1. says

    While those are small but still important cases, I think there’s an even greater danger lurking at our hospitals: chaplains. These people are spiritual guiders dressed in a counselor’s clothing. Despite whatever education and accreditation they go through, relying on an invisible man for guidance in times of life or death is horrifying to me.

  2. says

    While those are small but still important cases, I think there’s an even greater danger lurking at our hospitals: chaplains

    Even an ornery ol’ atheist like me can’t agree that hospital chaplains pose a greater threat than untrained woo-woo artists cutting into people.

    Unless your argument is one of numbers, maybe?

  3. says

    Exactly: numbers and their accustomed credibility. While homeopathic practitioners are correctly ostracized for their quackery of physical medicine, chaplains, in my opinion, should be ostracized for their quackery of mental “medicine.”

  4. says

    I see your point, Tom, but after a lifetime of their relying on their faith for comfort, I don’t think the hospital’s the right place to cut off a patient’s access to that comfort. Other times and places are more appropriate, IMO.

  5. says

    True enough, but should their ignorant-but-comfortable habit dictate how we appropriately treat mental stress? It might very well bring me comfort and false hope to drink an age old remedy of honey, gin, and other common kitchen ingredients to cure my throat congestion, but if it doesn’t work or if there are better treatments available, I don’t think it would be wise for a hospital to tell me to continue (and in this case, support) the malpractice.

  6. says

    Also, I forgot to touch on one other point: this wouldn’t be the hospital cutting off access to their preferred mental maltreatment, but rather only supplying proven, adequate treatment. They’re free to go outside of the health care institution for their daily dose of false hope, but to bring in, in my opinion, baseless-credentialed false counselors is, in essence, telling you that you will receive adequate surgical treatment and, like in the case referenced above, they give you a homeopathic practitioner.

  7. Tim Tesar says

    I certainly agree that this kind of quackery is outrageous and must be eliminated either by law or through education. On the other hand, I wonder if our concern about the safety of medical treatment is better directed toward “conventional” medicine. This article from AARP indicates that:

    “…[R]ecent estimates of the incidence of medical errors resulting in injuries reach as high as 17.7 percent of hospitalizations. … [T]he 1990 Harvard Medical Practice Study … found that nearly 4 percent of patients suffered an injury that caused their hospital stays to be prolonged, or resulted in measurable disability.”

    Undoubtedly the benefits of conventional care outweigh the risks, and I’m sure many work vigorously to lower these risks, and I will continue to avoid quacks and seek conventional care. But health consumers should be aware of these risks also as they make rational health care decisions.

    (I chose the AARP article because I did not want to take a lot of time looking for material to make my point. Even if you dispute the significance of those particular statistics, I think my point still stands.)

  8. says

    Recently, a friend of mine was prompted by someone to see a homeopath. The guy has been suffering a bit of middle-age-bulge and his dietician suggested an allergist who also was a homeopath. Fortunately, he mentioned this to me before going… he didn’t know what homeopathy was and figured I might. Good call.

    So I explained it to him. His reaction was “it sounds like bullshit”. I told him to ask the homeopath to explain how it all works, but to force her to stick to scientifically supported statements… no mystical energies etc. As might be expected, his conversation with the homeopath quickly took a path like “perhaps homeopathy is not for you”. I wish I had been there for it. I would have loved to torque her up.

    The best part though was when they started talkign about food sensitivities. You see, I have a few (yogurt, bee stings = pushing up daisies). My friend was a bit concerned about an itchy skin test. The homeopath/allergist assured him that an itchy test was not necessary! Apparently, one can test for sensitivities by hooking you up to what amounts to an ohmmeter with whatever you’re being tested for in the circuit. So if she wanted to test to see if I was allergic to yogurt, she would hook me up to this power supply and meter with an electrode on each of two skin locations and running the circuit through a bowl of yogurt. I can’t make this stuff up.

    My friend decided it would be best to go to a health practitioner that was sane. I think the dietician got a pretty negative report about her recommendation too.

  9. says

    How about this gem?
    “under state law, homeopathic doctors may treat disease with “acupuncture, chelation therapy, homeopathy, minor surgery, neuromuscular integration, nutrition, orthomolecular therapy and pharmaceutical medicine.””

  10. Jazmin says

    Crap! My damn comment disappeared while I was trying to edit it. Maybe I should take that as a sign. (that I’m completely ignorant on the care and feeding of computers)

  11. Erp says

    On homeopaths performing surgery, Arizona is crazy.

    On hospital chaplains, my own view is that the paid chaplains should be primarily responsible for (a) co-ordinating the local volunteer ministers, rabbis, etc. (e.g., knowing who they are and seeing that they know the hospital rules such as no proselytizing and no visiting patients who haven’t asked to see them), (b) knowing what religious issues for any half way common religion might affect medical care (e.g., knowing religious food restrictions) and knowing how to get around them (for instance Judaism permits most rules to be broken in order to save a life), (c) knowing the philosophical and religious views on various ethical issues so as to advise others, and (d) being a shoulder to cry on and a cutter of red tape. Note I see no problem with an atheist being a hospital chaplain.

    The major hospital codes for chaplains seem to forbid attempts to convert.

    Demonstrate respect for the cultural and religious values of those they serve and refrain from imposing their own values and beliefs on those served.[1]


    Professional chaplains reach across faith group boundaries and do not proselytize.
    Acting on behalf of their institutions, they also seek to protect patients from being
    confronted by other, unwelcome, forms of spiritual intrusion.[2]

    This by the way is in contrast to the US military chaplain code of ethics. The group that most belong to, NCMAF, has

    “I will not proselytize from other religious bodies, but I retain the
    right to evangelize those who are non affiliated.”[3][4]

    A smaller group of military chaplains objected on the grounds they should be able to evangelize everyone.[5]

  12. Jazmin says

    What Erp said! And he did it much more eloquently than I. It was good good thing, then, that my earlier intended comment was banished to cyber hell.

    I would like to add, that as a nurse, patients with particular religious beliefs respond better if their preacher, rabbi, shaman, whoever, are around to comfort and console. Just like a sick child with a favorite toy or teddy bear, you wouldn’t take it away just because it’s a fantasy, right?

    I’ll wait until my patient is back on his feet before I try to enlighten. If he’s feeling well enough to kick my satanic ass out the door, then I’ll know we had a meaningful exchange.

  13. says

    OMG. I just found this: From 2005, about the Homeopathic Licensing Board:

    “A California doctor spent five years in prison for performing thousands of unnecessary eye surgeries before being allowed to practice homeopathic medicine in Arizona.

    A New Mexico doctor illegally borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 100 of his own patients before becoming a homeopathic physician in metropolitan Phoenix, a crime that recently resulted in felony convictions.

    Over the past five years, the Arizona Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners has licensed four doctors who have been convicted of felonies in other states and six others who have lost their licenses or been disciplined elsewhere.”

  14. Jazmin says

    Aaaack! Besides the fact that it’s too bloody hot to live there…and no bull about “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”. Hot is hot and I am a snowflake. Man, I’m ready for winter!

  15. bernarda says

    A surprising story to be found from the freepers, 8 Americans, including a Minnesotan have graduated from Cuba’s free medical school for foreigners. This has also been reported on BBC World. What will CNN, MSNBC, and Fox do?

    “Four New Yorkers, three Californians and a Minnesotan, all from minority backgrounds, have studied in Havana since April 2001, forming the first class of American graduates from the Latin American School of Medicine. One other American previously graduated from the school after transferring from a U.S. university, but the six women and two men graduating Tuesday were the first Americans to complete the entire six-year program since Castro offered the free medical training to U.S. students.”

    “The students said that much of what they learned in Cuba matched the curriculum at American medical schools, but that instructors here placed a special emphasis on preventative care.

    «I will be heading back to the United States with a great advantage over the American students who have stayed there,» said Wing Wu, from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    U.S. authorities have suggested, however, that it is unclear whether Americans who receive Cuban medical training can meet licensing requirements in the United States. The graduates will have to pass two exams to apply for residency at American hospitals, then eventually pass a third.

    But the U.S. transfer student who graduated from the Cuban school recently began his residency at a New York City hospital. His experience gave hope to Tuesday’s graduating class.

    «Do I think there will be prejudices against us when we go back to the States and are looking for residences? Yes, it’s inevitable,» said Kenya Bingham, from Alameda, California. «I think there will be just due to the simple fact that there are political differences between the two countries.”

    Also surprising is the U.S. group that the Cubans use to represent them in the U.S.

    “The US recruitment and application process is handled by the Interreligious Organization for Community Organization (IFCO/ Pastors for Peace). IFCO offers workshops about ELAM throughout the United States. Applications are accepted twice a year, and require supporting documentation such as: academic transcripts, letters of reference, criminal background check and medical history. An interview is required. MCAT is not required.”

    Those atheistic Cubans sure are sly.

  16. Older says

    Homeopaths can do surgery??? Oh, I see, *minor* surgery.

    Well, that’s very different. Never mind.