One of the hardest things about practicing medicine is being compassionate and dispassionate at the same time; acknowledging a person's pain, but standing aside enough to view the problem with a degree of objectivity. This is one of the easiest mis-steps to make in medicine, and is the root of the problem of many so-called alternative medicine practitioners. Take a look at this email from a fan:
I find it interesting and short sighted that you (and many medical providers) require published research in order to be convinced that a new medical condition exists. Have you ever considered that prior to the discovery and research related to PCN (or any drug or any medical condition) didn't make it a worthwhile treatment??? I am a medical provider and happen to know someone with what appears to be Morgellons and has been belittled and discounted trying to get help with our peers. Shame, shame - on you and most of our peers for being so closed minded.
I know a lot of people with a lot of horrible problems, and I allow that to feed my passion for medicine, but I cannot allow it to distort my view of how the science of medicine works. This will lead me to wrong conclusions, and in medicine, wrong conclusions hurt real people. This is one of the main reasons that it's a bad idea to treat family members, and for that, I have a brief example.
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A Kansas doctor who performs abortions was murdered today at his church. I'll leave it to others to discuss the long history of this doctor's part in the abortion debate; what I want to show you today is the transparent lies told by the murderous group Operation Rescue.
"We are shocked at this morning's disturbing news that Mr. (sic) Tiller was gunned down," anti-abortion group Operation Rescue said in a statement on its Web site. "Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller's family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ."
What a steaming pile of crap. What do they mean, "see him brought to justice?" Did he violate any laws? If OR really wanted to "work through...legal means" they would focus on legislation, rather than bringing to justice someone who has not broken any laws. This type of rhetoric shows the violent, murderous thinking behind OR. Oh, I'm so glad they pray for Dr. Tiller's family to find peace in their Lord, the one who they say is the only route to comfort, the one they think would approve of murdering a doctor.
Anyone who can't see through the transparent approval of this murder, justified by a "greater cause" and the belief in a vengeful god and an afterlife is being intentionally blind. OR is a domestic terrorist group and should be treated as such.
Around midnight, my wife and I heard a loud "thump" followed by screaming. We ran to our daughter's room and found her lying on the floor, crying, clearly terrified. I picked her up and held her, feeling around her legs, hips, arms, and head to see if anything seemed out of place or painful. That's when my wife noticed the blood soaking into the shoulder of my shirt. Trying to examine a screaming child is no easy task, but it appeared as if she had cut the inside of her lip, and no more.
How can a tiny being cause your entire being to shatter with fear? Did she hit her head? Did she break her leg? How can I make her stop being scared? How long will my stomach feel like this?
Kids are smarter and more resilient than we think. She milked this one for all it was worth---I ended up sleeping in her bed because she looked up at me with her big eyes and swollen lip and said, "Please, Daddy?"
My buddy Janet always makes me think, which is one of the things I like about her (that, and her cookies). Today, she wrote about a recent PLoS Biology article about the vaccine-autism debate (Orac has also covered it, of course). I especially like Janet's take on expert status and accountability. Let's examine these issues from a doctor's perspective (and speaking of credentials, "Janet" is also Dr. Stemwedel, a professor of philosophy and ethics, and former physical chemist, so she's not making this stuff up).
Who is an "expert"?
Dr. Stemwedel addresses this problem head-on, questioning how we tell experts from charlatans, and whether experts dilute autonomy (they do, to an extent) and what this means:
Don't we want people to be critical consumers of information?
We do. The problem is how exactly people who are not experts are supposed to evaluate the expertise of others. If they knew enough about the subject matter on which the putative experts are holding forth, they could just evaluate the advice itself.
Yep. Not only are we unable to expertly evaluate information outside of our expertise, we can't even evaluate the expertise of experts! (Say that five times fast.)
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In case you were worried that the Huffington Post had "gone legit" with regards to medical reporting, fear no more. Barry Sears, creator of a popular diet book, has written a searingly stupid piece called We're Fighting the Wrong Epidemic. Like Gaul, it is divided into three parts: wrong information about influenza; an invented medical condition with enough truth to sound plausible; and a pitch.
Barry doesn't get the flu
And it's not because of his splendid diet. He really doesn't get it. I'm up to my eyeballs in influenza A at a time when flu season should be but a memory. The H1N1 flu really is out there, and is causing suffering, lost time at work, and generally making a pain of itself. It's hard to say precisely where the stupid begins and ends here, but I'll give you some of the highlights.
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Earlier this month I wrote about some of the people who claim to be Lyme disease experts, and specifically about an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, and its author. The article was truly horrid, especially when presented in the context of an ethics journal. My ethicist friend weighed in at the time, and now she informs us that the journal has printed a response.
Lyme disease is a relatively common bacterial infection acquired from the bite of a tick. Many people who are infected develop a characteristic rash, and if they are treated at that point, that's the end of that. If they are not, some go on to develop swollen, painful joints (usually a knee), or some neurological symptoms such as Bell's Palsy. There is a group of folks out there who believe that there is also an entity which they call "chronic Lyme disease" (CLD). This is often treated with long-term antibiotics by self-anointed "Lyme-literate doctors". What are the symptoms of CLD? This list is typical:
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It's now up. It's a good one. One link in particular that was discussed is here. Go and read, then go and listen.
I'm actually rather surprised that the movement to castrate autistic kids isn't more in the news. Parents of autistic kids are very good at advocacy, so where are they on this one? On the other hand, the abuse of the mentally and cognitively disabled is so ingrained in our society, that perhaps these parents can't even see it.
The idea of castrating undesirables is not new. An American eugenics movement arose in the early part of the 20th century, leading to eugenics legislation, such as the Johnson Immigration Act of 1924. To give you an idea of some of the thinking that went into this legislation:
Thank God we have in America perhaps the largest percentage of any country in the world of the pure, unadulterated Anglo-Saxon stock; certainly the greatest of any nation in the Nordic breed. It is for the preservation of that splendid stock that has characterized us that I would make this not an asylum for the oppressed of all countries, but a country to assimilate and perfect that splendid type of manhood that has made America the foremost Nation in her progress and in her power, and yet the youngest of all the nations.
---Senator Ellison DuRant Smith (SC)
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It would certainly seem so. Alternative autism "experts" have a long history of dehumanizing autistic kids. But the Geiers take it one step further. The father-son team is chemically castrating autistic children. And what do they have to say about this?
...the Geiers focus on issues most likely to disturb parents, such as aggressive behavior and excessive masturbation.
"With masturbating there is a degree of normal, and then there is autism. Parents will say: 'He will hump pillows, he will hump your leg,' " David Geier told doctors at Eisenstein's office. He made similar statements on the same visit to about 60 parents of autistic children.
In an autistic teenager, high testosterone will lead to dangerous aggression, Mark Geier said, mentioning an autistic Ohio teen accused of killing his mother. "They are incredibly strong. They can hurt you," he said. "You have to respect that these kids are on massive testosterone."
Autistic children with high testosterone are heading down an ominous path, the Geiers said, and likely will end up hooked on psychiatric drugs, institutionalized or jailed.
In an interview, Eisenstein described going to the home of a young child to administer a Lupron shot that is injected into the buttocks with a long needle. "His dad is a big guy like myself, [and] it took both of us to hold him down to give him the first injection," he said. "It reminded me of ... a really wild dog or a cat."
Jailed? Really? Is anyone other than you actually suggesting this? According to these so-called experts, autistic kids aren't even human. They are aggressive, hypersexual animals. Now it's castration. What's next? Imprisonment? Worse?
Parents of autistic kids are often lost. But if they fall into the orbit of these evil men, all of their worst fears will be realized; their kids will never be treated like human beings.