FIRSTLY, I must commend the September 1999 Midland Renal Service Nephrology newsletter. It warned that anyone presenting with unexplained or worsening kidney disease should be questioned about their use of `natural’ remedies.Continue reading
Forum As a born again skeptic I find it hard to write about an experience which challenges my entrire values system; dead men don’t talk, dreams and premonitions tell you nothing except, perhaps, something about your body chemistry, the whole body of scientific knowledge in all the different fields of hard science hangs together, so if crap like creationism and flat-earth geography are true, then everything else we’ve discovered in the last 500 years must be wrong… Still I must be brutally honest. Skeptic editor Annette Taylor was offered a chopper ride today, and she had forebodings about it. I have ridden in helicopters many times without mishap, and I talked her into going, as it’s an exhilarating experience and quite safe. Nevertheless, a few hours later I rang to confirm that she’d returned in one piece. Alas! Premonitions may well foretell the future. One of her fellow passengers was airsick. Reductionists and doubters like myself oversimplify this mysterious universe if we ignore them. Well, I’Continue reading
I didn’t wish to begin a debate about the issues surrounding religion in the 16th and 17th-century, nor would I ever wish to stop anyone from taking in interest in history. All I wanted to do was to point out that history is an academic discipline the same as any other, and it is dangerous to make pronouncements of such a dogmatic nature in the subject in which one has not been trained. Little in Jim rings reply to my letter persuades me that I am wrong. I still think that the comment about Archbishop Laud implies that he was executed for burning heretics, otherwise why say while burning heretics was still a pious duty it could have unfortunate consequences, particularly for archbishops. However it is possible that in the area of toleration we are talking at cross-purposes. Toleration was strictly limited in its application in the 16th and most of the seventeenth century. Catholics for instance, were discriminated against for almost all of this time. Quakers and other minority religious sects were fiercelyContinue reading
Obituary for Keith RobinsonContinue reading
It’s my right as a parent to decide what is best for my child. After all, I’m a caring parent who dearly loves her children and would do only what is best for them.
Sounds reasonable? But what if I truly believe I should beat my child. People do. I may want to withhold a life-saving blood transfusion from them. Jehovah Witness parents believe this sincerely. Or I may decide that my child will be better off having quantum-boosted radio waves or happy thoughts beamed at his cancerous growth, rather than nasty chemotherapy.
After all, in commenting on just such a case, the Health and Disability Commissioner has said that parents have the right to choose what treatment is given to their child. I wonder if the commissioner will uphold the rights of people who believe their child’s diabetes will be aided by prayer, rather than by insulin. Somehow I doubt it. Certainly the police aren’t impressed by such arguments – they’ve arrested the parents of one boy who died when prayer failed to cure his cancer.
Yet, in the case of Liam Williams-Holloway, it seemed something was different. Certainly there seemed to be strong public support for a loving, well-intentioned family hounded into hiding by uncaring oncologists. At least this was how the case was presented, for the most part, by the media. I suspect that that had an effect on Robyn Stent’s attitude and probably also on the uncharacteristic silence at the time from the Commissioner for Children.
One constant refrain was that the decision to stop chemotherapy was an informed one. I was therefore dismayed to see the family citing the book “Suppressed Inventions and other Discoveries”, as a reference. As its name suggests, this book deals with a vast range of conspiracy theories, from NASA’s suppression of evidence for intelligent life on Mars through to the perpetual fruitless quest for free energy sources. It is the stuff of which fortunes are made by those prepared to rip off the vulnerable, and you can’t get much more vulnerable than being the parent of a child diagnosed with cancer.
Of course you want your child to be cured. Of course watching them go through an intensive course of chemotherapy is hard. But that doesn’t mean we should let our hopes get in the way of our critical faculties. Surely it becomes even more important then that you question what is going on. By all means question what the medical establishment does and doesn’t want to do.
But, and this is an important “but” that seems to have escaped the attention of the Health Commissioner and other commentators, you also have to question those claiming to have cures through alternative routes. Hold them up to the same scrutiny, demand the same level of evidence and challenge their claims equally enthusiastically.
I will be interested to see what happens when the inevitable outcome occurs and Liam dies. I suspect that public sympathy will be vast and so will the silence on the parents’s culpability. After all, they were caring, well-meaning, well-informed white middle class people, not religious Islanders. I predict that the police will not darken their doorway…
Vicki Hyde, Chair-entity
Not Eating May be Hazardous to HealthContinue reading
In which John Riddell continues his pub night discussions.Continue reading
The Swedish chemist Berzelius coined the term ‘organic’ for substances that could only be made by living organisms and not synthesised by humans. His German friend Wöhler synthesised urea in 1828 proving Berzelius wrong, there was no such distinction. Another brilliant German chemist, Liebig, then used ‘organic’ to mean carbon-compound chemistry, extending this to include the chemistry of living organisms- so beginning biochemistry.Continue reading
As a born-again skeptic, I find it hard to write about an experience which challenges my entrire values system; dead men don’t talk, dreams and premonitions tell you nothing except, perhaps, something about your body chemistry, the whole body of scientific knowledge in all the different fields of hard science hangs together, so if crap like creationism and flat-Earth geography are true, then everything else we’ve discovered in the last 500 years must be wrong… Still, I must be brutally honest.Continue reading