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More on the Bravewell issue

Being on the West Coast places me (and Harriet?) at disadvantage in responding to recent developments, as I find out about them later in the day, if that day. (Retirement doesn’t help.)

First I had some comments on the WSJ article on “CAM,” the NCCAM by Steve Salerno and the response by the pseudoscince leadership. The 4-author response revealed political tactics used by quacks and sectarian medicine advocates to answer with straw man points and especially to ignore what they cannot answer.

In their response to Salerno’s article they accused him of being unqualified to object to “CAM” because he was only a reporter. Fact was that most of his points were from my writings, which Slerno frankly acknowledged. The several rebutting authors never mentioned my name. Of course not. (That it was lost in the SBM analyses is understandable.)

And that is the frank dishonesty we are dealing with when we face off with these characters, who now have the ears and eyes of the Institute of Medicine, academic deans and professors, and government. They are smiling as they read this.

There is no mystery as to why the Institute of Medicine is allying with Bravewell for the February “Summit.” Bravewell paid – for the conference plus. The 2006 IOM/NCCAM conference on “CAM” in the population cost NCCAM over $1 million, although such a conference would usually cost $200K- $400K. I know because the latter fugures were quoted to me as a starter for the “CAM” sectarian medicine conference I proposed to IOM.

IOM is a private organization as we have pointed out before, with its sustenance from government and private grants, for doing these kinds of investigations and reports. We are finding that some (many?) of its projects have politically inspired agendas. I suspect the reports on iatrogenic deaths, hospital infections, etc. had such geneses. Bravewell is paying the way to “Integrative”/ sectarian acceptance.

Below is a partial reproduction of a letter I sent to Harvey Fineberg of the Institute of Medicine of the NA.

January 19, 2009

Harvey Fineberg, MD, PhD.

President, Institute of Medicine

National Academies

500 Fifth Street

Washington DC 10005

Dear Dr. Fineberg,

I write to express opinion on the recent alliance with the Bravewell Collaborative and the scheduled February, 2009 conference on Integrative Medicine.”

I express concerns in two general categories; the problem of the “Integrative”/ “Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (CAM”) movement, and the Bravewell organization itself.

After thirty years or more of claims and investigations, we now know that depending on definitions, there are few to no claims of sectarian systems and implausible claims that have been found effective or worthy of inclusion in a modern medical system. A loosely-associated international group of skeptical medical scientists have been investigating and reporting on sectarian and implausible claims for decades, and our literature is available through systematic searches and on-line references. We now have the most plausible explanation for apparent sectarian successes – poorly conceived, biased studies and irrational, group-enhanced, belief systems. The former are error-generated and correctible, but the latter are resistant to resolution and correction. Both are soiled by concomitant misrepresentations. I can supply more detailed analyses and commentary at your convenience. Suffice to say that tolerance of this irrationality has reached the highest levels of medical academia as well as of government. I am sure you are aware of this.

A corollary issue is the way in which advocates of this system have altered the language of description, have relegated rational criticism to off-bounds or have ignored commentary, and have altered a segment of public opinion through advertising and common propaganda. Sectarian advocates are trying to systematically alter the rules of bio-medical science, research and practice.

The Bravewell Collaborative, a relatively recent actor supporting these techniques has been literally buying its way into medical schools – faculties and curricula. It sponsors almost forty medical school programs of classes, courses, research, and post-graduate training – training students and physicians in irrational thinking and integrating belief systems. From your reactions on the Bravewell video introducing the conference, I am relatively certain you are aware of most of this. I hope you are aware also that dozens of other, smaller though wealthy foundations also sponsor programs in unscientific medical and nursing education. Samueli (homeopathy, UC Irvine,) Osher (Harvard, UCSF, many undergraduate university education programs such as Santa Clara,) Fetzer (several extra-university conferences,) Templeton (religion/science unification studies,) all offer millions of dollars in education, supplementing the $110-120 million/year congressional output through the NCCAM and an equal amount through the Ntional Cancer Institute.

However, I am not sure that you and the IOM academic staff have the degree of concern the situation demands. The fact is that Bravewell and the others are corrupting the medical educational process with an ideological approach to medicine never before seen – at least since the Enlightenment. The editorial comment in Nature, December, 2000 by Prof. Robert Brown of U. Toronto decried the “Corruption of the Academic Commons” by Templeton, among others. Yet no reaction has occurred.

In the Bravewell video, your disagreement on goals was detectable despite the attempts of the advocates – Ms. Mack and Dr. Snyderman – to cloud their intentions. The intent of Bravewell, and of the NCCAM, which sponsored the previous IOM project, is to use establishment organizations of medicine ands science to further their medical ideologies and to transform the American medical system away from a basis in science and rationality. The reasons are multiple, but include economic ones.

Several years ago Stephen Barrett MD and I separately analyzed both the membership and the Executive Summary of the IOM project on “CAM.” They are published on Quackwatch.com and in The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (Center for Inquiry and SRAM.org) More recent analyses of the errors and misrepresentations of Bravewell supporters and recipients can be found at the sciencebasedmedicine.com blog along with multiple negative opinions of the upcoming Summit.

I write now hoping that IOM will be able to present in any report a more balanced view of the present situation by adding a separate analysis of material presented at the February meeting, or by having advisors on pseudoscience contribute in a significant way. If Bravewell were truly objective and devoid of ideological commitment, it should be able to accept such an arrangement. I hope IOM can seriously consider some sort of resolution, and I would much appreciate a reply.

Sincerely

Wallace Sampson MD

Clinical Professor of Medicine (Em,) Stanford University

Posted in: Basic Science, Health Fraud, Medical Academia, Politics and Regulation, Science and Medicine

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