Beware the spinal trap – BCA friendly version

30 July, 2009

Here for general dissemination, with the offending b-word taken out. The BCA have continued to twist and turn as each aspect of this plays out. Firstly the BCA took offence at Simon Singh’s Guardian article and claimed he hadn’t read all the supporting research that would prove him wrong, but when challenged to provide it, the “plethora” that came forth was shown to be without substance,  and was torn to shreds in the blogosphere, having been cherry-picked, one  from osteopathy, and even contained references that undermined their own position (See here and those other bloggers referenced within). The BCA, via Richard Brown, are now attempting to say that chiropractic doesn’t treat, it alleviates symptoms.

the BCA never promoted or implied chiropractic as a cure, and peer reviewed papers that demonstrate symptomatic relief for childhood conditions were readily available.

Sounds remarkably similar to the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, which some time ago (and it’s still quoted by homeopaths) published a survey that claimed homeopathy helped cancer patients. On the Today Programme on Radio 4 the author of the report was asked if the cancer patients had stopped their normal medicine, “no” came the reply. So how did they work out it had helped people? They asked the patients if it had helped. 75% said yes, so thatwas that. No medical evidence required, and it seems to be the same here with the BCA.

So now the bit you’ve been waiting for…the (allegedly) BCA friendly version. The one they don’t have a problem with. Enjoy, then pass it on:

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results – and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that “99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae”. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: “Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck.”

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

You can also read this article at the Sense About Science website which contains further details of the Singh Case, a petition to sign and links to wider coverage.

Netcetera Amaze Scientists….

20 February, 2008

….by proving to be even more spineless than jellyfish.

In an amazingly stupid continuation of the Obi fiasco, Netcetera folded before a defamation allegation against the Quackometer that they (had) hosted. The legal chill notice issued gave no indication of what had actually caused such great offence, and Andy Lewis had refused to take down the page without getting any details of what offence the site had actually caused. After 19 days Netcetera pulled the plug, simply stating they didn’t want to deal with the threat, and citing Terms and Conditions which said they could take down anything whenever they wanted and for whatever reason. Nice one. So now anyone can merely claim to have suffered a slur without having to give any information and a blogger can lose their site. Netcetera…100% jellyfish.

Lots of people have blogged this too – here’s a selection:




Dr Aust

Someone else tries to suppress the Quackometer

23 January, 2008

Once again someone has taken the lovely step of slapping a random defamation threat against the Quackometer via it’s webhost, without stating what might be the problem. This guy however, seems even more dubious than the Society of Homeopaths and their abortive attempt to muzzle the Little Black Duck. He’s got quite a past:

Here’s LCN’s original post:

Right Royal College of Pompous Quackery – Dublin

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I had to share this with you. Following on from my recent Quack Word ‘Doctor’ blog, I came across the Royal College of Alternative Medicine (RCAM), a Dublin based – well, I’m not sure quite what it is…

What caught my eye was just the shameless aggrandisement of the site. It is quite hilarious, if not a little repetitive at times. Calling yourself ‘Doctor’ is somewhat pompous when all you have done is paid for some international postage. However, the man behind RCAM has absolutely no shame and titles himself as the:

Distinguished Provost of RCAM (Royal College of Alternative Medicine) Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi FRCAM(Dublin) FRIPH(UK) FACAM(USA) MICR(UK)

Wow! Probably, just Joe to his mates. Naturally, when you Google the qualification FRCAM(Dublin), there is only person who appears to revel in this achievement. I’ll leave the rest as an excercise for the reader.

The distinguished provost looks like he is just another pseudoscientific nutritionist, his spin being “Nutritional Immunomodulation”. This is obviously a lot more clever than Patrick Holfords mere ‘Optimum Nutrition’, but having only one ‘omnipill’ is probably a poorer commercial decision that Patrick’s vast range of supplements.

Obviously, Professor Obi has had a few problems with what probably amount to bewildering comments about his site as the legal threats and press releases concerning his ‘ethical’ responses to criticisms cover more space than anything else. ‘Ethical’ is a favourite word on the site.

The most recent press release states,

7th September 2006 : The Distinguished RCAM Provost, Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi FRCAM(Dublin) FRIPH(UK) FACAM(USA) MICR(UK) has formally accepted appointment as Chief Professorial Examiner for the Doctor of Science (DSc) programme in Evidence Based, Alternative Medicine (EBAM) of a highly respected International University in one of the British Commonwealth Protectorates.

This new qualification is primarily aimed at Medical Graduates, Physicians, Surgeons, Pharmacists, Dentists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Opticians, Wellness Consultants, Herbalists, Acupuncturists, Naturopaths, Healers, Podiatrists, Chiropodists, Scientists, Healers, Therapists, Homeopaths, Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Nurses wishing to ethically upgrade their current Qualifications in Alternative Medicine over an exceedingly intensive 12 – 36 month period of study.

British Commonwealth Protectorates? Could that be Dublin?

I really have no idea what this organisation is all about. But it looks like it could be getting quite big soon…

RCAM currently has International Vacancies for One Million (1,000,000) ‘Foundation Fellows’ (‘Movers and Shakers’); who will independently play a highly pivotal role in diligently mentoring (and regulating) its future Global Membership.

So if you really think that you seriously have what it takes to become a ‘Leader’ in Alternative Medicine, then (perhaps) RCAM may definitely be exactly what the Doctor ordered for you.

One million. That’s a lot of quacks! And they are just to mentor (and regulate) the wider quack membership! This man has ambition.

The Big J really hates real doctors. This is his most recent press release…

RCAM would like to warmly commend the various Chieftans of the National Health Service of the United Kingdom for ethically and appropriately ignoring utterly misguided calls (from a rather amusing Group of thirteen Clinical Yestermen) to compel Hard-Working (and Tax-Paying) British Citizens to additionally pay for Life Enhancing Alternative Medicine Interventions out of their very own pockets – rather than get such treatments free via the NHS. RCAM would like to also categorically state that such exceedingly flawed ‘G-13’ demands that the National Health Service of the United Kingdom expediently abandon Alternative Medicine altogether (in total favour of Conventional Medicine) be diplomatically treated with the very utmost contempt which such unguarded verbal flippance duly deserves; as none of these 13 ‘Eminent UK Scientists’ behind such calls has professionally attained Globally Acceptable Fellowship Qualifications in Alternative Medicine and as such cannot be deemed competent enough to make such sweeping ‘Shilly-Shally’ statements about the noble independent specialty of Alternative Medicine.

RCAM therefore publicly advises the General Public to lawfully go about their normal Wellness-Seeking Behaviour as usual – without any unwarranted prejudice or fear resulting from such highly self-serving, morally unethical, abjectly crude, totally unprofessional, utterly unstatesmanly, morbidly barbaric, wantonly uncivilized, profanely undemocratic and unspeakably sacrilegious perpetual affronts on the therapeutically formidable institution of Alternative Medicine.

Now, I do not have ‘Globally Acceptable Fellowship Qualifications’ in Santa Clause Studies to know he does not exist. But hey. I must be a morbidly barbaric and profanely undemocratic, unethical duck.

So, struggling around the acres of pomposity I find one place where Prof Joe might be making some money. You can call him to seek his wisdom, after pre-booking an hour’s slot (and handing over your credit card) for a mere €300. Alternatively, you can pay by the minute on the contact line for a trifling $10 per minute.

It’s going to cost you $20 just for Joe to say Hello and to read out his numerous titles, qualifications and names. Not bad ‘ethical’ work.

Ethical Quackery, the Monarchy and Kate Moss

Thursday, October 12, 2006

No, this is not about our Defender of Quackery, our Quack-in-Chief His Royal Quackiness, Prince Charles, but about the Distinguished Provost of the Royal College of Alternative Medicine, Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi. And yes, it is just a rather lame story written solely to get a picture of Kate on my blog.

I’ve written a rather lazy blog on the distinguished professor before that was just a bit of a gawp at his quacktastic website and what looks like a health phone-line scam.

Well, I’ve done a little more digging with Google and it has revealed a few quack gems. It has been pretty hard work, since Google returns some 6,000 pages, the vast majority just appears to be Prof Obi’s self-promotion. However, if you persist in digging a few interesting facts turn up.

So, what has the little black duck found out about the “most Controversial Retired Physician and ‘A-List’ Medical Celebrity, Dr Joseph Chikelue Obi”?

Here we go…

  1. The Irish Independent reports that his college does not exist at the Dublin address given on the web site. There’s a surprise! It’s just a front.
  2. The Independent goes on. “In January 2003, he was suspended by for serious professional misconduct at South Tyneside District Hospital. Among the allegations made were that he failed to attend to patients, wrote strange notes about colleagues and at one point gave a dating agency phone number to a psychiatric patient.”
  3. He was being investigated by the police for taking thousands of pounds off a 58 year old woman to in order to cure a long standing illness.
  4. The GMC strike Dr Obi off their register for “serious professional misconduct”. So much for him being retired.
  5. On another tack, Dr Obi has been involved in a little cyber-squatting. This looks as if it took place while he was a doctor – always after a few quid!
  6. Since then, now self-titled Prof Obi, a few new avenues have been opened, including trying to entice Kate Moss away to one of his ‘safe-houses’ in Ireland. Hat’s off! He is quoted as saying:

    “Under the European Convention on Human Rights, Miss Moss still has fundamental rights, just like anyone else out there, and as far as I am concerned, she is not guilty of anything until an Ethical Jury says so.”

    (I mentioned before that ‘ethical’ was one of his favourite words.)

  7. Prof Obi has been developing a Penis Enlarger (watch out Kate) that his own Royal College has now endorsed.
  8. At least one person (out of the targeted million) has paid Prof Obi the fees for his college to accredit him. Dr Michael Keet (8 Canards) of the Central London College of Reflexology handed over ‘hundreds’. Do we feel sorry for out-quacked quacks? I guess we ought to.
  9. For those of you wanting to see behind the grand titles and see the real human being, Joseph lists his interests as Comedy in London, Whole Food Nutrition and Christian Music. On this ‘Meetup’ site, he describes himself as “Just a very ordinary guy…”. That’s nice.
  10. His name appears very often on the blog Abolish The General Medical Council (GMC), often reporting something he has got up to. The blog describes itself as:

    An ethical blog for those who publicly feel that the General Medical Council (GMC) should be Statutorily Abolished in favour of a Medical Licensing Commission (MLC) to solely register and revalidate Doctors who practise Conventional Medicine in the UK. The Blog also recommends that the GMC/MLC hands all disciplinary functions over to an Independent Clinical Tribunal (ICT) in keeping with the EU Convention on Human Rights; to avoid (both) Institutional Bias and Multiple Jeopardy.

    Oooh. There is that word ‘ethical’ again. And ‘European Human Rights’. No name is given for the blog author but the avatar is a portrait of the queen. Another apparent obsession of Prof Obi – royalty. Could the author be none other than the Professor himself, a little agrieved for his ticking off? I hope you all click through to the blog. Maybe we will show up in his stats and whoever the writer is can get in contact and confirm one way or another.

    I rather hope he is, as the final thing I turned up would just be fantastic…

  11. Is the Distinguished Provost of the Royal College of Alternative Medicine, Professor Obi now selling ethical ring-tones? I do hope so. Watch out Crazy Frog! Here comes the Crazy Provost…

PostscriptIt does look like Prof Obi has read this blog. He claims on the blog ‘Abolish The General Medical Council’ the following…

And now we have the GMC sending the ‘half-wit’ Quackometer Bloggers after me, who (by the way) don’t even know the very meaning of the word ‘Quack’.

Excellent. So I am a GMC Shill now to add to my credentials. Black ducks are not that clever, but half-witted is a bit harsh. And I don’t know the meaning of the word quack. As usual for a quack, not a shred of evidence to support his claims that I have anything to do with the GMC.

I have a feeling this story will re-appear. But first, I must download that ringtone…

Hello world!

24 September, 2007

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