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Evaluating Modern Medicine


"Only about 15 per cent of all contemporary clinical interventions are supported by objective scientific evidence that they do more good than harm." --Kerr White, MD, retired deputy director for Health Science, Rockefeller Foundation and a pioneer in evidence-based medicine.

Fifteen percent success is not much on which to base faith in the "science" of medicine. Like bypass surgery, for instance. Heart bypass has never been scientifically validated by double-blind studies, yet this barbaric procedure is common practice in North America and abroad. Heart surgeons routinely do from three to seven bypass operations in a single day and the procedure is recommended to hundreds of thousands of patients without making them aware of either the risks (brain damage) or the alternatives (diet, ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid (EDTA) chelation and oral chelation).

Doctors continue to staunchly defend their entrenched technology and scorn alternatives, yet every now and then a hint of doubt creeps into their own literature. Where is evidence of believable, proven science?

Alternative Evidence

A study of 11,000 Americans over 10 years recorded that vitamin C cuts heart disease almost in half (The Quality of Medical Literature: An Analysis of Validation Assessment, Williams/Goldschmidt/Cotton).

German researcher Dr Matthias Rath claims that correct vitamin C therapy, along with appropriate changes in diet and lifestyle, can eradicate heart disease altogether!

Drs Evan and Wilfred Shute did outstanding research on vitamin E therapy for heart disease in the 1960s and ’70s. They used doses far in excess of recommended daily allowances (RDAs) to alleviate vitamin E deficiency, rightly insisting that cardiovascular problems are the result of poor diet, (that is, white flour products deficient in fibre and wheat germ).

In May 1993 the New England Journal of Medicine compared the results of an eight-year study of more than 87,000 registered nurses to a related study involving 40,000 male health professionals. In both studies participants who consumed at least 100 international units (IU) of vitamin E for a minimum of two years had a 40 per cent lower risk of heart disease! (The revolutionary Shute research far outstripped this more conservative study in heart health success!)

The American Medical Association reports that 106,000 people die every year from correct use of doctor-prescribed drugs; and one third of all deaths in the United States is the result of medical malpractice (iatrogenic death).

By contrast, the FDA reports an average of only 16 dietary supplement-related deaths annually, and even these are either the result of contaminated batches (such as L-tryptophan) or inaccurate reporting of the product (vitamin A).

Ghost of Medicine Past

The battle between "orthodox" and "complementary" medicine is a head-on collision. The ortho-docs give no ground to the increasingly vocal group of practitioners that collectively calls itself "alternative" and methodically challenges the authority of medical "science." This has been amply demonstrated wherever the conference on Critically Evaluating Alternative Medicine: Assessing the Efficacy and Safety of Unconventional Medicine is mounted across North America.

The conference sponsor is a marketing firm called The Institute for International Research (IIR). Last November, the international marketers chose a high-end venue in Vancouver’s downtown waterfront for the two-day event.

The select panel of ortho-docs entered the process of "evaluation" aggressively and ended with its collective tail dragging. (It reminded me of the story of David and Goliath. Remember how David, a rosy-cheeked youth of 18, challenged the ruling army of the Philistines along with its champion, the giant Goliath? David killed the giant. His only weapon was a slingshot and five smooth stones. But he hit Goliath in his most vulnerable spot, between the temples–and then cut off his head!)

The panel directed towards "health professionals," but despite its promotion within the medical community and the mainstream media, there were only about 50 participants. Half of them were from the alternative side.

Dr Irvine Epstein, chair of the Health Professionals Council of BC, was publicized as the chair. He declined at the last moment, because, he said, the conference gave "no consideration for opposing views."

That did not seem to bother other panelists. They included Dr Wallace Sampson, clinical professor of medicine, Stanford University (retired), who was querulously indignant at the effrontery of "unscientific and unproven therapies" being offered as "alternatives" to "proven science." He even objected to the concept of an alternative to orthodox medicine, insisting that such terms represent "errors in research" and "language distortion" in order to influence irrational people!

Other presenters included:

  • Lloyd Oppel, MD, emergency physician at the Vancouver General Hospital and president of Canadians for Rational Health.

  • Martin Zelder, director of Health Policy Research at the Fraser Institute.

  • Brenda Osmond, PhD, deputy registrar with the College of Pharmacists of BC.

  • Barry Beyerstein, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University.

  • Jeffrey Quon, CD, chiropractic advisor to the Canadian Workers Compensation Board of BC.

  • Allison McCutcheon, PhD, medical botanist with the University of BC and president of the Canadian Herb Society.

Rob Alder, MD, of the Health Professionals Regulatory Advisory Council (Ontario) replaced Dr Epstein as chair. And Dr Richard Matthias, professor of health care and epidemiology at the University of BC, was listed but not present. His absence was not explained.

The conference was dominated by the "old boy" views of the elderly Dr Sampson. He is spending his declining years in a vigorous defense of medical orthodoxy against upstart invaders. His stance was reiterated by Dr Oppel, who attacked the "irrationality" of any medical therapies that were not "approved." Dr Beyerstein was there to lend his professional authority to "the psychology of human error...self deception and wishful thinking [which] false but comforting worthless therapies [that] bilking an unsuspecting and vulnerable public."

Dr Beyerstein did acknowledge, magnanimously, that the majority of those who sell "bogus products," ie, dietary supplements and herbs "are not deliberate frauds, but sincere and self-deluded people."

Deflated Audience

The audience was disappointingly small by anyone’s estimate. It included many from the alternative side of the debate who had questions that they hoped would be intelligently addressed. They were indignant at the steep slant in the direction of medical monopoly. One angry delegate complained of fraudulent billing and demanded her money back (a hefty $1,500 plus GST)!

The second day of the conference ended early. The audience drifted away in disgust and the afternoon seminar entitled "Critical Evaluation of the Internet as a Marketing Tool for Alternative Medicine," to be chaired by Dr Wallace Sampson, never happened.

The two-day conference was a financial and informational bust. The people who traveled a few hundred kilometres to be there folded their conference kits and bemusedly stole away to figure what the heck it was all about and who the backers of the Institute for International Research really were. It turns out that IIR is a marketing organization "in the area of gathering and disseminating information for business and industry." IIR apparently taps the direction of the global winds in a wide variety of fields.

Obviously the issue of alternative versus conventional medicine is a worldwide political and consumer issue. Interestingly, however, IIR was more concerned with the dissemination of propaganda rather than objective information, which leads one to suspect that the "business and industry" it serves is the one at the top of the power pyramid: pharmaceutical drugs, the food industry and medical biotechnology.

Maybe the Institute for International Research should hear from all of us. Ask a few questions, like where does IIR funding come from? What other conferences are they promoting? How many times have they mounted conferences on Critically Evaluating Alternative Medicine? Canadians can’t let such fraudulent propaganda go unchallenged.

There are 26 IIR offices around the globe. The Canadian address is 60 Bloor Street West, Suite 1101, Toronto, ON. M4W 3B8. Phone 416-928-1078 Fax: 416-928-9613.



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