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Duck! It's the Quackbusters

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Christine McPhee, former broadcaster with the popular Touch of Health radio show, is fed up

Christine McPhee, former broadcaster with the popular Touch of Health radio show, is fed up. Touch of Health provided airtime to the alternative health industry in Canada, but it aired for the last time in August. The show was axed as a result of complaints from quackbusters people who aggressively fight and intimidate complementary medicine practitioners everywhere.

The WIC/Corus and CHUM radio networks decided to cancel the two- hour show after receiving a barrage of complaints from Dr Terry Polevoy and Dr Patricia Marchuk. But Christine is not the only one who is fed up. Dr Polevoy, quackbuster extraordinaire and Webmaster of healthwatcher.net, has harassed others in the alternative and natural health industry to such an extent that the Colli.ge of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario has decided to open an investigation (case number ROC 45040) into his activities.

Quackbusters and "quack watchers" like Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist from Pennsylvania, and Dr Polevoy deny that there is any such thing as an alternative to Western allopathic medicine. They believe that naturopaths, herbalists and homeopaths are irrelevant except from a historical or cultural point of view. They even believe that chiropractic medicine, the third most practised form of medicine in the world, has no place in health care. Anything other than medicine that involves chemotherapy, vaccines, genetic engineering, mercury amalgam and radiation is a health-related fraud, myth and fad.

Follow the Money

Stephen Barrett's website quack-watch.com, which was launched four years ago, states:

"Alternative promoters often gain public sympathy by portraying themselves as a beleaguered minority fighting a self-serving monolithic "Establishment."

The website also states that, "neither Quackwatch nor Dr Barrett has any financial ties to commercial or industrial organizations." But Barrett himself serves as a board member on the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), which is funded by corporate giants like Ciba-Geigy, Dow Chemicals, Monsanto, Sterling Drug, Proctor and Gamble, Nutra Sweet, Pfizer and Coca Cola, to name but a few. Quackwatch also accepts "individual donations" and, up to a few years ago, membership to join cost over $25,000. However, one enquirer was told that they prefer to enlist corporate members and not individuals.

Polevoy is a pediatrician who runs an acne management clinic in Kitchener, Ontario. Christine McPhee describes him as "a silver tongued devil" who intimidated her by following her around on seminars and outside broadcast shows.

She describes how he would disguise himself with a hat and glasses and sit in the front row of her radio show sites. Polevoy would then send a torrent of e-mails to McPhee after her shows and seminars, berating her for "destroying facts, distorting allopathic medicine and endangering mothers, infants and children." After one such e-mail in which he asked, "What the hell is going on in your mind? Do you really believe that children's lives are worthless?" she found his name entered as a contestant for a car that she was giving away on her radio show! She eventually had to call the police to get him to stop stalking her a fact that Polevoy vehemently denies on his Web site.

"Anyone can listen and record any of her shows on the Internet," he writes. "If someone in Australia tuned their RealAudio Player into the show, would they be stalking McPhee as well?"

The police kept two uniformed officers on McPhee's radio site for some time, for her protection.

Polevoy's previous quackbuster Web site was deemed to be a "hate" Web site, and was finally taken down by his Internet service provider in July of this year.

The Canadian Cancer Research Group (CCRG) also became a victim of Polevoy and quackbusters. The CCRG is a clinical research centre in Ottawa which is operated by licensed medical doctors, scientists and lay people. They use a mixture of alternative and in-depth diagnostical treatments based on evidence that is particular to the individual being treated for cancer. Bill O' Neill, founder and director of the centre, talks about Polevoy's "vitriolic attack" on the centre and their work.

"When we came across his Web site, we felt like we had inadvertently stumbled across a porn site," he says.

He adds that the information on the Web site was entirely fabricated. "He had no idea what we were about."

He added that the CCRG encourages healthy academic debate on integrative medicine but has no time for "vicious assaults that we have suffered from quackbusters like Polevoy." The CCRG is attempting to file action against him for criminal libel.

According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario, there have been no developments on case number ROC45040. It has not yet been referred to a disciplinary enquiry. Polevoy did not answer our phone calls by the time this story went to press.
As for Christine McPhee? She would like those interested in seeing or hearing a talk show centred on alternative health news to e-mail her at info@thetouchofhealth.com. She hopes that the huge surge of interest in this area will warrant media networks airing a show. She has decided to write a comedy sit-com on the natural health industry in Canada; after her harassment at the hands of the quackbusters, she feels that it is the "safest way" for her to get the alternative health message across!

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