Anti-ScienceScience

Medical Apartheid and Other Quotes You Can't Believe They Said

The soundbite. I sincerely believe that the mastery of the soundbite is precisely why the pseudoscientists are doing as well as they are. Witness, if you will, the response of the scam artists to a letter signed by doctors stating that homeopathy is utter crap:Â

I think what this suggestion amounts to is a form of medical apartheid: any therapy which can’t trace its origins to what is called the biochemical model should be excluded from the NHS.

So says Dr. Peter Fisher, clinical director of the Royal Homeopathic hospital, as quoted by the Guardian. So, 13 of England’s top doctors urge the NHS to stop encouraging the use of WATER to treat diseases, and this bastard has the balls to use a charged word most commonly used to describe severe racial segregation and bias. What’s next? Would throwing a bunch of “homeopathic remedies” in a fire be considered a medical Hindenberg? Maybe we should retort in kind, but we don’t say things like that, because we’re mature, rational, and intelligent people. Well, most of us are, but I’m not so I’ll take one for the team. Quote this, Guardian:

Practitioners of homeopathy believe that a single drop of a substance in all the oceans on the planet Earth is enough to cure disease. I think what this suggestion amounts to is a form of a medical 9/11: a sneaky attack on our well-established base of knowledge by a bunch of misinformed zealots who end up killing innocent people.

How did I do? I’m taking lessons from the best, I think.

Here’s another great quote, from the Daily Mail:

It’s very frustrating that senior responsible people dismiss complementary medicine for the sole reason that it doesn’t have the definitive scientific proof that other drugs have.

I know what you’re thinking — you’re thinking that I totally made that up. Nobody is so stupid that they would admit in a newspaper that you don’t need proof to prove something works. But, you’re wrong! Somebody is that stupid, and that somebody is Terry Cullen, chairman of the British Complementary Medicine Association. Sadly, Terry is only runner up in the Skepchick Blog “Stupid Jerk of the Day” award, since that honor clearly belongs to Dr. Peter Fisher, the “Pol Pot” of intelligent inquiry.

Thanks to nsetzer for the heads up on this story!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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13 Comments

  1. Too bad nobody ever thought of dropping homepathic remedies for flu, digestive problems or others in the ocean. With my poor skill in swimming, I always drink lots of water when I go to the beach so, I'd be cured for life by now!

  2. I'm not sure how I feel about the opening line of the counter-quote; my brain just locks up while reading it, and I sort of stumble over it. While this could be the intention, perhaps something along the lines of "Having already killed (dozens, hundreds?) and prevented (thousands, millions) from receiving medical treatment, practitioners of homeopathy now wish to foist their madness on a larger, unsuspecting population."?

  3. To the author:

    Yeah, and biofeedback and accupuncture don't work either. Oh, and that whole mind/body connection – it must be crap, too. After all there's "no definitive scientific proof".

    The BBC article referenced complementary therapies and medicines, not just the "single drop of substance" cures.
    Just because some homeopathic "cures" are, well, crap, that doesn't mean we should throw the baby away with the bathwater.

    You make it sound like perscription drugs and mainstream doctors do no wrong – well, plenty of innocent people die from misdiagnosis and/or reactions to perscription drugs.

    Of course many mainstream doctors are going to participate in actions against alternative treatments – they don't want the competition, and they have their own belief systems. If you believe in clinical trails and statistical analysis, then why doesn't all medicine work for everyone in the same way?
    Reminds me of the Catholic Church and Galileo.

    Publicity is required to get money these days. Someone who knows the game knows how to use "charged" words, like "apartheid", accurately and for publicity.
    After South America, the American Heritage Dictionary defines apartheid as: "A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups."
    Certainly the tone of "discrimination" often associated with the word apartheid rings true in many circles against alternative medicine…and blatantly in your own words.
    Discrimination definition #3: "Treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality or prejudice."
    So, you imply everything outside of mainstream medicine is crap.
    You didn't _like_ his word choice, but it appears pretty accurate.
    Skeptics don't bash accuracy.

    "Maybe we should retort in kind, but we don’t say things like that, because we’re mature, rational, and intelligent people."
    You are "taking one for the team"? The team doesn't need any technical fouls. Your use of curses alone reduces the skeptical credibility of your argument. Any legitimate "argument" you may have against homeopathy is lost in your attempts at bashing.

    Even mainstream doctors cannot deny the benefits of drinking plenty of WATER to recover from diseases. Even mainstream doctors are starting to realize that maybe they should use more water, and less antibiotics.

    Get a grip, do some REAL research, go with an open mind.
    Read "Space, Time, and Medicine" or "Healing Words" by Larry Dossey (or just about anything he writes).
    Read some history about Galileo – that which is not mainstream is not necessary wrong.
    Then, take an asprin and an antibiotic, and call your doctor in the morning.

    Your writing shows you to be a misinformed zealot, not an informed skeptic.
    You are supposed to be skeptical, not close-minded.
    Your writing should be rational, not hysterical.

  4. To Cj:

    "So, you imply everything outside of mainstream medicine is crap."

    Actually, most skeptic just wants proof before believing in anything. Most medicine you can get have been tested on many individuals and if overall, the results are positive and statistically significant, then it means that the molecules in that medicine must have an effect on the body. If the effect is beneficial, then maybe, it can be used to cure people. Nobody ever said that drinking water wasn't good for the body. The meaning here is that so called homeopathic remedies have no active ingredient which could cure the body except for water (the supposed active ingredient is so diluted that it is virtually non existant in the remedy). And even then, when you take one of those homeopathic pills, there ain't much water in there, it's mostly sugar or something similar…

    So we are not close-minded…we are skeptical and waiting for proof…which never happened and probably never will…

  5. CJ, I don't think medicine is afraid of using any so-called alternative therapies. The history of the use of products like quinine, aspirin, and others are good examples. They worked and could be tested. The problem is that when most so-called alternative therapies are tested they don't work. Homeopathy does not work.

    Science isn't closed minded at all. There have been many examples where observations of herbalism have led to scientists isolating the active ingredient and producing medicines. That happened because they could test them. What I, as a sceptic, disapprove of is continued promotion of things that have not stood up to any kind of verification.

    At the moment many drugs companies are looking into treatments derived from plants in the Amazon, some of which are used by the indigenous people. If they show potential we'll here all about the results. If they don't they'll be relegated to the same scientific junkyard as homeopathy. This does not represent close-mindedness, or dogma, rather plain old pragmatism.

  6. Yes, CJ, way to go with the Galileo Gambit. Just in case you haven't noticed, Galileo was a scientist, persecuted not by established scientists, but by those with no reason to disbelieve him outside of their religious doctrine. Homeopath is belittled by real scientists because real science plainly disproves it. Remember, you can't claim Galileo status just because you feel persecuted. You also have to be right. And you're not.

    Also, pointing out the obvious fact that some doctors, and some prescription drugs, cause problems, has no bearing on whether or not alternative therapies work.

    You have Apples 'n' Oranges problems with the dictionary definitions you've provided too. They both apply to human behavior towards humans; applying them to observations about the efficacy of medical therapies is simply infantile. You do realize that the word "treatment" does not refer to the medical term, right? Just checking.

    And dare I mock your "water" comments? I couldn't stop laughing:

    REAL SCIENTIST: "Homeopathy essentially consists of diluting a substance with water so ludicrously often that the only molecules left in the sample are water alone. The supposed cure isn't even present in the water."
    YOU: "But even mainstream doctors say to drink lots of water!!"

    Criminy. How old are you CJ, ten? Eleven?

    "Get a grip, do some REAL research…"
    Uh. You mean the real research that shows homeopathy to be utterly ineffective? The same research shown above to draw the ire of alttards like yourself?

    Done. Where's yours?

  7. CJ:

    The reason homeopathy gets dismissed as the quackery is clearly is, is because after 200 years of messing around, the best scientific results you've come up with so far is "Hey, in less than half a dozen of all the thousands of trials we've done so far, homeopathic remedies didn't appear to be completely useless at first glance, we should check this out further!!" Now, it's these piss-poor scientific results – combined with the fact that homeopathy and it's suggested mode of operation defy all logic, common sense and a number of natural laws – that put it squarely in the "debunked" corner. The fact that no two homeopathy practitioners can agree on what exactly constitutes proper homeopathic treatment and methods just add to the marginalisation and make it the target of further ridicule by skeptics.

    And as others have already stated, not every crackpot scientist and his fringe research are going to shake the very foundations of our scientific knowledge. That honour is only bestowed upon those who are actually right instead of those hiding behind pitiful excuses or fudging (forging?) their results every time their theory fails to once again be validated by proper scientific research.

  8. I would like to add in response to another quote by a homeopath:

    "But it saves an enormous amount of money, as our remedies cost a fraction of orthodox remedies …"

    So if they're that much cheaper, why would they even need funding by the NHS anyway? Why would other people have to pay for your follies? If some crackpot decides to cure people by prescribing them bananas, will bananas then need to be refunded by the NHS?

    Or should we instead just keep relying on scientists and good old-fashioned drug trials to decide what is worthy of refunds with taxpayer money, just like it's always been?

  9. Sorry to keep commenting on this, but:

    "Our hospital was the first to introduce acupuncture in the health service in 1972. If the sort of ideas that are being advocated now had held at that time this service would never have been introduced."

    So those homeopaths are also to blame for introducing such dubious crap like accupuncture into the NHS. Great! Too bad the sort of ideas advocated now weren't held at that time :(

  10. “But it saves an enormous amount of money, as our remedies cost a fraction of orthodox remedies …”

    So if they’re that much cheaper, why would they even need funding by the NHS anyway?

    It's worse than that. Stating that their remedies are cheaper is, I would strongly suspect, disingenuous. Imagine a patient is diagnosed by their GP with an early stage and treatable form of cancer. Instead of undergoing "orthodox" treatment for that disease, they're prescribed a visit to an accupuncturist, or a reiki healer, or a homeopath. Sure, these don't cost very much, but they don't do anything. The cancer doesn't go away, and instead spreads. After a while the early-stage cancer than could have been treated at slightly more cost than the "alternative" system is now a late-stage cancer that is going to require significantly more cost – both in monetary terms to the NHS, and in pain terms to the patient.

    Of course your average "alternative" appologist will claim that alternative practicioners don't claim to cure cancer (they do), so feel free to substitute any diagnosis in place of cancer above. Prince Charlie (who appears to be responsible for who alones knows how much ignorance) has already claimed tha "alternative" remedies can be used to cure asthma. I wonder how many people will have to die proving him wrong.

  11. Wow. I am amazed.

    CJ managed to trot out every fallacious argument possible in an attempt to counter this piece.

    Golf clap for CJ!

    clapclapclapclapclapclap

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