NZ Qualifications Authority
An editorial in the Christchurch Press (23 Nov 94) was critical of the Universities who are seeking approval from the NZQA and argued that they should continue to set their own high standards.
The Aoraki Polytechnic has applied to the NZQA for recognition of a Bachelor Degree of Applied Science (Naturopathy). Naturopathy can mean anything from treatment with homeopathic remedies to colonic irrigation. I wrote to the NZQA and was told that the Aoraki application “involves review by a panel of peers…having a mix of professional and academic backgrounds.” I await the decision of the panel with considerable interest as the thought of a Bachelor of Applied Science (Naturopathy) holding equal weight with say a Bachelor of Applied Science (Biochemistry) is completely ludicrous.
Recovered Memory Syndrome
“ACC payments of $10,000 to three women who recalled `memories’ of rape and abuse as children are to be re-examined after aquittal of their father.” However, unbelievably, ACC’s Fred Cochram says “it is possible for people’s suffering to be deemed valid for compensation even if abuse was disproved in the courts! (Dominion Oct 5 1994)
It is absurd that at a time when ACC is making it more and more difficult for victims of genuine accidents to gain adequate compensation, they continue to provide money for the fraudulent activities of an army of counsellors who are poorly trained and following their own feminist agendas.
I have previously commented on the insane activities of athletes who take performance enhancing drugs which in many cases do enhance phsyique but have no more than a placebo effect on performance. (Skeptic 28)
A former Russian gymnast alleged that her trainers forced her to become pregnant and then have an abortion because “the body of a pregnant woman produced more male hormones and could therefore become stronger.” (Christchurch Press 24 Nov 94)
There has been much speculation about possible illicit practices by Chinese athletes. I think we can reasonably discount anything other than a placebo effect from a secret elixir containing “turtle blood, ginseng and other spices” used by China’s track team. Why “turtle blood” for runners? Surely it would be more logical to give it to their swimmers? In fact it doesn’t really matter what the product contains because the Chinese expect to sell about 20,000 bottles of the quack tonic in Japan.
Eleven of China’s long distance runners have had their appendices removed because “they were getting sick and having toxicological problems.” Leading sports doctors were reported as being puzzled and amazed. (Marlborough Express 13 Oct 94) I am neither puzzled nor amazed as China continues to be a rich source of medieval superstition and quackery such as acupuncture. Medical history tells us that it was widely believed that “toxins” were a cause of many ailments and as a result people were purged, had all their teeth removed, tonsils extracted and any organs such as the appendix were also removed. In some cases patients had their entire large colon removed and enjoyed diarrhoea for the rest of their lives. When history is ignored it tends to get “rediscovered”.
A rather extreme Catholic school principal and priest has refused to give his pupils a combined vaccine because it was obtained from cell culture originally obtained from an aborted foetus in the 1960’s. I have no argument with any religion provided it does not interfere with the state but the Catholic religion has an unenviable reputation for continually interfering with public health issues.
A more recent example is their attempted sabotage, along with Muslim extremists, of the recent global conference on population planning. (Marlborough Express 27 Oct 94).
Correct me if I am wrong, but I think it was GB Shaw who said that the main distinguishing feature of humans from animals was their desire to take medicines.
Health expenditure in Switzerland reached 18 billion pounds last year of which drugs were 10.7 percent. About 60 percent of all drugs are available over the counter (OTC) and the Swiss are at the top of Europe’s self-medication league. (The Lancet Vol 344 p322).
The New Zealand drug bill shows a healthy annual growth rate and is rapidly approaching the NZ$1 billion mark. One Government attempt to control these excesses was thwarted by GP’s who simply prescribed more drugs on each prescription. If people wish to poison themselves with drugs I think we should follow the Swiss example and make them available OTC. People can then personally pay for their drugs which will not detract from the health vote. The oral contraceptive is incredibly safe for OTC availability, however there is an excellent case for requiring a prescription for cigarettes.
Prozac is a new antidepressant drug which may be safer than exisitng drugs but is also much more expensive and has been already grossly over-prescribed in the US. There is already considerable pressure to allow its unrestricted use here in New Zealand.
Christmas Shopping Blues?
A major trial has found that the drug Fluvoxamine prevented compulsive shopping in all seven patients. Fluvoxamine is frequently used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder which causes people to repeatedly wash their hands, pull out their hair or to hoard strange objects. It could also help doctors who repeatedly over-prescribe drugs.
The medical model applied when I went through medical school suggested that patients had either an accepted organic illness or something less well defined such as “conversion disorder” ie. stress producing symptoms and signs. (eg. RSI or OOS) The evolution of investigative technology means that this model has the potential to be mis-applied.
I will quote in full an item from the BMJ Vol 309 p420). Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition where people complain of abdominal pain and constipation for which no cause is found.
“Six patients with the irritable bowel syndrome between them had 29 operations and 46 investigations, says a report in the Scottish Medical Journal. It warns that other studies have shown that around one third of patients with the disorder have appendicectomies and half the women have major gynaecological operations.”
I recently saw a woman with a clear history of hyperventilation syndrome (over-breathing, similar to what happens when blowing up a balloon) which causes neurological disturbances. The patient had had a CAT scan and an electroencephalogram after which a (foreign) neurologist prescribed Tryptanol (an antidepressant), Prednisone (a steroid anti-inflammatory) and Dilantin (an anti-epileptic)! Presumably this lethal cocktail was prescribed “just in case”.
Sickness Benefit Abuses
As I outlined in a previous column (Skeptic 32), all that is needed to get extra money when unemployed is a certificate from a doctor saying that you are “sick”. Not surprisingly there has been a steady growth in the benefits industry since most doctors derive their income from signing forms. In 6 years the number of people on sickness benefits went from 20,000 to 34,000. When combined with the invalid benefit this costs nearly 1 billion dollars annually. (Evening Post 18 Nov 94)
The cause of this fraudulent activity is the discrepancy between income support and invalidity benefit. A British GP (BMJ Vol 309 p673-4) noted that 23 out of 24 of his drug addict patients were receiving invalidity benefits despite guidelines that GPs should not issue sick notes to drug users unless they have a co-exisitng medical or psychiatric condition. In New Zealand I have known of drug addicts getting both sick notes and their drugs from the same doctor!
I am pleased to see that our own Social Welfare Minister has acknowledged that the numbers on such benefits falls once a more consistent policy is taken to assess eligibility.
A judge in Alabama has approved a US$4.25 billion compensation deal for more than 90,000 women worldwide with silicon breast implants. Many women have suffered proven ill-health but those who have difficulty finding an excuse to get their pot of gold can claim for “silicon disease”. This only requires at least five of a range of symptoms, including rashes, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness and memory loss. These are of course very vague symptoms and could be attributable to a wide range of other conditions such as CFS and alleged chemical “poisoning”.
NHS goes bananas?
GPs in the UK National Health Service (NHS) have won a partial refund for their patients who are spending $1250 on transcendental meditation courses. TM is an invention of an Indian guru and has no legitimate place in any health system. The Beatles flirted briefly with TM but became disillusioned when the guru persisted in making sexual overtures to their girlfriends.
Smoothing away the years
Need a face-lift? Look no further than CACI (computer aided cosmetology instrument). CACI delivers a tiny current to the skin and muscles in order to “re-educate muscles”. It is allegedly FDA approved. I have written to NCAHF to check this claim and will report in due course.
Best wishes for the New year to all readers and don’t forget Fluvoxamine if you feel a Christmas shopping compulsion. If Christmas awakens repressed memories of ritual satanic abuse at the hands of Santa I recommend a $10,000 payout from ACC will also help with the shopping.