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The Marino Center for Integrative Health: Hooey Galore

Two weeks ago I promised that I would discuss the Marino Center for Integrative Health, identified in the recent Bravewell report as having a “hospital affiliation” with the Newton-Wellesley Hospital (NWH) in Newton, Massachusetts, which is where I work. I also promised in that post that I’d provide examples of ‘integrative medicine’ practitioners offering false information about the methods that they endorse. I’d previously made that assertion here, and Jann Bellamy subsequently discussed its legal and ethical implications here. The Marino Center is a wellspring of such examples.

A Misleading ‘Affiliation’

Let’s quickly dispel the “hospital affiliation” claim. According to the Marino Center website:

Hospital Affiliations

In support of our services and to ensure that our patients have access to exceptional tertiary care, the Marino Center maintains deeply established relationships and affiliations for referrals and admitting privileges with major medical facilities in the Boston area.

The Marino Center:

  • Is a proud member of the Partners Healthcare family
  • Is affiliated with Newton Wellesley Hospital
  • Makes referrals to Mass General Hospital, Dana Farber, Children’s Hospital and more

Well, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Marino Center is a ‘member’ of the Partners Healthcare family, which includes not only the Newton-Wellesley Hospital, but lesser known entities such as the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. After all, there are already unfortunate pseudomedical schemes involving Partners entities, such as the Osher Center for Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies and, even under my own roof (I shudder as I write this), a Reiki Workshop. Nevertheless, it’s telling, I hope, that not only does the Marino Center fail to appear under any list of Partners affiliates, Community Health Partnerships, Wellness, Prevention, or any other conceivable category, but it fails to yield a single ‘hit’ when entered as a search term on the Partners website (the term ‘integrative’ yields seven hits, but none appears to be about ‘CAM,’ except possibly for an RSS feed that I’ve no patience to peruse. Is it possible that Partners is embarrassed by the Osher Center? I hope that, too).

I’ve previously asserted that the NWH is not affiliated with the Marino Center, other than that some Marino Center physicians have been—against my judgment, not that I was consulted—granted hospital staff privileges. I made this assertion in my original Bravewell post a couple of weeks ago, after having questioned the NWH Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Les Selbovitz, who verified it; nothing on the NWH website suggests otherwise.

I’ve no reason to doubt the Marino Center’s third bullet above, “makes referrals to Mass General Hospital,” etc., but this is something that any physician can do, regardless of affiliation. I suspect that if there were an ‘integrative hospital‘ in Boston, reason forbid, the Marino Center would make referrals to it.

False and Misleading Information about ‘Services’

Let’s get to the meat of the problem.

For years, the Marino Center website included this:

Medical Services

Medical specialties include Internal Medicine, Family Practice, Medical Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Neurology, Urology, Gynecology, Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management.

And Eric Healing, perhaps? Apparently not, but it might as well be included. “Medical” acupuncture? Oh, the spin. Elsewhere on the Marino site, until very recently, were chiropractic, craniosacral ‘therapy,’ ‘nutritional services…to help rid your body of toxins,’ herbs, ‘infusion therapy,’ ‘chelation therapy,’ and more. I’ll elaborate on a few of these.

Homeopathy

There was a self-described homeopath listed on the Marino website until about 2005. Even after he disappeared, the site’s explanation of homeopathy, featuring a hodgepodge of misleading-if-factual statements, half-truths, and utter nonsense, persisted:

Homeopathy is a system of medicine founded and developed by the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann more than two centuries ago. In fact many of today’s finest American medical schools and hospitals actually originated as homeopathic colleges and hospitals. The effective use of this method of care has been well documented throughout the years and although its effects can be powerful and dramatic, homeopathy’s mode of action is gentle. In 1938 the FDA declared homeopathic remedies to be safe, and substantiated claims of their clinical effectiveness even in treating serious diseases when using practitioner-recommended remedies.

Homeopathic remedies are prepared from a wide variety of substances including plants, minerals, and animal products. Because the effectiveness of a remedy has less to do with content than with the precision of its “match” with the patient, homeopathic medicine is said to operate according to what is known as: The Law of Similars, “Let like substances treat like conditions.”

Vaccinations are developed according to a similar concept. For example, a vaccination containing a small amount of the Cowpox bacillus [sic] causes the body to develop antibodies and immunity to the similar, serious disease, Smallpox. Homeopathy expands on this idea in two ways:

1) The homeopathic “like” substance or remedy is customized to meet the specific needs of an individual in all of his/her complexity.

2) Homeopathic remedies are far more dilute (weaker in concentration) than vaccinations. It is believd the more dilute a constitutional dose of a homeopathic remedy becomes, the more “energetic,” or clinically powerful it is.

How to get started
The selection of a homeopathic medicine relies on a thorough understanding of patient personality including typical likes and dislikes, diet and exercisepatterns and other traits, in order offer an adult or child a well-matched constitutional remedy. When the proper prescription is delivered, its effectiveness is demonstrated not only by the elimination or alleviation of symptoms, but also at the highest levels of brain function – emotions, attitudes, and behaviors.

In order to develop a homeopathic medical history an initial consultation is required. This in-depth discussion can last up to 1½ hours and may cover a wide range of topics, including your food cravings, habits, personality traits, and attitude towards the illness or symptoms being addressed.

After this evaluation, your homeopathic practitioner is able to recommend one or more homeopathic remedies, and advise you on the most effective ways of taking these remedies. Homeopathic remedies consist of extremely dilute preparations of natural substances, which are inexpensive and available without a prescription. An experienced homeopathic practitioner can help a patient find the best remedy or remedies for his/her particular symptoms and personality.

Following the initial consultation you may want to return for one or more follow-up visits to “fine tune” the use of homeopathy or address additional problems or concerns.

Homeopathy and Children
If conventional medical approaches have been ineffective in treating your child’s problems, or you are concerned about side effects of medications or other treatments, gentler, more subtly-acting medical systems such as homeopathy may be helpful. Homeopathy’s individualized approach is designed to address underlying problems contributing to your child’s symptoms or behaviors.

Homeopathy may be if your child suffers from Failure to Thrive, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Persistent Colic, Chronic Ear Infections, or Asthma.

What Conditions Can Homeopathy Help?
Homeopathy can be a gentle and safe method of treating numerous conditions including:

Mental Health

  • Chronic Depression
  • Phobias
  • Panic and Anxiety Disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Unresolved Grief
  • Addictive Behavior

OB/GYN

  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Menopausal Symptoms

Gastroenterology

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Persistent Nausea or Reflux

Dermatology

  • Post-Herpetic Pain
  • Chronic Eczema

First Aid/Emergency
(Telephone or Self-Care Support)

  • Fever Control
  • Insect Bites and Stings
  • Bruises and Abrasions
  • Sprains
  • Allergic Reactions
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Colds and Sore Throats

Contact Us
To schedule a homeopathic evaluation and treatment session, please contact the Marino Center For Progressive Health by using the information here.

Dear Readers, such ‘information’ is fatuous, reckless tommyrot. For accurate information about homeopathy, I invite you to revisit my first-ever series on SBM, beginning here.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

A similar meal of misinformation awaits, but I’ll only bore you with some of it:

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

In general, TCM is a holistic medical system consisting of acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditation and diet. The first TCM book was published more than 2,000 years ago. Through the generations, the wisdom of thousands of volumes of medical literature and countless clinical experiences have been passed down for our use. TCM has developed greatly within the last 30 years by integrating its practices with modern medicine in China.

…Our goal is to make this holistic, physical, and spiritual healing practice available to anyone who could benefit from it.

What Is Acupuncture?
In the holistic philosophy of TCM, all parts of our bodies are seen as inter-connected. Energy and signal transactions (Qi flow) are carried through pathways called meridians, which are distributed on the surface of the body. It is believed that blockages of the Qi flow through meridians cause imbalances which, in turn, result in illness. Acupuncture attempts to heal by restoring the flow of Qi through the meridians–allowing the body to heal itself. Modern techniques like finger pressure, laser, heat, maxa, and electro-magnetic therapies have also been developed based on the theory of acupuncture.

What Conditions can Acupuncture Help?
The World Health Organization has publicly announced that the following conditions are suitable for acupuncture treatment:

1. Neurological and muscular disorders

2. Respiratory Disorders:
Bronchial asthma (in children and adult when uncomplicated)

Gastrointestinal Disorders:
Esophageal and cardio spasm, hiccup, gastroptosis, acute or chronic gastritis, sour stomach, duodenal ulcers, colonitis, acute bacillary dysentery, constipation, diarrhea, and paralytic ileus.

4. Eye Disorders:
Acute conjunctivitis, central retinitis, nearsightedness (in children), and cataracts without complications.

5. Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders:
Toothaches, gingivitis, otitis, sinusitis, rhinitis, nasal catarrh, and acute tonsilliti. In general, acupuncture can be used for treating almost all kinds of pain, paralysis or neural dysfunction, allergies, immune imbalance and most gynecological problems.

What are Chinese Herbs?

While nature may produce disease, it also produces healing. Chinese herbs have a long history of successfully treating many types of diseases. Countless reports show that Chinese Herbs may aid in healing where traditional medicines are less effective.

Are Chinese Herbs Safe?
Yes. Over 30 years of toxicology studies have shown that Chinese Herbs are safe and have fewer side effects than chemical medications…

“There is nothing between Heaven and Earth but Qi and its laws”

- ancient Chinese saying

Behold the awesome power that signal transactions and ancient Chinese sayings hold over hopelessly gullible honkies! Makes me embarrassed to be one, sometimes. An accurate summary of the relevant material: acupuncture has no specific effect on any disease; the philosophical bases for what Marino calls TCM are not based in observable reality; the term TCM is only about 50 years old, having been invented in the People’s Republic of China as an appeal to Western audiences; it is an awkward, arbitrary cobbling of several, disparate and sometimes contradictory ideas and methods that existed at various times and places in the long, pre-scientific history of the very large region that is China; TCM can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, be construed as holistic, because it knows very little of anatomy, physiology, and pathology, and nothing whatsoever of microscopic or molecular matters; over 30 years of toxicology studies have shown that many Chinese Herbs are not safe.

“Nutrition”

Why the quotation marks? Well, nutrition is not “CAM,” but “nutrition” is:

Why Cleanse?

The modernization of the American diet (changing agricultural practices, fast foods and more refined foods) has greatly upset the balance of health in this country. Just as our planet has its chemical waste problems our smaller environment, the body, is also greatly threatened.

Toxins may accumulate in the colon and liver and may lead to fatigue, headaches, premenstrual tension and other chronic symptoms. We may take these symptoms for granted without realizing that they represent a state of ill health.

Who Should Cleanse?

Dietary cleansing helps to cleanse and revitalize the body. It helps to improve health and vitality in healthy individuals and is particularly encouraged for individuals who what to improve poor eating habits and those with diet-related illnesses such as:

  • fibromyalgia
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood sugar
  • arthritis
  • allergies
  • some fatigue problems
  • chronic skin problems
  • gastrointestine disturbances

What to Expect

There is nothing like a dietary cleansing program to ensure lasting will power and inner strength. [etc.]

That last line almost has me convinced.

Chelation and the Law

I hope you’re still with me, because I’ve saved the best for last. Chelation ‘therapy,’ for those who don’t know, is among the very worst forms of quackery perpetrated by licensed physicians in the U.S. The treatment is both ineffective and dangerous; this has been known since the early 1960s. The history of the fringe group of physicians who peddle it, several of whom are convicted felons, is inextricably intertwined with Laetrile, the most lucrative health scam in American history. For nearly a decade, the NIH has been funding the unnecessary, dangerous and unethical Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy for coronary artery disease (TACT). To do this it has recruited several of the aforementioned felons, whom it now calls “respected experts,” to act as investigators and consultants. All of this is explained and documented in detail here. I’ve previously discussed it on SBM here, here, here, here, here, and here.

At least until 2010, the Marino Center website offered this:

Chelation Therapy

Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is our nation’s number one killer, leading to over 500,000 deaths in America every year. Our bodies’ blood vessels are constantly being damaged – by high blood pressure, toxins in our diet and environment, and by the effects of stress. The body’s attempts to repair this damage lead to a build up of cholesterol and calcium – plaque – in arteries throughout the body. This is a contributing factor to death and debility from:

  • heart attack,
  • stroke and
  • poor circulation to extremities.

Conventional medical approaches to these problems include prevention (by reducing risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol) and treatment with medications aimed at reducing symptoms, or treatment with invasive procedures (angioplasty, stents or bypass surgery).

Since the 1950′s, EDTA Chelation Therapy has offered patients an alternative. EDTA Chelation Therapy is given as a series of 20-30 weekly infusions, each lasting 3 hours. This therapy, which is FDA-approved for the removal of lead, is thought to reverse atherosclerosis when used in a program including vitamins, stress reduction, and lifestyle changes.

The Marino Center ‘s EDTA Chelation Therapy is administered according to protocols established by the American College of Advancement of Medicine.

The American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), which calls itself the “voice of integrative medicine,” is the Mother of all Pseudomedical Pseudoprofessional Organizations. Its ‘protocols’ for “EDTA Chelation Therapy” call for Na2EDTA, which has never been FDA-approved for the removal of lead—rather than the safer CaNAEDTA, which has been so approved. The misleading statement about lead was echoed for years in the protocols and consent forms of the NIH trial itself, until we complained, and even then the Office for Human Research Protections somehow allowed the trial to proceed. 

At the same time that the Marino Center was plugging chelation, it was also one of the “community chelation sites” for the TACT:

Current research projects/studies include:

  • National Institute of Health sponsored study- Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT)

Have You Ever Had a Heart Attack?

Are you age 50 or older?

If you answered, “yes” to both of these questions, you may be eligible to take part in a national study of an investigational treatment – chelation therapy and vitamin therapy – for people with heart disease.

What is chelation therapy?

Chelation therapy is an investigational therapy using an amino acid (EDTA)*. It is added to the blood through a vein. Some people believe that chelation therapy may help treat heart disease. However, this has not been scientifically proven. This study will seek to find out whether chelation therapy is safe, and effective in treating heart disease.

What will the study involve?

As a study participant, you will be assigned to receive chelation therapy or its placebo (inactive treatment). In addition, you will take either high-dose vitamin and mineral supplements or identical placebo pills. All participants will receive low-dose vitamin and mineral supplements. It is important that you continue to take your standard heart disease medications.

What are the costs?

Study-related treatments will be provided at no cost. Other medical costs remain your responsibility. For more information call Barbara Feinberg at 617 661 6225 (x 302) or ask your Marino Center Physician for more information.

*Calling EDTA an “amino acid” may be technically true but is entirely misleading. EDTA is quite different from any of the amino acids in our proteins. Nevertheless, the designation ‘amino acid’ is how quacks rationalize chelation as “natural.”

Here’s an item in the Code of Federal Regulations:

Sec. 312.7 Promotion of investigational drugs.

(a) Promotion of an investigational new drug. A sponsor or investigator, or any person acting on behalf of a sponsor or investigator, shall not represent in a promotional context that an investigational new drug is safe or effective for the purposes for which it is under investigation or otherwise promote the drug. This provision is not intended to restrict the full exchange of scientific information concerning the drug, including dissemination of scientific findings in scientific or lay media. Rather, its intent is to restrict promotional claims of safety or effectiveness of the drug for a use for which it is under investigation and to preclude commercialization of the drug before it is approved for commercial distribution.

(b) Commercial distribution of an investigational new drug. A sponsor or investigator shall not commercially distribute or test market an investigational new drug.

Please understand that those regulations are not matters of picking nits. Violating them necessarily introduces intolerable bias into a study, both by influencing the views of subjects and by diverting potential subjects away from the study to receive the experimental treatment in preference to the placebo. The Marino Center is hardly alone in having violated these regulations—almost all of the approximately 100 TACT “community chelation sites” have done the same thing, and so far neither the OHRP nor the FDA appears to have responded—but that does not excuse the practice. Along with countless other problems, however, it will likely render the trial uninterpretable.

And More

There has been other misleading information on the Marino website over the years—chiropractic mythology, shilling for ‘vitamins and supplements,’ ‘environmental medicine,’ and more. Very recently the website has been changed to a new look, and some of the previous material is absent. I don’t know whether this is because it has yet to be reinstated, or whether the Marino Center has decided to be more subtle in the public domain. Time will tell.

In summary, the Marino Center for Integrative Health, a center worthy of having been included in the recent Bravewell Report on “Integrative Medicine in America,” upon whose Board sits the Director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic, has repeatedly decided that when it comes to informed consent and “CAM,” the truth is irrelevant.

 

Posted in: Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Medical Ethics, Science and Medicine, Science and the Media

Leave a Comment (26) ↓

26 thoughts on “The Marino Center for Integrative Health: Hooey Galore

  1. windriven says:

    The mortal threat to science based medicine is embodied in this phrase:

    upon whose Board sits the Director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic… ”

    The subject of this phrase is one Brent Bauer, MD, who “is board certified in internal medicine. He is a consultant in the Department of Internal Medicine and director of the Department of Internal Medicine’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dr. Bauer, a native of Madison, Wis., is also a professor of medicine at Mayo Medical School and a graduate of Mayo Medical School.”*

    So long as the medical establishment embraces quackery you can damned well believe that medical consumers will flock to quackery. And so long as medical consumers flock to quackery there will be unethical and/or ignorant physicians and administrators who will happily dispense quackery.

    Until you break this Ouroboron cycle, quackery will flourish.**

    How does a young person gain admission to medical school without a clear understanding of the scientific method? The admissions board doesn’t find it important. The MCAT doesn’t test for it. And universities across the land will gleefully bestow baccalaureate degrees in the sciences on ahem graduates who might be able to describe the scientific process but have never internalized why it is important.

    * From the good doctor’s bio on the Mayo website
    ** Excuse the neologism; I wanted to invoke the imagery of Ouroboros – the snake choking on its own tail – but I couldn’t find a legitimate adjectival form.

  2. nybgrus says:

    Cowpox bacillus

    And here I was learning that cow- and small-pox are viruses, members of the poxvirus family. I will be writing a formal letter of complaint to the head of curriculum at my school of medicine to complain about how poorly they are teaching us!

  3. Kerry Maxwell says:

    The Marino Center’s glorious founder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lelio_Marino . Nothing suspicious there.

  4. cervantes says:

    I actually knew a physician who worked there, a psychiatrist who did his residency at Brigham and Women’s no less. He knew Les (his nickname) Marino well, since at that time Les did all the hiring and was a hands-on manager at the clinic. (In the meantime his construction business was going broke.) Marino ultimately fired my friend in order to hire a new shrink who had some woo for erectile dysfunction, which he thought could be a big seller. (This was pre-Viagra.)

    My friend ultimately concluded that Les was basically insane. But the clinic survived his death and the bankruptcy of his main business because, obviously, there’s a sucker born every minute. Why there are so many suckers for this garbage is the mystery I keep coming back to.

  5. windriven says:

    @cervantes

    “Why there are so many suckers for this garbage is the mystery I keep coming back to.”

    My pet theory is that being a rube is easy while being a rational agent requires discipline, education and a willingness to think things through.

    One can look at, for instance, a Mark Rothko painting and say: “what sh|t, I can paint better than that.” Or one can study the evolution that took Rothko from learning still life thru several truly interesting styles until he arrived at a pure exploration of color and light. The first is easy, the second not so much.

  6. chaos4zap says:

    @ windriven, I’m not sure if that is the best example. I admit my bias, because I often look at what is called modern art and am less than impressed. It’s a painting….of 4 squares, each a different color. No brilliant brush-stroke…no spectacular texture, just 4 different colored squares. You are more than free to look at that painting and say “That’s brilliant! How he explores the very essence of color. It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity!” if you want to…….but at the end of the day it’s really just 4 different colored squares. I’m fine with that and art appreciation should be relative to the individual taking it in….but that is certainly not what we are talking about here. It bothers me when people take the ever-so-simple stance that people should research on their own and if they get duped…then it’s their fault. For the most part, I agree with that view-point….but it is nowhere near that simple. Given the fact that people don’t do research, they don’t put effort into separating fact from fiction…..do we just say that it’s their fault? That people can make millions being misleading and intentionally deceptive just because the vast majority of the general population SHOULD be checking things out before they buy and make decisions based on their health? I guess my point is that just because I look at a painting and think….that’s simplistic and boring, does not mean that any amount of education or reading should..or would convince me otherwise. I say it’s a poor example because art appreciation is inherently subjective and evidence is the polar opposite. Good evidence stands on its own…no matter what bias you would like to use to try and distort it one way or the other. I think you would actually find that allot of believer sin non-sense do believe that they are putting effort into it, and they may be. The problem is that their bias, ideology, or general lack of understanding how to separate good research from poor research prevents them from making what we would consider and educated decision. It’s not the effort that is lacking, it’s the ability to make the effort they do put into something more effective at separating fact from fiction. I sometimes wonder what a simple act (such as making Demon Haunted World mandatory for all high school students) would do to change things. I understand that’s not a realistic goal by any means…but a guy can dream.

  7. Quill says:

    Hooey Galore is right! Wow. So they say homeopathy can help with “unresolved grief”? That made me laugh out loud. I wonder how they go about figuring out the dosage for that.

    I was also not surprised to see yet another CAM group with an anal fixation. Cleansing! So Victorian in ideology, so thorough in its flushing yet apparently unable to eliminate all that impacted hubris.

    I could go on with other silly examples, but overall, it’s sad in a way that drains a person of hope. I am sorry that these Hooey Galoreans have sidled up to your hospital, hoping for their name on the door or even perhaps their own wing. If their stuff is so “superior” why don’t they just build their own hospital? Why try to cozy up to a “conventional” medical establishment? Sounds like enhancing one’s products by association marketing.

  8. windriven says:

    @chaos4zap

    “I’m not sure if that is the best example.”

    I heartily agree. I should have chosen an example from a scientific or technical discipline, keeping apples with apples as it were.

    “It bothers me when people take the ever-so-simple stance that people should research on their own and if they get duped…”

    “Given the fact that people don’t do research, they don’t put effort into separating fact from fiction”

    Huh? I have no idea where you’re going with this. Is your argument that people are lazy and stupid, therefore those who know better should render their decisions for them? There are two very significant problems there: who gets to decide who knows best and gets to render the decisions, and; what incentive is there for people to stop being lazy and stupid?

    “[M]y point is that just because I look at a painting and think….that’s simplistic and boring, does not mean that any amount of education or reading should..or would convince me otherwise.”

    No, it does not. But an opinion informed by education and experience is one that might matter to someone other than its utterer. Judgments rendered in the darkness of ignorance aren’t even really judgments at all, are they?

    “Good evidence stands on its own…no matter what bias you would like to use to try and distort it one way or the other. I think you would actually find that allot of believers in non-sense do believe that they are putting effort into it, and they may be.”

    I’ve read this several times and still doubt that I understand your meaning. You conflate evidence and belief. Evidence stands on its own, it does not require belief. Belief, on the other hand, needs no evidence. You say that evidence stands on its own, then wander off into believers in nonsense really believing in nonsense and working hard at it. I’m sorry, I have no idea what that means.

    But you do understand that you have made my point for me, don’t you?

    “My pet theory is that being a rube is easy while being a rational agent requires discipline, education and a willingness to think things through.” Your argument is that judgments rendered in the absence of discipline, education and cognition are as valid as those rendered in its presence.

  9. windriven says:

    @Kerry Maxwell

    Your link is to a three sentence thumbnail biography on Wikipedia that identifies Marino as an Italian immigrant who with a partner built a billion dollar corporate empire.

    What is the allegation implicit in, “Nothing suspicious there.” ?

  10. Janet Camp says:

    I think Windriven’s example is fine and is being misunderstood just because he used art instead of science. The point is that people need to look below the surface–which is admittedly difficult to do when the NIH posts junk from its politically mandated office of alternative investigation and the famed Mayo Clinic has gotten into bed with someone like Bauer. This kind of “partnership” or “integration” is the current danger (and what Novella, et al, are trying to address here).

    What’s a fence-sitter likely to do when (s)he goes to the Mayo Clinic website, looks up something like “rheumatoid arthritis” (as I did ehrn my adult son was diagnosed with it) and finds at the end of an otherwise concise entry: Alternative Treatments?

    The alternatives in question included acupuncture, and CUPPING among others. I believe these “treatments” were being touted by Bauer–there was a picture and a lot of talk about “ancient practices”, but I don’t remember the name as this was a while back. I was shocked and will no longer consider the Mayo Clinic a serious institution. Having said that, just where CAN an average person get untainted information? Personally, I usually rely on Quackwatch, but you can’t look up an individual disease there in most cases–just the treatments.

    I have tried referring my woo-inclined friends to SBM, but so far I’ve had no feedback. They do not comment on the links I forward, unless it’s something about arrogance or the ubiquitous, “I’m not good at science, but I’m entitled to ‘health freedom’ anyway”.

  11. windriven says:

    @Janet Camp

    “I’m not good at science, but I’m entitled to ‘health freedom’ anyway”, brought a smile to my face.

    Hmmm, I’m not good at accounting but I’m entitled to tax freedom anyway.

    Ignorantia juris neminem excusat. Ignorance of the law excuses no one.

    I guess ignorance of medical science ultimately excuses no one either.

  12. Barry2 says:

    @windriven

    Re: Kerry Maxwell’s link to Wikipedia article on Marino. Follow the link to his company, Modern Continental. Modern Continental is notorious here in the Boston area due to its link to problems with the Big Dig, including a fatal accidental where a ceiling panel crushed a car.

  13. kathy says:

    Windriven wrote: “Judgments rendered in the darkness of ignorance aren’t even really judgments at all, are they?”

    Well, actually they are judgments. We’re all ignorant to some degree. That applies even in those areas where we are rightly regarded as expert. No one knows every fact about any subject or discipline, or even every relevant fact. To be a real scientist requires a lot of humility.

    Still we have to make a judgement call anyway in a lot of things (in most things, imho). We have to go ahead and choose how to act even when we don’t know all that we need to know, e.g. on what to do about that cough that won’t go away, or what shares to invest in, or what car to buy.

    Of course we recognise that we could be wrong … so people turn to those they think are experts. Don’t be too hard on people who believe woo … some put in a lot of effort, but how can they distinguish real experts from the fakes? Especially when prestigious institutions hire them and mainline journals publish them. If these can’t separate the sheep from the wolves in sheepskin coats, how can an untrained, unsuspicious person?

  14. pmoran says:

    Yet it can be argued that CAM use is only minimally a matter of public ignorance, or irrationality, or misunderstanding of science.

    At least equally important factors are the existence of unmet medical needs, the pull of the personal testimonial, historically high expectations of medicine, some clever, but often well-meant, marketing, and an entirely rational willingness to experiment when medical needs and wants are not being adequately met otherwise.

    It may well be another figment of the skeptical imagination to think that a reluctant public will ever be induced to put up with certain medical conditions and outcomes rather than try the other methods that are on offer within the present historical environment.

    The amazing thing is that most people do, but that is because they have decided to put their whole trust in scientific medicine and its agents (why? — that is what we need to understand), not because they have gone through any in depth evidence-sifting process. The latter would require rare scientific sophistication and knowledge.

    It seems that people mainly switch from prior allegiances, or openness, after bad experiences.

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    Social Media Coordinator for DME Supply Group

  16. CMCo says:

    “Vaccinations are developed according to a similar concept. For example, a vaccination containing a small amount of the Cowpox bacillus [sic] causes the body to develop antibodies and immunity to the similar, serious disease, Smallpox. Homeopathy expands on this idea in two ways…”

    Hey, I lurk here all the time and don’t usually comment, but this caught my eye. Perhaps it’s my own scientific, evidence-based bias, but I was under the impression that anti-vaxers and CAM proponents all lived in the same big tent as haters of Big Mean Industrialized Medicine. And yet, this little nugget (buried in a mountain of CAM blathering) seems to make an awfully good case for why doctors might want to vaccinate people.

    Just thought I’d point that out. I’ll go back to lurking now, thx.

  17. @CMCo,

    You are correct that many ‘CAM’ proponents are anti-vax, and this is especially (if not unanimously) true of homeopaths. Nevertheless, it is also common for homeopaths to make the fallacious argument that vaccinations support the homeopathic claim of ‘potentization.’ Apparently they believe that this is good ad copy. For more discussion on SBM look here and here.

    KA

  18. windriven says:

    @pmoran

    With all due respect:

    “the pull of the personal testimonial, [unrealistic] expectations of medicine, some clever, but often well-meant, marketing, and an [arguably] rational willingness to experiment when medical needs and wants are not being adequately met otherwise

    does in in fact equal

    “public ignorance, or irrationality, or misunderstanding of science.”

  19. windriven says:

    @kathy

    “We’re all ignorant to some degree. ”

    There is a stark difference between a decision informed with incomplete data and one rendered from wishful thinking.

    “Don’t be too hard on people who believe woo … some put in a lot of effort,”

    If one’s object is to achieve flight and one’s effort is to dig a ditch, the effort doesn’t mean much.

    “[H]ow can they distinguish real experts from the fakes? Especially when prestigious institutions hire them and mainline journals publish them.”

    Here we are in absolute agreement. Hiring quacks in the name of academic freedom is a total abrogation of intellectual responsibility. It should be be with nothing short of loud public ridicule, the perpetrators shunned by their colleagues. These are naked emporers and the unwillingness of scientists and intellectuals to ridicule their nakedness is a most loathsome cowardice.

  20. tmac57 says:

    I think that ‘Hooey Galore’ should be the name of the next Bond vixen…either that, or the next big flavor of Ben and Jerry’s.

  21. pmoran says:

    Windriven: With all due respect:
    “the pull of the personal testimonial, [unrealistic] expectations of medicine, some clever, but often well-meant, marketing, and an [arguably] rational willingness to experiment when medical needs and wants are not being adequately met otherwise
    does in in fact equal
    “public ignorance, or irrationality, or misunderstanding of science.”

    You are kind of right, but not wholly so, since such states are relative and context-dependent.

    We are concerned here with the level of scientific sophistication and technical knowledge that might effectively insulate minds against rogue medical influences, even when there is significant medical need and much urging from concerned, well-meaning friends and relatives. That requires a beyond-classroom level of assent to prevailing scientific theories and/or rare confidence in the reasoning powers of one’s own mind.

    And is this even how such decision-making usually works?

    I am suggesting that for most of those possessing such strength of mind, it does not stem from any in-depth weighing of the scientific evidence (although that should help sustain and reinforce it). To my mind there is usually a prior disposition towards trust or mistrust in mainstream doctors, perhaps stemming from general attitudes towards authority figures, or inherited parental attitudes towards the medical profession, or, as I have already suggested, unfortunate experiences in some hands. (I am no psychologist, but I recognize that my own allegiance to mainstream science initially derived from my mother’s child-like respect for doctors.)

    If the above is true, then our aim is as much to sustain and regain lost trust as to educate anyone, and neither end will be much helped by the attitude that the failure to accept our authority is due to “ignorance, irrationality, or misunderstanding of science”, even if that is partly true. In the normal course of events it is OUR job, not the public’s, to possess that expertise, and it is hopelessly unrealistic to expect it within the public in general.

  22. windriven says:

    @pmoran

    We agree far more than we disagree. Here you have touched the issue right on the soft spot:

    “[I]t is OUR job, not the public’s, to possess that expertise, and it is hopelessly unrealistic to expect it within the public in general.”

    If this is OUR job then it is also OUR job to expose the scamsters and the fools who incorporate tincture of horsesh|t and ground horsesh|t root into the practice of medicine. This isn’t an issue of academic freedom. This isn’t an issue of differences of opinion over medical care. This is criminal negligence at best and manslaughter at worst.

    It is necessary but not sufficient to write about these things on sites like SBM. If it is OUR job then it is also OUR job at cocktail parties and professional meetings and staff meetings to publicly confront these creeps and taunt and ridicule them in front of their peers. Woo flowers in the sunshine of our complacency and woomeisters flourish in the shadows of our decency.

  23. lilady says:

    @ Janet Camp:

    “What’s a fence-sitter likely to do when (s)he goes to the Mayo Clinic website, looks up something like “rheumatoid arthritis” (as I did when my adult son was diagnosed with it) and finds at the end of an otherwise concise entry: Alternative Treatments?”

    I’ve always found that the Cleveland Clinic website is an excellent resource for patient information about diseases and disorders, treatments and medicines…even though they have a separate “Integrative Medicine” division (sigh):

    http://my.clevelandclinic.org/default.aspx

  24. tmac57 says:

    windriven-”Woo flowers in the sunshine of our complacency and woomeisters flourish in the shadows of our decency.”
    That was poetically brilliant!

  25. kathy says:

    Windriven wrote: “If one’s object is to achieve flight and one’s effort is to dig a ditch, the effort doesn’t mean much”.

    I was sympathising with the efforts of the mislead, even if they are futile. That the effort may be futile I don’t dispute.

    What I was challenging was a statement from an earlier post of yours, “My pet theory is that being a rube is easy while being a rational agent requires discipline, education and a willingness to think things through.” I don’t agree that people are always mislead because they are too lazy to think … that’s one possible explanation, but I’m suspicious of either/or statements, aka false dichotomies. There are several possible reasons.

    One quite reasonable reason, one source of information anyone might use when looking into a subject that they know they don’t understand, is going to a (presumed) expert in the subject. If academia and the top journals accept some woomeister as an expert in e.g. autism, are the public then stupid for being impressed?

    (Btw, I don’t at all dispute that people may be persistent, stubborn and even seriously nasty in their efforts to persuade themselves and everyone around them, that they haven’t been misled. But that is another kettle of codfish).

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