Bob Brockie gets himself a qualification in acupuncture
Last year a healthy anaesthesiologist, Dr Kinsinger, visited nine chiropractors in Oklahoma, claiming that his chest or back were playing up. All nine chiropractors misdiagnosed some kind of illness including appendicitis, misplaced bones or shifting ribs. Clearly, these guys had no idea of what they were doing, falling well short of conventional medical standards.
Back here, I once attended a Skeptics Society demonstration at Massey University. There, a medical doctor showed us how to make homeopathic concoctions by running a few drops of fluorescent dye along a row of 20 glass flasks filled with distilled water. He diluted, diluted and further diluted the mix until, by the 20th flask, there was theoretically not a molecule of the dye left — only distilled water.
In making their concoctions homeopaths do the same thing but with the juice of lawn daisies, onions, snake venom, sepia ink, sulphur and the like. They dilute the stuff until not a molecule remains in their 20th, 30th or 200th flasks, only distilled water. This is what they sell you, claiming that their remedies cure or relieve anything from asthma and infertility to fear of flying.
Most scientists and doctors are very dubious about these claims because they fly in the face of a basic chemical “Law of Mass Action”. The law says if you want to intensify a chemical reaction, add more chemicals. If you want to weaken a reaction, dilute the chemical.
At a later demonstration, another medical doctor and one-time acupuncturist showed us how to become an acupuncturist. “You need know only three rules.” He said. “One: Keep your needles clean. Two: Never stick needles into very fat people and Three: If a patient is really sick, send them to a proper doctor.” After 20 minutes’ instruction we were all given certificates, mine countersigned by a distinguished physician, certifying that we were all now acupuncturists. Again, endless medical trials show that acupuncture doesn’t work. One survey of almost 200 American acupuncturists revealed 132 cases of fainting, 26 cases of increased pain, eight cases of punctured lungs and 45 other adverse results in their patients.
Naturopaths claim they can rid your body of toxins and increase your “vital force”. The entire discipline of organic chemistry refutes this nonsense.
Scientific and medical trials of these four disciplines reveal that their short-term successes depend not on the treatments but on placebo effects.
If you want to know more about these fraudulent shenanigans go to Quackwatch or to the US or Australian National Councils Against Health Fraud on the web.
Originally published in the Dominion Post, 19 January, 2004