Anti-Science

Homeopathic Lipo Results in Death

Depressing Fact of the Day: Arizona state law allows homeopaths to perform “minor surgery,” an ill-defined phrase that can be extended to procedures such as liposuction. A Skeptics’ Guide listener sent this link in today, and I got angrier and angrier the more I read. Like for starters:

A homeopathic doctor was suspended Tuesday for his role in a botched liposuction operation earlier this month that resulted in the death of the patient.

A state regulatory board deemed Dr. Greg Page a “clear and present danger to the public.”

Page performed the liposuction procedure on July 3 at the Anthem office of Dr. Peter J. Normann, whose practice was restricted by the state in May after two other liposuction patients suffered cardiac arrest on the operating table and died.

and then there’s:

Dr. Garry Gordon, a member of the homeopathic board who practices in Payson, focused his questioning on the medications Page used during the procedure. Page said there was nothing out of the ordinary, but acknowledged that he did not know whether the patient had taken pre-surgical vitamins and minerals, as normally required.

Isn’t it comforting to know that there’s an entire board of misinformed twits digging into the facts of this case? I wonder what medications are not “out of the ordinary” for a homeopathic doctor performing surgery. Water? Water that’s been shaken a few times? Water imbued with magical powers?

No one on the homeopathic board asked whether liposuctions fall within the range of procedures that a homeopath is licensed to do. Chris Springer, executive director of the board, declined to comment on the matter because she is not a doctor, and the three doctors on the board also declined to comment.

Did you catch that? Here it is again, with bolding this time:

Chris Springer, executive director of the board, declined to comment on the matter because she is not a doctor

The executive director of the homeopath board isn’t even pretending to be a doctor. Actually? That kind of honesty is a little refreshing in her field. And then there’s the last line of the article:

Most homeopaths practice various forms of alternative medicine.

Statements don’t get much less informative than that. I’m trying to think of a better way to craft that last sentence, like:

All homeopaths practice made-up faux sorcery.

All homeopaths think water is an effective drug.

All homeopaths are either deluded, gullible, misinformed, conniving, or some combination thereof.

Or maybe just, “Homeopathy doesn’t work.”

I dunno, any thoughts?

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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14 Comments

  1. I can't remember where I heard this (I think it was on the radio some time ago), so I may be way off the mark…but doesn't liposuction have a high mortality rate, higher than some heart procedures? I can't find anything that backs that up, and some information I've found seems to indicate that the estimated rate has dropped since the 90's.

    Either way, it's an elective procedure with inherent risks, and one that I CAN NOT imagine trusting to anyone less than an actual, qualified doctor.

    My main question is, why on Earth is this legal? These people should be in jail. As tempting as it may be for me to simultaneously lash out at the victims, seeing as they didn't NEED this procedure and obviously CHOSE to go to quacks, it's far more productive to blame the homeopaths who did it and the lawmakers that give them the right to do so.

    You called it 'a depressing fact,' Rebecca, but I'm inclined to disagree. I'd call it 'simply infuriating.'

    PS:

    Most comments on blogs express various opinions.

  2. Homeopathic liposuction?

    Wouldn't that involve taking a small fat biopsy, diluting it in water, shaking it around a bit, and then giving it back to the patient? And they manage to kill people with this? Maybe they diluted the solution too much.

  3. "Maybe they diluted the solution too much."

    Wrong way around, they didn't dilute it enough.

    Can't say this surprises me. As long as there is as little critical thinking as possible, this will happen.

  4. So let me get this straight, we have many people arguing against the legality of suicide, but then turning around and demanding that homeopaths be allowed to do surgery!?

    Seems like pretty much the same thing to me…

    OK, I don't know for a fact that there is any overlap between the anti-suicide and pro-homeopathic-surgeon crowds, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

    I think if I lived in AZ, I would get a t-shirt made up that said:

    "Homoepathic surgeons = physician-assisted suicide"

  5. Just jaw-dropping. It's legal to have surgery done by people who believe in magic? And there are actually those who allow this to be done to them?

    I feel the same discontinuity as when I first learned that there are those who still deny the germ theory of disease.

  6. Thats just mindboggling. I was hoping it was just medical malpractise in that a doctor allowed an unqualified person to do surgery until I got to the 'homeopaths can do minor surgery bit'.

    How does 'surgery' even fit within the homeopathic ideology anyway? I would have thought that was inherently contradictory to the whole wacky paradigm.

    Otara

  7. Rebecca, are you just doing this on purpose just so you can get whatsername back in here crying no true Scottsman?

    Anyway, This is obviously not the victims' fault.

    For starters, despite being elective surgery, when performed by qualified individuals, it's relatively safe. People don't go to plastic surgeons expecting to be carted out in a bodybag, they expect to walk out looking better, thinner, more beautiful.

    Secondly, to quote something a surgeon once said in response to a blog entry about abortion:

    Anyone can learn how to do an abortion, and you could probably explain in under 10 minutes how to successfully perform an apendectomy, or any number of minor surgeries.

    But surgeons don't go to school for 10 years, and do mandatory internships and whatnot, to learn how to do a simple procedure like cutting out someone's appendix. The reason they go to school for that long is to learn what to do when a simple procedure suddenly takes a drastic turn toward really, really complex. They learn how to prevent death when things go wrong.

    Homeopaths don't learn anything, all they needed to do was spend $3 on the box of cereals in which they found their certificate.

    And lastly, people who go to homeopaths rather than real doctors are often also doing so because homeopaths are cheaper. The fact they didn't have to go through a decade of education and aren't prescribing drugs that spent just as much time being developed and tested, means a lot less money is invested, and hence, less money is needed in return for services and products to make up for that expense. After all, water is pretty much free.

    I guess the real question is: What possessed a lawmaker in Arizona to pass legislation that allows amateurs to perform surgery? And who was asleep that should really have prevented this law from even being considered?

  8. This is the 21st. century isn't it? I mean, I didn't go to sleep in the 21st. century last night and woke up this morning somehow transported back to the middle ages or some alternate universe. I only hope the law does its job and locks this criminal up for a very long time. Personally, I would throw that board in with him and throw away the key.

  9. "Page said the only uncommon aspect of the liposuction was that the patient insisted on both thighs being done, while Page would have preferred to do one at a time. He said no one assisted during the procedure."

    Clearly all the blame is now on the patient!

  10. I'd like to see a new AZ state law that requires homeopaths to wear a tall, conical hat whenever consulting or performing homeopathic services. Homeopathic web pages should also be required to show a photo of the responsible homeopath in said hat.

    They can decorate the hat any way they like though. Stars and moons is an historically accepted motif but the single letter "D" or the word "DUNCE" would do just fine.

  11. What kind of insurance cover do fantasy-doctors have?

    Presumably defending against a lawsuit would be very tricky for someone who has just decided for themselves they are competent to do an invasive procedure, even if they happened to be as competent at doing it as a real doctor.

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