Douglas Lundman filed suit in Minneapolis (4/30/91), charging the First Church of Christ Scientist, several church agencies, a CS Practitioner, a CS nurse, his former wife and her husband with wrongful death for failing to obtain life-saving health care for his 11-year-old son, Ian, who died of untreated diabetes in 1989. Lundman says that he was misled about his son's health status during his illness. Lundman, a non-Christian Scientist, would not have permitted his son to go untreated. CHILD's Rita Swan says this is the second wrongful death suit against the CS church and its agents involving a child's death. She despairs that little Ian's needless death may go unpunished because "Minnesota has among the worst religious exemption laws in the country." (CHILD, #1, 1991)
Ankerberg and Weldon aim their 445-page book Can You Trust Your Doctor? (1991) at the Christian community, but anyone interested in pseudomedicine will benefit enormously from reading it. The authors put most of their efforts into thorough descriptions of New Age Medicine, including the backgrounds of proponents and the histories and rationale of the healing theories. The book is well-referenced and provides an excellent resource. Order from: Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers Inc., 1749 Mallory Lane, Suite 110, Brentwood, TN 37027
It is reported that Hariton Alivizatos, MD c.54, perpetrator of the "Greek Cancer Cure," has died suddenly of an aneurysm.
Tabulations from the Christian Science Journal indicate that Christian Science is waning. CS churches have dropped from 1,829 in 1971 to 1,450 in 1991, and CS Practitioners from 4,965 in 1971 to 2,237 in 1991. Just 8 states increased their number of churches (AZ, FL, GA, MD, NC, NV, SC, VA), and only 3 increased in CS Practitioners (NC, SC, VA). An excellent review of CS beliefs, healing claims, and controverting evidence appeared in JAMA, 264: 1379-81, 1990. The plight of children who continue to be denied protection from religiously motivated medical neglect by legislators appeared in JAMA, 264:1226-33, 1990.
Consumer Affairs Officers at FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs responded to over 1,000 health fraud-related inquiries during the 3rd quarter of 1990. Weight loss products accounted for the bulk. Others mentioned were Matol Km, Cancell, herbal supplements, NuSkin International of Utah and Global Esthetics of Canada. Ozone generators were reported to be sparking complaints in Minnesota and Florida. (Minnesota Board of Pharmacy Compliance News, 12:(3):1-2, Jan, 1991)
Don Vierstra, owner of International Medical Research Center, Inc. who placed a billboard at the intersection of I-15 & 1-215 near Murietta, California reading "Curing cancer with super magnets?" has agreed to pay $40,000 in fines and court costs, and to stop selling the devices as medical aids. The cover of his sales brochure featured Sandy Morgenstern, RN, who claimed to have been cured by the magnets, but had died of her disease before Vierstra first went to trial in December, 1990. Vierstra says that none of his customers had ever complained. (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, CA, 5/3/91)
As a result of the OTA report, Unconventional Cancer Treatments, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is making the public aware of how to gain help in evaluating unusual cancer therapies. NCI is prohibited by law from funding grant applications which do not receive a favorable evaluation in a scientific peer review. To provide guidance to promoters of unconventional methods which lack interpretable data obtain sufficient data to permit a scientific peer review, NCI has published Preparation of Best Case Series and the Conduct of Pilot Clinical Trials Using Unconventional Cancer Treatments. The two strategies that may be taken in generating interpretable clinical data are:
Comment: John Durant, MD, VP for Health Affairs at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, chides the OTA report as having been done in the first place because of a condition he dubs "Governmental Alzheimer's" disease. Although the OTA seems to have forgotten the word quackery, in his editorial, "If it quacks..." (Cancer, 67:2225-6, 1991 [May]), Durant cuts through the crap and calls a spade a spade. NCAHF agrees. There was never any good reason to believe that any of the cancer procedures covered in the report were anything but garden variety quackery.
Sixteen naturopathic students and faculty members at the Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle have written to the editor of the Clinical Journal of Pain pleading that the NCAHF Position Paper on Acupuncture not be published in its July issue as planned. The writers claim that acupuncture has value for pain and addiction rehabilitation, and is endorsed by the World Health Organization for a variety of conditions. NCAHF's Task Force on Acupuncture examined all of these issues and found them badly wanting. It appears to us that these NDs-to-be are worried that the NCAHF Position Paper is bad for business!
Stephen Barrett, MD, presents a variety of false and misleading promotions aimed at heart disease in "Snake Oil for the Heart" (Heartbeat, pp.23-5, Winter, 1990). Included are Cho Low Chinese herbal tea, "no cholesterol" label claims, misleading oat bran claims, supplement hype (niacin, oat bran, fish oil, lecithin, vitamins, minerals, herbs), chelation therapy, and oral chelation products. Dr. Barrett also discusses what people can do to lower their coronary risk. This is an especially good article on an often underemphasized area of quackery.
Tamara Eberlein paints a grim picture of the lack of consumer protection from incompetent and impaired physicians ("Give your doctor a checkup--it could save your life!" Redbook, June, 1991). The article was inspired by the questionable doctors book put out by the Public Citizen Research Group. Although not mentioned in the article, NCAHF helped with the 10 warning signs given to help spot impairment, incompetence, sexual misconduct, and quackery.
Don't be surprised to see chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopaths, acupuncturists, etc., publicizing the warnings about dangerous MDs and DOs. They love to broadcast the acknowledged failings of regular health medicine. Be aware that as bad as the disciplining of physicians may be, the situation is far worse for nonscientific practitioners who are notorious for covering up for each other. These guilds commonly attack consumer protection efforts, and campaign for "health freedom"--which turns out to be a freedom from accountability for themselves.
The food terrorists and the "save animals and kill people" crazies both attack responsible nutrition--each for their own reasons. These food industry bashers say the Basic-4-Food-Groups include meat and dairy products only because of lobbying by the meat and dairy industries. Although developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Basic-4-Food-Groups is actually based on traditions rooted in the Old Testament. Kosher dietary law scholars Regenstein and Regenstein of Cornell note that the Biblical (and Moslem) four food groups are:
Editor's note: Dr. Herbert is a recognized nutrition scientist and has done landmark research on folic acid and vitamin B12 in human nutrition. Dr. Herbert says that he is "half-Christian, half-Jewish" by birth and nurture. His nonsectarian book, The Mt. Sinai School of Medicine Complete Book of Nutrition (St. Martin's Press, 1990), provides the scientific information which supports his contentions in the above article that, although well-planned non-flesh diets can be healthful if some animal foods are included, totally-plant-food diets are nutritionally inadequate -- William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.
During a recent review of the harmful impact of quackery upon children, I was dismayed by the number of needless diabetic deaths in my files. Sadly, most such deaths occur among young people depriving them of most of their lifetimes. Diabetes education is among the best organized and readily available in the community, and yet, people continue to fall prey to the notion that they can substitute some nostrum for insulin or be healed by faith. Daibetes quackry's persistence is illustrated by many cases:
Faith healing seems to pose a significant threat to diabetic children; but, is faith healing quackery? In my opinion, it absolutely is because it has all of the distinguishing features of quackery, ie, promoting health schemes for profit. Faith healers promote themselves and the idea that their methods are safe and effective in the treatment of human diseases; they encourage the abandonment of proven care on the claim that their procedures are superior to those of medicine. Such claims are testable, and testing the validity of a proposition is Biblical: "prove all things, hold fast to that which is good" (I Thess 5:21). Faith healers work for gain accepting money for their services. (note: When commissioning his disciples to heal the sick, Christ said, "freely have you received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). Four useful articles are: "Health fraud: you're the target" Diabetes Self-Management, Nov-Dec, 1986; "Alternative 'treatments': which help and which are hype?" Diabetes Self-Management, Nov-Dec, 1989; "How to spot medical quackery" Diabetes Forecast, Jan, 1988; "Fighting fraud" Diabetes Forecast, Oct, 1990.
A description of, and claims for, ayurvedic medicine by a trio of advocates was published as a "Letter from New Delhi" in the May 22-29, issue of JAMA (265:2636-7, 1991). The letter alleges that "Ayur-Veda is the oldest existing medical system"; that "it is recognized by the World Health Organization"; and, that "a growing number of Western physicians ... are finding it to add valuable knowledge that is complementary to modern allopathic medicine." That ayurvedic is the oldest system is very doubtful; its recognition by WHO has no bearing upon its scientific validity, and its growth claims ring of marketing hype. Many are understandably upset by JAMA's publication of this advocacy piece which fails to reveal that Ayur-Veda is a marketing term for a line of health food products and medical services of the Maharishi Mehesh Yogi, guru of the Transcendental Meditation movement. The ayurvedic system is mythologized to have emerged from the mythical Hindu creator, Brahma. A West German government report described the TM movement as "Hindu-religion concepts in a scientific terminology." Its leaders claim that TM is "above religions." (Various Implications Arising from the Practice of Transcendental Meditation, Institute for Youth and Society, Bensheim, 1980).
Ayurveda is rooted in two Sanskrit words and literally means "the science of life." Like other traditional systems, Hinduism attempts to describe and organize its view of reality, incorporating both fanciful metaphysical concepts and crude physics into the cosmology from which it derives its practices. Ayurveda imagines three humors (wind, bile, and phlegm) which must be balanced for health, and a metaphysical "Life Force" (Prana) which constitutes the immortal and energetic aspects of life. Also, like other traditional systems, ayurveda includes an herbal pharmacopeia and specific practices some of which may have value. Indian snakeroot (Rauwolfia serpentina), used by medicine men of India to treat snakebite, is the source of an effective anti-hypertensive medication. However, finding a few useful herbals doesn't validate the entire system; some Indian herbals are known to be carcinogenic. Ayurveda also organized a medical-nutritional-dietary-healing system that contains both truth and error (Grivetti, Nutrition Today, Jan-Feb, 1991), and although quite practical, to apply it today would be to deny oneself the advancements of modern nutrition science.
Some ayurvedic medical ideas are rather quaint, while others would "gag a maggot!" According to ayurveda: "perverted, negative and excessive use of time, intelligence and sense object is the three-fold cause of both psychic and somatic disorders; and "wearing of gems and ornaments promotes wealth, auspiciousness, longevity, prosperity; destroys calamity, produces happiness, charms and ojas." Alcoholism, anorexia, nausea, poor digestion, advanced ascites, edema, and indigestion are treated by "goat feces prepared by washing with urine." Constipation is treated with "milk mixed with urine." To improve male potency there are 216 different kinds of enemas, including the testicles of peacocks, swans and turtles. Epilepsy, insanity or seizures are treated with ass urine (from: History of Ayurveda, by Ryan; available from TM-EX, P.O. Box 7565, Arlington, VA 22207). Other ayurvedic prescriptions include ritualistic sacrifices to different Vedic gods (called yagya) to win their blessings. A yagya prescribed for endometriosis was priced at $11,500--curiously, a "less than recommended" yagya was also available for $8,500, as was a $3,300 yagya that would suffice (TM-EX Newsletter, Fall, 1990).
The caveat that the public needs to hear is that ayurveda has become a marketing term for a variety of health products and services of limited, questionable, or unproved value which may serve as gateways into the TM cult which has had a sordid history. Paraplegics have been bilked by promises that with enough TM training they would eventually rise from their wheel chairs by levitation. Other claims for TM include the ability to become invisible, walk through walls, attain the strength of an elephant, mastery over nature (see "TM fails to stop locomotive," NCAHF NL, Mar-Apr, '91), attain perfect health and immortality. Ayurvedic products have also been promoted for AIDS (see "Ayurvedic Docs promote unproven AIDS pills," NCAHF NL, Jan-Feb, 91). In 1984, the Maharishi named Ferdinand Marcos the "Founding Father of the Age of Enlightenment, First Ruler of the Age of Enlightenment in the Philippines, and President of the World Government of the Age of Enlightenment in the Philippines." The Maharishi also has ceremoniously given Deepak Chopra, MD, one of JAMA article authors, the title "Dhanvantari [Lord of Immortality], the keeper of perfect health for the world." He is the chief promoter of Ayur-Veda (see "The Maharishi's Medicine Man," In Health, 5-6/1990).