When your name is prefixed by “reality star”…your ideas are immediately suspect

From the first sentence, I could tell that the opinions of Kristin Cavallari were garbage.

Experts warned against the dangers of following celebrity advice after reality star Kristin Cavallari acknowledged Thursday that she and husband Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler decided not to vaccinate their children.

When directly asked whether she was opposed to vaccines during an appearance on the Fox Business Network program, The Independents, Cavallari said, “we don’t vaccinate.” The reason? “I’ve read too many books about autism and the studies,” she said.

Also, “Chicago Bears quarterback” does not confer any credibility in matters of medicine on Jay Cutler. These are people that should be laughed at.

But then the article cites a doctor:

Homefirst Health Services, meanwhile — if that’s what Cavallari meant — is a Rolling Meadows-based pediatrics practice that embraces home births and shuns vaccines. Dr. Mayer Eisenstein and his practice were the subject of a 2009 Chicago Tribune investigation that shed light on the use of potentially dangerous alternative autism treatments. On the Homefirst website, Eisenstein maintains that “personal religious convictions, not scientific studies, are the main reasons, upon which to base your vaccination decision.”

Is there no accreditation process for medical clinics? How does one that refuses to carry out basic preventive medicine for “religious” reasons, manage to stay in business without the medical establishment — or at least the insurance companies — stomping on them?

The only sensible words in this article…

Alexander said Cavallari’s comments illustrate the problems with celebrity spokespeople, namely that they often have their facts wrong. “Celebrity status does not indicate scientific expertise,” he said.

They’re always hucksters at heart

When I heard about Eben Alexander’s I-died-and-went-to-heaven story, my first reaction was dismissive: I’ve heard these stories so many times, and they always turn out to be confabulation. When the brain is rebooted after trauma, especially if the process is prolonged as in Alexander’s case, it tries to reconstruct the continuity of experience by building memories (heck, even in normal healthy brains, memories are constructed). What I would have condemned Alexander for is extreme gullibility, unforgivable in a highly trained neurosurgeon.

I did not assume he was making stuff up for a payday. But not so fast; an Esquire reporter did some digging into Eben Alexander’s background, and also checked the details of his claims in his book, and it looks like we ought to be more suspicious.

When Alexander got sick in late 2008, he hadn’t practiced surgery in a year and faced a $3 million malpractice lawsuit. He now has a best-selling book and a movie deal.

Not just a malpractice suit, which are fairly common, but a whole string of malpractice suits that made him the subject of the highest number of such suits in his state. He’d similarly faded out of practice in Massachusetts, first, and then moved to Virginia to restart, where he then lost his surgical privileges at his hospital after a succession of screwups in spinal surgery…and after altering surgical records to cover his tracks.

Whoops.

Oh, well. When you’re a venal fuckup, you can always find a loving home in the Christian community by lying about Jesus a lot.

Tightening the screws on Burzynski

The FDA is getting tough.

In letters to Burzynski and his research institute posted online Wednesday, the FDA says that Burzynski inflated success rates for experimental drugs that he calls antineoplastons. The FDA also says Burzynski failed to report side effects and to prevent patients from repeatedly overdosing.

If Burzynski fails to adequately address the FDA’s concerns, the agency could terminate his clinical trial; disqualify Burzynski from conducting future FDA research; issue a civil fine; or pursue criminal charges, according to FDA regulations. Burzynski has 15 days to respond to the FDA.

That’s from a summary on USA Today, which you might not want to visit because of the annoying autoplay videos they’ll fling at you. You can read the FDA’s official letter instead, which is a solid rebuke. Here are the highlights:

1. You failed to ensure that the investigation was conducted according to the investigational plan [21 CFR 312.60].

2. You failed to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects under your care [21 Cfr 312.60 and 21 CFR 312.305(c)(1)].

3. You failed to obtain informed consent in accordance with the provisions of 21 CFR part 50 [21 CFR 312.60, 21 CFR 50.25(b)(3), and 21 CFR 50.27(b)(1)].

4. You failed to adhere to requirements for all expanded access uses with respect to maintaining accurate case histories and retaining records in a manner consistent with 21 CFR 312.62 [21 CFR 312.305(c)(4) and 21 CFR 312.62(b) and (c)].

Each of those is accompanied by a detailed breakdown of all of Burzynski’s failings — it’s a real pleasure to read how this quack is getting ever so firmly and formally raked over the coals. I’m going to go out on a limb here — a very stout, strong limb — and predict that Burzynski is going to be incapable of addressing any of the complaints with anything other than bluster, and that right now he’s making plans to slither his clinic over the border into Mexico.

Time for the professional societies to take a stand on Burzynski

The 4th Quadrennial Meeting of the World Federation of Neuro-Oncology is meeting right now in San Francisco, and guess who is presenting there? There are four papers being presented by those criminal frauds of the Burzynski Clinic.

They sure can talk the science talk, can’t they? And they go through all the motions of attending and presenting at meetings of the Society for Neuro-Oncology, which I’m sure looks formidable to the rubes, but when you look at the results of recent reviews of their facilities and protocols (or read the summary in USA Today), they don’t walk the science walk. Read about the patients, or the story of the Burzynski scam. For over thirty years, he has been skating at the edge of credibility by carrying out the rituals of science without going the next step and actually testing his claims, getting rich off desperate people and killing them with bad therapies and sloppy protocols.

I know what these meetings are like. They will be full of professionals in nice dresses and conservative ties, and they will be talking shop and taking notes on the interesting presentations, and I know exactly how they will respond to Burzynskiites: they are beneath them, they will roll their eyes as they skip their talks, and they might grumble a bit at the bar afterwards. And that’s about it. I’ve seen it when creationists get their work into poster sessions at non-peer-reviewed science meetings.

But these guys are worse than creationists. These are con artists giving false hope to dangerously ill patients, using organizations like the SNO as a façade to bilk people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and skirting on the proper protocols to give the illusion that they’re doing legitimate science.

It is a huge ethical problem for these societies to provide cover for quacks. I would hope that, at the very least, attendees take time to read the facts about Burzynski and give these con artists a hard time in public; but more significantly, I think the only appropriate thing for the Society for Neuro-Oncology to do is to kick the bastards out. Don’t let them take shelter under your wing any more.

Aww, we missed his birthday

It’s belated, but maybe you can go read this lovely tribute to Prince Charles by Edzard Ernst.

The young Prince Charles went on a journey of ‘spiritual discovery’ into the wilderness of northern Kenya. His guru and guide was Laurens van der Post (who was later discovered to be a fraud and compulsive fantasist and to have fathered a child with a 14-year old girl entrusted to him during a sea voyage). Van der Post wanted to awake Charles’ young intuitive mind and attune it to the ideas of Carl Jung’s ’collective unconscious’ which allegedly unites us all through a common vital force. It is this belief in vitalism (long obsolete in medicine and science) that provides the crucial link to alternative medicine: virtually every form of the otherwise highly diverse range of alternative therapies is based on the assumption that some sort of vital force or energy exists. Charles was so taken by van der Post that, after his death, he established an annual lecture in his honour.

Hey, Brits: You know what you can do with your monarchy, right?

The same thing the Yanks ought to do with their vapid celebrities: time to build the ‘B’ Ark. I have an aversion to those horrible little puff pieces about the Royals that come out of the British press, but I get a lot of my news out of the UK, and every once in a while one of those stories comes wafting by on the data stream, like a giant flocculent, spongy turd packaged in candy floss — and I get an unpleasant splat in my face. So I found myself reading with horror some noise about Prince Charles and homeopathy. Because I love you all so much, I figured I’d share.

After a plodding long prologue somberly discussing the history of Charles’s doddering brain encountering 16th century alchemical balderdash and haranguing the British Medical Association with it, and with his founding of various money sinks for bunkum, we get to his toxic effects on the citizenry.

Nevertheless, Charles’s support has, in no small part, led to a surge in the number of patients seeking such treatments. Nearly six million Britons now see complementary practitioners each year, and one in four would like access to be universally available on the NHS. (Currently, treatments are accessible only in some areas, including Bristol and Lothian.) Over-the-counter remedies, such as arnica cream, have seen a 24 per cent growth in sales in the past decade.

Rachel Roberts, chief executive of the Homeopathy Research Institute, admits that she was once sceptical about holistic medicine but was won over by Charles’s endorsement of the practice. The royal physician is Dr Peter Fisher, clinical director at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine and an accredited homeopath.

“The Royal family have huge resources and access to everything medicine has to offer, yet they choose homeopathy,” explains Roberts. “I thought, ‘Why would they use it if it doesn’t work?’”

She sees Charles as a revolutionary. “He’s outspoken about his beliefs and doesn’t appear to care that he’s going against the tide of opinion,” she says. “He gives homeopathy a voice. Now we’re seeing a U-turn in how it is being received, and the rest of the world is catching up to where Prince Charles has been for decades.”

Oooh! A bunch of filthy rich people are promoting something insanely stupid, but surely they couldn’t have got to where they are now without being clever and wise and all that, surely? Do I really need to inform the British public that your prince achieved his status in the world entirely by virtue of being born to the right parents, and he didn’t have to earn a bit of it?

Just a suggestion: go read The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain’s Favourite Fetish by Christopher Hitchens. It’s short, it’s cheap, it gets right to the point.

The New Age can be as deadly as Catholic ignorance

Read this story about abortions: it’s not anti-choice. It’s anti-science and anti-medicine. It’s appalling. She contrasts brutal “Western Science” with its machines (and also its caring people: ignore her colorful descriptions of the technology, and her experience with people in the abortion clinic was one where she was asked if she was sure she wanted it, and a woman who tried to help her afterwards) with “natural healing” in which she takes a few gentle herbs and just visualizes shedding the walls of her uterus, and magically her pregnancy disappears.

Then she babbles about how it is just fine if the “fundamentalist dickheads” burn down all the women’s clinics, because they’ll just be able to use organic natural herbal chemical-free machine-free medicine-free abortions using the magic power in women’s heads.

Jesus.

This is one of the nice things about FtB. Now you can go read Miri as a warm-up, finding parts of the essay that are worthwhile, while others suck.

Then go read Avi’s total destruction of the dangerous anti-medical quackery in the story.

It’s all good.

Sometimes, malice is likelier than natural causes

Rahul, a child in India, is covered with horrible burns (caution: large color picture of scarred baby at the top of the article.)

The infant was admitted to the hospital on Thur­sday with burn injuries. The baby had had four such episodes with the first one barely nine days after his birth and another more re­cent one three weeks ago.

“An episode may or may not recur. It’s like any other burn injury, with the likelihood of scars and secondary infections. Plastic surgery is also expected to be done. The relatives or parents have to always keep an eye on the baby. Matchsticks, crackers or anything that can catch fire should not be kept near him,” Dr Babu added.

A bucket of water and fire extinguisher have always to be kept ready near the baby’s bed.

Huh? He’s in the hospital. Why are they worried about more burns rather than treating the ones he’s got?

Because they are blaming the child’s injuries on Spontaneous Human Combustion. Recurring spontaneous human combustion, no less — the kid is claimed to just burst into flames with no discernible cause.

The paediatric intensive care unit at Kilpauk Medi­cal College and Hospital on Friday received a number of curious visitors wanting a glimpse of three-month-old baby Rahul who suffers from Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC).

Only 200 cases have been seen such in the world over the past 300 years, the last reported case being in the United States in 2010.

“The body burns spontaneously due to combustible gases emitting from the patient’s body, without any external source of ignition,” said Dr R. Narayana Babu, head of the paediatrics department, Kilpauk Medi­cal College. “Clothes and other things nearby that are inflammable may also catch fire.”

I have a suggestion. The bucket of water and fire extinguisher are silly. Instead, I recommend a hidden video camera…especially one that is carefully monitored whenever the parents come to visit.

But what about the baaaaabies?

Nicotine is a teratogen — it’s known to have all kinds of interesting effects on the developing fetus. It’s very strongly associated with low birth weight, increases the likelihood of premature placental detachment, and it also causes deficiencies in lung development. You shouldn’t smoke during pregnancy (or use nicotine patches or any of the other alternatives for nicotine delivery), and if you really, really care about babies, you shouldn’t encourage other people to use nicotine during pregnancy.

Isn’t Jenny McCarthy supposed to be really passionate about protecting children? I recall her getting rather shrill about those wicked vaccines with their traces of propylene glycol used as a preservative.

Forget that, though, when money is on the line. Jenny McCarthy is now shilling for e-cigarettes…which use propylene glycol as part of a delivery system for nicotine.

So…in Jenny McCarthy’s mind, vaccines, which have been proven safe and even better, prevent serious diseases, are evil; e-cigarettes which give you a jolt of a known teratogen and toxin are sexy and fun.

As a reward for her hypocrisy and child-killing opinions, she gets a cushy job on broadcast television.