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How low can Oprah Winfrey go? Promoting faith healer John of God to the masses

Several of the bloggers on Science-Based Medicine have been — shall we say? — rather critical of Oprah Winfrey. The reason, of course, is quite obvious. Oprah is so famous that if you mention her first name nearly everyone will know exactly of whom you speak. For the last quarter century, her daytime TV talk show has been a ratings juggernaut, leading to the building of a media behemoth and making Oprah one of the richest and most famous women in the world. Unfortunately, part of Oprah’s equation for success has involved the promotion of quackery and New Age woo, so much so that last year I lamented about the Oprah-fication of medicine, which scored me a writing gig in the Toronto Star. Whether it be promoting bio-identical hormones, The Secret (complete with a testimonial from someone who used The Secret to persuade herself not to pursue conventional therapy for breast cancer), Suzanne Somers, the highly dubious medicine promoted by Dr. Christiane Northrup, or foisting reiki aficionado Dr. Mehmet Oz or anti-vaccine “mother warrior” Jenny McCarthy onto a breathless public, arguably no one is a more powerful force for the promotion of pseudoscience in America, if not the world. Truly, the ending of Oprah’s TV show in the spring is a very good thing indeed for science and rationality. Or it would be, were it not for the fact that the reason Oprah is wrapping up her show after a quarter of a century is to start up her own cable channel, so that we can have Oprah-branded and -inspired programming 24/7.

The mind boggles.

Still, my dislike for how Oprah promotes New Age mysticism and pseudoscience on a distressingly regular basis aside, I actually did think there were limits to how low she would go. I actually thought there were limits to how egregiously vile a quackery Oprah would endorse. The operative word, of course, is “did,” which now needs to be struck off after last Wednesday, which is when Oprah did an entire show entitled Do You Believe in Miracles? (Guess what answer was implicitly, if not explicitly, endorsed.) Featured prominently in that episode were several segments on the faith healer John of God.

Who is John of God?

For those of you who are not familiar with John of God, he is one of the most famous faith healers in the world. Born João Teixeira de Faria, John of God claims that he channels more than thirty doctor entities to heal the sick using the power of God. (Actually, I get a bit confused here; John claims to channel these doctors but then says that he doesn’t heal and that “only God heals.”) Here is how John of God’s website used to describe him, citing an account written in 1995 by Robert Pellegrino-Estrich and reprinted all over the web:

They come in their thousands. The sick, the lame, the ‘incurable’ and the medically discarded, to a small town in central Brazil. They endure long international flights and for some long bus trips to Abadiânia, high on the plateaux of Central Brazil. They come to be cured by the miracle healer, João Teixeira de Faria … the man they call John of God.

He will scrape away cataracts and eye tumours with a knife, remove breast cancers with a small incision and cause the crippled to walk with just the touch of his hand. In a meditation room a ceiling high stack of discarded crutches, wheelchairs and braces pays silent testimony to his success. He is acclaimed as the greatest healer of the past 2,000 years.

[...]

To call him “the Miracle Man” is in a way a misnomer, because a miracle implies the absence of a natural law, when in fact his achievements are only the results of the law of reincarnation and the subsequent use of spirit doctors from the spirit plane. He is classified as miraculous only because we in the western world are reluctant to accept that a spirit world exists and therefore that his work is the result of this natural law.

Compare this hagiography to the introduction to Oprah’s segment on John of God (video here). In this segment, after being treated to an introduction that could have come from the article I just quoted and that exults about how “millions upon millions” of people have traveled to Brazil to visit him, we see John of God doing his thing while Oprah herself does a voiceover that describes John as “persecuted,” “misunderstood,” and “working tirelessly” to heal the sick. The images are even more disturbing. For one thing, John of God seems to have a proclivity for women’s breasts. In one scene, his is shown apparently making an incision on a woman’s breast, her nipple chastely blurred out, and squeezing something out of the breast, which the woman described as “something black coming out of my heart.” Disturbing video aside, this multimedia blitz is also accompanied by a long article published in O Magazine by editor-in-chief Susan Casey entitled Leap of Faith: Meet John of God. This article details the journey Casey undertook to meet John of God and be healed of her prolonged grief reaction to the death of her father. Conveniently enough, Casey was interviewed on this particular episode of Oprah’s show (video here).

Here is a taste of Casey’s treatment of John of God:

For John of God—or as he is known in Abadiânia, Medium João— the realization of his gift was accompanied by years of persecution and lawsuits for practicing medicine without a license. That didn’t stop him from his mission—to aid anyone who requested it, free of charge—and as time passed and he managed to help such high-profile politicians as the president of Peru and the mayors of assorted Brazilian towns, he was accepted and even protected, treated as a national treasure.

The question of how a malignant tumor disappears from someone’s body, how a blind person ends up seeing again, how the lame suddenly walk—how darkness turns to light, in other words—is not a small one. Our rational minds search for analytical handholds, evidence. In Abadiânia, the currency is more ephemeral: To show up here to see John of God is an act of faith.

This passage, of course assumes that malignant tumors really do disappear from the bodies of those whom John of God “heals,” that blind people do see again, that the lame suddenly walk, and that John somehow turns the darkness into light. There is no evidence presented that might make a rational, science-minded person actually start to wonder whether John can actually do those things. Be that as it may, John of God is not your typical faith healer. He’s become very famous not just in Brazil but all over the world. Despite his apparently not asking for any money for himself, John of God has also made a lot of people a lot of money. For instance, traveling to the remote village where John lives has become a cottage industry in Brazil. Tour operators in particular benefit from all the penitents needing travel arrangements to visit him. As for motivation, John of God’s supporters make much of his not requesting money for his services, but they conveniently forget that there are many other forms of motivation that are as powerful–or even more so–than money. There’s the feel of adulation of the crowd, for instance. There’s the sense of being important, of being so beloved of God that you can channel his power to heal. No one ever seems to consider these motivations when considering faith healers like John of God. Sure, there are faith healers like Peter Popoff who are complete and total frauds, but many (probably including John of God) believe.

Oprah, John of God, and “balance”

If there’s one thing we’ve complained about on this blog when it comes to how the media presents quackery, pseudoscience, the paranormal, or whatever form of non-science-based beliefs, it’s been the journalistic convention of “telling both sides” as though they had equal validity. Credulous journalists do this far more often than they should, but in this episode Oprah took the credulity and cranked it up to 11. In fact, the attempt at “balance” is risibly superficial and perfunctory, so much so that it strikes me as being there more for the story telling than for any actual attempt at critical thinking or true balance. This appears in two forms. First, we have the woman seeking healing for her psychic wounds (Susan Casey). In her interview with Oprah herself, Casey tells the story of how she decided to seek out John:

While at the Casa, Susan was also searching for her own healing. After her father suddenly passed away two years ago, Susan experienced a “tsunami of grief” that she says she couldn’t escape from. She wondered if John of God could help heal her grief.

When she first met with John of God, she says all he did was look her in the eyes. “I thought, ‘That was it?’ I was expecting a lightening bolt, where there’s a big flash of insight. And they just said, ‘Come back later.’ It’s basically, ‘Take a blessing and come back.’”

Susan met with him a second time, and again, he didn’t spend any time with her. What he did do was look at a picture of Susan and her father. He then told Susan to sit in the “healing room,” a room in the Casa reserved for meditation and prayer, for three hours. Susan says she was surrounded by hundreds of people in the healing room, all of whom were praying and meditating with their eyes closed.

“Three hours went by like 20 minutes,” Susan says, “and it was blissful—it was like I was floating.”

In her own state of meditation, Susan says she was able to speak with her father. “It was very real,” she says. “More of a vision than I had ever had before. … I got this feeling like I shouldn’t be sad, that everything was okay.”

While Susan acknowledges that the whole experience sounds skeptical, she says she’s “not a woo-woo person,” and that the Casa helped her find healing.

They all say they aren’t “woo-woo” people, don’t they? In fact, if you hear someone on a show about a faith healer, the paranormal, or whatever form of quackery you can imagine say they’re a skeptic or “not a woo-woo person” you can be pretty sure that she either has just said or is about to say something that proves she is indeed a woo-woo person par excellence. In the video, Casey goes on and on about how after meeting John she felt as though a “cloud had lifted” and how she felt “lighter.” She describes sitting in the “healing room,” where she was floating and talking to her dead father. She then describes a scene in which she and other supplicants are sitting and praying, not allowed to cross their legs (which apparently for some reason would ruin he “energy” being channeled) and how she felt during that. it is also in this segment that I saw perhaps the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen on Oprah’s show. Oprah looks at her editor and, in all seriousness, says, “You know this sounds very woo-woo to me.”

Oh, Oprah, you skeptic you!

More hilarious is the answer. Casey says that she can’t be woo-woo because she spends her time around people with surfers who surf 100 foot waves, and they’re “very linear” and “focused” in their thinking. Uh, Casey, have you ever noticed that a lot of surfers are into a lot of woo? At the very least they’re at least as prone to woo as anyone else. This isn’t as though Casey was hanging out with Randi! In any case, it would be churlish indeed of me not to be happy that Casey seems to have found a way to overcome her grief at the loss of her father, but medicine and science this is not, and science-based medicine it is especially not. It is, contrary to Casey’s claim otherwise woo-woo, and Casey is anything but a skeptic. In fact, she appears to have been in such a state of mourning that she may have even been in a state of clinical depression at the time. Indeed, she describes having the feeling that she would “never feel joy again.” Clearly, she had such an emotional need for something to shake her out of that state that she latched onto John of God. Whatever happened, it’s quite obvious that Casey is was not neutral and, unlike a real skeptic, turned off her critical thinking faculties (if they were ever on in the first place) when she traveled to Brazil.

The next obligatory part of any story about faith healing, quackery, pseudoscience, or the paranormal is what I like to call “Bring in the skeptic!” This part of the story usually takes one of two forms. Sometimes the skeptic is a real skeptic, but is not given anywhere near the amount of time to make his case that the supporters of quackery are. The second form this segment can take is for the skeptic to investigate and then become a believer. Guess which form our “skeptic” takes on Oprah?

That’s right. Our “skeptic” isn’t very skeptical at all. His name is Dr. Jeff Rediger, and he is presented thusly:

Dr. Jeff Rediger is a psychiatrist who traveled to the Casa seven years ago as a skeptic. His goal was to collect lab reports, radiological exams and photos of people who reported that they were physically healed by John of God and to see if the healings could be documented.

Like Susan, he witnessed several physical surgeries while he was there—an experience he says changed the way he thought about the world.

“Some people who I spoke with were able to remember the events going around them completely, and some people seem to enter a sort of altered state during these surgeries,” he says. “When I was assisting in one of the surgeries, [John of God] cut this woman’s cornea. She didn’t flinch. She didn’t try to pull away from him. I can’t explain that. I heard some people use the term ‘spiritual anesthesia.’ I have no way to understand that.”

Well, science and skepticism would be a good start. Unfortunately, in the video I don’t see a whole lot of that coming from Dr. Rediger. One thing that irritated the hell out of me about this segment was how the producers blurred the blood when John was doing his “psychic surgery.” It made it impossible for me to make any judgment regarding whether there was any fakery involved. Looking at the blood and bits of tissue, I wasn’t convinced that this really was human tissue. In any case, everything in the video was a rehash of the sorts of nonsense that John of God has been doing for over three decades. Indeed, several years ago, ABC did a special on John of God with a similar lack of skepticism; the only difference between Oprah’s puff piece and the earlier special was that the earlier special was a whole hour and didn’t feature Oprah as the host and didn’t bother to interview someone like James Randi, who would have informed the producers that everything John of God did was nothing more than hoary old carny tricks, in particular the old “forceps up the nose” and “cornea scraping” tricks.

The latter trick apparently fooled Dr. Rediger completely, as he breathlessly describes a woman whose cornea Rediger said that John of God cut. So did the “forceps up the nose” trick, as evidenced in this credulous description of the episode. Unfortunately, the camera angles used made it impossible for me to judge whether John was doing what he claimed. In the only close-up that was presented, it was clear to me that the knife never touched the woman’s eye, and when John actually appeared to be doing something, the camera never actually focused on the woman’s eye. How convenient. It was almost as though the Oprah producers were making a conscious effort not to show a camera angle that would allow viewers to judge whether the procedure actually being done was what John of God claimed. Personally, I’d have loved to see an ophthalmologist–or even just a surgeon rather than a psychiatrist–allowed to have a close-up view of John’s activities. Rediger is also shown in a video clip apparently bleeding from the chest, apparently after having viewed John do his cornea scraping bit. He expresses fear and is concerned that the bleeding doesn’t stop as soon as he thinks it should, pointing out that he doesn’t have a bleeding disorder.

Let’s just put it this way. I don’t think Dr. Rediger is much of a skeptic. As partial evidence, I Googled his name and quickly found his his website. Here are some choice quotes:

  • “We live in a culture that has advanced enough that we can send the person with a medical problem to the medical doctor; a person with an emotional problem to the psychologist, and a person with a spiritual problem to the priest, minister or rabbi. Yet The Initiative for Psychological and Spiritual Development is founded upon the belief that, beneath and behind all the masks and appearances that we present to the world, there is something more, and that whatever healing potential exists comes from this place.”
  • “Many of us benefit every day from the advances made in medicine and biological psychiatry. But these disciplines as they are currently conceived are only part of the story. They are rooted in an overly materialist understanding of the body and the brain. We will be limited in our capacity to help people until we can enlarge our vision and understanding of the true nature and needs of the human person.”
  • “The next evolutionary step for both medicine and psychiatry is to explore and point the way towards what it will take to develop a rich, vital life of courage, faith and love. This means that we need to allow the capacities of mind and heart to stand on their own terms, and not be reduced solely to the language of biology and physics. And then seek to understand these hidden capacities, and how to cultivate them.”

It sounds to me that not only is Dr. Rediger not a skeptic, but rather he is a believer in mind-body dualism and “spirituality,” so much so that he heads something called the Initiative for Psychological and Spiritual Development.

Yet another segment describes a breast cancer testimonial for a woman named Lisa, who was apparently diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37, her mother having died of the disease. Before you examine her story, you might want to read a post I did very early in the history of this blog that describes how cancer testimonials can deceive. Read Dr. Peter Moran’s excellent discussion of the same topic. Then look at the story of a woman named Lisa, who was interviewed as part of this show. Her testimonial is described in this video and this segment on the Oprah website:

Doctors recommended a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, but Lisa refused. Desperate to find an alternative treatment, she traveled from her home in South Africa to Abadiania to see John of God. While at the Casa, Lisa volunteered for a visible surgery—a nasal probe.

“My heart was beating very fast [during the surgery]. And then I sort of felt him turning this instrument, and I remember a crunching sound and thinking ‘How far can this thing go back?’ because it felt really far,” she says. “I wouldn’t say it was painful. It was more like shock.”

When she left Brazil, Lisa says she followed the guidelines she had received from John of God, such as abstaining from sex and alcohol for 40 days. She later had a biopsy and, unfortunately, her tumor was still malignant.

“It’s never gone away, meaning I’ve never been out of the cancer realm,” Lisa says. “I was told I was at a fourth-stage diagnosis.”

Even though Lisa did not experience a physical healing at the Casa, she says she has no regrets.

So basically Lisa decided to forgo effective therapy and travel to see a faith healer, who did her no good. Now she has a stage IV diagnosis. Indeed, I wonder if she has hideously enlarged cervical lymph nodes on her left side. Her neck looked very odd during this interview, as though it’s asymmetrical with a bulge on the left side. Whatever the case, Lisa’s story demonstrates the true price of quackery like that of John of God. Quacks and faith healers hold out the hope of cure without that nasty surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Believe me, I understand why patients might want to avoid surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but they are all we currently have that actually works against breast cancer. Magical thinking leads to outcomes like that of Lisa.

What is John of God doing really?

John of God has been doing what he’s been doing for well over thirty years, and in that time he’s produced thousands of people who think they’ve been healed by him. The question becomes: What is it that’s happening here? To many people these stories sound very convincing. However, their plausibility is arguably no greater than the plausibility of homeopathy. Certainly they are no more plausible than reiki. Consider the similarities. Reiki masters claim that they can channel energy from the “universal source” into the patient for healing purposes. John of God claims that he can channel energy from 30 different spirit doctors (and God) through himself and into patients in order to heal them. The similarities in the claims are indeed striking. Add to that the element of strong religious faith, which tends to depress the level of evidence that the faithful require to convince them of the validity of claims of healing. A perfect example of this comes from Robert Carroll’s deconstruction of John of God, where he describes the tally of people seeking healing in an ABC special on John of God that aired about five years ago:

The final tally for the show was: 1. a man’s brain tumor was smaller after he visited John of God (natural but unexplained regression and an amazing coincidence? treatment before he came to John finally showed some results? one of John’s channeled spirits did invisible surgery? the patient’s will to live and be healed affected the tumor’s growth? or ?); 2. a lady complaining of chronic fatigue says she feels a lot better after John slit her above one of her breasts (psychosomatic? John’s spirits cut just the right place to relieve her symptoms? placebo effect?); 3. a man with ALS shows no effect (didn’t have enough faith? just what you’d expect?); 4. a young actress from South Africa with breast cancer shows no effect (same as 3); 5. a woman paralyzed from the waist down is able to walk using rails to hold on to, but she clearly has no use of her legs; she says she feels something is improving, though (placebo effect? delusion? didn’t have enough faith? in any case, we don’t know if she tried to walk with rails before seeing John and, if so, what the results were), and 6. the journalist’s shoulder didn’t heal in 40 days as John promised but Quinones admits he didn’t follow John’s advice not to have sex or eat pepper.

Number 6 may be the most telling of all as to ABC’s seriousness in doing this program. If Quinones wasn’t going to follow John’s instructions, why was this material included in the program? Did he think it was a joke?

Add to that one more from Oprah’s episode: Lisa, who had stage IV breast cancer when she met John of God and still has stage IV breast cancer, with no evidence of improvement or regression.

Another thing that any surgeon watching these videos would notice is that John of God’s incisions appear to be very superficial. For instance, in Oprah’s introduction to who John of God is, he is seen, as I mentioned, making an incision on a woman’s breast. From what I could see in the video, the incision looked quite tiny and superficial, barely enough to draw blood; It wouldn’t surprise me if the incision didn’t even make it all the way through the dermis. No wonder the woman said it didn’t hurt much, if at all! As for John of God’s other tricks, James Randi and Joe Nickell have documented what is almost certainly really happening, namely that all of John of God’s antics appear to be the tricks used by “psychic surgeons” and carnival sideshow geeks for many generations. Worse, by promoting John of God so credulously, with such a lack of skepticism and attention to science, Oprah Winfrey has done a grave wrong to her audience. I have to wonder how many people with life-threatening illnesses are now buying plane tickets to Brazil to seek out John of God. I wonder how many people with terminal illnesses are wasting their remaining cash to enrich the tour operators that service John of God’s operation.

I wonder how many more people like Lisa will be given false hope, only to have it yanked away when reality doesn’t conform to John of God’s claims.

Unfortunately, this favoring of the credulous viewpoint, the non-science-based viewpoint, is a recurring pattern on Oprah’s TV show. As James Randi has documented, Oprah’s show is rigged to make sure that no skeptic, be he a skeptic of the paranormal or a proponent of science-based health care, can provide evidence or make a point that causes too much discomfort to her guests or challenge her audience’s belief in these things. Still, even though Oprah has facilitated John of God’s claims, she is not the only force that keeps people believing in him. What allows John of God to persist in producing new believers includes a combination of things. First, because he is tapping into strong religious belief, there is a lower than the already low bar to convince people of his powers. Second, no one has performed (or is likely to perform) a detailed study of people who have come to him for healing, complete with careful documentation of their pre-John of God condition and then a rigorous followup of what happened to them after they sought healing from John of God. Finally, faith healers like John of God produce a “heads I win tails you lose” situation. If a patient isn’t healed, it’s not because John’s mystical powers failed. Oh, no! It’s because the patient didn’t believe enough or didn’t follow John’s instructions closely enough. John of God also tells people who come to him that they need to wait at least 40 days for healing, which, conveniently enough, is usually long after they have left Brazil.

Come to think of it, the idea that, if quackery doesn’t work it’s the fault of the patient for “coming too late,” failing to follow the quack’s instructions closely enough, or not believing strongly enough isn’t unique to faith healing. As we’ve pointed out here many times before, it’s a frequent “out” used by purveyors of unscientific medical treatments of many varieties, which is why studying John of God and how his activities deceive is valuable for more than just uncovering how faith healers do what they do. It’s also useful for considering how “alternative medicine” can appear to work despite no evidence. It’s also useful to consider how the media take advantage of all these aspects of faith healing to weave a compelling story that is ultimately misleading. Unfortunately, Oprah is very, very good at this and utterly shameless when it comes to unscientific remedies. It’s a very good thing indeed that she will be going off the air next spring.

Except that the reason she’s going off the air is to start up her own cable channel, where it can be all Oprah-branded programming all the time. Oh, joy.

ADDENDUM: Monica Pignotti weighs in. Also, it occurs to me that what John of God is doing is likely very much like what James Randi is demonstrating here:

Posted in: Energy Medicine, Health Fraud, Religion, Science and the Media

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54 thoughts on “How low can Oprah Winfrey go? Promoting faith healer John of God to the masses

  1. tuck says:

    A long time ago there was a web site with the motto “Fish, barrel, smoking gun.”

    I scrolled over this whole post. I’m sure it’s well done, but criticizing Oprah and faith healing from the perspective of science-based medicine is a bit of a snore. I’m sure you’ll amuse me with some of your observations, but the conclusion is not really in doubt.

    Your post comparing evidence-based medicine and science-based medicine, on the other hand, was fascinating and the sort of thing that could have a big impact. I can imagine that folks who believe in evidence-based medicine, thinking it’s science-based medicine, might come across that post and be genuinely enlightened.

    A faith healer (or his “patients”) are unlikely to be enlightened by this post (or any other) unfortunately.

    I’m sure you’re not lacking for material, but I would love to hear your take on the recent criticisms of the Dietary Guidelines for America, summarized here:

    http://www.drbriffa.com/2010/11/22/critique-reveals-major-flaws-in-conventional-nutritional-guidelines/

    If these criticisms are valid, this could have a major impact on health.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. David Gorski says:

    I do love it so when someone criticizes one of my posts without having read it. I love it even more when I’m lectured about not only how I shouldn’t have bothered to write the post but about how I should have written something else instead. Warms the cockles of my heart, it does… :-)

  3. Tuck, I don’t get it: how exactly is it “a snore” to criticize the queen of medical woo for sinking lower than she ever has before? What’s your point, exactly? That Dr. Gorski is off-topic? That SBM contributors shouldn’t publish if you can anticipate their position? Good grief.

    Actually, hammering on this topic is among the best of all reasons for this forum to be here. If you can’t see the relevance of Oprah’s malfeasance to SBM — and the importance of understanding it as a phenomenon — you aren’t even trying (or reading, it would seem).

    Countering Oprah’s media-giantism is nearly impossible, but that just means it’s all the more important to try. SBM is one of the most important anti-quackery sources on the web; for SBM to ignore the topic (because their position is obvious?!) would practically be criminal.

  4. Ian says:

    Faith-healing is bumpkus of course when it comes to physical ailments, and it appears John can “cure” the same sort of non-specific ailments that alternative medicine is often great at.

    But for something like depression or grief… eh, why not? The effects of meditation are well-documented and certainly isn’t “woo” at all.

    Though I’m sure if that’s all that John was “treating” you wouldn’t have written a blog about him..

  5. David Gorski says:

    Well, there is that thing about John of God “treating” cancer patients like the woman named Lisa who was interviewed on one of the segments on John of God. Then there was this woman described on Monica Pignotti’s blog:

    I just noticed that on another WordPress blog, there is a very disturbing account by a JoG believer, that while driving to an Omega Institute event, she decided that she no longer needed glasses and removed them while driving without first going to an eye doctor to have an actual eye exam to see if this is actually the case and claiming that JoG restored her vision. Given that people can easily be deluded into believing their eyesight has improved and throw away their glasses when it has not really improved, this is another cause for concern. The safe and responsible thing to do would be, if you believe your eyesight has improved, go get an eye exam and see, but please, do us all a favor and not just remove your glasses while on the road without undergoing such testing.

  6. bluedevilRA says:

    Oprah never disappoints. Hilarious stuff. I imagine a dialogue occurred something like this:

    Producer – “We could do a show on faith healing!”
    Oprah – “I don’t know sounds a bit woo-woo to me…”
    Producer looks bewildered – “You do realize all the other stuff you support is complete crap, right?”
    Oprah – “Fair point. Let’s do it. But I’ll pretend to be skeptical to get these darned doctors off my back after all this negative press from Newsweek, etc.”

    I almost died laughing at the surfer comment. Surfers and woo are mutually exclusive? Don’t think so. Also, the psychiatrist spontaneously bleeding doesn’t even make sense. Barring the ridiculous notion that any bleeding a person experiences must equal some sort of surgery they didn’t know occurred, why was he getting surgery? Did John knife him while the psychiatrist slept? Did he consent to surgery? Did John’s psychic scalpel, which strongly resembles my kitchen knife, accidentally slip during the cornea scraping? Don’t bother addressing these questions, just accept the magic and move on.

  7. Wow, is it faith-healing apologist day?

    Why not let faith healers treat depression or grief? Because it’s BLATANT FRAUD. Because there’s not remotely any actual benefit. Because their victims spend a lot of money they don’t have. Because it enables and encourages dangerously credulous thinking. Because it’s well-documented that it’s the thin edge of a wedge of credulity about health care in particular. Because they package it with lots of other crap and never actually limit themselves to semi-reasonable claims. Because who the hell is going to faith healers for “depression or grief” anyway? Seriously? Who? O LAWD, cast these moody demons OUT, AMEN!

    Alternative medicine is not “great” at treating anything, not even “non-specific ailments.” See Dr. Novella’s most recent post, which effectively debunks the (pathetic) homeopathic position that their consultations constitute therapy. See also hundreds of other examples at this domain.

    If John of God was claiming only to treat only psychological distress, then by definition he would just be one of countless low-profile quacks, and not the A-list “miracle man” pointing at a pile of discarded wheelchairs, so, yeah … in that case he wouldn’t be worth writing about.

  8. tuck says:

    “I do love it so when someone criticizes one of my posts without having read it. I love it even more when I’m lectured about not only how I shouldn’t have bothered to write the post but about how I should have written something else instead. Warms the cockles of my heart, it does…”

    The point is that the post isn’t really worth reading for someone who’s interested in advancing their knowledge of science-based medicine.

    This is roughly equivalent to rubber-necking at a highway crash. I don’t do that, either.

    Sorry that you’re not open to topic suggestions, hadn’t realized that.

  9. Calli Arcale says:

    Ian — actually, John of God isn’t quite your average run-of-the-mill faith healer. His schtick isn’t the “Demons, I cast you OUT!!!” sort of theater. It’s psychic surgery. He does “invisible surgery”, which is more what we Americans are used to thinking of as faith healing, but he also does visible surgery. It’s basic stage magic, culminating in the production of some bloody tissue which is declared to be a tumor or other unwanted bit and summarily discarded after it has served its purpose of wowing the rubes.

    As far as depression and grief…. No. It’s too cruel. Knowingly cheating people just because they’re emotionally fragile is the sort of thing fly-by-night handymen do, and it’s terrible. Money exchanges hands; is that right? To take money and claim it will make them better?

    For grief, it might be helpful — or it might prolong the agony by delaying the grieving process. It’s fraudulent, though, and that means if it’s ever effective, it will only be so until the mark realizes they’ve been had. At that point it will become profoundly worse than if they’d done nothing at all. Nobody likes discovering that they were cheated.

    For depression, it would absolutely NOT be acceptable. Untreated depression can be a killer — and it might kill more than just the patient, if the patient decides to take a few people with him/her, or if there is anyone depending on the patient for their welfare (i.e. small children). There have been cases of people who went off their antidepressants because a faker told them they didn’t need them, went into another depressive funk, and then offed themselves. (Yes, antidepressants do actually work on severe depression; the controversy is over whether or not they are useful in mild to moderate depression.) Now, you might argue that maybe it’s a viable option for mild depression, but how does a practitioner distinguish between the two? And who would seriously expect John of God to refer a severely depressed person?

  10. DrMonicaP says:

    Re Oprah’s upcoming new channel here’s a preview of what we might expect, if some of these auditions are any indication:

    http://refutingtft.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/tft-proponent-auditions-for-oprah/

    and here’s the link to the JoGer’s blog about the removal of her glasses while on the road, in case anyone is interested in the details:
    http://kathysouth.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/omega_jog_2010/

    Apparently she thought feeling eye strain was a good enough indication of whether she needed to wear her glasses. This just goes to show that we can argue that his marks are completely responsible, but the people who are unfortunate enough to share the road with them are definitely not and could become completely innocent victims.

  11. Dawn says:

    @Tuck: your concern is noted.

    However, discussing faith healing does belong in SBM, because it brings up how various providers deal with their patients using them (often in the comments). Most of the writers as SBM are open to suggestions on things to write about; email them a suggestion and see. But don’t come to a post, proclaim you haven’t read it, and suggest what the post SHOULD be about. It is really rude.

    If all you want to do is “advancing their knowledge of science-based medicine”, there’s this great site known as Pubmed. Type in your search terms, and read away. Lots of science-based medicine there (of course, you will have to get the articles since Pubmed only has extracts, but I’m sure someone like you, who only wants to read those sorts of things, will have no problem getting the information.) Enjoy.

    The rest of us will enjoy the variety of articles that the writers of SBM offer.

  12. Angora Rabbit says:

    Adding to the fun, apparently the television channel that Oprah replaces is Discovery Health (if I heard the commercials correctly last week). This is not to say that DH is the greatest (insert stopped clocks line here) but at least it occasionally attempts good science.

  13. Tuck sez: “This is roughly equivalent to rubber-necking at a highway crash. I don’t do that, either.”

    What a trivializing analogy. This is one of the main fronts in the war for science and reason in health care. Again: if you don’t see the relevance of this topic to SBM, you aren’t trying.

  14. bluedevilRA says:

    Regarding mental disorders, it is not so cut and dry. Sure someone with mild depression or suffering from grief can use things like meditation, yoga, tai chi, or faith healing to feel better. But keep in mind that someone with mild depression is not likely to fly 5000 miles to rural Brazil for this guy. People going to see him most likely have difficult to treat or uncurable conditions. More serious mental disorders require more serious treatment, typically a combination of drugs and psychotherapy.

    My problem with faith healing is that, despite the healers’ disclaimers that the patients should continue to take their medications, the patients often fail to do so. If you were so convinced that you had been healed of vision loss, HIV, cancer, etc, why would you continue to bother with unnecessary, expensive and sometimes painful treatments? Sometimes this is for physical ailments, but it could also occur in mental ailments too. People with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, moderate to severe depression, severe ADHD, severe OCD and other problems need treatment. It would not be good for them to cease treatment under false pretenses.

  15. Angora Rabbit says:

    And regarding Tuck’s post (whom I usually ignore too), the website in question is yet another deliberate misreading of the actual nutritional guidelines. The problem is that people increased their caloric intake. They hear “reduce your fat” and stop listening to the sentence’s second half, “and reduce your caloric intake.” Portion sizes have magnified over the past 30 – 40 years, sugar calories replaced fat calories (read the label next time on “reduced fat” foods). If you want numbers, Americans are expending FEWER calories today – 700 kcal/d fewer than in 1900 and 100 kcal/d since 1980. In 1950 3000 kcal/d was available to the average American, in 1998 it rose to 3700 kcal/d. It isn’t rocket science to understand why there is an obesity epidemic.

    Any of this information is available in a standard nutrition textbook, of which there are many good choices on Amazon, but of course it is harder work to read and assimilate a textbook than someone’s disinformation blog.

  16. qetzal says:

    This is roughly equivalent to rubber-necking at a highway crash.

    No, it’s equivalent to calling attention to someone who encourages her fans to cut their own brake lines before they get on the freeway.

  17. tuck says:

    @Dawn: “But don’t come to a post, proclaim you haven’t read it, and suggest what the post SHOULD be about. It is really rude.”

    Actually, I did’t say that I hadn’t read the whole thing. I read enough to realize that it wasn’t interesting to me. What I did was post a comment about why this topic was a turn-off for me as a diligent reader of SBM. And then post a suggestion of a topic that would be more interesting for me as a reader of SBM. Dr. Gorski’s obviously welcome to do whatever he thinks he ought to with that information.

    I didn’t suggest that the post SHOULD have been about my topic.

    And Dawn, if you’re suggesting that SBM is only ever going to be about rants about faith-healers, that’s pretty sad, don’t you think? A lot of the material on this site is quite informative, like the other post by Dr. Gorski I mentioned.

    @Paul Ingraham: I also never said that the post about Oprah and faith-healing wasn’t appropriate for this site; it’s just too easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel. “What a trivializing analogy.” Precisely. You’ve grasped the point of my comment.

    But if all you want to do is pat yourself on the back about how “scientific” you are compared to the poor unenlightened faith-healers…

    I’m gathering from all these responses that criticism is not encouraged here. How very scientific.

  18. tuck says:

    “No, it’s equivalent to calling attention to someone who encourages her fans to cut their own brake lines before they get on the freeway.”

    That’s very good.

  19. David Gorski says:

    Sorry that you’re not open to topic suggestions, hadn’t realized that.

    Oh, please. Spare me. I’m very open to topic suggestions the vast majority of the time. Indeed, when readers e-mail me suggestions, I very frequently circulate them to our current stable of SBM bloggers to ask if anyone is interested in writing about them, especially if I find that we haven’t written about them before. However, when such suggestions are made in the context of telling me in essence that I wasted my time writing about one topic because the reader in his infinite wisdom considers it “too trivial,” not so much.

    From another comment:

    I’m gathering from all these responses that criticism is not encouraged here. How very scientific.

    Substantive criticisms are welcome and often responded to. After all, we strive to be accurate in both facts and science. On the other hand, criticisms that consist of nothing more than concern trolling (especially while pointing out that the article being criticized hadn’t even really been read, only briefly skimmed) serve only to annoy, which certainly appeared to be the intent of your comment.

    Was there a substantive criticism in any of your comments? I must have missed it.

  20. Harriet Hall says:

    “But if all you want to do is pat yourself on the back about how “scientific” you are compared to the poor unenlightened faith-healers…”

    The point is not back-patting. The point is to raise awareness of how dangerous non-science-based medicine can be, to get the attention of those Val Jones calls the Shruggies.

  21. David Gorski says:

    Exactly. And sometimes it takes rather “harsh” language to get their attention.

  22. Dawn says:

    @Tuck: “And Dawn, if you’re suggesting that SBM is only ever going to be about rants about faith-healers, that’s pretty sad, don’t you think? A lot of the material on this site is quite informative, like the other post by Dr. Gorski I mentioned.”

    How the HECK did you ever get a suggestion that SBM will only be about faith healing from what I posted? While I stated it was not inappropriate for the SBM writers to post about it, nothing in my comment stated or implied that should be the only type of topic.

    I enjoy the variety of posts that the various authors put up here. I may not comment on all of them, but I do read them, or, if I find they don’t hold my interest, skim and leave. What I don’t do is post that the writer should have written something that would interest ME more.

    Since you can so mis-read what I thought was a clear-cut comment, I will not respond to you any longer. It’s not worth my time.

  23. tuck says:

    Oprah’s efforts are deserving of “harsh” language.

    But when I started following this blog, I thought that the topic stated: “Exploring issues and controversies in the relationship between science and medicine”; would be the topic followed.

    It’s certainly interesting, if sad, to hear about how low Oprah’s falling, but a 4,600+ word criticism of faith healing was not really what I was expecting to find here.

    If I was to draw a Venn diagram of the relationship between science and medicine, faith healing wouldn’t be anywhere in the diagram, except maybe the white space around the two circles: I’m sure we could agree on that.

    Dr. Jones’ post is quite interesting; is the mission of this blog really to get the Shruggies to understand the dangers of quack medicine?

    I certainly suppose I could be labeled a shruggie, but I’d be shrugging not because I don’t think non-scientific treatments are a problem, but because I think it’s unlikely that anyone touting or considering faith-healing as a therapeutic medium is going to be receptive to reasoned arguments like the one that Dr. Gorski offers here.

    How many of the comments on this blog are actually from people taking the other side of the faith-healing argument? Do they even pay attention to this site?

    The more non-scientific parts of the medical establishment, however, are at least speaking the right language occasionally, and may be open to having their minds changed.

    The post on evidence-based versus science-based medicine seems aimed at the second group, rather than the first, it seems to me.

  24. S.C. former shruggie says:

    Tuck wrote:
    “This is roughly equivalent to rubber-necking at a highway crash. I don’t do that, either.”

    This site is one of many websites that serve as mental floss. I started reading and lurking here back in January when I needed to scrub some serious woo out of my head. Some people, like me, have easily woo-begotten family and friends and are/were wooey themselves.

    Even as a shot in the dark, deconstructing woo on blogs like this one helps. And by following the links I can find primary sources that refute many a woo for family who consider sites like this one “hostile” and dismiss them as ideological attacks or Pharma shills.

    Consider also that some of us have grandparents who watch Oprah and Dr. Oz but have no internet and no background to identify terrible medical advice when they see it on TV.

    This isn’t rubber-necking. This is a public service. And yes, it can get repetitive, but think of new readers.

  25. @Tuck – You said:

    How many of the comments on this blog are actually from people taking the other side of the faith-healing argument? Do they even pay attention to this site?

    My take is that there aren’t very many from the “other side” reading this blog, but they aren’t the target. The people like me who will talk to believers all day long are the target, so we’ll have accurate information to counter the bullshit Oprah is peddling. One of the best things this site does is make many more well-informed skeptics.

    Also you said:

    The more non-scientific parts of the medical establishment, however, are at least speaking the right language occasionally, and may be open to having their minds changed.

    Are you suggesting that the people here are not open to changing our minds? All it takes in evidence, Tuck. If it’s presented and repeated and proven to be reliable, testable, and falsifiable, we’re interested.

    Who or what, exactly, are these “non-scientific parts of the medical establishment” of which you speak?

  26. tuck says:

    @Dawn: LOL: “Hyperbole (pronounced /haɪˈpɜrbəliː/ hye-PUR-bə-lee[1]; from ancient Greek ὑπερβολή ‘exaggeration’) is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbole

  27. Harriet Hall says:

    The purpose of this blog was explained in the very first post at
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=1

    “Science-Based Medicine is a new daily science blog dedicated to promoting the highest standards and traditions of science in medicine and health care. The mission of this blog is to scientifically examine medical and health topics of interest to the public. This includes reviewing newly published studies, examining dubious products and claims, providing much needed scientific balance to the often credulous health reporting, and exploring issues related to the regulation of scientific quality in medicine.”

    Dr. Gorski’s post is entirely consistent with that stated purpose. The fact that it may not be consistent with tuck’s misconception of our purpose is irrelevant.

  28. bluedevilRA says:

    So tuck is saying that SBM picks easy targets sometimes? As in, faith healing is so obviously dumb that there’s no reason Dr. G should stoop to that level. I think is what he’s driving at…

    I kind of see that argument. Even amongst the bloggers, SBM has had that sort of discussion, I believe. Haven’t y’all debated whether or not Mike Adams is worthy of your attention? So I suppose Tuck has a point. However, I think he is also wrong on this particular issue. Oprah has a much wider audience. She promotes pure pseudoscience and others eat it up. Doctors and scientists need to be able to tackle suck nonsense and I think SBM is a good place for that.

    Tuck seems to be missing the point of SBM. It is precisely the failure of EBM to address the ridiculousness of certain practices that drove Drs. Novella, Gorski, Hall, et al to create SBM (from what I understand). So yes, while faith healing may seem ridiculous, many people believe in it. Also, research money has been used on studies to try to apply EBM to prayer (which I would define as an indirect form of faith healing). See Dr. Novella’s post on intercessory prayer. Thus, faith healing is an issue not in terms of popularity, but also in terms of EBM vs. SBM.

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=2188

  29. tuck says:

    @Harriet: My misconception is based on the statement of purpose you have at the top of this very page: “Exploring issues and controversies in the relationship between science and medicine.”

    I’ve not read every post on this site, but I did go through and read all the tabs across the top of the site, assuming that the important background on the site would be there. My mistake.

    I will point out that even the language on your Editors page would lead one to believe that the focus of this site in the intersection between science and medicine. I don’t think faith healing rises even to the level of pseudoscience, but so be it.

    I agree that given the statement you quote, Dr. Gorski’s article is well within your statement of purpose.

    @bluedevilRA: “Tuck seems to be missing the point of SBM.” Apparently so. I don’t find much value in this particular post. I’ll just have to enjoy the ones that I do find valuable.

    @Dr. Gorski: My apologies. I read enough of the post to note that you hit the indefensible target with a bazooka blast. So, well done.

  30. Zoe237 says:

    Taking Oprah to task it a necessary evil, given that no one has a wider influence in terms of pseudo-medicine. Sad that something as burning stupid as faith healing needs to be deconstructed, but there ya go.

    Here’s another topic suggestion. I got a link in my email the other day from the Alliance for Natural Health regarding the new food safety bill (supplements, FDA regulation) in front of Congress, but haven’t had time to look into it.

    http://www.anh-usa.org/victory-leahy-draconian-food-safety-defeated/

  31. threelittlepigs says:

    I am glad posts like these get written. I haven’t had a science class since I was a freshman in college ten long years ago, so some of the more technical articles may be hard for me to follow (although I try). I have used articles like these in discussions with my friends. Somehow I ended up smack in the middle of “live naturally-don’t vaccinate-do what Oprah says country. When my friends start talking about what they read on natural news or “learned” on Oprah, I can’t always argue the science with them. I can, however, come on here to find rebuttals to a lot of the stuff they say. Or when they post an article about something on facebook, I have often found something on this site to post in response. For the most part I have found that they are at least receptive. I don’t think the majority of people who follow natural news, dr. sears, or oprah are necessarily hopelessly into woo. In some cases, they trust those places for info and don’t realize how wrong that info is.

    I think there are probably lots of readers like me who never comment because we have nothing to really add to the discussion. Pretty much all I know about science is what I learned on here. So please, “slum” sometimes!

  32. bluedevilRA says:

    I will agree on the point that I do not enjoy all SBM posts equally. I much prefer the take downs of quackademic medicine. But who doesn’t enjoy Dr. Gorski using a 4,600 word bazooka?

    Again, I just want to stress the influence a woman like Oprah has. Faith healing may seem like pure nonsense to us, but I bet you a lot of people who watched her show became interested in the subject. They may not have been outright persuaded, but maybe they did an internet search for faith healing, John of God, Dr. Rediger, etc. Interestingly enough, if you use yahoo to search Dr. Rediger, the 6th or 7th link is Orac’s post on Oprahs show.

  33. jude2004 says:

    I just blogged about this today, but in more personal terms. My cousin went to see John of God in Brazil and had psychic surgery to treat her breast cancer. This saddens me every time I think about it.

    http://atheistreadsbible.blogspot.com/2010/11/mystical-mexicans.html

    She’s blogged a little about her experiences here: http://www.yogalinda.blogspot.com/ It’s written in both Spanish and English. She’s a chemist, with a master’s degree from Georgetown, but she’s also a mystic.

  34. David Gorski says:

    My take is that there aren’t very many from the “other side” reading this blog, but they aren’t the target. The people like me who will talk to believers all day long are the target, so we’ll have accurate information to counter the bullshit Oprah is peddling. One of the best things this site does is make many more well-informed skeptics.

    Actually, another huge target audience for us is journalists and policymakers, and we’re having some success. Several of us have been interviewed in the media on various medical topics or been cited in articles. Just today, for instance, I did a Skype interview with a reporter in Oklahoma about thermography who found me through this post:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=7454

    I don’t know when the interview will air.

    Back in April, Steve, Kimball, and I were invited to meet with the director of NCCAM because we had been so critical of NCCAM research:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=4575
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=4671

    Finally, to bring it back full circle, as a result of a post I did criticizing Oprah’s embrace of pseudoscience:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=497

    I was invited to turn the post into a commentary in The Toronto Star:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=517

    True, it’s very little compared to the media empire that is Oprah, but we have to try.

  35. tuck says:

    Good work, then, Dr. Gorski.

    Perhaps I’ve been too adept at ignoring time-wasters like Oprah and faith-healing. No, scratch that, I’m going to continue ignoring them.

    But you’re clearly fighting a good fight, even though, if you’ll forgive me, I’ll be continuing to skip posts on these topics. :)

  36. ConspicuousCarl says:

    Tuck:

    I love to see Oprah get a smack for her nonsense, but it is more than just cheap entertainment for me.

    Oprah is successfully promoting to mainstream American the most shameless fake medicine. This isn’t just a helpless fish in a barrel, it is an overwhelming pile of bad fish which are piled up on the deck of everyday life. To keep with the fishing metaphor, educated experts such as the authors of this blog shouldn’t be content only to keep the captain’s quarters free of stink. They need to reach out into the common area and brutalize some of those ill-behaved mackerels.

  37. tuck says:

    @ConspicuousCarl: I agree about Oprah. For me, Dr. Gorski could have saved himself quite a number of words and just posted “Oprah is promoting a faith healer”. I read the opening part of his post, which pretty much summarized some of her earlier foolishness, and then mentioned that. That was value-add for me. Oprah engaging in new foolishness. Great.

    It’s when Dr. G went into the details of what the faith healer was doing that he lost me.

    Faith healing is balogna. I have no desire to waste my time even reading how horrible it is. For me that was shooting the fish in the barrel. Too easy to be worth doing, IMHO.

    I understand Dr. Gorski’s motivations, which are perfectly valid, given his goals. I clearly didn’t understand this aspect of the site’s creators’ intent.

  38. Dr Benway says:

    tuck:

    But you’re clearly fighting a good fight, even though, if you’ll forgive me, I’ll be continuing to skip posts on these topics.

    I hope that means that you’ve already convinced your elected representatives that NCCAM and other agencies studying faith healing and the like ought to be closed.

    I hope that means that your local hospital is not offering post-op Reiki.

    I hope that means that all the children in your area are appropriately vaccinated, and that no one is made to fear psychiatrists as some sort of evil being preventing human enlightenment.

  39. desta says:

    “The point is not back-patting. The point is to raise awareness of how dangerous non-science-based medicine can be, to get the attention of those Val Jones calls the Shruggies.”

    Agreed.

    @Dr. Benway: nail hit firmly on head.

    In a more rational world, this article would be shooting fish in a barrel. Sadly, the impact of the post is not debunking faith healing; rather it is calling attention to the vastness of the insanity.
    I know of waaaay too many folks who consider themselves rational who nevertheless believe it if they see it/read it on the Oprah, and don’t see that as a contradiction.

    I enjoy both “raising awareness” posts (this one), as well as the posts that examine the more nuanced issues.

  40. @ Dr Benway, – People have their own callings. While your goals are worthy, they reflect your interests. No one has enough time to focus on improving all that ails this world. People often choose to focus on a problem that compels them the most because of their life experience or personality. That motivates them to do something through donations of their time or money.

    I appreciate what the folks are doing at SBM. I also appreciate what the people do at *Salvation Army, National Marrow Donation Program, Red Cross, Doctor’s Without Borders, Smile Train, Half the Sky, Save the Children, and various local organizations and online support groups.

    I do think that in order to accomplish their goals, the folks at SBM should be aware that they need to hold an audience’s attention in spite of the fact that the many other problems in this world are pressing. An occasional comment to remind them of that is expected.

    *or insert your own list

  41. Sorry, you lost me when you called Oprah a journalist. I guess I will have to admit she is in the looses definition of the word. In that sense, one would also call Anna Wintour of Vogue a journalist.

  42. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Part of the usefulness of posting on an otherwise absurd topic like this is the ability to point out the fraud. For instance, I’ve read about this on Skepdic and Carroll made a point of debunking the various tricks used – the sclera of the eye is insensitive to pain; psychic surgery is often slight of hand; data tracking is non-existent; it’s actually pretty easy to jam a six-inch nail into your nose because of the sinuses. This is useful information to anyone who seeks these obviously dramatic actions and can’t explain them. Well, now they can. If someone is watching Oprah and is amazed that John of God can cut into someone’s eye without consequence, if they see this blog posting they can realize that’s not really remarkable.

  43. ConspicuousCarl says:

    Something often overlooked (unless someone here said it and I missed it) is that the “miracle” aspect of an act does not necessarily make it useful even if the magic mechanism were real.

    So what if John of God can scrape an eyeball without pain or infection? Does scraping an eyeball do anything useful? Not really.

    Likewise, the claimed ability to push one’s hands through the skin of an abdomen to remove tumors would only be useful if the tumors happen to be just under the skin, rather than deep inside a sensitive area or metastasized in various organs. Thanks for the miraculously non-scarred belly after the removal of easily-reached non-metastatic abdominal tumors, but we can already take care of those tumors without getting raped by airport security or having our wallets stolen in Brazil.

  44. Dr Benway says:

    @ Dr Benway, – People have their own callings. While your goals are worthy, they reflect your interests.

    I don’t fault people for not sharing my interests. But I also don’t drive-by forums just to tell people that their concerns aren’t worthy of real attention.

  45. “I don’t fault people for not sharing my interests. But I also don’t drive-by forums just to tell people that their concerns aren’t worthy of real attention.”

    Sorry, I’m having a hard time understanding taking offense when someone criticizes the direction a blog or post takes. A blog is something published for the public to read. I thought the comment boxes are there for thoughts regarding that post.

    I’m not a scientist. I do fine art and graphic design. When you have an art degree, you are trained in putting your work in front of people, taking criticism and deciding how and whether you will apply that criticism. In art school a knee jerk defensiveness of a piece of art or design is frowned on. When my work is in a gallery or when I am showing at an art fair or to a client, people make both negative and positive comments. It is the nature of that line of work.

    Sometimes people suggest that I do more of something or move in a different direction. I like to think that I can listen with an open mind and take away what I find useful in their suggestions*. Sometimes, if I have the time and inclination, I might give an explanation on how their suggestion doesn’t match my intent. Sometimes I just nod and say “hmmm” wish them a good day and turn to talk to someone else. I have found most people will not continue a criticism if you do not feed them with defensiveness.

    It’s not always pleasant. But to be honest, sometimes the complements are not always pleasant either. It is part of engaging in making something that is, in essence, communication with a broad range of people.

    I do like people to stay within some sort of constructive realm, not get too personal and not belabor their point. (Perhaps people think that is what Tuck was doing.) But beyond that, I don’t think making a negative comment on a public blog is particularly rude. It is not the social equivalent of walking into someone’s house and criticizing their decor or book collection.

    I will give that maybe I’m completely wrong on the etiquette. Maybe I’ve missed an essential Emily Post internet rule. :) Maybe it’s a completely different experience writing for a blog and getting online comments or maybe I am over estimating my sanguine in taking criticism. But there’s my two cents.

    *Doing graphic design, you usually have to implement the changes if you don’t “win” the disagreement or not get paid. One reason design can be a bummer.

  46. Whoops, long comment for Thanksgiving day. My son is sick, so our turkey day travel plans are canceled and I am bored.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

  47. Dr Benway – “Oprah gives back to her fans.”

    LOL – Boy, do I miss Walter Cronkite

  48. Off topic – suggestion for future article

    In fact I’m so bored I’m researching the effectiveness of home prevention and elimination of dust mites for allergies on MedPub and various allergy sufferer sites. Boy are there a lot of expensive dust mite killing sprays, bed covers, air filters, vacuums.

    If anyone at SBM is willing to take a look at this topic, help separate what actually might improve symptoms and what doesn’t, some allergy sufferers might be grateful.

  49. surfgeorge says:

    I haven’t read all the linked information in the article and comments, but would like to add something that might have been mentioned elsewhere.

    I knew a person with breast cancer who traveled four times (a very expensive undertaking for her financial situation) to see “John of God”. And despite some last minute efforts using “Western medicine”, she died having waited far far too long rather than getting treatment when her cancer was at earlier more treatable stages. She pointed out to me that at “the casa” it is clear that some people may not be physically cured of their illness (she saw people who were repeat customers, like herself), but that virtually every person experiences, or is capable of experiencing, is “a spiritual healing”. In other words, if absolutely nothing happens to change the symptoms and/or course of the physical illness, one is still “healed” by “John of God”. There is no way that anything can happen other than “success”. And many, if not most of these people believe that the “spiritual” is far more significant than the physical, so even if they die they have been “healed”. I feel very sad thinking about all the people who die needlessly while giving this guy (and the tour operators, etc.) their money.

    I ran into Oprah one day while hiking in the foothills of Montecito. Lots of thoughts were occurring, but ultimately I said, “It’s really hot today, and I notice you don’t have any water. Would you like a drink?” I recalled my naive years of trying to educate doorbell-ringing Jehovah’s Witnesses about when and how the bible was written/assembled, and figured, “What’s the point?”

  50. MySILT says:

    Don’t worry…she’s not going anywhere! Discovery Health is becoming OWN on Jan. 1. The OW Network will continue to do harm in the name of medicine and science for years to come. If people didn’t trust Oprah with health info, they will surely trust the Discovery name. It’s a pseudoscience empire that will only fall with endless lawsuits as people die from her expert medical advice. Keep up the fight…

    http://health.discovery.com/tv/own/

  51. Jeff1962 says:

    No mention of whether, along with all the wheelchairs and crutches, there were prostheses from amputees. I’m guessing God, in his infinite power, can’t grow back limbs.

  52. zed says:

    I heard Dr. Dean Edel talking about this post on his radio show this afternoon. I’m sad to hear that he’s retiring, he was another voice for science and reason in medicine.

  53. SkepTheTick says:

    Get a load of this– CNN ran a story on him with Dr. Sanjay Gupta too http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/health/2010/12/22/ac.john.of.god.cnn?hpt=T2 He had two people who spoke favorably about the guy, had a graphic calling him, “The Miracle Man,” and offered no one with opposing views, except one Harvard trained doctor who goes halfway skeptical, and goes the rest of the way saying the world is a mysterious place than he understood. Gupta offered some skeptical words, but concluded by saying he agrees there are things we can’t always explain that doesn’t make them not true, and that he should go have a look for himself, and that this is a “very important topic.”

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