The Indian Files: Gopal’s Ayurvedic Beach Resort and Research Centre

I recently spent several weeks motorcycling around southern India and was on the lookout for interesting examples of folk remedies and frauds. Ayurvedic medicine is popular because the remedies are cheap and have a long history of acceptance by ignorant and poor Indians. Middle-class Indians tend to be dismissive of ‘Godmen’ and Fakirs who can be found near every temple or religious institution but gullible western tourists provide rich pickings. An Austrian woman paid 34,000 Euros for Ayurvedic treatment of her memory loss. It transpired that she suffered from bipolar disorder and after an altercation in a temple she was sent home to Austria and subsequently sued over her unsuccessful treatment. The New Sunday Express Kochi 4 Feb 2007


Very few people need to take vitamins. If you are eating a normal diet they are unnecessary and a waste of money. If you take vitamins, particularly water-soluble vitamins, all you will have is very expensive urine. But wait, it gets worse. Three supplements, Vitamins A, E and beta Carotene increase the death rate in those taking them. This was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which concluded: “money spent on vitamin supplements was wasted.” I know that. I prefer to spend my money on a good Marlborough Chardonnay. Dominion Post 1 March

Obesity Rules

There has been a great deal of media interest in obesity and even calls for publicly funded surgery for people who continue to overeat. Gastric stapling is too expensive at $20,000 plus and the Saudi Arabian solution (cut their hands off) would be cheaper but unacceptable here. In the UK, two men were prosecuted for allowing their pet dog to become obese. The two-day trial cost $34,000. They could have stapled several dogs’ stomachs for that money. Apart from being a stupid waste of money this trial confirms that the British care more about animals than children. Parents can feed their own children until they are overweight and there is no penalty. Fat people should be allowed to own fat dogs. Sunday Star Times 14 January

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

Some scientists live in such a rarefied atmosphere that they lose contact with reality. Occupational medicine is a rich source of bizarre ideas about alleged work-related illness. MCS is a neurosis where people, mainly women, believe that they have become ‘poisoned’ by chemicals. A study looked at intra erythrocytic minerals in the red cells of 408 women with MCS. They found nothing. This is hardly surprising as the condition is caused by a faulty belief system. The same foolishness has been seen in regard to other conditions such as Gulf War Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Neither meets the criteria of a syndrome, yet hardly a week goes by without some fatuous researcher coming up with yet another theory of causation. These sorts of studies were satirised by an issue of Punch. I still have one such article: “Delayed ketoalkalotic effects of aldosterone producing adenoma in a man with a pig’s head”. If any readers would like a copy please send a SAE to me. Occupational Medicine Vol 57 No2 March 2007


While I’m on the subject of stupid research in medical journals I found another beaut in the Medical Journal of Australia. Here are the findings straight from the article.


To identify whether the rate and average daily dose of stimulant prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in Western Australia (WA) differed according to the geographical remoteness and socioeconomic status of the patient.


Remoteness and socioeconomic disadvantage are significantly associated with rate of stimulant prescription for ADHD in WA, but not associated with average daily dose of stimulant prescribed. Further research is needed to understand why considerable variation exists in the use of prescribed stimulants for ADHD.”

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson: “Doh!” What did they expect? ADHD is a fad diagnosis promulgated by doctors who believe in it and Australian doctors do not want to work in the remoter parts of WA.

One of my colleagues working at a military base was astounded to find a large number of children taking stimulants for ADHD. The explanation was a local paediatrician enthusiast for the condition. What Western Australia clearly needs is a form of flying doctor service – the Flying ADHD Service. Cartons of stimulants could be airdropped into remote airstrips in order to service these disadvantaged children. MJA 2007; 186 (3): 124-127

But wait, there’s more:

The Effect of Electro-Acupuncture on Spasticity of the Wrist Joint in Chronic Stroke Survivors

This study used seven subjects and concluded that electro-acupuncture reduced spasticity. Key words were: Acupuncture; Muscle spasticity; Rehabilitation; and Stroke, to which should be added “Crap”.

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Vol 88, Issue 2 Feb 2007 Pg 159-166

Complaints against Doctors

Most doctors will field a few complaints in the course of their careers. The majority concern poor communication and are easily settled. Others escalate and some, well, they are just beyond belief. In the course of my work I occasionally meet people who are so stupid and ignorant I just want to lean over and poke them in the eye with a pencil. Here is one such patient. A woman complained that an anaesthetist had harassed her about her smoking habit prior to an elective Caesarean section. I will quote from the report: “Dr A had been concerned that Mrs G’s absence from the ward for a cigarette had disrupted the operating list, and that her coughing perioperatively had made the surgical procedure more difficult.” Mrs G began a legal claim for “pain and psychological distress”, alleging that Dr A’s manner had contributed to her postnatal depression. Mrs G was rewarded with a payment of NZ$132,330 plus costs. It is sincerely to be hoped that she chokes on her next cigarette.

Tetanus and Folk wisdom

Every year NZ has one or two cases of tetanus. A 10-year-old girl scraped her knee on a concrete wall and ended up in hospital with tetanus. She had not received any childhood vaccinations. Today I treated an elderly man who had fallen and sustained multiple abrasions. He declined a vaccination and said he could prevent tetanus by willpower just like his father. He went on to say that his father treated abrasions by picking up a handful of dirt and rubbing it into the wound.

This reminded me of the African practice of dressing the umbilical cord with cow dung which leads to neonatal tetanus.

As I am generally fond of the eccentric elderly, I refrained on this occasion, from poking him in the eye with my pencil.

NZ Doctor 31 January 2007

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