“Dr Jaz” Dies
Dr Neil McKenzie, better known to music lovers as Dr Jaz, died in May following a long battle against a brain tumour (Bay of Plenty Times, May 15 2003).
Neil McKenzie was also a long-time member of the NZ Skeptics, and wrote the “Skepsis” column on medical issues for this magazine from 1997 to 1999.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he was raised in Surrey and attended medical school in Charing Cross hospital. He first came to New Zealand in 1974 and subsequently took up a post as a GP in Tokoroa. He settled in Tauranga in 1985.
Neil McKenzie first formed a skiffle band at age 16 in England and took up the banjo – an instrument which became his trademark. In 1980 his band, ‘Dr Jaz’ was born, and has been a regular feature of the local music scene here and overseas ever since.
Equally comfortable in the worlds of music and medicine, he will be greatly missed in both.
ACC Investigates Acupuncturists
ACC is investigating 20 acupuncture providers after discovering they were getting half its annual funding for the treatment (Nelson Mail, Dominion Post, May 21).
More than $2 million was going to only 20 of almost 200 registered acupuncturists, ACC Healthwise division general manager David Rankin said. Some were claiming for 12 hours a day for every day of the week.
Acupuncturists will now have to consult ACC clinical advisers after 10 treatments, rather than the previous 24, before further treatments will be authorised. ACC spends about $4.6 million a year on acupuncture treatments.
Register of Acupuncturists president Kevin Plaisted said the new limit was unlikely to stop further sessions going ahead.
“There is no reason why ACC will not approve further treatment … it’s certainly not designed to stop treatment at 10 but simply that we’re accountable for the treatment we’re providing,” he said.
Dr Rankin said injuries like sprains were treated with acupuncture but it required more sessions than other treatments.
Who Would Have Predicted This?
T Bromley, of Greymouth, takes the Press to task in a letter to the Editor (May 22) over the accuracy of the paper’s Christmas “clairvoyants” Maureen Rose and Rosina Bond.
Neither were able to predict the main stories early in the New Year, which included the Australian bushfires, Sydney’s train disaster, and even the space shuttle crash.
Rosina Bond’s prediction for the war in Iraq read, “While Iraq has become the US’s New Russia it’s predicted the two countries will not go to war in 2003 … When conflict comes to a head it will be late September-early October, Bush will be stopped in his tracks.”
No mention either of the power crisis, nor (and this, says T Bromley, is the grand-daddy of them all) the Sars virus. Like shooting fish in a barrel, really.
Watch Out for Those Ladders
Joanne Black’s Blackchat column (Dominion Post, April 28) had a novel perspective on the Sars epidemic. Pointing out that 110 people dying of the disease in China in one month was equivalent to four New Zealanders dying in a year, she took a look at the statistics to see what types of things kill four, and only four, New Zealanders in a year.
In 1998, the “latest” year for which mortality figures are available, three people died from cystitis, from varicose veins in the legs and from male breast cancer. Eight died from falling in holes, two from acute tonsillitis, four from curvature of the spine, three from genital prolapse, five from falling off ladders or scaffolding, and 14 from being hit by rolling stock (which Black thinks is to do with trains rather than sheep tumbling down hillsides).
Investigating Sars has taught her plenty, she says. She wouldn’t hesitate to travel to China, but from now on, she’ll certainly be more vigilant when crossing railway lines, take more care on ladders, and particularly watch out for those lethal holes in the ground.
Psychics “See” Missing Woman
Psychics have told police they know what happened to missing Hauraki Plains woman Sara Niethe (Dominion Post, June 16).
Several psychics have called police since investigators announced a $20,000 reward for information which would help them find the woman they now believe may have been a victim of foul play.
“They have had visions of where Sara is and where her car is. If they are specific enough we will check them out,” a spokesman said. Most, however, have not been specific.
Ms Niethe vanished on March 30 after drinking in Kaihere with a friend. Wide police searches of the plains, rivers and an irrigation ditch found no sign of her or her light blue-green late 1980s Honda Civic. Her family say it is out of character for her to leave her children, and her bank accounts have not been touched.
We Suspected As Much
The incidence of cancerous tumours in the brain, neck and head has not risen since the arrival of mobile phones, according to the Wellington School of Medicine (Dominion Post, June 16).
Researchers collected data on men and women aged 20 to 69 from the cancer registry between 1987 and 1998, as well as data on cellphone use. Professor Alistair Woodward said the findings, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, should provide users with some reassurance. He said the study’s weakness was that it looked at the overall population rather than particularly at those who used mobile phones, meaning it was not known whether those developing tumours were using cellphones or not. But the research still showed there was not a strong link between cellphone use and cancer. The findings backed up a similar study in Denmark.
A study of tumour rates among cellphone users compared to non-users would be completed next year.
And on a Similar Note… British researchers have cast further doubt on fears of a link between overhead power lines and childhood leukaemia (Dominion Post, June 16). A study published in the British Journal of Cancer found no evidence to support such concerns from laboratory experiments. Researchers used blood cells from a donor to test the effect of mag-netic fields on the normal repair process and found cells exposed to strong magnetic fields repaired themselves naturally.
Funds Raised for Alternative Treatment
A former Hawkes Bay goal-kicker and member of the Blues Super 12 rugby team will use more than $100,000 raised at charity functions to fight his motor neurone disease with alternative medicine (Dominion Post, June 2).
Jarrod Cunningham, who was diagnosed with the disease last year, said $45,000 was raised at a Hawkes Bay auction on May 31, and up to $70,000 at a rugby game the following day, featuring All Blacks Norm Hewitt and Bull Allen. This would go toward research and education on the natural supplements which had “cured” him.
Cunningham, 34, said he was on the road to a full recovery from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease, after taking a course of 20 capsules of astragalus, from the root of the astragalus plant, over five days, and says it has put him into full remission.
After his Christchurch-based Chinese “healer” told him that chicken parasites caused the symptoms of his disease, he has vowed to use money raised to prove this and help others with the disease seek herbal remedies to treat it.
The money raised at the weekend would be fed into a trust to be administered by the healer Cunningham has been working with.
Before taking the herb he was unable to get out of the bath without help. Three weeks after the dose he was able to do so on his own. “If that’s not remission of symptoms I don’t know what is,” he said.
Cunningham was also prescribed a dose of cayenne pepper to help unblock his lymph nodes, which he says worked. He based this on his armpits smelling like curry.
He no longer visits his doctor in Britain where he has been based, saying the doctor was closed-minded and negative. However when his muscles grow back in three to six months, as he predicts, he will tell his neurologist how he did it.