Saturday, June 11, 2005

Death by natural causes

As someone who has asthma, I know that asthma can kill. As a parent of a child with asthma, I know how important it is to seek urgent medical care if a major asthma attack occurs. Luckily, this situation has not occurred to me, yet.

In Seattle, the parents of Megan Wilson also knew to seek medical attention. Unfortunately, they did not understand that naturopaths are not medically trained and most have very little understanding of the science and reality behind most illnesses. When confronted by anxious parents with a child that was obviously having a severe asthma attack, the "natural health clinic" treated the condition with acupuncture, a B-12 injection and a tincture. As a result of not getting the medical care that was needed, the girl died.

Acupuncture has an effect on the human body, in the same way that scratching can soothe an itch. The counter irritation can cause the body to release chemicals to reduce pain. However, carefully controlled trials prove that the location of the needles is irrelevant. The location of special meridian points corresponding to different parts of the body has been shown to be a furphy. These points exist on many charts in many natural therapy offices, but they do not exist on the human body.

While there are thousands of articles to be found in "natural" and "alternative" magazines and internet sites claiming how effective this treatment is, a search of medical journals produces much less evidence. I could not locate a single trial of Vitamin B-12 as a treatment for acute asthma.

The other "treatment" used, was a tincture. This is the term for a homeopathic solution. Those who know the reality of homeopathy, would call it water. A tincture is a highly diluted solution that follows the ridiculous theory that the more you dilute something, the stronger it gets. What's more the item being diluted is chosen based on the old and disproven theory of like cures like. If you have an eye infection that makes your eyes water, onions will cure it because they make your eyes water as well.

The end result was that the child was not provided with medical treatment that could have saved her life. The investigation into the incident has now focussed on the naturopath, who claims to have advised the parents to take the child to the hospital. The parents claim that no such advice was provided.

The most infuriating part is that there was a hospital across the road. The child was so close to someone that could treat her, yet that treatment was withheld in favour of bogus therapies that did nothing to stop this preventable death.

What is the reaction of the naturopath involved?

'It's crap, bullshit stuff,' Dr. Lucinda Messer says of the Wilsons' charges of negligence. She asserts that it’s the Wilsons who were negligent for shunning conventional medical help. 'There was so much neglect here.' (Published by Seattle Weekly, June 8-14, 2005)

We have a person who holds themselves out to be a primary care provider and is licensed to do so in the State of Washington. This is a person then blames the parents for choosing her as a primary care provider. The first comment of the above quote explains what I think of that defence.

Asthma can kill. If you or someone in your care has a severe asthma attack, seek advice from a real medical doctor, not some "natural" healer pretending to play doctor.

"There is only one truth. How we interpret that truth is called belief."
"The presence of belief, does not indicate the existence of truth."

Monday, June 06, 2005

No insurance for bogus therapies

Australian health funds have been heavily advertising on television about the range of alternative therapies that they will now provide cover for. One advertisement shows two men in traditional chinese dress rushing out of the back of an ambulance to "help" a man injured on the side of the road.

Rather than competing for customers based on which fund can provide the most outrageous and worthless treatment, I'd like to see a fund advertise that they can keep their premiums low because they only cover proven treatments. That's a fund that would certainly get my business.

Australia could learn a thing or two from the recent decision in Switzerland. The Swiss government has determined that homeopathy, herbal medicine, traditional chinese medicine, neural therapy and anthroposophic medicine would no longer be covered under basic health insurance. These treatments have failed to meet the health insurance laws that demand therapies be cost effective, suitable and actually work.

Heaven forbid, imagine the gall of the Swiss government to actually insist that a medical treatment work before being covered by insurance. It's a pity the Australian insurers don't follow the Swiss lead.

How can claiming hundreds of dollars for water (aka homeopathic treatment) from a health insurance fund not be considered insurance fraud? Surely, claiming to have the mythical chiropractic subluxations corrected would also qualify as insurance fraud.

"There is only one truth. How we interpret that truth is called belief."
"The presence of belief, does not indicate the existence of truth."