Consumer Health Digest #12-38

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 1, 2012

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

Cranial therapy leader dies. John Upledger, D.O. who developed craniosacral therapy (CST) and founded The Upledger Institute, has died at the age of 80. CST (also called cranial therapy) is based on the notion that a rhythm exists in the flow of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and that diseases can be diagnosed by detecting aberrations in this rhythm and corrected by manipulating or lightly touching the skull. However, there is no logical reason why pressing the skull should influence the course of ailments throughout the body. Upledger claimed to be able to communicate with the patient's "inner physician." Chapter 2 of his book, CranioSacral Therapy: Touchstone of Natural Healing described how he asked questions aloud and believed that he could determine "yes/no" answers by feeling a "cranial pulse" with his fingertips. In 1999, after doing a comprehensive review of published studies, the British Columbia Office of Health Technology Assessment (BCOHTA) concluded that CST's theory is invalid and that practitioners cannot reliably measure what they claim to be modifying. [Kazanjian A and others. A systematic review and appraisal of the scientific evidence on craniosacral therapy. BCOHTA, May 1999] Despite CST's fanciful nature, the institute's Web site states that more than 100,000 healthcare practitioners residing in more than 100 countries have received Upledger training.

Craniosacral practitioner has license revoked. The Missouri Court of Appeals has upheld the state dental board's 2009 decision to revoke the license of Joseph H. Kerwin, D.D.S. The board's order indicates that Kerwin was consulted by the parents of a 2-day-old Amish infant with a fever of 103°9F and noted that the child had signs of birth trauma. Instead of advising the parents to go immediately to a hospital, Kerwin manipulated the child's skull and applied a vibrating machine to his sacrum. The boy died 12 hours later, and the autopsy showed that he died from complications of a subdural hematoma (a blood clot that compressed his brain). The medical examiner concluded that the hematoma could have been present at birth but was more likely caused by the skull manipulation. The dental board concluded that Kerwin had acted outside the scope of dentistry. During its investigation, the board also discovered that Kerwin had misrepresented his continuing education hours when renewing for his license.

Family physicians criticized for having Andrew Weil as keynote speaker. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has been blasted for using Andrew Weil as keynote speaker at its recent annual meeting. Dr. Harriet Hall has noted:

Source: Hall HA. Andrew Weil/AAFP article rejected by Slate. Science-Based Medicine Blog, Oct 30, 2012.

Chiropractic critique link fixed. Last week's newsletter mentioned that QuantiaMD, a popular medical discussion site, has published a ten-minute talk and slide show by Dr. Stephen Barrett about chiropractors and back pain. The presentation is now open to the public without registration.

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This page was posted on November 1, 2012.