“Sense and nonsense” about alternative medicine in USA Today

Sometimes, between blogging, a demanding day (and night) job doing surgery and science, and everything else, I embarrass myself. Sure, sometimes I embarrass myself by saying something that, in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t. More often, I embarrass myself by letting things slide that I shouldn’t. For instance, when friends send me a prepublication copy of their books, I should damned well read them, don’t you think? So it was that Paul Offit sent me a copy of his latest book, which just hit the bookstores and online outlets this week, Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, and I haven’t finished it. Oh, I’ve read a good chunk of it, but it’s not a huge book (around 335 pages); so I should have finished it by now, particularly since it’s quite good. My failure to properly read and plug the book aside, I’m glad to see that the book’s getting attention in a large media outlet, namely USA Today, in an article by Liz Szabo Book raises alarms about alternative medicine. There’s also a companion piece How to guard against a quack. I figure that the least I can do is to plug Dr. Offit’s book and the USA Today story in which he is featured, just as Harriet plugged his recent speaking appearance.

It’s also nice that Steve Novella and I were both interviewed. Now, excuse me while I get back to doing what I really should have had finished a month or two ago: Reading Dr. Offit’s excellent book.

Posted in: Book & movie reviews, Cancer, Health Fraud, Herbs & Supplements

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23 thoughts on ““Sense and nonsense” about alternative medicine in USA Today

  1. lilady says:

    I have Dr. Offit’s book “on reserve” at my local library. My husband and I had the pleasure of attending Dr. Offit’s seminar at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on June 8th and speaking with him. Toward the end of the Q & A period I *chided* him for mentioning antineoplastons during his opening remarks and then not discussing the Burzynski Clinic during his presentation.

    *I also complimented him and the staff of Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia for the extraordinary care they provide for their young patients…and for his individual efforts to educate parents about childhood vaccines.

  2. theLaplaceDemon says:

    Bit of false balance in the first article (They quoted Chopera? Really?) though not as bad as non-science publications usually are.

    I liked the second one a lot.

  3. David Gorski says:

    Well, yeah. I wish Szabo hadn’t concluded with that quote by Barrie Cassileth, too.

  4. Carl says:

    They sure did throw some bum-ugly stuff into that article. Josephine Briggs did a fine job seizing the opportunity to pull the old bait-and-switch. Physical activity helps people with movement disorders? That must mean homeopathy isn’t stupid!

  5. Erica says:

    I just became a Registered Nurse this past Monday, so in my quest to become more informed about “alternative medicine” and the issues surrounding it, I came across Dr. Offit’s work. In the past three days I discovered and read Dr. Offit’s books “Do You Believe in Magic?” and “Deadly Choices -How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All”. Absolutely fascinating! Dr. Offit’s new book lead me to research you and buy “Science Based Medicine: Guide to Critical Thinking” for Kindle, which I am reading right now. Just wanted to say thanks for your tireless fight for truth.

    1. lilady says:

      Congratulations Erica and welcome to the Registered Nurse profession.

      Dr. Gorski has a close personal *friend* who blogs under a ‘nym at the Respectful Insolence website and the “Respectful Insolence Regulars” would welcome your input.

      -fondly lilady, R.N.

  6. There are millions who would testify in the affirmative when asked if they were helped by homeopathy. I am an example of someone who turned to homeopathy when conventional medicine failed. I am a certified medical transcriptionist and was its champion until I personally was affected.

    Homeopathy saved my life. I have had only positive experiences being treated homeopathically and using it myself. For example:

    Homeopathic Sulphur cured two cases of conventionally treated mange in a dog of my husband’s aunt and the dog of one of my friends.

    Two family members with broken bones were facing surgery to repair. Homeopathic
    Symphytum cured the breaks without surgery. Before and after x-rays and ultrasound.
    documented the healing.

    Apis mellifica prevented the swelling and allergic reaction to several wasp stings on my legs.

    Silicea opened and helped drain a benign lipoma the size of a golf ball from our family dog’s right shoulder. No veterinary intervention required.

    Rhus tox helped my husband avoid back surgery for two herniated discs at the L4-L5 level (also documented by x-ray and ultrasound.) He had been walking with a cane for six months.

    Living in Florida where fleas on pets is a huge problem, I have used homeopathic Ruta graveolens in all my dogs’ water dishes for the past four years. Before I discovered homeopathy, I had paid hundreds of dollars for flea shots, dips and whatever else I could get my hands on. None worked. I am so pleased to be able to use something this inexpensive and non-toxic on my pets.

    1. weing says:

      Thank you for your contribution. You’ve shown that medical transcriptionists obviously don’t have to know medicine or science.

      1. lilady says:

        Wow, just wow, she’s giving “certified medical transciptionists” a bad name.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      There were millions who claimed they were helped by bloodletting, by prayer to Thoth, the crocodile-headed god of medicine in Egypt, by violent laxatives and emetics. Will you try them too?

      How do you know your problems were cured by homeopathy, and not regression to the mean, or simply the natural course of healing?

      Do you think bones do not heal without surgery? Do all wasp stings result in swelling? Are you allergic to all species of wasps?

      1. weing says:

        Thoth was an ibis-headed and sometimes baboon headed. Sobek was the crocodile-headed god.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          It would be terrible of someone prayed to the wrong Egyptian deity to cure their disease, wouldn’t it :)

    3. You know there’s only one disc at “the L4-L5 level,” right?

  7. @weing, The personal attack is all you have?
    @lillady, The comment and link you provided clearly show you are not familiar with homeopathy and homeopathic (underlined and bolded) Symphytum. There is a HUGE difference. Unfortunately, you made yourself appear foolish. I do not plan to return to view your comment(s) or post anything further. .

  8. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    How do you think homeopathy works, the specific mechanism? Do you think it’s due to “energy”? Do you believe it is working chemically or through some other means? Do you know how they determine what homeopathic preparations should be used to treat what symptoms?

    If you believe it’s purely “magic”, then I won’t bother explaining the mechanism. If you think there is some sort of chemical process, then I’ll explain why that can’t be the case.

  9. weing says:

    “The personal attack is all you have?”
    I am sorry if you feel attacked. I didn’t realize you were setting yourself up as a medical expert. I was just stating the obvious. Working as a medical transcriptionist does not impart medical or scientific knowledge.

  10. lilady says:

    “@lillady, The comment and link you provided clearly show you are not familiar with homeopathy and homeopathic (underlined and bolded) Symphytum. There is a HUGE difference.”

    How about educating me on “homeopathic (underlined and bolded) Symphytum”, Sandra Courtney?

    Be specific now.

    Tell us how homepathic Symphytum is different than whole strength, half-strength Symphytum.

    (hint) Shouldn’t Symphytum ingested or applied as a salve, been tested to show it aids in fracture repair…and therefore “homeopathic strength” products would be even more effective?

    Stick to your day job…because you know diddly about orthopedics…or any other medical specialty.

  11. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Lilady, both you and Ms. Courtney should become more familiar with homeopathy by reading Jay Shelton’s Homeopathy: How it Really Works. I’m sure Ms. Courtney would find it quite the education. You might find it a little less surprising. Good book.

    1. lilady says:

      I was hoping that the “medical transcriptionist” would link to her own blog. WLU. :-)

  12. Egstra says:


    Wicca Lesbians United?
    Wilfrid Laurier University?

    1. Egstra says:

      Sorry – WilliamLawrenceUtridge

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