I want to explain the problems with an article found in What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) titled “The doctors’ case for homeopathy.” This piece is full of misinformation, and it serves as an ideal case study of what I’ve observed to be WDDTY’s typical behavior. Here’s the full list of problems I found with the article, which I will elaborate on below…
Loon “Lynne” McTaggart has the whole martyr complex thing off to a T: it’s all about her, and her exaggerated sense of entitlement. After all, who could possibly have any valid objection to her pimping black salveW, a bogus cancer cure that just happens to eat away your skin? Surely the excruciating pain, weight loss, anaemia and cost experienced by her reader are vastly better than a surgical procedure under general anaesthetic.
Thank you all for those lovely statements of support after I wrote that our Intention Experiment website – a website devoted to healing the world’s ills through group prayer – got hacked into and threats on me, my family, my business, even my car were put in its place.
Really? McTaggart’s definition of “threats” is open to question, so I would not take it on her say-so. Still and all, threats are nasty, as those of us who have experienced them will testify. I have never seen any skeptic threaten anything other than Lynne’s profits, I am happy to say.
Happily, I can save you a lot of time and effort. The effect of prayer has been tested, it doesn’t work. We’re happy to have saved you wasting any further time and effort repeating this failed experiment; I suggest you devote your time instead to studying concepts such as the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy, which show why any effect from prayer would require us to throw away pretty much all of human knowledge. Continue reading How do you solve a problem like a cyber Lynne mob?
If there’s one thing guaranteed to fuel the build-up of spittle on the WDDTY editors’ computer screens, it’s positive coverage of vaccines. WDDTY is, to quote Ben GoldacreW, “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine” – and this is one of the things which elevates their tawdry health fraud advertorial to the status of public health menace.
The MMR vaccine is back in the news. Australian parents will lose their welfare benefits if they don’t vaccinate their children, while up to 86 per cent of children who caught measles during the ‘Disneyland outbreak’ in California last December were vaccinated, a new study has revealed.
Logical fallacy: non-sequiturW. The two are not connected, and not even in the same stories, in general. The 86% figure is mentioned only in order to make the evidence-based Australian policy look unreasonable.
WDDTY do cite a source, though returning to their former practice of obfuscating the reference to make it hard to track down. Why would they do that, I wonder?
An analysis of publicly available outbreak data suggests that substandard vaccination compliance is likely to blame for the recent measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in California, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
I can see why they wouldn’t want you to find the original source.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced that parents who refuse to vaccinate their children will lose up to $11,000 of welfare benefits. Parents can opt out of vaccinations on medical or religious grounds, or because they are “conscientious objectors”.
But, from January next year, the conscientious objection opt-out will be removed in Abbott’s new “no jab, no pay” policy. Religious exemptions will also be tightened, and will apply only to religious bodies “approved by the government”.
The Australian government reckons that 39,000 families could lose their rights to welfare benefits.
Indeed. And the reason for the specific wording about religious bodies approved by the Government, is that Australian antivaxers invented their own church – the “Church of Conscious Living” – as a deliberate ploy to allow them to continue recklessly endangering the health of their children and those with whom they come into contact.
Their weaselly ploy has failed, and they are no doubt crying into their homeopathic beer about it.
US health authorities are also looking to tighten up on exemptions after the measles outbreak last December, in which around 140 children were infected. It is thought to have started at Disneyland in California.
It’s almost as if antivax sentiments evaporate when people are faced with the reality of preventable disease, isn’t it?
Which is of course why vaccines are not a hard sell with the postwar generation.
But a new study reckons that up to 86 per cent of the infected children had received all their MMR jabs. “Given the highly contagious nature of measles, vaccination rates of 96 per cent to 99 per cent are necessary to preserve herd immunity and prevent future outbreaks,” say the researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
When WDDTY reports the study as showing “up to” 86% of victims were vaccinated, they are being disingenuous. It actually says:
The authors estimate that measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination rates among the exposed population where secondary cases occurred might be as low as 50 percent and likely no higher than 86 percent. Because measles is highly contagious, vaccination rates of 96 percent to 99 percent are necessary to preserve herd immunity and to prevent future outbreaks, according to the study.
The vast majority of the infected were unvaccinated against the disease, including kids who were too young for the shots and anti-vaxxers who chose against them. That’s how you get an outbreak. But six of the cases got their measles-mumps-rubella vaccine—the MMR shot—and still managed to get infected.
Wired also give a great description of how the Disneyland outbreak spread even to the immunised:
So how does that explain what happened in Disneyland? If you have a group of 1,000 people concentrated in a small space—like oh, say, hypothetically, an amusement park—about 90 percent of them will be vaccinated (hopefully). One person, maybe someone who contracted measles on a recent trip to the Philippines, moves around, spreading the virus. Measles is crazy contagious, so of the 100 people who aren’t vaccinated, about 90 will get infected. Then, of the 900 people who are vaccinated, 3 percent—27 people—get infected because they don’t have full immunity.
So WDDTY say “up to 86%” but other sources say closer to 10%. Why would WDDTY inflate the figure? We know why: to accurately report the case would require admitting that the MMR vaccine is around 97% effective, and that the figure they quoted was a discussion of the dangerously low level of vaccination that reduced herd immunity to the point that the outbreak could take hold.
And one thing WDDTY will never do is admit that the MMR vaccine works. Saint Andrew of Wakefraud would never forgive them.
At first sight, you’d think this headline had been brought to you from the Dept Of The Bleedin’ Obvious:
Well, yeah, except smothering isn’t usually classified as SIDS.
If you actually look up that article, which is here – Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants (Jeffrey D. Colvin, MD, JD; Vicki Collie-Akers, PhD, MPH; Christy Schunn, MSW, and Rachel Y. Moon, MD) – you will see that there are currently two responses to it, both saying it’s a badly conducted study:
1. Study on Sleep Location Flawed, Inconclusive
This one is quite long, and begins:
The article by Colvin et al, “Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants,” incorrectly concludes that bedsharing is the top risk factor for sleep-related deaths.
The authors fail to include any of the other major known risk factors for these deaths in their analysis besides sleep location and position. By far the other leading risk factors for SIDS are maternal smoking, infants sleeping unattended, and formula feeding. The risk of infant death from bedsharing, it is strongly potentiated by maternal prenatal and/or postnatal smoking. The use of alcohol and sedating substances by parents/caregivers poses the greatest risk of suffocation death but was not included in the study. The smoking variable was actually available in the authors’ dataset, and their failure to utilize it is inexplicable and concerning, as it would have likely significantly altered their results.
The authors also failed to distinguish adult beds from far riskier types of sleeping surfaces, although the literature clearly shows that most accidental smothering/entrapment deaths involve sofas, recliners, or chairs.
Because the authors did not use a control group, or population statistics regarding the prevalence of all factors stratified by age and smoking status at a minimum, it is impossible to draw any conclusions about the cause of sleep-related deaths from their study. Furthermore, 25% of the infants in this study actually died in cribs.
My emphasis in that last paragraph. The second response is, in its entirety:
2. Murky definitions, missing data prevent meaningful conclusions
“Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants” (Colvin et al, Pediatrics 2014-0401) fails to add any useful information to the SIDS/infant mortality dialogue. Like many other papers on sleep-related risks, this article lacks clear, unambiguous definitions of critical variables, omits significant documented risk factors, and conflates SIDS and other unrelated forms of infant death, drawing conclusions that the data do not support. Specifically:
(1) The bed-partner could be human or animal, drunk or sober, smoker or not, adult or child, caring mother or inattentive other. A baby sleeping with an inebriated uncle is different from a baby sleeping next to his sober breastfeeding mother.
(2) “Adult bed” included adult bed, waterbed, adult mattress, bunk bed, child’s bed, sofa bed, and air mattress. (We can only presume that sofas and recliners are included. They are common shared-sleep choices, especially for mothers who have been told their bed is unsafe.) A baby sleeping on a soft sofa cushion next to that inebriated uncle is different from a baby sleeping with his breastfeeding mother in a firm, uncluttered bed. The categories “Adult bed” and “person” (defined as “sleeping on the chest or in the arms of another person”) were combined as one category, though one is inanimate and of varying safety, and the other is animate and of varying safety.
(3) Infant feeding method is never mentioned, despite the fact that formula-feeding is a risk factor for SIDS and affects the mother’s behavior during bedsharing.
(4) The words “smoking” and “smoke” do not appear in the article, yet smoking during pregnancy and in a baby’s household is a significant risk for SIDS. The authors acknowledge that “because there is no comparison group, risk cannot be determined.” Without a control group, actual risk cannot be calculated.
(5) SIDS and smothering are conflated. Most SIDS risks have nothing to do with sleep location, while smothering and suffocation are entirely location-related. The distinction is especially important when bedsharing is discussed. SIDS is linked to physiological problems; suffocation results from environmental problems.
(6) Bedsharing is cited as “the predominant risk factor for younger infants” without reference to other significant risk factors or data from comparison groups.
(7) The study refers to “sudden infant death syndrome and other sleep-related causes of infant mortality” but focuses almost exclusively on the “other sleep-related causes” The combining of safe and unsafe situations in single categories is distressing but not new. The studies on which this article relies – the Ohio child death review for example*, – tend to do the same, a shortcoming that the authors acknowledge but accept. The conflation of SIDS and suffocation issues is also distressing but not new. The current review, like many before it, fails to provide adequate guidance to health care professionals and is potentially damaging to families making decisions without full information about their options.
Again my emphasis. In any case, it’s been known for millenia that a baby sleeping with its parents is in danger of being smothered. It even figures in the Old testament: look up 1 Kings 3:16 if you don’t believe me. It’s not SIDS; it’s accidental smothering, but then WDDTY aren’t about to let a minor detail like that interfere with a neat-sounding fake scoop.
Reblogged with permission from slippdigby.wordpress.com
Lynne McTaggart recently published another blog post titled ‘Medical McCarthyism‘ defending the content of What Doctors Don’t Tell You. In the post she attacks Cancer Research UK:-
“According to Cancer Research UK, just over half of cancer patients survive beyond five years. This is the very attractive figure now being bandied about to convince us all that we’re winning the war on cancer.”
If you look at Cancer Research UK webpage you will find survival statistics and yes, the predicted overall five-year survival figures for those diagnosed with cancer in 2007 is 46% of men and 56% of women.
Despite these figures, Lynne goes on to quote some figures which she believes supports her case that conventional treatments are actually failing:-
“Actually, as WDDTY has reported, after cherrypicking the very best clinical trials showing positive results, Australia’s leading oncologists found that chemotherapy’s contribution to five-year survival was only 2.3 per cent in Australia and 2.1 per cent in the US (Ann Oncol, 2013; doi: 10: 1093/annonc/mds636).”
These claims were featured in What Doctors Don’t Tell You Volume 23 no 11.
Now ignoring the fact that chemotherapy is only one of a range of conventional treatments, this is quite a broad, unqualified statement which would give a lay person the impression that chemotherapy is very ineffective against ‘cancer’ full stop.
Cancer is however a complex range of diseases which respond differently to chemotherapy, so I was very curious where Lynne got these figures from – it turns out the reference quoted is a paper titled Bias in reporting of end points of efficacy and toxicity in randomized, clinical trials for women with breast cancer.
Now, I am not an expert on cancer and I couldn’t get access to the full paper, but just from the abstract it seems pretty clear to me that the paper cannot possibly support a broad statement about the overall efficacy, or failure of chemotherapy. I suspected that the paper Lynne meant to refer to was The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies which is deconstructed brilliantly by David Gorski here.
So I asked Lynne if this reference was a mistake on her blog. I got no response, which is worrying as the veracity of these claims and the evidence to support them – even in a blog post – is important. Lynne has also recently defended herself by claimed that she simply reports the finding of research without bias to allow people to make up their own mind.
I thought the best way to clear this up would be to contact the lead author of the original paper Lynne cited and ask him whether the quote above regarding his paper was accurate. He was kind enough to email me and his response I reproduce below, without further comment:
I think the statement is probably accurate but quite misleading to patients. Across all cancers, I suspect the contribution of chemotherapy to long-term survival is quite low, given the prevalence of disease in the elderly and those never treated because of comorbidity, and the prevalence of minimally responsive common tumours (pancreas, lung, colon etc) where there will be little impact on 5yr survival.
However adjuvant chemo for breast and other cancers can have a substantial effect to improve long-term survival and there are many less common types (testis, lymphoma, leukemia, childhood cancers) where the effects are large.
It would be a tragedy if a young or middle-aged woman with breast cancer or a man with metastatic testis cancer refused chemo because they believed there was only a 2% increase in long term survival.
With kind regards,
Ian F. Tannock MD, PhD, DSc
Professor of Medical Oncology,
Princess Margaret Hospital and University of Toronto
Why don’t doctors tell you that the success rate of chemotherapy is 2.3%?
Because it’s not true.
Lynne McTaggart howls long and loud about the way that not stocking her grossly irresponsible magazine would somehow be infringing her right to free speech. Is her conduct consistent with the idea that she is a champion of open and informed debate?
(Spoiler alert: No)
See if you can identify the abuse and harassment in these posts. Or maybe it’s “far more likely” that the commenter deleted them, as Lynne claims? On the face of it, it looks very much like she’s been deleting perfectly reasonable comments. Because free speech.
Please send us more! And extra points if you have a grab of the comment where Lynne suggested she was not deleting comments, but the commenters were.
(Also posted at Plague of Mice)
The recent article in The Times that caused the Blessed McTaggart to bust a blood vessel and scream CONSPIRACY!!!!! included a quote from the editor of Beyond Positive, a magazine for HIV+ people, condemning the misleading claims in an article entitled “Vitamin C fights it all, from measles to AIDS”.
Yeah. I’ll let that sink in, shall I? McTaggart’s rag promotes quackery for AIDS. The old wives’ tale that Vitamin C helps the immune system fight off infections was debunked a number of years ago. That doesn’t excuse you from eating your greens, but even if it had turned out to be effective in boosting defences against the common cold, it’s far from clear how Vitamin C could ever have been of use in revving up the immune system when the immune system is being directly targeted by an infection. It would be like trying to jump-start a car while somebody else takes a chainsaw to the wheels. Continue reading WDDTY on HIV/AIDS
Fascinating question, since it excludes any quality of life outcome and of course also excludes a well-known class of effective drugs.
Here are some examples off the top of my head:
- Tetanus antitoxin
- Chemotherapy for liquid tumours (e.g. Hodgkin’s lymphoma)
And some drugs promoted by WDDTY that can’t cure people:
- High dose vitamins
Antibiotics are a huge class of drugs and represent a significant proportion of all curative therapeutic uses of drugs. Excluding these indicates an agenda but still fails to include all therapeutic drugs.
Why don’t doctors tell you that antibiotics are the only drugs that can cure disease?
Because it’s not true.
Reblogged from ChapmanCentral with full permission.
Evidence-based practice reveals flaws in medicine. Lynne McTaggart believes that this is a great reason for abandoning evidence-based practice. Because reasons.
It’s not a good time to be a drug company employee. Increasingly, those at the top of Establishment medicine are joining the ranks of whistleblowers like us calling for medicine to be decoupled from the pharmaceutical industry.
Have you been living in a hole for the last however many years, Lynne?
This is not whistleblowing. It’s the self-criticism inherent in any scientific endeavour – this always happens and medicine has never been an exception. Self-criticism is how science gets better; using the self-criticism as a way of asserting bullshit instead, has never improved anything except the profits of the SCAM industry. Continue reading Big Pharma And The Mafia
|The Claim||The Reality|
|McTaggart (said) her journal would accept no advertising – “we have to remain pure” –||Not only is approximately a quarter of each issue devoted to advertising (based on June 2013 issue), in February 2013, the Nightingale Collaboration reported that the Advertising Standards Authority had adjudicated against advertising in WDDTY to the tune of 54 CAP-Code breaches. This is in addition to eleven “informally resolved” cases (i.e. the advertising was acknowledged to be in breach of CAP-Codes and was amended voluntarily.)|
|“…the Nightingale Collaboration, a ragtag group who meet in a pub of the same name…”||Errr.. there is no pub called The Nightingale Collaboration.|
|“…the pharmaceutically backed organization [Simon Singh] fronts, ‘Sense About Science’….”||Sense About Science is a charity. Its accounts are therefore open to scrutiny.
Less than 5% of its funding comes from companies; none of these is a pharmaceutical company.
|WDDTY complained: “The Times stated: we said vitamin C cures HIV.”|
|“Five Live followed up with a television debate about our magazine.”||Five Live doesn’t do TV debates. (Clue: It is a radio station!)|
|“It’s also apparent from the information published in The Times and in all the media following that not one journalist or broadcaster has read one single word we’ve written, particularly on the homeopathy story, and for very good reason: the article and the magazine containing it in fact have not yet been published.”||Ummm — WDDTY published their claims for homeopathy months ago!And bragged on Facebook about doing so!|
|(To the Times) “You have no idea yet what we’re going to write about, so how can you say we’re going to write that homeopathy ‘cures’ cancer?”||Ummm… Maybe they were referring to a claim WDDTY has already made? (See above)|
|“Just to clarify yet another lie about us: we are not ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ vaccine.”||From WDDTY, June 2013: “The safest interpretation is that the MMR increases the risk of autism by 5 per cent”|
|“Not one of the newspapers, radio shows or television stations bothered to contact us, even to solicit a comment,,,”||The Times journalist who reported on the campaign to get the magazine off supermarket shelves sent this email:
And phoned twice:
(Having had no reply from the “Editorial” department, he next tried “Accounts and General Management”)
|“…the Swiss government decided that there is some proof of homeopathy…”||It did nothing of the sort! See Zeno’s Blog for what really happened.|
|“For months, Singh, whose Sense About Science group has the sponsorship of the British Pharmaceutical Association…”||If the The British Pharmaceutical Association actually exists and is not just something else made up by McTaggart, it is not a sponsor of Sense About Science.|
|“[Waitrose] are not one of our stockists”||Curious. That’s not what the distributor thinks:|
|“The letter being sent out by the Times to our readers…”||The Times is sending out letters to WDDTY readers?
Is WDDTY implying that the Times somehow got hold of the WDDTY subscriber database?
Has anyone ever actually seen one of these letters?