Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shit happens. It's not always your fault.

I don’t have any friends that are into “alternative medicine”.

This may be because whenever people start talking about “natural healing” or “alternative therapies’ or even “big pharma” my usual response is something along the lines of

“What! What!! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU ON ABOUT, YOU FOUL RAT-HEARTED BASTARD. Are you seriously suggesting that people become ill because they didn’t chant three times a day or because their charkas aren’t aligned or squirting coffee up my arse is a sure cure for depression or cancer or scabies.

“Get out of my sight before I stab you. STAB YOU RIGHT THROUGH YOUR MOTHER-FUCKING EYE.”*

I find it endlessly amusing that these charlatans, while bleating on and on about “listening to your inner child’ or “using the body’s natural healing energies”, directly or indirectly blame you for the temerity of getting sick.

Well, I’m sorry, but that’s crap.

“But oh,” they bleat “people should have the chance to try alternatives, it can’t hurt.”

Sorry but once again, that’s crap.

It can hurt if you take homeopathic remedies instead of something that actually works when you’re going into a malaria infested area.

And it can hurt if enough people don’t get their children immunised against pertussis which results in the decline of what medical scientists call “herd immunity”. In short, this means an increase in the rate of the pertussis bacteria which in turn means children who are too young to be immunised stand a much higher chance of dying of “whooping cough”.

Which is a fucking nasty death.

Feel free to try this guff but if you use it instead of conventional medicine then quite frankly, you’re a mug.

There is no such thing as “alternative medicine”. If it works, it’s medicine; if it doesn’t, then it’s not.

*That’s when I’m sober. When I’ve had a few drinks, I tend to get nasty.


Cath said...

From someone who works in the traditional medical industry, I have seen many patients abandon our methods to seek alternative treatments. Time and time again, we see them a year later, far sicker and sometimes, close to death. Our doctors used to BEG them to stay and do traditional medicine. By all means try alternative medicine, but use traditional as well. Try EVERYTHING...but certainly try the methods that have large cohorts of clinical trials to back it up first.

Melba said...

Oh my god, this old chestnut again?

Who gives a rats, really, if people choose other ways of living or dying. Why does it really stick in your craw, as it so obviously does, Ramon?

How about you write something on the evils of traditional medicine and the plethora of conflict of interest examples? Like, um, ah, the way doctors are in the pockets of the drug companies (general example), and oh, yes, how machines like a major producer of mammogram machines is General Electric and it is also a major producer of polychlorinated biphenyls, which as a group have collectively been classified by the US EPA as 'probable human carcinogens.' And several studies have linked these PCBs to breast cancer.

"The primary sponsor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the US is Astra Zeneca, a British-based multinational which manufactures Tamoxifen. It also manufactures fungicides and herbicides, including the carcinogen acethlor. Its chemical plant in Ohio is the third-largest source of potential carcinogens in the United States."

That's from a book I've got called "Good Health in the 21st Century" by Dr Carole Hungeford, Australian GP who said if she had another young woman come in through her clinic door with breast cancer she was going to scream. It's a fab read.

Lewd Bob said...

doctors are in the pockets of the drug companies

Not this old chestnut again!

I worked in pharmaceuticals for 11 years. Yes, yes I don't deny it.

They are, without a doubt, evil empires who care more for money than the health of the patients who take their drugs. They love spending time and effort churning out generic versions of existing drugs for a handsome profit that nobody acutally needs (because they already exist). Fortunately, coming up with life saving medicines is also quite profitable.

However, doctors, by and large, are not "in the pockets of the drug companies". That's a nice little story cooked up by such hard hitting luminaries as A Current Affair.

Kettle said...

Ramon, you might like this.

Also, the Ruddster looked a bit tired on the news tonight; a bit greyer, a bit shorter? Maybe he needs less COAG in his diet.

Melba said...

So I was a little loose with my language there Bob.

How should I put it then?

Do you deny there's any conflict of interest with doctor conferences being sponsored by drug companies? And all of the other things that go on? Corporate-branded pens and pads in doctor surgeries are small fry.

And ACA? Another old chestnut. Why don't you argue the point properly Bob?

Actually I've just re-read your comment, and you agree with me.

Which is good, cause I'm right and you know it.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Oh yes, Kettle.

"Now, let's get back to ignoring Iraq some more"

Who gives a rats, really, if people choose other ways of living or dying.

Because it's not just them, Melba.

When people chose not to vaccinate, then it affects children who have no choice.

That's not informed consent - that's being a selfish dickhead.

Melba said...

Yeah at the end of my comment I originally had that bit about the vaccinations. I agree with you there, so I wasn't talking about vaccinations. You're lumping that dangerous stupidity in with other forms of stupidity which doesn't really hurt other people.

There are all kinds of ignorances. And with something like cancer, for example, there are no rules.

And Ramon your second paragraph and third para don't make a sensible argument. What are you saying there exactly?

A person might seek an alternative therapy if they have, say cancer. It doesn't follow that they also think they got cancer because of not chanting, chakras or enemas.

Your argument is shrill and hysterical and I really don't understand why. Where is the venom coming from? Why do you keep banging on about this [really quite dull] topic when there are far more interesting things going on in the world?

Why do you care?

Melba said...

AND now that I think of it. People who choose not to vaccinate their children are only one example of foolish parenting. There are so many examples of fools who parent, and dangerously so.

So I repeat: there's a theme here, it keeps coming up. Why?

patchouligirl said...

I think the public should be protected to a greater degree from alternative medical practitioners. One that springs to mind is a Central Coast woman called Catherine Chan who runs a fertility clinic, claiming an outrageous 90% success rate, regardless of age. I had already seen a fertility specialist who told me the success rates for IVF for women over 40 was 5%. Needless to say I was sceptical but rang up anyway to ask if they could substantiate their claim. The man who answered the phone said they are in the business of fertility, not statistics (although it doesn't stop them claiming a hugely successful one!). There should be at least protection against blatant false advertising like this.

I don't know about saying that all alternative medicine is bad - I know people who claim to be controlling their cancer with diet and there are even organised not for profit groups sharing information on combating cancer with lifestyle changes. Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM) also claims success with Cancer and has been practiced for thousands of years. It is hard to deny that TCM, which includes acupuncture, a fairly tried and proven remedy, is beneficial.

But yeah, we've done this topic before and I'm feeling de ja vu wondering if I'm repeating comments from previous threads.

eat my shorts said...

or squirting coffee up my arse is a sure cure for depression or cancer or scabies.

I think I know someone who would did something like that when I was at uni. I can't guarantee it was coffee though, he was a pharmacy student, so it could've been anything.

Also, I don't like chestnuts. I also don't like peanuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, and walnuts. Walnuts especially because they look like little brains and that's just wrong. I do like macadamia nuts, particularly with vanilla ice cream & chocolate fudge sauce. I like hazelnuts when they're in nutella & they're on top of my toast. I sit on the fence as far as coconuts go.

eat my shorts said...

"who would did" = who did

Dr. Golf said...

EMS maybe you're allergic to peanuts.

According to the internet this can be treated by yoga, acupuncture, massage, herbal remedies, meditation and relaxation techniques.

Anonymous said...

I don't really mind treading familiar ground, but I had at least expected that there would be a link to an article or something that had triggered this particular outburst.

Personally, I'm not overly critical of people who wish to experiment with "alternative" medicine, but on the other hand, I don't have much of a stomach for people who promote it by making ridiculous claims and scaremongering, either. I also see the point that people need to be considerate of the wider community when it comes to immunisation and finishing courses of antibiotics and so forth.

doctors, by and large, are not "in the pockets of the drug companies".

So, some doctors do have some sort of vested interest in prescribing certain drugs (just not by and large)?

I'd also like to propose a theory, that perhaps the number of generally lousy doctors that seem to be getting around, might be helping to undermine people's faith in scientifically proven medicine. Leaving aside the horror stories that you read and hear about in the media and ones that you get off of people who know someone who knows someone, I have personally come across:

a) A doctor who treated every skin complaint he saw with antibiotic ointment; resulting in two deaths and three potential deaths from melanoma.
b) A doctor who told a patient with life threateningly low blood pressure to drive (yes drive) home and eat some salted peanuts.
c) A doctor who was convinced that simple school sores were a symptom of an incredibly rare, fatal and untreatable brain disorder.
d) A doctor who let a patient walk around with a life threatening tumour inside them, because he never bothered to read pathology reports if he expected them to be clear.

I'll concede that most of my bad experiences have been with doctors in rural backwaters, but that may or may not have more to do with the fact that I've only been for one consultation since I moved to the city - a year or two ago, I went to see if I could get some general tests done, since it'd been over a decade since I'd seen a doctor about anything and I was curious about my general state of health - I was basically told that unless I had a specific complaint, I should piss off and stop wasting other people's time.

I'm thinking that maybe these kinds of experiences help to soften people up to the snake oil salesmen. Surely, it can't be helping.

Puss In Boots said...

Melba, I believe Ramon was saying in his second and third paragraphs that people proclaiming you got cancer because you weren't chanting enough, and then claiming you could cure said cancer by chanting, were charlatans (etc). He wasn't suggesting the people who got cancer, then sought alternative medicine were the ones saying this. It's the people "treating" them that are. But that doesn't stop them convincing the sufferers they got cancer from not chanting enough, and the sufferers then spouting the same ridiculous bullshit. It made perfect sense to me and wasn't contradictory.

And this subject keeps coming up because it runs along the same lines as people who believe the world is only 6,000 years old, that some imaginary being put the fossils there to fuck with us, that there really was a world wide flood which wiped out all the unicorns, and that some dude was born from a virgin mother magically impregnated, who then died and became a zombie after 3 days.

It's the, "how can people believe this nonsense" frustration. I read a tumblr site called "STFU Believers" and it seriously does my head in. I can't believe some of the shit these people believe. If there was a STFU Alternative Medicine site, I'd probably read it with the same amount of incredulousness and brain-imploding frustration.

Puss In Boots said...

Alex, there are good and bad practitioners in every industry. Yes, I agree doctors should be held to a higher standard, since they're looking after people's lives, but I don't believe most doctors are evil (not that you were saying that).

I think it's the "false positive/negative" argument. If you present with fairly mild symptoms, the doctor is going to, at first blush, think the problem is only something minor. Of course, there are cases where such misdiagnoses can cause untold damage because whatever the person has is very aggressive. I don't think that is the case most of the time though.

For instance, when I was 20 I had some minor pains in my lower abdomen. I never had period pains or anything like that. I went to the doctor, and that's what she diagnosed them as. I'd only just had a pap smear 3 months before, so we didn't bother doing another one. 6 months later, I still had the pains (sporadically). I went to join the RAAF (aced all of the aptitude testing) because I wanted to be a pilot. They carry out medicals in the course of their assessment of you. Turns out I had early-stage cervical cancer, and I was refused entry to the RAAF (that was a crappy day, let me tell you).

I was treated, and I'm fine now. I don't blame the first doctor. If I was a doctor, and a young woman came to me complaining of lower abdominal pain, but who had never had period pains before, I would diagnose it the same way. Maybe they're just concerned because they've never experienced that sort of pain before? Why spend hundreds/thousands of dollars doing tests when it's probably something simple? I know this resulted in a false negative for me, but I really don't think the alternative is any better. Imagine how expensive medical care would be if we all had to foot the bill, through taxes, for hundreds of thousands of unnecessary tests for everyone who walked through the door of a doctor's office, just in case the doctor has missed something?

Anonymous said...

Puss, I agree that most doctors aren't evil (although, one of the ones I mentioned also killed an old lady in a hit and run accident, so maybe he was, just a little bit), and I agree that doctors make mistakes like everyone else and mild symptoms are hard to diagnose and so forth; but I don't think that the cases I mentioned are examples of that. I can understand making a misdiagnosis, but the same one, five bloody times? Having tests done and not reading the reports is just lazy, and measuring someone's blood pressure, seeing that they could fall unconscious at any moment (qualifying for instant hospitalisation) and suggesting that they drive themselves home is just ridiculous.

Roughly 50% of the doctors I have been to in my life have been fine - three of them, I would describe as outstanding; but the other 50%, I would describe as dangerously incompetent. Of course, the thing is, I don't know if I've had an unusually bad run or not. I would hope that those percentages aren't indicative of the medical community as a whole. I just don't know.

Puss In Boots said...

Oh yeah, I wasn't suggesting your examples were simple misdiagnoses of minor symptoms. Those examples are clearly incompetent doctors, but they fall under my, "there are incompetent people in all professions" umbrella. However, I also believe they should be held to a higher standard, but I'm not really sure how that could be accomplished. Surely if someone is not happy with the advice they are receiving, they would seek a second opinion, though? I would suspect those sorts of doctors, who are routinely incompetent would get found out eventually and deregistered, or something. But yes, that probably wouldn't happen until they'd caused someone's death, which is very tragic.

Still, on the whole, I would much rather trust a medical practitioner than some dude telling me I should sit in an east-facing corner holding a piece of lapis lazuli and chanting to myself for 3 hours. I'm sure there must be empirical evidence somewhere on the percentage of alternative medicine practitioners who are completely dodgy. I'm also sure that percentage would be higher than the equivalent for medical doctors.

Puss In Boots said...

Oh, and I've only had one doctor I would have classed as incompetent. She gave me a drug called Bactrim to which I developed an allergic reaction. I told her the next time I saw her, and she wrote it in my file. A few months later, I went back and she prescribed the same drug, without reading the little allergies tab which was right in front of her. Thankfully, I stopped her in time and she prescribed something else. She also had a terrible bedside manner, so I switched doctors after that.

But that's one out of probably 15 or so doctors I have seen in my life.

Melba said...

No no no Puss. Quite clearly Ramon states that people talk about natural healing etc and then HIS response is "are you seriously suggesting that people become ill because they didn't chant three times a day..."

I can't believe Ramon is seriously suggesting that people (whoever) might suggest this. As far as I'm aware, most charlatans will be saying chant and you will become well, not "you have become ill because you haven't been chanting."

And maybe Ramon can argue for himself?

AND why then aren't we getting diatribes on the theory that the world is 6000 years old? Why this same thing again and again? I'm not running into said charlatans in my daily life, and if you're not reading the crack-pot publications they might produce, then I can't imagine anyone else running into them too frequently either.

And I still don't have an answer. To this and my other questions. Maybe today.

Puss In Boots said...

We have previously had diatribes on religious views, Melba. They usually come from Perseus. Perhaps you haven't read them? Ramon usually stays out of them because, as I recall, his wife is religious, and he respects her beliefs.

And I'm sure Ramon can argue for himself. I just thought I would give my views on why these people are insanely irritating. To me, they are just as irritating as religious people.

Maybe you don't come across them in your every day life, but perhaps Ramon does? I know I run into one at least once a fortnight. And it's not always the same person. They really are insanely irritating. If you dare mention you have a sore throat, they start telling you you need to go and hold a sunstone or some shit, or have your aura read or something. I don't know the specifics. I usually tune them out and roll my eyes so far back they're in danger of doing a complete revolution.

Also, it's not enough to say their theories aren't hurting anyone, because that's simply not true. I watched my grandmother die of cancer because she refused to get chemo. She was convinced by some idiot she could be cured with astral travel, crystals, meditation, etc etc. I watched her die a slow and painful death, when she could have received proven medical treatment and possibly survived. Alternative medicine and the refusal to seek conventional medicine not only contributed to her death, but also hurt her family and friends who loved her, and had to suffer through watching her die in pain, all the while knowing she could have received chemo and been given a fighting chance. Alternative medicine is not victimless. I'm not suggesting conventional medicine is either, but it's not just the refusal to immunise which makes me hate alternative medicine practitioners.

Anonymous said...

Puss, you'll notice that I wasn't making any attempt to attack medicine or defend bullshit. Mostly, I'm asking if it's possible that people who've had bad experiences with medical practitioners become easier prey to bullshit artists.

Surely if someone is not happy with the advice they are receiving, they would seek a second opinion, though?

Sometimes, a second opinion is several hundred miles away and you just never find the time to make the trip. The fact that you've only had one bad doctor out of fifteen, does give me pause to wonder though; if maybe remote areas are a sort of dumping ground for doctors who've fucked up one too many times in larger places - something similar to what it's like with law enforcement. You're originally from the sticks too, right? Was she a city or a country doctor?

Melba, there certainly are those who push the line that people bring all forms of sickness and misfortune on themselves. After all, scaring a healthy person into taking a lifetime's worth of preventative hocus-pocus is way more profitable than simply selling a sick person the promise of a cure.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

you have become ill because you haven't been chanting.

That's exactly what some of these peopel say Melba.

Or it was because you had "negative energy".

Or you didn't take enough vitamins.

Puss In Boots said...

Yeah, I did notice that Alex. I wasn't meaning to sound as if I was attacking you. And yes, I agree with what you're saying to a certain extent. If I'd had multiple bad experiences with doctors, I'd be inclined to wonder if they really knew what they were talking about as well.

I've always thought doctors who practice in backwaters must be a little resentful of their job. Particularly those who are basically forced to go to remote areas. Isn't there some sort of program where you have to go to a remote area once you become a doctor, unless you have a really good reason not to (like, kids at school, etc)? I can't recall where I heard that.

Anyway, if I was a city person, and was forced to go to a small country town where I hated it, I think I probably wouldn't have much pride in my work either. So perhaps that's one reason.

The doctor I classed as incompetent was a city doctor. I still go to the same clinic, but I see someone else there now. Our doctor when I lived in the sticks was fantastic. He was an old school doctor. He had a look which would kill a horse at a hundred paces. You didn't lie to him and tell him you'd been taking your medication if you hadn't. He was very no-nonsense, and a very, very good doctor. He also didn't prescribe drugs willy-nilly.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't meaning to sound as if I was attacking you.

You didn't, Puss. I was just reaffirming my position.

Isn't there some sort of program where you have to go to a remote area once you become a doctor, unless you have a really good reason not to

I honestly don't know. I do know that teachers have to do remote service, but that's only because there's roughly 800 teachers in my family (such an incestuous profession) and I have more second hand knowledge of the education system than I really care to. I'm not close with any doctors though. I do know one chiropractor. I feel bad giving him shit though, since he's such a nice guy.

Perseus said...

Scene: A wedding. I am seated at a table with a man who knows the groom through a speech therapy course they both did to help them overcome a stutter. Neither have stuttered in years.

Perseus: So, what do you do for a living?

Stutter: I own and manage a healing centre.

Perseus: A medical clinic?

Stutter: A healing centre. We do massage, aromatherapy, crystal healing and other alternative healing practices. We also offer counselling.

Perseus: What do you heal?

Stutter: We heal many things... all sorts of ailments.

Perseus: I can understand that you could heal, say, 'unease' or 'tension', through a great massage, but name one disease that you heal.

Stutter: Well, we have many cancer patients.

Perseus: So you can heal cancer?

Stutter: Statistics show that through our healing practices we can prolong a cancer patient's life considerably, as well as give them peace of mind.

Perseus: So, the whole 'healing centre' is a bit of croc, really, isn't it?

Stutter: How so?

Perseus: It should be called a 'prolonging centre' if that's all you can offer.

Stutter: N-n-n-n-o, b-b-b-but we can-can-can-can-can...

Perseus: If I ever get cancer, I know where to come for that extra week or so...

Stutter: B-b-b-.....


(The groom still chastises me for making his friend stutter for the first time in four years...)


Road trip review will be posted tomorrow. Annual leave is over.

Puss In Boots said...

I'm sure I read somewhere that studies into certain alternative medicines (like crystals, etc) have revealed they little to no more effect on people's health/recovery than a placebo. I find that fascinating. Of course, placebos also don't have the success rate of conventional medicine.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Road trip review will be posted tomorrow

Well, that's Melba sorted then.

Anonymous said...

Do we actually know who went on the road trip yet, or is that going to be a surprise?

squib said...

On the one hand, the power of the mind is undeniable, e.g. the placebo effect and the nocebo effect (witchdoctor say you die. you die.). On the other hand, optimists are more annoying than death. Although the mind can affect the body, it doesn't follow that it can stave off disease or save you

I understand people wanting to try something else, especially if nothing else has worked. Why not?

But I can't stand chiropractors and people of their quasi-Jesus ilk who have so much hubris they actually believe they can raise Lazarus. They are complete fuckwits (they believe they are doctors) and I save all my bile for them

Melba said...

I notice you still didn't answer my questions Ramon. Do you just like throwing these things out there knowing that people will run around chasing their tails, in order to be more right than each other? Do you like to sit back and watch?

Alternative therapies can be dangerous (to own's own health) because if people can conventional medicine, they might die. Or they might survive regardless. There have always been people willing to take advantage of others.

But why the vitiol about these people? That's all I'm asking. Not saying I don't agree, just why These People. Surely they aren't any more annoying than say Collingwood fans or most Australian comedians?

Oh and thank god for the road trip. Looking forward to it.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Stupid people annoy me, Melba.

Anonymous said...

I concur. Fundamentalism in anything is dangerous. Healing crystals, my arse.

On another note: My uncle is a counsellor at Ivanhoe prison. He lives in Broken Hill but drives out there every fortnight. One time, he went out there and it was a popular prisoner's birthday at the local Chinese restaurant. All friends and family were invited (i.e. everyone in town), but the birthday boy himself couldn't attend due to being behind bars. There was a brawl and it had to be broken up by the cops.