Monday, July 5, 2010

Great Britain Continues to Rule Against Pseudoscience

I am not a medical doctor.  I have no medical training whatsoever.  I also did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.  That is my disclaimer.  If I am going to blog about medical related things, even in the wacky world of medical pseudoscience (often referred to as "woo."), then I must make this disclaimer.

Yeah for the British!  They have been making a lot of sense lately.  Back in May, the General Medical Council stripped Andrew Wakefield of his medical license.  For those of you that don't know that name, he was the principal author in a paper published in 1998 that linked the MMR vaccine to autism.  Since the paper was released, there has been mass hysteria over the conclusions.  One of the key paragraphs in the ruling stripping him of his license is the following:

In reaching its decision, the Panel notes that the project reported in the Lancet paper was established with the purpose to investigate a postulated new syndrome and yet the Lancet paper did not describe this fact at all. Because you drafted and wrote the final version of the paper, and omitted correct information about the purpose of the study or the patient population, the Panel is satisfied that your conduct was irresponsible and dishonest.
Unfortunately, he has moved to the United States and is taking up the anti-vaccine fight here.  Here is a bit more of the findings of the General Medical Council.

The verdict, read out by panel chairman Dr Surendra Kumar, criticised Dr Wakefield for the invasive tests, such as spinal taps, that were carried out on children and which were found to be against their best clinical interests.
The panel said Dr Wakefield, who was working at London's Royal Free Hospital as a gastroenterologist at the time, did not have the ethical approval or relevant qualifications for such tests.
The GMC also took exception with the way he gathered blood samples. Dr Wakefield paid children £5 for the samples at his son's birthday party.
Dr Kumar said he had acted with "callous disregard for the distress and pain the children might suffer".
He also said Dr Wakefield should have disclosed the fact that he had been paid to advise solicitors acting for parents who believed their children had been harmed by the MMR.
In short, Andrew Wakefield has done more harm to public health than anything in the last 50 years.  Brian Deer is an investigative journalist that brought all of Wakefield's dishonesty to a head.  As a result of this study, vaccines and the vaccine schedule itself is probably one of the most heavily studied medical items in the last 12 years.  None of these studies have shown any results to even come close to conclusions in Wakefield's paper and study after study has shown absolutely no increase in autism as it relates to vaccinations.

But England isn't done yet.  Back in February, the Science and Technology Select Committee called Homeopathy useless and unethical.  This is a great video about homeopathy.  But seriously, here is a wonderful cartoon that explains how homeopathy is supposed to work.

Just recently, the British Medical Association has come out and said that gay conversion therapy is harmful and should be discredited.  It is also referred to as reparative therapy.  The idea basically stems from the biblical "fact" that since you cannot be born gay, then you choose to be gay, and this therapy will help convert you back to your proper hetero self.  There are quite a few of these reparative clinics in the United States.  Usually run by far right-wing religious fanatics with degrees in psychology.  How scary is that?  Obviously God is perfect and could never make a mistake about the gender of a fetus.

Hopefully the American medical associations, societies, and governmental agencies will wake up and smell the coffee and do something about getting rid of these modern day snake oil salesmen in the United States as well.

Update #1:

How can I forget that British science writer Simon Singh also won an appeal in Britain's notoriously difficult morass of libel laws.  He wrote an opinion that the British Chiropractic Association promoted bogus treatments.  Singh had the nerve to say that the BCA's Spinal Manipulative Therapy did not reduce the symptoms of Asthma as was claimed by the BCA.  There is now strong support in British Parliament to look at overhauling the countries horrendous libel laws.

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