To Be Confirmed

Archive for July 2009

Away

Posted on: July 30, 2009

I’m away for a few days with no access to a computer so unfortunately I won’t be able to update the blog.

Stay sceptical.

Innit.

Yesterday I wrote about the decision by the MOD to try and claw back some of the compensation awarded to Cpl Duncan and Mne McWilliams.

Now Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth has come running home from holiday to deal with the issue and as a result of this case is bringing forward their review of the compensation procedure for our troops. He said;

“As Defence Secretary I cannot allow the situation to continue that leaves the public in any doubt over my or the Government’s commitment to our servicemen and women.”

Really! Do you think so? Have you only just figured this out? I mean well done for cutting your holiday short and everything but what did you really think was going to happen when the MoD tried to take money back off someone THAT WAS SHOT?

It’s a wonder who is in charge of these decisions, did no one turn around and say “Here, do you think the public might be a little bit pissed off if we try and take compensation money off these soldiers?”

free debate

Previously I posted about the British Chiropractic Association who are suing Simon Singh for libel following his comments in a guardian article.

As an update to that original post the BCA did eventually produced a list of studies purported to support the questionable treatments, however these did nothing more than to support Simon Singh’s criticism. For a decent review of these studies check out Science-Based Medicine.

To help support his case and in order to make sure this criticism does not go unheard, various blogs are being invited to reproduce a version of his article. I haven’t been invited but here it is anyway!

 

Beware the spinal trap

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results – and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that ‘99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae’. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: ‘Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck.’

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher. If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singhis a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardianfor which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

There was a article in the Independent today about the decision by the Ministry of Defence to take legal action against Cpl Duncan, of the Light Dragoons, and Royal Marine Matthew McWilliams to have their compensation reduced after they successfully appealed to have their compensation increased for injuries they suffered during service.

“Cpl Duncan was initially awarded £9,250 after being shot, while Marine McWilliams received £8,250 for fracturing his thigh on a training exercise, before they appealed to a tribunal for further compensation. Both men argued they had suffered a number of subsequent health problems during their treatment and these should not be regarded as separate from their original injuries. Three judges agreed with them and increased their compensation. Cpl Duncan was awarded £46,000 Marine McWilliams £28,750.”

Accompanying this story was this breakdown of the military compensation rules, detailing the amount a soldier might expect to receive according to their injury.

compensation

It kind of reads a bit like a rather morbid game we used to play at university where you would discuss what you would do for a certain amount of money. For example, would you chop off your pinky for a million pounds? We were students, we were poor, it was mostely in jest. Only it isn’t a game for these soldiers, these are injuries actually incurred in the line of duty and reading the amounts involved they’re paltry. I am not saying that money solves all ill’s, but less than £3,000 for permenant facial numbness?! 

It is appalling that having gone through the trauma of getting injured and finally winning a reasonable amount of compensation for their claim Cpl Duncan and Marine McWilliams now have to go through yet more strain in trying to defend their right to adequate reparation.

Bill O’Reilly, from Fox News would have to believe that our neighbours in Amsterdam are naive, evil, immoral and live in a ‘cesspool of corruption’. Roberwter posted this video in response;

Fox News get their information so wrong sometimes its a wonder they can get away with it. How badly could they misrepresent this beautiful city?

Its a disgrace.

There was a guide to swine flu in the Guardian today (page 11 – not available online) compiled in conjunction with the British Medical Journal. It was informative and the advice it offered was sound.

Under the ‘Prevention’ section of the guide it read as follows;

There’s no good evidence that wearing masks will protect you against swine flu. The evidence we found, which comes from the 2003 Sars (sic) outbreak, said masks in clinics and hospitals worked well. But it didn’t look at wearing masks in everyday life, for example on the street or public transport.

This guide was accompanied by a massive picture of a civilian wearing a mask. COME ON! Even if this person had swine flu, which from the picture you can’t tell, did it not occur to the picture editor that this particular picture is perhaps slightly inappropriate and misleading given the information in the text? Did they not read the article? 

There’s a great little story tucked away at the bottom of page 19 of the Guardian today. It turns out that the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) recent annual report revealed “a cash loss of £250,000, of which £97,000 occurred in 2008-09, and £153,000 occurred in 2007-08”. “This was due to an alleged fraud made possible by a control weakness in the Accounts Payable process,”

If Iwas to pick an organisation that I would expect to be alert to fraudulent activities, an organisation that’s purpose was to alert the general public to the danger of scams would probably be right up there. I mean it’s like the church being a victim to completely immoral behaviour or something…

…oh no wait that happens all the time.