Often Overacting Syndrome

A ruse by any other name smells just as fishy, and it seems RSI, OOS and OOI are good examples, if a UK surgeon is to be believed. According to Murray Matthewson, the condition, whatever you choose to call it, is not what it’s cracked up to be.

“It’s not a disease; you don’t see a dose response; it’s not a clinical condition,” he told registrants at the International Orthopaedic Association meeting in February (NZ Doctor 4/3/98). He says upper arm pain is “almost ubiquitous” and has a variety of causes, none of which he ascribes to daily keyboarding. “There is no way keyboards harm you,” he says.

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) consultant Frank Darby agrees the worst pain is felt when people are most unhappy, but thinks most orthopaedic surgeons do not understand pain, and to say RSI doesn’t exist is unhelpful. He would, wouldn’t he. Mr Matthewson is scathing of “emerging” organisations such as OSH as they try to establish themselves with promoting ideas such as “keyboarding is harmful”.

“But if you apply science to what they are saying, it doesn’t work,” he said. What a breath of fresh air, Mr Matthewson.

Herbie’s Revenge

Tauranga’s normally responsible postgraduate medical educational group, whose meetings attract upward of 40 local GPs, took a backward step last month by inviting herbalist Dr Nicky Baillie to speak. The subject was Herbal Medicine — Back To The Future.

Herbs are big business, and sold by pharmacists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, iridologists, chiropractors, and, sadly too often, the medically qualified. These products are marketed as “foods” or “dietary supplements”, without health claims on the labels, so as to evade laws protecting the public against unproven, unsafe drugs.

In many cases, their contents are unquantified, contain no useful ingredients, have no nutritional value, and are frequently toxic. Varro E Tyler, former dean of the Purdue University of Pharmacy and leading authority on pharmacognosy (the science of medicines from natural sources) said, “More misinformation about safety and efficiency of herbs is now reaching the public than any time previously…. Particularly insidious is the myth that there is something almost magical about herbal drugs that prevents them in their natural state from harming people.”

It never ceases to disappoint me when a doctor, trained scientifically at enormous expense to the taxpayer, ruins a perfectly good professional career by resorting to such nonsense.

Many believe they do it to engender greater public importance, “specialist” status, and larger salaries. They use anecdotes and testimonials to promote their practices, and political manoeuvring to keep regulatory agencies at bay. They are usually intelligent but, illogically, appear to believe in what they are doing. And of course, they charge.

Dr Michael Shackleton, NZMA Ethics Committee chairman says there is a conflict of interest when GPs practise alternative medicine, because they risk making that practice their prime focus instead of giving their patients the benefit of proper and full scientific investigation and treatment.

“Patients will see the fact doctors have letters after their names as a guarantee about their products’ safety. However, these products may not have been subjected to clinical trials and doctors cannot guarantee their safety,” he says. Article 34 of the NZMA’s Code of Ethics states: “Doctors should avoid advocacy of any non-medical commercial product if one is identified as a member of the medical profession.”

In my reply to the invitation to Dr Ballie’s meeting, I suggested they changed the title of her talk to Herbal Medicine – Back To The Past.

Quack On The Rack

I listened with delight to Kim Hill grilling another of these medically qualified defectors on Radio NZ on 16/03/98. Dr Tessa Jones was being put through the wringer for selling Neo-life supplements to cancer patients for $286 a course. She flapped and struggled on the end of Kim’s meticulous and ruthless dissection. There were a number of prolonged silences where Dr Jones seemed utterly stumped. Riveting listening!

God help us if Radio NZ loses its independence, and there’s nothing left but the endless consumer-driven drivel from the likes of Radio Pacific.

Dr Jones was also criticised by Consumer Magazine for her behaviour. Article 41 of the NZMA’s Code of Ethics states: Motives of profit shall never be permitted to influence the free and independent exercise of professional judgement on behalf of a patient.’

When will they ever learn?

The Last of the

I feature yet another of these medical cowboys, whose extraordinary practices will hopefully die with his retirement.

Tauranga’s seasoned anti-amalgam, anti-drugs, anti-immunisation and anti-you-name-it Dr Michael Godfrey is the ultimate alternative medical practitioner. This time he’s in the media for slamming a recent Ministry of Health report on amalgam fillings backing their continued use. The report found scant evidence of a link between people’s health and micro-leakage of mercury from fillings, or that removal of dental amalgam has health benefits.

The ministry says there remains “no substantive scientific evidence to indicate an existing or emerging public health problem linked with continued use of amalgam fillings.” (NZ Doctor 4/3/98)

Dr Godfrey was involved with the review but opposes its findings. He vows to continue fighting to get ministry recognition for his beliefs. It’s just as well he’s here, as in some American states, those practising amalgam filling removal are disbarred.

Dr Godfrey’s other love, chelation, has now been thoroughly and exhaustively discredited worldwide by every reputable scientific body. I would thoroughly recommend biochemist Saul Green’s article on chelation which can be found on the Internet’s Guide To Health Fraud, Quackery and Intelligent Decisions, at http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/chelation.html. The Web site’s a must for everybody, especially Dr Godfrey.

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