Friday, February 01, 2008

A cure for everything? - Botswana Guardian

It really is getting worse. In the past I’ve been irritated by the nonsense from various organisations trying to sell their useless rubbish. To begin with it was the Scientologists selling their ludicrous “we can fix everything” courses while hiding their deranged belief that our minds are inhabited by the souls of multi-million year old aliens. Then it was the alternative health movements who advocate fiddling with your feet, your bottom or your gullibility, homeopaths who think water has a memory of an ingredient that is no longer there, pseudo-oriental doctors who think sticking needles into part of you will rebalance your chi and then the silliest product in the history of unscientific rubbish: the detox foot pads.

This is all, of course, utterly unscientific, utterly without evidence and utterly useless. It’s all based on lies, naiveté or ignorance.

However despite this being completely silly I have always been able to see the funny side. Until recently every bit of pseudoscientific hogwash that I’ve come across has at least been amusing.

Until last weekend.

There I was strolling with my family around Riverwalk Shopping Centre when we passed by a pharmacy. An advertisement in the window offered “Rise-up and walk – the broad spectrum herbal medicine”. OK, I thought, here we go again, some herbal concoction made from leaves that hints, in vague terms, that it can help your immune system or can boost your health. Not so. This one was different. I won’t describe their claims, I’ll quote them directly:

“Effective Solution to Athritis, Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Cancer, Typhoid, HIV/Aids, Gynaecological Disorders, Viral, Fungal & Bacterial Diseases among others”.

Where to begin?

Well, perhaps by nominating the producers of this remarkable medicine for a Nobel Prize for Medicine. If this rubbish can, in fact, cure everything from typhoid to HIV/AIDS then the producers deserve a prize. At one stroke they have cured the world of AIDS, bacterial diseases like TB and typhoid and removed the threat posed by cancer.

Alternatively we can have the peddlers of this criminal rubbish reported to the Consumer Protection Unit for breaking the law. Our very own Consumer Protection Regulations state that suppliers have breached the terms of the Regulations if they quote “scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated”. They are also in trouble if they promise “outcomes where those outcomes have no safe scientific, medical or performance basis”.

Let’s be clear about a few things. There are no products that can cure cancer that can also cure typhoid, HIV/AIDS and diabetes. Anyone who tells you differently is either a fraud or a fool.

I genuinely wish there was such a cure, I really do. If it existed my wife wouldn’t have lost her sister, my father wouldn’t have lost three years of his teenage life to TB and millions of other people would be alive today.

But it’s simply not true. It’s a deliberate lie. It’s an attempt to cash in on our desperation and that’s what makes it so repellant. Sooner or later someone is going to spend money on this worthless rubbish and will stop taking their real medicine. Then they’ll die.

I beg you all not to buy products from suppliers who sell false hopes to the desperate. We really must all stand up against this sort of deception. Lives are at stake.

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