 10 million people infected annually causing over 100,000 deaths worldwide. In the US before use of the measles vaccine, there were estimated to be 3 to 4 million people infected with measles annually, causing 400 to 500 deaths. Complications of measles include otitis media, diarrhea, pneumonia, and acute encephalitis. Measles is a leading cause of blindness in the developing world, especially in those who are vitamin A deficient. Malnourished children with measles are also at higher risk of developing noma (or cancrum oris), a rapidly progressive gangrenous infection of the mouth and face. Most deaths due to measles are caused by pneumonia, diarrhea, or neurological complications in young children, severely malnourished or immunocompromised individuals, and pregnant women. A rare sequela of measles is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.
Back in 2003, we investigated what advice UK homeopaths, chiropractors and general practitioners give on measles, mumps and rubella vaccination programme (MMR) vaccination via the Internet. Online referral directories listing e-mail addresses of UK homeopaths, chiropractors and general practitioners and private websites were visited. All addresses thus located received a letter of a (fictitious) patient asking for advice about the MMR vaccination. After sending a follow-up letter explaining the nature and aim of this project and offering the option of withdrawal, 26% of all respondents withdrew their answers. Homeopaths yielded a final response rate (53%, n = 77) compared to chiropractors (32%, n = 16). GPs unanimously refused to give advice over the Internet. No homeopath and only one chiropractor advised in favour of the MMR vaccination. Two homeopaths and three chiropractors indirectly advised in favour of MMR. More chiropractors than homeopaths displayed a positive attitude towards the MMR vaccination. We concluded that some complementary and alternative medicine providers have a negative attitude towards immunisation and means of changing this should be considered.
The problem is by no means confined to the UK. German researchers, for instance, showed that belief in homeopathy and other parental attitudes indicating lack of knowledge about the importance of vaccinations significantly influenced an early immunisation. Moreover, being a German homeopath has been independently associated with lower own vaccination behavior. Data from France paint a similar picture.
Some homeopaths, of course, claim that ‘homeopathic vaccinations’ are effective and preferable. My advice is: DON’T BELIEVE THESE CHARLATANS! A recent study demonstrated that homeopathic vaccines do not evoke antibody responses and produce a response that is similar to placebo. In contrast, conventional vaccines provide a robust antibody response in the majority of those vaccinated.
Many community pharmacies in Switzerland provide so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) approaches in addition to providing biomedical services, and a few pharmacies specialise in SCAM. A common perception is that SCAM providers are sceptical towards, or opposed to, vaccination.
The key objectives of this study were to examine the potential roles of biomedically oriented and SCAM-specialised pharmacists regarding vaccine counselling and to better understand the association between vaccine hesitancy and SCAM. The researchers thus conducted semistructured, qualitative interviews. Transcripts were coded and analysed using thematic analysis. Interview questions were related to:
- type of pharmaceutical care practised,
- views on SCAM and biomedicine,
- perspectives on vaccination,
- descriptions of vaccination consultations in community pharmacies,
- and views on vaccination rates.
Qualitative interviews in three language regions of Switzerland (German, French and Italian). A total of 18 pharmacists (N=11 biomedically oriented, N=7 SCAM specialised) were invited.
Pharmacist participants expressed generally positive attitudes towards vaccination. Biomedically oriented pharmacists mainly advised customers to follow official vaccination recommendations but rarely counselled vaccine-hesitant customers. SCAM-specialised pharmacists were not as enthusiastic advocates of the Swiss vaccination recommendations as the biomedically oriented pharmacists. Rather, they considered that each customer should receive individualised, nuanced vaccination advice so that customers can reach their own decisions. SCAM-specialised pharmacists described how mothers in particular preferred getting a second opinion when they felt insufficiently advised by biomedically oriented paediatricians.
The authors concluded that vaccination counselling in community pharmacies represents an additional option to customers who have unmet vaccination consultation needs and who seek reassurance from healthcare professionals (HCPs) other than physicians. By providing individualised vaccination counselling to vaccine-hesitant customers, SCAM-specialised pharmacists are likely meeting specific needs of vaccine-hesitant customers. As such, research and implementation efforts should more systematically involve pharmacists as important actors in vaccination provision. SCAM-specialised pharmacists particularly should not be neglected as they are important HCPs who counsel vaccine-hesitant customers.
I must say that I find these conclusions odd, perhaps even wrong. Here are my reasons:
- Pharmacists are well-trained healthcare professionals.
- As such, they have ethical obligations towards their customers.
- These obligations include behaving in a way that is optimal for the health of their customers and follows the rules of evidence-based practice.
- This includes explaining to vaccine-hesitant customers why the recommended vaccinations make sense and advising them to follow the official vaccination guidelines.
- SCAM-specialised pharmacist should ask themselves whether offering SCAM is in line with their ethical obligation to provide optimal care and advice to their customers.
I fear that this paper suggests that SCAM-specialised pharmacists might be a danger to the health of their customers. If that is confirmed, they should consider re-training, in my view.
Swedish researchers examined the relationship between cognitive ability and prompt COVID-19 vaccination using individual-level data on more than 700,000 individuals in Sweden.
The analyses were based on individual-level data from several administrative registers in Sweden. The study population consisted of all men and women who enlisted for military service in Sweden between 1979 and 1997. During this period, enlistment was mandatory for men the year they turned 18 or 19. Women could not enlist for military service before 1980 but were then allowed to do so on a voluntary basis.
The study population thus covered almost the entire population of Swedish men born between 1962 and 1979, in total 750,381, as well as the sample of women who enlisted during the period of 1980–1997, in total 2703. In addressing the role of confounders, the researchers analyzed the sub-sample of 6750 twin brothers (3375 twin-pairs) in the enlistment records (identified by shared biological mother and year and month of birth).
The results show a strong positive association between cognitive ability and swift vaccination, which remained even after controlling for confounding variables with a twin-design. Consistent with this, the researchers showed that simplifying the vaccination decision through pre-booked vaccination appointments alleviates almost all of the inequality in vaccination behavior.
The authors concluded that the complexity of the vaccination decision may make it difficult for individuals with lower cognitive abilities to understand the benefits of vaccination.
On this blog, we have repeatedly discussed similar or related findings, e.g.:
- What are the reasons for opposing COVID vaccinations?
- Intelligence, Religiosity, SCAM, Vaccination Hesitancy – are there links?
- COVID-19 vaccinations: Prof Walach wants to “dampen the enthusiasm by sober facts”
- Thoughts on the bigotry of vaccination opponents
- More information on homeopaths’ and anthroposophic doctors’ attitude towards vaccinations
- The ‘Trump-Effect’ on vaccination attitudes
- The anti-vaccination movement is financed by the dietary supplement industry
- Andrew Wakefield, Donald Trump, SCAM, and the anti-vaccination cult
I know, it would be politically incorrect, unkind, unhelpful, etc. but is anyone not tempted to simplify the issue by assuming that people who are against (COVID) vaccinations are intellectually challenged?
The American Chiropractic Association Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics (CCP) announced a new diplomate education program focused on pediatric care. The program will include 300 hours of education covering topics such as pediatric development from birth to age 16, adjusting techniques, working diagnosis, clinical application, integrated care and more…
Development of the diplomate education program has been in the works for several years, with contributions from many members of the CCP, including council president Jennifer Brocker, DC, DICCP. At the helm of course development for this education program are Mary Beth Minser, DC, CACCP, and Kris Tohtz, DC, LAc, educational coordinators for CCP. They agreed that the goal of the new program is to provide education that furthers knowledge of chiropractic pediatrics in an evidence-based, integrative way. “We wanted to make sure that we had something that aligned with ACA’s core principles,” Dr. Tohtz said. “Chiropractic-forward, yes, but scientifically focused.”
Dr. Brocker added, “There was a need for more evidence-informed education [in pediatrics]. I felt like the Council was well positioned to take this on because we had the opportunity to build it from scratch, making it what students and practicing doctors need.” …
Drs. Minser and Tohtz are excited that the diplomate program will also include a research component. “There is some lacking information when it comes to pediatric chiropractic,” Dr. Minser explained. She recently participated in the COURSE Study, an international study seeking to fill knowledge gaps in research relating to pediatric chiropractic treatment. “It was a very easy project to do, and pretty exciting to be involved,” she said. “But you have to know how to treat pediatric patients in order to be involved in those research projects. We want doctors and students [in this program] to be able to go through a case study, to be able to extract information for their clinical application from that case study or from research, or, if they would like, to write up case studies so we can get more published.”
“We feel we could really push pediatric chiropractic to a whole new level having doctors that have this type of knowledge base,” Dr. Minser said. “We just want to be the best pediatric chiropractors that we can be, and this diplomate [education] program helps [us] do that.”
“There is some lacking information when it comes to pediatric chiropractic.”
I think the evidence is quite clear: chiropractic has nothing to offer for ill children that other, properly trained healthcare professionals would not do better.
“We feel we could really push pediatric chiropractic to a whole new level.”
“We just want to be the best pediatric chiropractors that we can be.”
In this case, please study the evidence and you will inevitably arrive at the following conclusion:
THE BEST A CHIROPRACTOR CAN DO FOR A SICK CHILD IS TO REFER IT TO A COMPETENT DOCTOR – A DOCTOR OF MEDICINE, NOT CHIROPRACTIC!
The KFF provides reliable, accurate, and non-partisan information to help inform health policy in the US. The KFF has just released its ‘Health Misinformation Tracking Poll Pilot‘ examining the public’s media use and trust in sources of health information and measuring the reach of specific false and inaccurate claims surrounding three health-related topics: COVID-19 and vaccines, reproductive health, and gun violence. It makes grimm reading indeed. Here are but a few excerpts pertaining to health/vaccination:
Health misinformation is widespread in the US with 96% of adults saying they have heard at least one of the ten items of health-related misinformation asked about in the survey. The most widespread misinformation items included in the survey were related to COVID-19 and vaccines, including that the COVID-19 vaccines have caused thousands of deaths in otherwise healthy people (65% say they have heard or read this) and that the MMR vaccines have been proven to cause autism in children (65%).
Regardless of whether they have heard or read specific items of misinformation, the survey also asked people whether they think each claim is definitely true, probably true, probably false, or definitely false. For most of the misinformation items included in the survey, between one-fifth and one-third of the public say they are “definitely” or “probably true.” The most frequently heard claims are related to COVID-19 and vaccines.
Uncertainty is high when it comes to health misinformation. While fewer than one in five adults say each of the misinformation claims examined in the survey are “definitely true,” larger shares are open to believing them, saying they are “probably true.” Many lean towards the correct answer but also express uncertainty, saying each claim is “probably false.” Fewer tend to be certain that each claim is false, with the exception of the claim that more people have died from the COVID-19 vaccines than from the virus itself, which nearly half the public (47%) recognizes as definitely false.
Across the five COVID-19 and vaccine related misinformation items, adults without a college degree are more likely than college graduates to say these claims are definitely or probably true. Notably, Black adults are at least ten percentage points more likely than White adults to believe some items of vaccine misinformation, including that the COVID-19 vaccines have caused thousands of sudden deaths in otherwise healthy people, and that the MMR vaccines have been proven to cause autism in children. Black (29%) and Hispanic (24%) adults are both more likely than White adults (17%) to say that the false claim that “more people have died from the COVID-19 vaccine than have died from the COVID-19 virus” is definitely or probably true. Those who identify as Republicans or lean towards the Republican Party and pure independents stand out as being more likely than Democratic leaning adults to say each of these items is probably or definitely true. Across community types, rural residents are more likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to say that some false claims related to COVID vaccines are probably or definitely true, including that the vaccines have been proven to cause infertility and that more people have died from the vaccine than from the virus.
Educational attainment appears to play a particularly important role when it comes to susceptibility to COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. Six in ten adults with college degrees say none of the five false COVID-19 and vaccine claims are probably or definitely true, compared to less than four in ten adults without a degree. Concerningly, about one in five rural residents (19%), adults with a high school education or less (18%), Black adults (18%), Republicans (20%), and independents (18%) say four or five of the false COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation items included in the survey are probably or definitely true.
If you have followed some of the comments on this blog, you might find it hard to be surprised!
I do encourage you to read the full article.
Joe Dispenza is not all that well known in Europe but, in the US, he is all the rage as a health guru. Despite pretending to be a top (neuro)scientist and expert of quantum physics, Dispenza has, as far as I can see, just three Medline-listed papers to his credit. Here are their abstracts:
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Management of the pandemic has relied mainly on SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, while alternative approaches such as meditation, shown to improve immunity, have been largely unexplored. Here, we probe the relationship between meditation and COVID-19 disease and directly test the impact of meditation on the induction of a blood environment that modulates viral infection. We found a significant inverse correlation between length of meditation practice and SARS-CoV-2 infection as well as accelerated resolution of symptomology of those infected. A meditation “dosing” effect was also observed. In cultured human lung cells, blood from experienced meditators induced factors that prevented entry of pseudotyped viruses for SARS-CoV-2 spike protein of both the wild-type Wuhan-1 virus and the Delta variant. We identified and validated SERPINA5, a serine protease inhibitor, as one possible protein factor in the blood of meditators that is necessary and sufficient for limiting pseudovirus entry into cells. In summary, we conclude that meditation can enhance resiliency to viral infection and may serve as a possible adjuvant therapy in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The aim of the study is to evaluate the complexity matching between the HRVs of the group of Healers and the Healee during the various stages of the meditation protocol by employing a novel mathematical approach based on the H-rank algorithm. The complexity matching of heart rate variability is assessed before and during a heart-focused meditation in a close non-contact healing exercise. The experiment was conducted on a group of individuals (eight Healers and one Healee) throughout the various phases of the protocol over a ~75-minute period. The HRV signal for the cohort of individuals was recorded using high resolution HRV recorders with internal clocks for time synchronization. The Hankel transform (H-rank) approach was employed to reconstruct the real-world complex time series in order to measure the algebraic complexity of the heart rate variability and to assess the complexity matching between the reconstructed H-rank of the Healers and Healee during the different phases of the protocol. The integration of the embedding attractor technique was used to aid in the visualization of reconstructed H-rank in state space across the various phases. The findings demonstrate the changes in the degree of reconstructed H-rank (between the Healers and the Healee) during the heart-focused meditation healing phase by employing mathematically anticipated and validated algorithms. It is natural and thought-provoking to contemplate the mechanisms causing the complexity of the reconstructed H-rank to come closer; it can be explicitly stated that the purpose of the study is to communicate a clear idea that the H-rank algorithm is capable of registering subtle changes in the healing process, and that there was no intention of delving deep to uncover the mechanisms involved in the HRV matching. Therefore, the latter might be a distinct goal of future research.
This study investigated the impact of a brief meditation workshop on a sample of 223 novice meditators. Participants attended a three-day workshop comprising daily guided seated meditation sessions using music without vocals that focused on various emotional states and intentions (open focus). Based on the theory of integrative consciousness, it was hypothesized that altered states of consciousness would be experienced by participants during the meditation intervention as assessed using electroencephalogram (EEG). Brainwave power bands patterns were measured throughout the meditation training workshop, producing a total of 5616 EEG scans. Changes in conscious states were analysed using pre-meditation and post-meditation session measures of delta through to gamma oscillations. Results suggested the meditation intervention had large varying effects on EEG spectra (up to 50 % increase and 24 % decrease), and the speed of change from pre-meditation to post-meditation state of the EEG co-spectra was significant (with 0.76 probability of entering end-meditation state within the first minute). There was a main 5 % decrease in delta power (95 % HDI = [-0.07, -0.03]); a global increase in theta power of 29 % (95 % HDI = [0.27, 0.33]); a global increase of 16 % (95 % HDI = [0.13, 0.19]) in alpha power; a main effect of condition, with global beta power increasing by 17 % (95 % HDI = [0.15, 0.19]); and an 11 % increase (95 % HDI = [0.08, 0.14]) in gamma power from pre-meditation to end-meditation. Findings provided preliminary support for brief meditation in altering states of consciousness in novice meditators. Future clinical examination of meditation was recommended as an intervention for mental health conditions particularly associated with hippocampal impairments.
It seems noteworthy that none of these articles support any of the many outlandish therapeutic claims Dispenza makes. In these papers, Dispenza give his affiliation as “Encephalon, LLC, Rainier, WA”. My seraches for this institution led me to the website of Dispenza’s company that tries to sell you all sorts of strange stuff and bombards you with irritating platitudes about spirituality and related subjects. Here you will also find several of Dispenza’s books. Naturally, they were big successes. The latest volume is called ‘Becoming Supernatural‘. Its topics include:
- Demystifying the body’s seven energy centers and how you can balance them to heal
- How to free yourself from the past by reconditioning your body to a new mind
- How you can create reality in the generous present moment by changing your energy
- The difference between third-dimension creation and fifth-dimension creation
- The secret science of the pineal gland and its role in accessing mystical realms of reality
- The distinction between space-time vs. time-space realities
By now, I am beginning to suspect that “Dr. Joe”, as he likes to wrongly depict himself, is an 18 carrat bullshitter, and I feel like learning more about him and his incredible popularity.
So, who is Joe Dispenza?
Dispenza trained as a chiropractor and, in 1986, he had a cycling accident that left him with six compressed vertebrae – at least that is what he likes to tell journalists. Allegedly, doctors told him he might never walk again and recommended spine surgery. But he knew better, checked himself out of the hospital, and reconstructed his vertebrae with his mind. Within 10 weeks he was walking again. “I made a deal with myself that if I was ever able to walk again I would spend the rest of my life studying the mind-body connection,” he claimed in a 2018 interview. If you don’t know about vertebral compression fractures, this sounds like an unusal recovery. If you, however, know about such injuries, the course of events is not abnormal.
Ever since, Dispenza uses his mind to heal others. His website contains ~40 testimonials of people claiming he cured their cancer or their multiple sclerosis or their infertility. Under the heading of “coherence healing,” the site boasts Dispenza and his disciples have “produced profound biological changes in multitudes of individuals around the world” and “observed hundreds of healings from a wide variety of health conditions.” In a 2020 interview Dispenza bragged about bringing children onstage at his retreats to cure them of “really serious health conditions.” He claimed to have cured a 76-year-old woman of Parkinson’s. He said his treatments cured illness faster than chemotherapy and that “profound and prestigious universities” in the United States wanted to study his methods. “[We’ve seen] tumors disappearing, people stepping out of wheelchairs, blind people seeing, deaf people hearing—crazy stuff,” he stated. “This is biblical proportions stuff.”
Dispenza likes to present himself as a scientist. “Learning” becomes “forging new synaptic connections” and changing one’s behavior becomes “reorganizing circuits.” He claims that meditating in the presence of others—combining “coherent fields,” as he calls this—opens up “interference patterns of fractal geometry that are doors to dimensions.” During performances, he occasionally brings followers on stage to share the “miracles” they experienced at the workshops that day, such as a woman who claimed she regained her depth perception after decades of encephalitis. “She got a biological upgrade … and all she did was make up her mind to do it,” he told the audience.
Back in 2012, I published a post entitled “How to become a charlatan” where I provide several practical instructions for all who intend to persue this career:
1. Find an attractive therapy and give it a fantastic name
Did I just say “straight forward”? Well, the first step isn’t that easy, after all. Most of the really loony ideas turn out to be taken: ear candles, homeopathy, aura massage, energy healing, urine-therapy, chiropractic etc. As a true charlatan, you want your very own quackery. So you will have to think of a new concept.
Something truly ‘far out’ would be ideal, like claiming the ear is a map of the human body which allows you to treat all diseases by doing something odd on specific areas of the ear – oops, this territory is already occupied by the ear acupuncture brigade. How about postulating that you have super-natural powers which enable you to send ‘healing energy’ into patients’ bodies so that they can repair themselves? No good either: Reiki-healers might accuse you of plagiarism.
But you get the gist, I am sure, and will be able to invent something. When you do, give it a memorable name, the name can make or break your new venture.
2. Invent a fascinating history
Having identified your treatment and a fantastic name for it, you now need a good story to explain how it all came about. This task is not all that tough and might even turn out to be fun; you could think of something touching like you cured your moribund little sister at the age of 6 with your intervention, or you received the inspiration in your dreams from an old aunt who had just died, or perhaps you want to create some religious connection [have you ever visited Lourdes?]. There are no limits to your imagination; just make sure the story is gripping – one day, they might make a movie of it.
3. Add a dash of pseudo-science
Like it or not, but we live in an age where we cannot entirely exclude science from our considerations. At the very minimum, I recommend a little smattering of sciency terminology. As you don’t want to be found out, select something that only few experts understand; quantum physics, entanglement, chaos-theory and Nano-technology are all excellent options.
It might also look more convincing to hint at the notion that top scientists adore your concepts, or that whole teams from universities in distant places are working on the underlying mechanisms, or that the Nobel committee has recently been alerted etc. If at all possible, add a bit of high tech to your new invention; some shiny new apparatus with flashing lights and digital displays might be just the ticket. The apparatus can be otherwise empty – as long as it looks impressive, all is fine.
4. Do not forget a dose of ancient wisdom
With all this science – sorry, pseudo-science – you must not forget to remain firmly grounded in tradition. Your treatment ought to be based on ancient wisdom which you have rediscovered, modified and perfected. I recommend mentioning that some of the oldest cultures of the planet have already been aware of the main pillars on which your invention today proudly stands. Anything that is that old has stood the test of time which is to say, your treatment is both effective and safe.
5. Claim to have a panacea
To maximise your income, you want to have as many customers as possible. It would therefore be unwise to focus your endeavours on just one or two conditions. Commercially, it is much better to affirm in no uncertain terms that your treatment is a cure for everything, a panacea. Do not worry about the implausibility of such a claim. In the realm of quackery, it is perfectly acceptable, even common behaviour to be outlandish.
6. Deal with the ‘evidence-problem’ and the nasty sceptics
It is depressing, I know, but even the most exceptionally gifted charlatan is bound to attract doubters. Sceptics will sooner or later ask you for evidence; in fact, they are obsessed by it. But do not panic – this is by no means as threatening as it appears. The obvious solution is to provide testimonial after testimonial.
You need a website where satisfied customers report impressive stories how your treatment saved their lives. In case you do not know such customers, invent them; in the realm of quackery, there is a time-honoured tradition of writing your own testimonials. Nobody will be able to tell!
7. Demonstrate that you master the fine art of cheating with statistics
Some of the sceptics might not be impressed, and when they start criticising your ‘evidence’, you might need to go the extra mile. Providing statistics is a very good way of keeping them at bay, at least for a while. The general consensus amongst charlatans is that about 70% of their patients experience remarkable benefit from whatever placebo they throw at them. So, my advice is to do a little better and cite a case series of at least 5000 patients of whom 76.5 % showed significant improvements.
What? You don’t have such case series? Don’t be daft, be inventive!
8. Score points with Big Pharma
You must be aware who your (future) customers are (will be): they are affluent, had a decent education (evidently without much success), and are middle-aged, gullible and deeply alternative. Think of Prince Charles! Once you have empathised with this mind-set, it is obvious that you can profitably plug into the persecution complex which haunts these people.
An easy way of achieving this is to claim that Big Pharma has got wind of your innovation, is positively frightened of losing millions, and is thus doing all they can to supress it. Not only will this give you street cred with the lunatic fringe of society, it also provides a perfect explanation why your ground-breaking discovery has not been published it the top journals of medicine: the editors are all in the pocket of Big Pharma, of course.
9. Ask for money, much money
I have left the most important bit for the end; remember: your aim is to get rich! So, charge high fees, even extravagantly high ones. If your treatment is a product that you can sell (e.g. via the internet, to escape the regulators), sell it dearly; if it is a hands-on therapy, charge heavy consultation fees and claim exclusivity; if it is a teachable technique, start training other therapists at high fees and ask a franchise-cut of their future earnings.
Over-charging is your best chance of getting famous – or have you ever heard of a charlatan famous for being reasonably priced? It will also get rid of the riff-raff you don’t want to see in your surgery. Poor people might be even ill! No, you don’t want them; you want the ‘worried rich and well’ who can afford to see a real doctor when things should go wrong. But most importantly, high fees will do a lot of good to your bank account.
Could it be that Joe Dispenza is the most successful pupil of my crash-course in charlatanism?
I have been asked by the NY Post to answer a few questions about Dispenza. Allow me to present them to you here:
What makes Dispenza so dangerous (his advice, obsession with manifesting, etc.)?
Dispenza is at his most dangerous firstly when he implies that he can cure serious illness. In this way, he can cause the premature death of many patients. Secondly, he systematically undermines rational thinking which inevitably will cause significant harm to the already badly damaged US society. As Voltaire once pointed out: those who make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Why, in your opinion, has he amassed a cult-like following?
In 2012 I published a satirical piece entitled ‘How to become a charlatan’ (How to become a charlatan (edzardernst.com)). It seems to me that Dispenza followed my instructions to the letter providing a masterclass on fooling the public. He is a textbook example of a charismatic pseudoscientist (e.g.: I am a “researcher of epigenetics, quantum physics & neuroscience“) touting pure bullshit (e.g.: “new science is emerging that empowers all human beings to create the reality they choose”). He may be a charlatan but he is very good at it, runs a highly sophisticated campaign, and is laughing all the way to the bank.
For readers who find themselves enamored by Dispenza, what advice would you give them?
My advise is to take a step back and do a reality check: ‘Dr.Joe’ is not a medical doctor or neuroscientist but a chiropractor. He does not understand quantum physics. He has not published any meaningful scientific studies. His proclamations are nothing but platitudes or empty phrases. My advice also is to ask yourself: are you sure you are not the victim of your own gullibility?
I was asked by NATURE to provide a comment on the WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit: Towards health and well-being for all which is about to take place in India:
The First WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit will take place on 17 and 18 August 2023 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. It will be held alongside the G20 health ministerial meeting, to mobilize political commitment and evidence-based action on traditional medicine, which is a first port of call for millions of people worldwide to address their health and well-being needs.
The Global Summit will be co-hosted by WHO and the Government of India, which holds the presidency of the G20 in 2023. It will be a platform for all stakeholders, including traditional medicine workers, users and communities, national policymakers, international organizations, academics, private sector and civil society organizations, to share best practices and game-changing evidence, data and innovation on the contribution of traditional medicine to health and sustainable development.
For centuries, traditional and complementary medicine has been an integral resource for health in households and communities. It has been at the frontiers of medicine and science laying the foundation for conventional medical texts. Around 40% of pharmaceutical products today have a natural product basis, and landmark drugs derive from traditional medicine, including aspirin, artemisinin, and childhood cancer treatments. New research, including on genomics and artificial intelligence are entering the field, and there are growing industries for herbal medicines, natural products, health, wellness and related travel. Currently, 170 Member States reported to WHO on the use of traditional medicine and have requested evidence and data to inform policies, standards and regulation for its safe, cost-effective and equitable use.
In response to this increased global interest and demand, WHO, with the support of the Government of India, established in March 2022 the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine as a knowledge hub with a mission to catalyse ancient wisdom and modern science for the health and well-being of people and the planet. The WHO Traditional Medicine Centre scales up WHO’s existing capacity in traditional medicine and supplements the core WHO functions of governance, norms and country support carried out across the six regional Offices and Headquarters.
The Centre focuses on partnership, evidence, data, biodiversity and innovation to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to global health, universal health coverage, and sustainable development, and is also guided by respect for local heritages, resources and rights.
A cross-regional expert panel will advise on the Summit’s theme, format, topics and issues to address. All updates will be posted here and on the forthcoming webpages for the First WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit.
In case you are interested, the programme can be seen here.
And my comment? I am afraid, it was not very encouraging. I doubt that Nature will publish it in full. So, allow me to show you my unabridged comment:
Spiritual healing has been defined as the direct interaction between one individual (the healer) and a patient, with the intention of improving the patient’s condition or curing the illness. Treatment can occur through personal, direct contact between healer and patient or at a (sometimes large) distance. Spiritual healers, who are usually not medically qualified, believe that the therapeutic effect results from the channelling of ‘energy’ from an undefined source via the healer to the patient. The main problem with this concept is that there is no evidence that this energy actually exists. Therefore, the assumptions on which spiritual healing is based lack plausibility.
The central claim of healers is that they promote or facilitate self-healing and wellbeing, both of which could be relevant to patients with any type of condition. An article by enthusiasts of spiritual healing explains: “All conditions can be treated by spiritual healing—but not all people. Some people are more receptive than others to this treatment, due to a number of factors such as karma and mental outlook. As such the results of healing can vary a great deal. If the patient has faith in the technique and the healer, this will of course aid the healing process, but is not necessary; this is not faith healing as practiced in some religions—it is based instead on spiritual energy. This being the case, it is possible for a skeptic to receive healing and benefit from it.”
The evidence from clinical trials of spiritual healing is contradictory. Many studies have serious flaws, and the most reliable trials fail to show effects beyond placebo. Research papers often fail to differentiate between different types of paranormal healing. One Cochrane, for instance, review “found inconclusive evidence that interventions with spiritual or religious components for adults in the terminal phase of a disease may or may not enhance well-being. Such interventions are under-evaluated. All five studies identified were undertaken in the same country, and in the multi-disciplinary palliative care interventions it is unclear if all participants received support from a chaplain or a spiritual counsellor. Moreover, it is unclear in all the studies whether the participants in the comparative groups received spiritual or religious support, or both, as part of routine care or from elsewhere. The paucity of quality research indicates a need for more rigorous studies.”
Many people believe that spiritual healing is harmless. Sadly, this is not the case. The BBC’s ‘Women’s Hour’ reported on 9 August this year about serious abuses of spiritual healers. Here you can find the published test of the broadcast:
Spiritual healing is extremely popular in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But the practice is unregulated and that means women are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. An investigation by BBC News Arabic has uncovered allegations of widespread sexual abuse by healers in Sudan and Morocco. Clare McDonnell is joined by the BBC’s Hanan Razek and Senior Women’s Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch, Rothna Begum, to discuss.
And here you can listen to the actual broadcast. Briefly, what it reveales is deeply shocking:
- Spiritual healing is extremely popular in Sudan and Morocco.
- Healers charge hefty sums and healing is big business.
- Anyone regardless of background or training can call themselves a healer.
- There is no regulation whatsoever.
- Healers claim to cure illnesses, expell evil spirits, help with emotional problems, etc.
- For the programme, the BBC asked 80 women who had received healing.
- They accused 60 different healers of sexual transgression, including rape.
- Undercover recording revealed a healer placing his hand on a woman’s abdomen and then putting a finger “all the way down”.
- The police refuses to investigate if a women complains.
- The authorities refuse to take notice of the problem.
- A minister was quoted stating that there is no need for regulation.
- Another one said that the political athmosphere is not allowing to investigate the issue.
The references for the evidence cited above can be found here.
We have discussed dental amalgam and its risks to human health before. Finally, there is new legislation in sight. The European Commission has revised the EU Mercury Regulation to protect EU citizens and the environment from toxic mercury. Among other things, this will completely ban the use of dental amalgam, for which 40 tons of mercury are currently consumed annually in the EU. The revised mercury ordinance provides for the following:
– No more use of dental amalgam from January 1, 2025; viable mercury-free alternatives are available.
– Ban on the manufacture and export of dental amalgam from the EU from January 1, 2025;
– Ban on the manufacture and export of six mercury-containing lamps from January 1, 2026 and January 1, 2028 (depending on lamp type).
The delegated act adopted under the Mercury Regulation transposes into EU law the decisions taken at the fourth Conference of the Parties (2022) to the Minamata Convention by introducing a ban on the production, import, and export of eight additional mercury-containing products, including mercury-containing lamps and non-electrical equipment.
The Minamata Convention is the main international legal framework for the protection of human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury to air, water, and soil. Like the Mercury Regulation, it addresses the entire life cycle of mercury, from primary mercury mining to mercury waste management.
The revised Mercury Regulation must now be approved by the European Parliament and the Council under the ordinary legislative procedure. The delegated act will be sent to the European Parliament and the Council for consideration.
Mercury is a highly toxic chemical that poses a threat to both human health and the environment. When released into the environment, it enters the food chain where it accumulates (mainly in fish). High mercury exposure can damage the brain, lungs, kidneys, and immune system.
Historically, mercury has been used in a wide range of applications, including gold mining, batteries, fluorescent tubes, thermometers, and barometers. Over the last twenty years, the EU has developed a comprehensive body of legislation, in particular the Mercury Regulation, which protects human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury, taking into account the entire life cycle of mercury from primary mercury mining to final disposal of mercury waste. It also includes measures on trade in mercury-containing products and mercury pollution.
The Minamata Convention entered into force on August 16, 2017, and has so far been ratified by the European Union and 143 countries, including all EU Member States. The fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-5) will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from October 30 to November 3, 2023.
Guest post by Ken McLeod
Readers will have no trouble recalling that crank ‘naturopath’ Barbara O’Neill has graced these pages several times. She is subject to a Permanent Prohibition Order by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission. It goes like this:
“The Commission is satisfied that Mrs O’Neill poses a risk to the health and safety of members of the public and therefore makes the following prohibition order:
“Mrs O’Neill is permanently prohibited from providing any health services, as defined in s4 Of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity.’ 1
Evidently Ms O’Neill has scrambled her chakras or muddled her meridians because she continues to forget the Order. For example;
O’Neill did a video interview concerning the Prohibition Order and that has been posted online at YouTube.2 The video was posted ‘1 year ago,’ has had 323,000 views and had 1,598 comments. She goes into great detail what she regards as the appalling treatment at the hands of the HCCC.
In the video she admits that she has continued to travel the world spreading her lies and misrepresentations. Some of the lies are that she is a naturopath, and was a nurse, and ‘I used to work in the Operating Theatre as a psychiatric nurse….’
In the video at 53:20 in the video she refers to an aboriginal man ‘Dan’ who works at her Misty Mountain Lifestyle Retreat, (note the present tense), who is in his 50s was obese and recently had a heart attack, ‘was on a lot of medications,’ ‘was a bit scared of coming off medications,’ ‘I said Dan, I think it’s time to stop your blood pressure medications, you’re going too low, you’re a 100 over 60,’ ‘three days later his blood pressure was 100 over 75,….’ 3
Call me a cynic, but that strikes me as rather dangerous advice, worthy of an investigation by the HCCC. Meanwhile, there is no sign of ‘Dan ‘ in Misty Mountain’s ‘About page.’ Dan’s brother Dave appears, but no Dan.4 Could it be that O’Neill’s advice led to some incapacity? Tips are welcome.
Meanwhile, readers could learn much more about Barbara O’Neill at Wikipedia.5
This article first appeared in the June issue of the Australian Skeptic Magazine,6 reprinted with kind permission.
3 This was dangerous and reckless advice. The full transcript is here