Saturday, August 15, 2009

Irritating "traditional doctors" - Botswana Guardian

Yes, they're irritating but I've also been irritating them.

I responded to a number of advertisements from some of these so-called traditional doctors and have a mixture of responses. I SMSed them all saying "Your advertisement in this week's newspaper contravenes both the Penal Code and Consumer Protection Regulations."

A "Dr" Rasul very quickly phoned me and angrily demanded to know where I was. His considered opinion was that I am "a stupid person". He of course was the one who advertised that he was:
"The traditional doctor who will never disappoint you. Keeping unfinished jobs, do you want your loved ones back, looking for quick revenge, short boys for quick response, manhood, financial crisis, court cases, protection of properties eg, cattle posts and many more."
If Rasul is truly claiming that he can help me get revenge against someone then he's a criminal. If he claims he can influence the results of court cases then he's a criminal. Who exactly is the stupid one?

Later a "Dr" Gopole SMSed me. It went like this:
Gopole: Who r u?
Me: I'm from Consumer Watchdog.
Gopole: Cn u jst cm straight 2 a point wht do u want 2 say
Me: Are you really a doctor? Do you have a PhD or an MD? You use the title "Dr" in your advertisement.
Gopole: Yes both English Dr and Tra doctor i finsh my univesty 15 yrs ago mayb b4 u r stl a std grade in lagos i went 2 canada thn if u want tak me anywhr u want and i show u my degree s i knw wht u u dont knw i went morethan 40 countries bt africa and oversea do u knw who u playn with?
Gopole (again): Do u realy went 2 xool take ur dictionary and chk English Dr and Traditional Dr de meaning thn u continue askn me questions ur most welcm askng any question
Me: Is "do u knw who u playn with" a threat? Which university awarded you your doctorate?
Gopole: [nothing more from him]
I also had a call from a "Dr" Misisi who advertised the questionable services of a "Mama Yamaka". Her advertisement went like this:
"Mama Yamaka - A woman psychic. 40 years experience readings into: love, life, weight loss, relationships, drug and alcohol addictions, unfinished financial and business matters e.t.c. Quick and effective, lucky charms available."
Yet another set of illegal claims. The entire advertisement contravenes the Penal Code, the Consumer Protection Regulations, no doubt the Health Professionals Act and the Witchcraft Act as well.

In fact the entire profession shows contempt for the people of Botswana and our laws.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Simon Singh - Chiropractic

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

You can see further discussion at Pharyngula, at Respectful Insolence or at Bad Science.

Beware the spinal trap

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all but research suggests chiropractic therapy can be lethal

Simon Singh
The Guardian, Original version published Saturday April 19 2008
Edited version published July 29, 2009

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that "99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae". In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer's first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying - even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: "Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck."

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.