Sunday, February 20, 2011

And While I am on the Tiny Soapbox...

I suppose I could have also titled this post, "Voice of Reason, Part II".  Maybe this will turn into a series of posts dedicated to people in this wild world of 'healing' whom I consider to be voices of reason.  Allow me to add Ben Goldacre to that list of voices. 

Just so happened that today Life in the Fast Lane (one of the best EM blogs in the history of mankind) posted this video about placebos. Which I enjoyed and thought you might as well.

It is based on parts of Ben Goldacre's book, Bad Science. As far as I am concerned, that book ought to be required reading for all nursing, medical, journalism, and pharmacy students. Or people that want to procreate. Or people who just generally want to understand how the media, health food stores, nutritionists, medical establishments, and pharmaceutical companies can toy with your mind (and your wallet).

One of my favorite aspects of the book is how it highlights the use of certain magical / flawed thought processes to arrive at unrelated conclusions. Example: pharmaceutical companies are bad and are only trying to make a buck so therefore I am going to turn to homeopathy (or shady sellers of snake oil and macrobiotic diet products) and refuse to immunize my children. This is faulty reasoning and doesn't make sense.

What does make sense is questioning the medical establishment as well as the alternative health business.  And, for your own critical thinking skills, attempting to understand how statistics can be manipulated to financially benefit people across the entire spectrum of 'health' related services--from the ear candlers to the radiation oncologists. One should be skeptical of pharmaceutical claims as well as alternative health claims. 

--I suppose I should clarify that I am not lumping things like acupuncture into the same category as caramel high colonics. We all have our 'too wacky to even consider' cut-offs in terms of treatments and I am not about to say where yours ought to be (as long as it falls somewhere after immunizing your children). Yes. This is my blog/soapbox and I will bring that issue up as much as I want.--

For the record, I think the placebo effect is a wonderful thing and if taking a sugar pill from a homeopathy jar makes you feel better--then be my guest. I am not pretending that the people who sell healing crystals are the only ones who benefit from this phenomenon. I realized very quickly as a nurse the power of the placebo even in emergency medicine. Lets face it, a big part of the successes in evidence-based western medicine can probably be attributed to the placebo effect as well.  I just think that alternative practices (i.e. industries that are not governed by evidence-based research and professional standards) can exploit the power of the placebo a little more, at greater costs.

Bottom line: Goldacre's book* is a hilarious eye-opener of an exploration into wrong-doings and exploitations from all sides of the health-care field. It gave me a better understanding of statistics, a thousand more reasons to seethe when I hear the name 'Wakefield' and the ability to see that I was being seriously duped on high-end skin care products. Ok, I may have just made his book sound like the most disorganized jangle of chapters ever written but trust me when I say he ties it all together nicely (and amusingly, especially if you read it with an English-accent in your head).

Read it. 

*No I do not have any personal/professional ties to Goldacre and I do not stand to make any profit from this endorsement.

[Oh, and please continue to vote for my friend Richard's stamp design here. He's climbed into the top finalist position! You can vote once a day until the competition closes in March.]


Unknown said...

Thank you for the book recommendation. I just reserved it at my library. I am very much pro-vaccination for my kids but there is a cluster of moms in my playgroup circuit who are anti-established medicine, anti-vaccination and are even preaching the gospel of unassisted home birth (gah! Don't get me started on that one--the Internets does not make one qualified to deliver one's own baby at home...that is my soap box) It is hard to listen to them go on and on about these things and not blow up at them. As you know, it is very hard to argue with these kinds of people. I just shut up and take my kids to the public health unit for their shots.

Unknown said...

oops. I pushed Post when I wanted to add this:


Albinoblackbear said...

NJ--I hope you enjoy the book--if nothing you will get a few good chuckles out of it and AMPLE ammunition if you chose to wade into the murky and dangerous waters of 'anti-immunization' talk in the playgroup. =)

Yep, the body count is chilling as is the fact that it is mostly educated parents who aren't immunizing (i.e. people who should be able to realize they are following advice from a former playboy bunny who self-diagnosed and 'treated' her son).

As I said on TAP's post, my Granddad was a polio expert and my aunt died from whopping cough, so the vaccine thing has a close-to-home aspect for me.

Cartoon Characters said...

I have been voting every day and keep reposting on my FB - encouraging all friends and rellies to vote.
As for the book, I am going to read it...
At one point after an accident I had,I had acupuncture done because I was desperate and also it was covered by my extended medical - plus I was didn't do a thing. I have heard others say opposite, but for
But hey, I am all for placebos. They have their long as they don't break the bank.
As for the vaccine thing, it is the number one thing to revolutionize our children's health. Jenny McCarthyism drives me crazy...

Anonymous said...

I guess you're a little more tolerant of this sort of thing that I am; the only "CAM" thing I really buy into is high dose Vitamin C for cold treatment [never really been proven, but it seems to work for me].

Ben Goladacre is a fantastic writer and I agree his book should be required reading for the world.

OldSquid said...

Placebo Effect Is More Myth Than Science, Study Says

A Fighting Spirit Won’t Save Your Life

Like your blog...Rick

Anonymous said...

I'll definitely look into that book. Sounds like a great read. Voted for your friend's stamp design. It said he was first in the ranking at the confirmation screen. Yay! :) Be well!