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NCAHF News, July/Aug 2001

Volume 24, Issue #4


CRACKDOWN CONTINUES ON BAJA CALIFORNIA CLINICS

Since January Baja California health officials have closed 20 clinics that offer "alternative" treatments to clients who come from the United States and other countries, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. One of these clinics was the San Martin Clinic in Tijuana, which appears to be the same clinic advertised by the Bonita, California-based American Metabolic Institute (http://www.amihealth.com). State investigators found that chicken livers and tissue from guinea pigs had been mixed with the human tissue of cancer patients at San Martin Clinic and that derivatives of the mixture were injected into the patients.

The state health department also banned "alternative" treatment businesses at two Tijuana Clinics-one operated by BioPulse International the other by Hulda Clark-which reportedly reopened in July after being shut down in February. A health official said that BioPulse paid a $220,000 fine and that Clark's Century Nutrition contested its $166,000 fine. [Sanchez E, Dibble S. Alternative Tijuana clinic shut down by Baja officials. San Diego Union-Tribune, July 27, 2001.]

For decades quackery has flourished in the Tijuana border area. The area has been a mecca for desperate patients and medical renegades from the United States and around the world. But under new rules, Mexican federal immigration authorities will not grant visas to foreigners who want to practice medicine without consulting health authorities. Foreigners who want to practice medicine in Mexico will need to submit their credentials for authorization. [Dibble S, Crabtree P. Baja agencies put restrictions on alternative health clinics. San Diego Union-Tribune, June 21, 2001.]

BioPulse International's clinic offered "therapies" involving vaccines derived from a patient's own urine and induction of insulin comas. Century Nutrition offered a low-voltage "zapper" that Hulda Clark claims kills parasites, bacteria, and viruses. American Metabolic Institute (AMI) promotes a wide range of dubious methods to address degenerative diseases.

Methods mentioned in AMI's advertising include: the HLB test (a microscopic coagulation test said to detect degenerative diseases five to eight years before symptoms are manifested), live cell analysis, lymphatic massage, chelation, ozone/oxygen therapy, laetrile, color therapy, acupressure, fasting, colonics, vitamins, herbs, minerals, digestive enzymes, amino acids, chiropractic, magnetic & frequency generator treatments, growth hormones, DMSO, mercury amalgam filling removal, craniosacral therapy, and homeopathic treatments.

REBIRTHING KILLERS SENTENCED; ASSISTANTS PLEAD GUILTY

"Rebirthing therapists" Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder, who were convicted in April of reckless child abuse in suffocating 10-year-old Candace Newmaker as part of "rebirthing therapy," received the minimum sentence of 16 years from a Colorado judge. [The New York Times, June 18, p. A12.] Watkins also was convicted of the unlawful practice of psychotherapy and two other charges. Brita St. Clair and Jack McDaniel, who assisted Watkins and Ponder in the fatal "rebirthing" session, pleaded guilty to charges of criminally negligent child abuse. They could receive up to 16 years in prison. [United Press International via COMTEX, August 3, 2001.]

DUBIOUS MENTAL HEALTH-RELATED METHODS SUMMARIZED

In the recent double issue of Priorities for Health magazine on "Sorting Out Junk Science" [12(4);2000 and 13(1);2001], Jack Raso, MS provided brief descriptions of "Dubious Mental Health-Related Methods" such as: Acceptance Acupressure Method, Acu-POWER, auditing, Be Set Free Fast, biodynamic psychology, bioenergetics, A Course in Miracles, Dianetics, dreamwork, EdxTM, Emotional Freedom Techniques, energy therapies, est, The Forum, hand psychology, Holotropic Breathwork, Hypnoaesthetics, inner child work, Jungian psychology, meridian based psychotherapies, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, organic process therapy, organismic psychotherapy, past-life regression therapy, pranic psychotherapy, primal therapy, process psychology, Psychoenergetic Healing, Psycho-Pictography, psychosythesis, rebirthing, Reichian Therapy, sacred psychology, shamanic psychotherapy, Silva Mind Control, soul-centered psychology, spirit releasement therapy, tapping therapies, Thought Field Therapy, Touch And Breathe, Transformation, transpersonal psychology, and Whole Life Healing. Definitions provided by Raso for these and other "alternative" and metaphysical methods can be read on the Web at http://www.canoe.ca/AltmedDictionary/home.html.

PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPIES SCRUTINIZED

A symposium in the Spring 2001 issue of The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine and Aberrant Medical Practices [SRAM] on "Pseudoscience and Psychotherapy" begins with brain behavior scientist Barry Beyerstein's article "Fringe Psychotherapies: The Public at Risk." Dr. Beyerstein notes three ways that fringe therapists endanger patients: (1) through manipulation and fraud; (2) by failing to recognize early signs of serious psychopathologies; and (3) by encouraging clients' delusions. He says practitioners of psychotherapy have drifted from the scientific-practitioner model. Contributing factors include: emerging unaccredited diploma mills, the "New Age" movement, stand-alone professional schools offering PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) programs instead of the more scientifically oriented PhD degree, and the failure of professional associations to take action against peddlers of discredited services.

Beyerstein identifies several cherished assumptions of clinicians that are actually psychotherapeutic fictions. They include: (1) "[m]ainstream psychotherapies are highly successful"; (2) "'clinical judgment' is a reliable basis for deriving predictions about clients' behavior"; (3) "most psychological problems stem from trauma or maltreatment early in life"; and (4) multiple personality disorder is a legitimate diagnosis.

He notes problems with various approaches to psychological therapy including: (1) psychoanalysis; (2) practices of "recovered" memories of childhood abuse, satanic ritual abuse, or alien abduction; (3) herbs and supplements; (4) eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing [EMDR] therapy for patients with debilitating anxiety; (5) handwriting analysis; (6) Transcendental Meditation; (7) therapies that encourage recall of thoughts while in utero, during birth, or in early childhood-e.g. "rebirthing," Primal Scream Therapy, and Dianetics; and (8) self-help psychotherapy books.

Beyerstein's article is followed by a painstaking analysis of studies and books about "The Doman-Delacato Patterning Treatment for Brain Damage" by Terrence M. Hines, PhD of the Pace University Psychology Department. The treatment involves exercises claimed by the Philadelphia-based Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (http://www.iahp.org), which was founded by Glenn Doman, to rewire the brain to eliminate the consequences of blockage in the normal pattern of brain development. The full title of Doman's (1994) book is What to Do about Your Brain-Injured Child or Your Brain-Damaged, Mentally Retarded, Mentally Deficient, Cerebral-Palsied, Spastic, Flaccid, Rigid, Epileptic, Autistic, Athetoid, Hyperactive, Down's Child. Hines writes that the treatment "is based on a view of the development and organization of the brain that is simply wrong." Hines shows that studies cited by promoters have been discredited. At least 10 professional organizations have condemned the Doman-Delacato technique. IAHP continues to promote Doman's books, courses, and programs for brain-injured and "well" children.

ROGERIAN NURSING SCIENCE EXPOSED AS PSEUDOSCIENCE

Many nursing academicians describe themselves as Rogerians. By this they mean they take seriously the work of the late Martha Rogers, who was dean of nursing at New York University and the author of The Science of Unitary Human Beings and An Introduction to the Theoretical Basis of Nursing. Rogerians refer to a unitary human being as an "energy field" although they fail to measure any properties that would make the notion of an energy field meaningful. Rogerian theory is appealing to nurses who practice "Therapeutic Touch," which they believe enables them to sense and manipulate the supposed energy field from a distance of 2 to 6 inches.

An illuminating article by Jef Raskin [Rogerian nursing theory: A humbug in the halls of higher learning. Skeptical Inquirer, 24(5):30-35, 2000] reveals the writings of Rogers and her acolytes to be incoherent, lacking in substance, grandiose, and self-contradictory. Raskin writes: "Unlike science, nursing theory has no built-in mechanisms for rejecting falsehoods, tautologies, and irrelevancies."

Despite his criticism of Rogerian nursing science and other attempts in academic nursing to provide a comprehensive theory of nursing, Raskin is respectful of nurses. He describes them as knowledgeable, undervalued and underpaid. He explains that nurses require "a disparate and broad range of interpersonal, organizational, clerical, and technical skills" and that having a comprehensive theory of nursing does not make sense. Raskin calls for revamping Ph.D. programs in nursing to rid them of authoritarianism and mysticism.

NEW EDITION OF CONSUMER HEALTH TEXTBOOK AVAILABLE

Stephen Barrett, MD, William T. Jarvis, PhD, Manfred Kroger, PhD, and William M. London, EdD, MPH are co-authors of the seventh edition (2002) of the college textbook Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions (623 pp.) published by McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-232366-3. The authors revised and updated all 26 chapters of the 1997 sixth edition. Thoroughly referenced, indexed, and illustrated, Consumer Health is a readable and useful reference for both consumers and professionals.

Chapter titles include: Consumer Health Issues; Separating Fact from Fiction; Frauds and Quackery; Advertising and Other Marketing Practices; Science-Based Health Care; Mental Health Care; Dental Care; "Alternative" Methods; Self-Care; Health-Care Facilities; Basic Nutrition Concepts; Nutrition Fads, Fallacies, and Scams; Weight Control; Exercise Concepts, Products, and Services; Cardiovascular Diseases; Arthritis and Related Disorders; Cancer; AIDS; Drug Products; Skin Care and Beauty Aids; Especially for Women; Health Devices; Coping with Death; Health Insurance; Health-Care Economics; Consumer Laws, Agencies, and Strategies. An appendix provides a listing of organizations and federal agencies that provide reliable information on various health topics. Links to the Web pages of these organizations and other sites that are useful for studying consumer health are provided at the Consumer Health Sourcebook (http://www.chsourcebook.com), the Web site for the textbook.

The book is available through NCAHF Book Sales at $60 for nonmembers and $54 for members. U.S. Postage is $3.00. Canadian postage is $9.00. No overseas orders. Payment must be enclosed.

PSYCHOTHERAPY WEB SITES FOR CONSUMERS CRITIQUED

A study of the quality of information on psychotherapy at Web sites that consumers would likely find in a search for information on psychotherapy revealed that "the consumer of health information is exposed to a variety of unsubstantiated claims." Thirty Web sites identified from each of three Web searches using different search engines were identified. After excluding duplicated Web sites and sites that did not contain information that consumers might use in deciding whether to enter therapy, 20 sites were analyzed for the study. Shortcomings identified in these sites included out-of-date information, inadequate references of sources, insufficient information about methodologies of studies described, carelessness, hyperbole, intimidating statements, and self-serving statements. [Quinn, B. Assessing the quality of psychotherapy self-evaluation information on the web. Proceedings of the 22nd National Online Meeting, 2001.]

CORRECTION

The founder of the Society for Cancer Research, Rudolf Steiner, was incorrectly described as a physician in the May/June newsletter article "Celebrity Publicizes Choice of Dubious Cancer Treatment Following Coverage of Her Liposuction Clinic."

AUTISM QUACKERY REVIEWED

Persons with autism have slight to substantial impairment in ability to learn, communicate, and interact socially with others. Several recently published articles including two articles in the special double issue of Priorities for Health magazine on "Sorting Out Junk Science" [12(4);2000 and 13(1);2001; published online at http://www.acsh.org/publications/priorities/1301/index.html] provide critiques of dubious claims for interventions to help persons with autism.

In their Priorities for Health article, "Pseudoscientific Treatments for Autism," James D. Herbert, PhD and Ian Sharp of MCP Hahnemann University note that publicity in 1998 about one child with autism benefiting from the injection of a single dose of secretin-a digestive hormone-led thousands of parents to have their children injected. Herbert and Sharp state that the only FDA-approved medical application of secretin is for the facilitation of diagnosis of gastrointestinal diseases. They cite two studies of secretin given to children with autism. In one study, no effect of secretin was found on standard behavioral measures. In the other study, no effect of secretin was found on standard measures of language skills. No studies have reported positive effects of secretin on children with autism.

Nevertheless in an essay from Autism Research Review International on the Web site of the Autism Research Institute Bernard Rimland, PhD states "The use of secretin appears to be the most promising treatment yet discovered for the treatment of autism." In another essay Rimland states that "Secretin is widely regarded as being remarkably safe," but also cites three cases of seizures and one case of breathing cessation requiring resuscitation following administration of secretin to children with autism. Rimland downplays the safety concerns of administering secretin to children by making the deceptive generalization that hormones are much less toxic than synthetic drugs.

Herbert and Sharp also note that some professionals claim that DMG (N,N-dimethylglycine) treatment increases eye contact and speech and reduces frustration among persons with autism. They state that a double-blind placebo crossover pilot study of DMG treatment of eight males with autism did not show effects that significantly differed from placebo treatment.

Rimland, who promotes DMG for people with autism, states in another Autism Research Review International essay: "There aren't any [double-blind placebo-controlled scientific studies showing DMG to be effective in autism] and none are needed." NCAHF insists, to the contrary, that proponents of treatments need to back up their claims with evidence, not anecdotes.
Herbert and Sharp describe auditory integration training (AIT), which was developed by otolaryngologist Guy Berard in Annecy, France, as involving exposure to sounds of varying volume and pitch to normalize hearing in persons with autism. Proponents claim that AIT improves ability to speak, comprehension, eye contact, memory, and social behavior.

In her Priorities for Health article "Autism and Voodoo Science Treatments," Gina Green, PhD, BCBA writes on behalf of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (a nonprofit organization which can be reached at 516-466-4400). Green shows that studies that purportedly demonstrate AIT to be beneficial to people with autism have serious methodological flaws. She notes that in 1998 the American Academy of Pediatrics found no good controlled studies to support its use and raised questions about its safety. She quotes from treatment guidelines developed by a multidisciplinary panel arranged by the New York State Department of Health: "Because of the lack of demonstrated efficacy and the expense of the intervention, it is recommended that auditory integration training not be used."

Promoters of the technique of "facilitated communication" (FC) claim that FC is a breakthrough that enables persons with autism and other severe communication difficulties to express themselves on a computer or typewriter keyboard. The "facilitation" is provided by a non-disabled adult, who maintains physical contact with a hand, arm, or shoulder of the disabled person. According to Green, at least 40 controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals since 1992 have validated the hypothesis that facilitators are the actual sources of the messages entered on keyboards. She writes that the only studies represented as controlled and as validating FC were conducted by proponents of the method and all the papers were published in the journal Mental Retardation. Green lists the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association on Mental Retardation, the American Psychological Association, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the Association for Behavior Analysis as having issued position statements "to the effect that FC is not a valid or reliable way of dealing with the communication problems of autism or other disabilities."

According to Green, thirty years of research has established that intensive intervention with applied behavior analysis can produce large, lasting improvements in the cognitive, social, and communication skills of persons with autism. She writes that widespread uncritical adoption of FC by many professionals who work with persons with autism has led to frequent displacement of validated intervention.

In "Facilitated Communication: A Cruel Farce" [Skeptical Inquirer 25(1):17-19, 2001], Martin Gardner describes facilitators as totally sincere, but as unconsciously guiding the fingers of the disabled persons they were trying to help. The was demonstrated in a definitive test presented in the October 1993 PBS Frontline program on "Prisoners of Silence." A tragic aspect of facilitator influence has been the typing of false accusations of child sexual molestation leading to dozens of arrests, in some cases leading to jail time and the need for legal defenses. Gardner cites a case in England reported in 1999 in which "[t]he judge, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, branded FC a dangerous, unverified technique that should never be used again in any British court to support sexual abuse charges."Gardner notes that Douglas Biklen, whose doctorate is in sociology, continues to train facilitators through the Facilitated Communication Institute at Syracuse University, where he is a professor of education. According to Gardner: "Through high-priced seminars, and sales of videotapes and literature, it is estimated that Biklen is bringing millions of dollars annually to his university."

The Web site for Biklen's Institute is http://soeweb.syr.edu/thefci/index.html. Biklen cautions against facilitators guiding in pointing or typing.

In a previously published article, "The Brutality of Dr. Bettelheim," [Skeptical Inquirer 24(6):12-14, 2000], Gardner wrote: "Strong evidence that autism is a dysfunction has been available for half a century, and was taken for granted by neurologists outside the Freudian tradition." His article focuses on Bruno Bettelheim, a Freudian and the "leading advocate," of the view that autism was somehow caused by unloving parents. Bettleheim promoted "parentectomy," a cruel and unwarranted policy that forbade parents from seeing their children for at least nine months.

In its August 2001 article "Vaccines: An Issue of Trust," Consumer Reports refers to the accusation made by anti-vaccine groups that the that measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism as "groundless, according to the latest research." The U.S. Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, the Canadian Pediatric Society and the United Kingdom's Medical Research Council have all found that the claim that MMR vaccine causes autism is not supported by the evidence.


Newsletter contents copyright 2001, National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc.
Items may be be reprinted without permission if suitable credit is given.

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