There is no “alternative” to medicine

22 12 2008

Unless you consider horrible agonising pain and death an “alternative”.

That’s why in my country if you don’t take your kids to the doctor when they are sick we will send you to prison.

It’s called “criminal neglect”.

Too bad it had to reach the stage where an eleven year old girl had to reach a stage where a paediatrician at Brisbane Mater called her “the sickest person I’ve ever seen in 35 years of practicing medicine”.

The girl’s condition had worsened “to the stage she was hallucinating, could not stand or walk unassisted, suffered from diarrhoea and had a temperature of up to 42C.”

She had a heart infection. She had to spend a year in hospital. She suffered significant brain damage and is not expected to be able to walk unaided ever again.

This isn’t about Big Pharma trying to steal your money. This isn’t about trying to outlaw your vitamins. This isn’t about pumping your body full of chemicals. It’s about avoiding easily preventable tragedies like this happening.

Alternative medicine kills.


Ethics in media: Diabulimia

14 11 2008

The news is pumping out stories in response to a report “Insulin Misuse for Weight Loss” that claims diabetics have started skipping insulin shots in order to get thin.

I found the story through a google feed at

I tried to find the report itself, but Google is swamped by diabetes news stories at the moment. I was initially perplexed, diabetes is linked to obesity, how can avoiding treatment cause weight-loss? Of course, obesity is only linked to type II (or late-onset) diabetes – which is not treated with injections – type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes is not linked to obesity.

But explanations like this were not very prevalent in the media. When reporting on dangerous self harm behaviour, the media needs to maintain its head and consider the ethical implications of what they write. There is a need to balance their responsibility to inform the public with another social responsibility not to cause further harm. By reporting on such behaviour, and giving in notoriety, can they actually give it some sort of credibility and encourage people to try it out? Ensuring that concepts are explained fully, and are provided in context goes a long way to help this.

Some articles did not even explain the consequences of avoiding injections – which include systemic damage, blindness, coma and death. I found the term “Diabulimia” at this slightly hysteric article. But past the hype, the article actually attempted to explain the rational behind this behaviour. In order to work your body already has to be in a pretty bad state, as it involves dehydration (the weight lost is from water) and muscle catabolism (the wieght lost is from muscle). You are in serious trouble if your body is breaking down muscle for your energy needs.

But I want to highlight this paragraph in the article:

Many people believe word is spreading via internet message boards and chat rooms, where existing diabulimics are encouraging more and more women to lose weight by not taking their required insulin doses. Although the practise of losing weight by skipping insulin injections in not a new one, it seems to have grown out of control with the advent of the internet.

Isn’t the writer herself spreading the story on the internet herself? Are ‘news’ articles and opinion pieces (or even shoddy blog entries) on dangerous emerging social disorders part of the problem? How do you make the difference between raising awareness and excacerbating the issue?

Diabetes Australia is the national peak body for information and support services about diabetes mellitus.

Anti-vaccinationists winning the war against healthy children

21 09 2008

Re-emergence of diseases like measles and mumps amongst Canadian communities (see Respectful Insolence) is starting to show what the totally unfounded (see The Stats Blog)  fear surrounding the MMR and other children’s vaccines has the propensity to cause.

I also had a link to similar outbreaks emerging in the UK. Outbreaks in other parts of the world are also likely to happen.

Part of reading this stories has helped me learn another horrible fact about the ramifications of less children being vaccinated. It does not just affect children who aren’t being vaccinated. Vaccination relies upon a concept called “herd immunity”.

We all have heard how vaccines aren’t 100% effective in the first place. This is an anti-vaccinationists selling point. Every time you are exposed to the contagion there is a chance of your vaccine failing. Think of it like brakes on your car, you can only be in so many “near-miss” situations before you bang something.

The idea of mass vaccination is to reduce the number of gambles. If every child is vaccinated, there is virtually no entry point for the contagion to enter your community. Every unvaccinated child is a bad driver on the road with no brakes. Not only are they relying on the brakes on your car to reduce danger to their children, they are an additional risk that your children need to avoid.

Some savvy parents are taking this into mind. Daycares that allow unvaccinated children (or do not have data on enrolment vaccines) are seeing health informed parents remove their children to other institutions that provide. The link I lost had a story of a mother who found out one of her children’s friends mothers had bought into the anti-vaccinist screed – and promptly stopped their children playing. A similar incident is found on MSNBC:

Karey Williams [47, Chicago] never thought a parenting decision would come between her and a good friend. The two had known one another for a decade, supported each other through infertility treatment and had their first babies around the same time. But when she told the friend that she had stopped vaccinating her daughter at age 1, the relationship abruptly ended. “She said, ‘Well then, your child can’t come into my house,’”

You might think this is harsh. But these are serious deadly diseases, no parent should be reprimanded for ensuring the health of their children. Lifelong complications (such as deafness) are very very common amongst victims of these diseases.

The positive impact of mass vaccination has a very clear and positive record. Science-Based Medicine has put up the stats for major vaccines. All of them have efficacy rates of over 80%, and save thousands of lives every year (if not more). And none of them have autism as a proven side effect. Science-Based Medicine’s author, Mark Crislip also points out that if GP/Big Pharma was really some sort of evil diabolical institution, they’d be joining the anti-vaccinists. More vaccines, means less disease. Less disease, means less business.

“I am an Infectious Disease doctor. I make a living from treating diagnosing and treating infections. I don’t make dime one if people do not get infected, so I am against any and all vaccines as they cut into my bottom line” – Mark Crislip, Science-Based Medicine weblog

Mandatory safety measures such as bicycle helmets, seat belts, standardised testing of car breaks are important for road safety. Shouldn’t similar safety measures be mandated for children’s health and safety.

Killer cornflakes, nothing to laugh at

20 09 2008

via small dead animals

Sometimes it’s unclear where the media-hype and the real dangers collide.

Serious dangers are emerging for Australia (and other parts of the world) that are well beyond what people would expect. No one was certainly planning on the Murray-Darling drying up (well no one who had any actual power to do anything about it).

A news report from earlier this year warned that arid conditions could trigger fungal outbreaks amongst food products that could lead to serious food poisoning hazards. CQU actually made the news by warning of “mass hallucinations, manic depression, gangrene, abortions, reduced fertility and painful, convulsive death”.

You might think that standard food safety standards should mandate alerts if any food source gets contaminated, right? However, these symptons aren’t caused by a single heavy dose of mycotoxin, but several small doses over an extended time period. It all adds up if you consider the amount of foodstuff you eat on a regular basis made from cereal crops (unless you’re allergic to gluten or something).

Small dead animals appears to be a right-wing climate change skeptic, and the comments certainly are full of grand ridicule of environmental health as a profession and the idea of killer cornflakes.

However I can’t help but consider the recent food poison scares emerging from China (melamine in milk) and Japan (pesticides and mycotoxins in rice/sake). Not necessarily directly caused by global warming – but definitely shows that food poisoning is a serious risk. And also consider, more fungal outbreaks will mean more reliance on (over)using chemical fungicides on crops.

Satan’s kitchen

16 09 2008

Satanists are scum.

Often stupid and violent scum too.

Now this is coming via Daily Mail at some point, so could be overblown with Anglo-hysteria – but ninemsn has regurgitated the report of four Russian emo/goths who were killed, stabbed, cut up, cooked and eaten by a cult of satanists in Yarosalv, NE Russia.

Police believe the killings were executed in two separate rituals on consecutive days and all the victims and killers knew each other.

Eight worshippers have been arrested over the murders, but have since claimed Satan would help them “avoid responsibility”.

[A cult] member claimed he turned to Satan after his prayers to God were not answered.

In a wonderful non sequitor move, the Russian government is now thinking of banning emo/goths from public buildings. The victims were emo/goths, so I can only assum the logic behind this is that Russian government buildings are just full of dangerous satanic cultists.*

*look out for Governor Palin quoting me on that soon