“What Doctors Don’t Tell You” – Dangerous advice

Reblogged from Swift at the James Randi Educational Foundation

If you want an alternative to reputable health magazines, look no further than What Doctors Dont Tell You (WDDTY) – the winner, once again, thanks to assiduous astroturfing, of a “people’s choice” award for most popular website in the Health category.

This paean to quackery is published in the UK by US expatriate Lynne McTaggart and her husband Bryan Hubbard. Its editorial panel is a rogues’ gallery of “alternative” practitioners, several of whom are no longer licensed to practice medicine. It’s now being published in the US. Originally by subscription only, WDDTY’s editors promised to offer a well-researched independent critique of medical practice and never to take advertising, in order to stay pure. 

The former went by the wayside at roughly Issue 1, whose opening headline was “A Shot In The Dark: The measles vaccine in all its forms doesn’t really work.” The latter was jettisoned when the magazine relaunched in a glossy “lifestyle” format in September 2012 to sell directly through mainstream outlets such as newsagents and supermarkets.

It was this relaunch which brought WDDTY to wider skeptical notice.

Cover stories promoted vitamin C as a cure for AIDS and cancer, homeopathy as a cure for cancer and a range of other claims that will be familiar to students of Natural News and Mercola.com. Data mining through older issues also turns up some gems: Peter Duesberg’s HIV denialism, for example, and the claim that sunscreens cause cancer, which, combined with WDDTY’s advocacy of sunbathing (allegedly suppressed, I kid you not, by the sunscreen industry) actively endangers readers. The format changed but editorial policy did not. Research papers have always been systematically quote-mined,misrepresented and cherry-picked to place a quack spin on every story. For example:

Chemotherapy isnt only useless against cancerit even encourages the tumour to grow, researchers have discovered  WDDTY, 28 January 2013.

Dr. Matthew Lam contacted the study’s authors to confirm this and they replied:

“It is very, very unfortunate that these groups routinely misquote scientific studies. The paper says nothing of the sort. The objective of the study was to identify resistance mechanisms to cancer therapeutics and to target them to make standard therapies more effective.

Our study has been misquoted and misinterpretedI believe on purpose–by several of these groups. However, I have not wanted to expend a lot of effort trying to correct this, unless asked directly, as it only adds visibility to their claims.”

Not even anti-vaxers are immune to being misrepresented, and if a study fails to say what WDDTY wants they are not above simply making it up. Recent issues include 100 things to help you live to 100”, every one of which was either flat wrong or misleadingly presented.As with most supporters of SCAM, WDDTY subscribes to the idea that all of medical science is an elaborate conspiracy to support “big pharma”. That doesn’t stop them promoting commercially motivated claims. A recent example is New supplement best for preventing bone loss, says study”, which uncritically repeats a press release based on a 39 personstudy funded by the manufacturer of the supplement, and a long story on how “chronic Lyme” was “cured” by ahomeopath. (Chronic Lyme, a quack diagnosis, is currently limited in scope in the UK but as with most nocebo effects will likely increase due to advocacy). And of course there’s “Much more than placebo: Homeopathy reverses cancer”, whichrests entirely on the claims of the Prasanta Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation. The main and repeated focus of WDDTY, though, is vaccines. Dr. Ben Goldacre has described McTaggart as viciously, viciously anti vaccine and this is borne out by a review of the contents. I have 268 issues of WDDTY on disk and there appear to be 204 which mention vaccines, way ahead of any other single keyword I have tried. Many issues have numerous anti-vaccine stories: Google search finds over 1,400 mentions of vaccines on WDDTY’s website. I have reviewed a large number, certainly in excess of 100, and have yet to find a single one which is even neutral, let alone positive. For example: ‘Safe’ HPV vaccine kills up to 1,700 young girls (WDDTY, 30 July 2013). 

Incredibly, that enormously inflated and completely bogus figure is actually supposed to be a correction! Those who follow vaccine denialism will instantly recognise the standard anti-vaccine trope of citing VAERS figures as if they were provably caused by vaccines, and why that is profoundly stupid. In this case McTaggart also represents a total of 1,671 serious events as Gardasil killing “up to” 1,700 girls – while zero is indeed in the range 0-1,700, CDC states 

Between June 2006 and March 2014, VAERS received 96 reports of death after people received the Gardasil® vaccine. CDC and FDA review all available information on reports of death following any vaccine, including Gardasil®. Among the 96 reports of death, many could not be verified, because there was not enough information reported; 47 could be verified through clinical review of medical records, autopsy reports, and death certificates. Detailed review of every report of death following a person’s receipt of the Gardasil® vaccine has shown:

  • *  There is no pattern of death occurring with respect to time after vaccination
  • *  There is no consistent vaccine dose number or combination of vaccines given
  • *  There is no diagnosis at death that would suggest that the Gardasil® vaccine caused the death
McTaggart had originally claimed up to around 2,000, revised it to 96 (which is taken directly from the CDC document that shows nobody at all has provably died from Gardasil) and then revised back up again based on… well, who knows on what basis anybody could make such an obvious error, other than massive ideological bias.This is not sloppiness; it is clearly deliberate editorial policy and it has been constant throughout the entire life of WDDTY. Ideologically consonant claims are uncritically repeated, and any contrary information is discounted because big pharma, duh.

All this makes it pretty obvious why the presentation of this magazine at supermarket checkouts was seen as a bad thing by the reality-based community. Simon Singh wrote to the publishers and was threatened with a libel writ for his pains. I started What Doctors Don’t Tell You Don’t Tell You”, a group blog to critique WDDTY’s content. Josephine Jones has an extensive Master List of critical commentary.Since the sceptical backlash began, WDDTY has gone into full-on paranoia. Apparently a group of skeptics in hock to the pharma industry is trying to have WDDTY “banned”, which is a problem because free speech (which apparently confers an obligation on commercial organisations to market said speech). Meanwhile McTaggart and WDDTY to actually censor any critical content from social media pages and engage in creepy personal attacks against those who hold them to account for their misleading content.A widespread campaign of criticism and mockery has resulted in a few shops (e.g. Waitrose) withdrawing the publication. It was withdrawn from the large British supermarket chain,Tesco, and then apparently reintroduced after pressure from followers. It’s recently been withdrawn from WH Smith, Britain’s largest chain of newsagents. This is clearly hitting the editors in the wallet, because they have turned the paranoia up to eleven and now claim that pharma-sponsored trolls”are to blame for the “censorship” and “banning” of the magazine.

McTaggart’s angst is understandable: a glossy magazine is expensive to publish and she can’t sustain it without bothadvertising revenue and mass market sales. Advertising revenue may be taking a hit since skeptics are actively watching the content and many of the advertisements in WDDTY have been adjudicated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as misleading, Some advertisers are listed as persistent and unrepentant offenders on ASA’s “non-compliant” list. Some advertisers also write editorial content, including Guy Hudson “The Electrosmog Doctor”, whose content is basically undeclared advertorial. His advertisements have also been found by the ASA to be misleading.
Lynne McTaggart is also the author of a number of sciencey-sounding books, most notably The Field, which gives scientific proof of the paranormal including “psychic activity, remote viewing, the power of prayer and homeopathy”. Has she claimed the million dollar prize? Apparently not. We’re told by the publisher that it has gained “a almost cult following.” (sic). In summary, then, WDDTY is a nasty, paranoid, conspiracist, anti-medicine, anti-science, propaganda organ written and published by cranks and packed with misleading advertisements. It’s sold in mainstream outlets and its editors are unable to tell the difference between opposing the commercial propagation of dangerous nonsense and attempts to stifle free speech. They apply the characteristic SCAM double standard where by all science is conflicted unless it’s sponsored by the SCAM industry. If you see this magazine in a retail outlet, I encourage you to challenge it with the shop’s buyers.


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