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Ocean View: More HooDoo Science

by Michael Leppert

"80% of medical practice is not based on evidence." That is a quote from Dr. Gregg Meyer, director of the Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at the federal Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality.

Dr. Meyer's quote comes from an unsettling article in the Health Section of the L.A. Times of June 18, 2001, under the headline "When Hype Stands In for Solid Science" and it clearly illustrates what we have referred to in this column before as Hoodoo Science. The L.A. Times writer, Trudy Lieberman, explains how in 1991, a controversial cancer treatment created a battle between doctors, hospitals and patients on the one hand and insurance companies on the other, over the effectiveness of a procedure, Autologous Bone Marrow Transplantation, to treat advanced cases of breast cancer. Of course, the procedure was expensive -- $50,000 to $100,000 - and included high doses of chemotherapy. In 1993, a jury even awarded several million dollars to the surviving family of a woman who's HMO refused to pay for the procedure. In 1999, results from multiple clinical trials showed that the ABMT procedure doesn't work. If this procedure had been an "alternative medicine" treatment, (i.e. dietary, herbal, homeopathic, chiropractic, etc.) the medical community likely would have created a hoo-ha and an explosion to rival Krakatoa denouncing such alternatives as irresponsible, ineffective. . . maybe even hint that they should be illegal and the culprits brought to justice. But, we live in a lobbying country, don't we? And thanks to the cozy Washington relationship between Big Med and Big Gov, such irresponsible medical procedures and activities are seldom brought to light. As Bob Dylan said "Money doesn't talk, it screams."

One of the drawbacks to living in such a "commercial" society is that the public concept of medical responsibility is shaped by drug companies with plenty of money to spend. Ever notice how many "women's" magazines are loaded with full-page ads for prescription drugs? If you check into the advertising rates for these national magazines, you will find that it is incredibly expensive. These drug companies are trying hard to sell a product, which most of us consumers assume has been rigidly tested and found to be effective (maybe even safe, to boot!). Guess again. The L.A. Times' article goes on to document the rise to stardom of a drug (Celebrex) developed to treat arthritis without some of the negative side effects of other, similar drugs, but with no hard science to back up such a claim. Its theme song is reportedly well known, so it has easy recognition. Anyone who grew up on '60s radio and T.V. can tell you how effective this tack is . . . it works . . . and it makes Celebrex seem like an old, familiar friend, right? This is Hoodoo Science! It's not science at all. No self-respecting scientist calls it so, either. Put a lab coat on a Madison Avenue huckster and what do you have? What most harried consumers mistake for a "trained, health-care professional." Even an M.D. can have a huckster's heart.

So what is my point in all of this? Be responsible and a smart and savvy consumer of medical products and services, just as you should be about everything you buy.

Think about the 80% figure quoted by Dr. Meyer and consider that vaccines have not been tested for effectiveness or safety, either. There are numerous books available that document this fact and demonstrate that vaccine theory is unsound. Even Englishman Edward Jenner's original smallpox vaccine experimentation and conclusions were not scientifically sound. Jenner was good at hype, too, however, and did an efficient job at stirring up political sentiment in favor of his inoculation program. Don't let yourself or your child receive any shot of anything until you have read the package insert the doctor receives with the vaccine and know what the risks are. If you are not comfortable with the risks, say "No, thank you." and stick to it. If your state laws require vaccination, work to change the laws or move to another state. Many of these laws were irresponsibly implemented through lobbying on the state level and laws need to be re-worked or eliminated by the citizens every so often - ask Thomas Jefferson!

Your family doctor is employed by you (same as your gardener or pool man) and you can --and should -- take your business to a physician who is sensitive to your concerns and respects them. The L.A. Times article ends with a late 1990s quote from physician and medical commentator David Eddy in the journal Health Affairs: "Physicians can do more to admit the existence of uncertainty, both to themselves and to their patients . . . it opens the way for a more intensive search for ways to reduce uncertainty . . . patients can push the process by asking questions. . ." As we can all reason out, true scientists - seekers of the truth -- are not afraid of scrutiny or questioning, it is part of their life's mission. Technicians, on the other hand, might fear scrutiny because they may perceive it as a threat. After all, they are not seeking truth, but merely administering (for money) the truth that has been found by others. If your doctor doesn't provide you with proper service, find one who does. They are out there, but you may have to seek them actively.

Ramblin' Man

Someone reported to our office recently that she did not have a clue what I was talking about in a section of the last Ocean View. Unfortunately, the person who took the message can't remember which topic it was, so I will guess it was the section on corporations. I made the mistake of assuming certain givens and I apologize for the confusion that may have caused. I will now attempt to clarify/rectify that murky condition. (1) The reason that we private citizens should be concerned and/or care about corporations in our midst - how they function; the laws establishing what they can and can't do; how those laws came to be - is because they run our lives and our country! If you think you have the opportunity to have a prominent presidential candidate rise to national attention who is not funded (owned) and approved of by many, many corporations, let me introduce you to the Newnited States, the country you now live in. This is not the country founded by Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hancock, et al., but rather a slickly-produced imitation founded by railroad magnates (the "Big Four" among them were: Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins and E.B. Crocker.) These men and many other "robber barons" of the early 1800s took the creation of the Founding Fathers and twisted and turned it into the corporate subsidiary we live in today. This state of affairs did not, and does not, have to exist, and that is part of what my last piece in Ocean View was relating. Corporations are subject to laws and citizens can change the laws.

On its face, a corporation is formed by a group of people who wish to join together in a business relationship to gain certain legal and commercial benefits they would not enjoy if they were not a corporation. For example, if you own a business as a sole proprietor (not a corporation) and someone sues your business and wins the suit, they can get a judgment on your personal assets - house, cars, boats, etc. If you become a corporation, your personal assets are not automatically part of the corporate assets. They are separate, as if the corporation were another person, part you, part of each of the other officers or shareholders of the corporation. This is well and good and produces a thriving business community and atmosphere of prosperity. However, the problems we have run into with corporations is that they have been given the privileges of individual human beings, without any of the limitations of individuals being imposed upon them. For instance, a corporate charter (approximately a corporation's license to do business) should only be issued for the average lifespan of an individual at the time it is issued - not eternally. Today, in the U.S. the average lifespan is between 72 and 76 years. Fine. Any corporation filing for a charter should have 76 years from 2001 to operate before it must liquidate all of its assets and close its doors. No extensions, no re-filing of charters with new officers, just poof! out of business and turned back into a pumpkin at the stroke of "midnight", 76 years after the charter. Also, corporations should not be allowed to contribute heavily to political candidates, but rather be restricted to a percentage of the taxes they paid in their last tax year. Since most major corporations pay no taxes, this would prevent them from contributing anything to political candidates. On the other hand, if they decided they would like to begin paying taxes, which would contribute to the financial well-being of their fellow citizens by creating a wind-fall surplus, then they could contribute a percentage of that amount, just as any other "individual" should be able to do. The reason these errors exist is because the Big Four bribed and manipulated the local politicians and judges involved in trying to keep them honest. If all of the "robber barons" had simply conducted business like a poker game, where you take the hand that is dealt you and win or lose on it, rather than fixing the game, everything would have been fine and no righteous person would accuse them of swindling and dishonest practices. (Just because someone wins "the game" doesn't make him bad.) However, the evidence of the dishonest and reprehensible practices of people like Jay Gould, J.P. Morgan, and the above-mentioned Big Four, makes them a poor example of what a businessman should be. Anyone who admires these people is probably overdue for a moral tune-up as well, and needs to rethink his/her definition of "success." Anyway, I urge you to visit some of the websites that deal with decreasing the power of corporations, such as www.adbusters.org. This main site will link you to more specific information about crackdowns on corporate power around the U.S. The best memorial we can extend to those who were murdered in the Crime in New York is to maintain and nurture our liberty. ML

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