Nervousness based medicine
Fear of litigation is a powerful stimulus to over-investigation and over treatment. In an atmosphere of litigation phobia, the only bad test is the test you didn’t think of ordering.
NZ Medical Journal Nov 24 2000 p. 479
While setting the VCR the other day I caught a segment on TV where a particularly slimy and irritating Australian was extolling the virtues of magnetic pillows and underlays. I was further reminded of this incident when Dr Keith Davidson of Blenheim, gave me a brochure on “Magnetic Energy”. Ever the humorist, Keith had scrawled across the bottom the words “doesn’t attract me!”
The web address is www.magneticenergy.com.au (shouldn’t that be ‘dot.con’?)
One of the great things about quackery is that it can be recycled after a period of time when people have forgotten the lessons of history. Charles Mackay — “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”, outlines the last great era of magnetic therapy in his book. Refer page 304.
When recycling an old fraud it is important to modernise it for a more sophisticated New Zealand audience (don’t laugh). It also helps to link it with other modalities such as acupressure and auricular acupuncture. Some highlights from the brochure: Magnetic water. Placing a jug of boiled water on top of the Mega Multi Magnet for 2-3 hours makes this. The daily use of “magnetised water may keep your negative and positive ions and pH levels balanced.”
What about an antinauseant magnet with the unfortunate acronym of “SCAT”. (Sea, Car, Air, Train). Scat is a North American term for animal sh*t which pretty much sums up these useless magnetic products.
Sexual abuse claims set to spiral
In Vol 62 I predicted that moves to allow lump sum compensation for sexual abuse claims would then be subjected to Welch’s Law. (Claims expand to take up the amount of compensation available).
Since the Government announced the reintroduction of lump-sum payments, 12,000 people have lodged “sensitive claims” and may be in line for $100K each regardless of whether police have investigated the complaint (they have been too busy collecting speeding fines) and claimants are not required to name the perpetrator.
I am very concerned that this absurdly unfair legislation excludes people who have really suffered through alien abduction. It should not matter that such claimants are unsure as to the identity of their abductor. In the half-light a Martian can resemble a Raelian. Unless the spaceship was speeding, it’s unlikely the event would come to the attention of the police. In passing, I wonder what the penalty is for doing Warp 9 in Taihape?
Marlborough Express 29 April, 2003
Employers have much to fear from proposed changes to the Health and Safety in Employment Act. Employers are about to become responsible for managing stress in the workplace. If this foolish proposal is implemented I predict that there will be a surge of complaints followed by requests for compensation as disaffected workers struggle to get their snouts into the ACC trough. Many already have by successfully claiming for spurious conditions such as chemical “poisoning”, multiple chemical sensitivity, and occupational overuse syndrome (OOS). These are all classical conversion disorders where personal stress and anxiety is manifest as physical complaints. Workers are now being given the opportunity to take their own personal worries to work and make them the responsibility of their employer and ACC.
Dominion Post May 5 2003-05-16
These have been in the news lately and thanks to Alan Pickmere for sending me a range of what’s on offer in Whangarei. In an accompanying letter Alan recounted how his queries to various suppliers were met with a dose of “vehemence medicine”.
Zenith Corporation are promoting “Body Enhancer” and “Bee V Balm” via their website www.zenith.co.nz. Claims are made that their products are backed by research but none is evident, only the usual testimonials which are the hallmark of snake-oil salesmen. The language is very carefully chosen, for example: “Under NZ law and the Medicines Act 1981 we are prohibited from telling you how our products and the ingredients they contain will work for your benefit.” Wrong. They are prohibited by law from making claims for which they have no evidence.
Malcolm Harker’s website www.malcolmharker.co.nz tells us that he has been making traditional herbal medicines since 1981. The website is a bit “clunky” and lacks functionality but is worth a visit, if only to enjoy some of the product names. Troubled by “brain fatigue”? Try “E-sense”, a mixture of sage (geddit?), rosemary, gingko, kelp and fucus. That last ingredient sounds a trifle unpleasant.
I urge all readers to visit these websites and send in questions about these products. The alternative health literature is an endless source of whacky ideas and because so many of the people involved are scientifically illiterate, there are some wonderful howlers. Take this one for example:
“The activity (ie “hotness”) of the capsicum family is measured by British Thermal Units (BTU). Good quality cayenne capsules come in extra hot which is 100,000 BTU.”
One BTU is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1lb of water by 1°F. It has nothing to do with the perceived “hotness” of cayenne pepper. Consider a hot water cylinder containing 200lbs of water. 100,000 BTU by my calculations would raise the temperature of your cylinder by 500°F. I will leave you with Alan Pickmere’s comment: “rather a cheap way to heat your bathwater”.
Yoga for Sickness Beneficiaries
For many years I have been corresponding with various officials and bureaucrats about the continuing scandal of the sickness benefit. A short-term benefit for illness has been turned into a lifestyle and all that is required to gain this benefit is a signed certificate from a doctor. It is a matter of some regret to me that members of my own profession have been largely responsible for an increase of 3000 on the sickness benefit since July 2000. Over 4000 people have been on a sickness benefit for more than five years, 182 for more than 15 years and five for over 20 years.
At the expense of sounding like a redneck I get particularly annoyed when I read in the paper of professional criminals described as “sickness beneficiaries”. They are too sick to work but well enough to commit burglaries and serious criminal offences. All of my attempts to find out details of these cases have been thwarted by “privacy considerations”. This means that a third party (a doctor) can commit the state to providing a benefit with no independent means of auditing these decisions. The Government continues to express concerns as to why so many people are going on to sickness benefits. The answer is simple: because they can!
But wait … a novel solution has been found. Selected sickness beneficiaries are being offered “yogic breathing to help them get a job”. This has been described by critics as “unscientific, dangerous, and bullshit”.
However, let’s not write it off completely. If they also offered yogic “flying” this could offer the dual benefit of a return to work and a means of getting there. But what next? I predict language courses in Klingon?
Sunday Star Times May 18 2003