Surely I’ll be going to hell for this

And, kidding aside, I truly hope the poor girl gets the help she needs, but when I read that Alexa Ray Joel (Billy’s daughter) tried to commit suicide with homepathic pills, I couldn’t help but recall the video below…and snicker.

…OK, I actually gave a good belly laugh.

The allure of biomedical treaments for autism

A comment on an earlier post of mine by a woman named Lisa, who has a 5-year-old son with autism, led me to her blog, specifically to this blogpost. Lisa is attempting to raise money to pay for some exorbitantly expensive biomedical treatments for her son, and has delayed vaccinating her younger, neurotypical son for fear the vaccines are responsible for his older brother’s descent into autism. For some reason, Lisa took offense to a comment of mine on a BlogHer post, in which I stated that Jenny McCarthy’s cause – which includes her not minding if children get deadly diseases until they “green the vaccines”, whatever that means (and the meaning seems to change constantly, as suits Jenny and her antivax crowd) – disgusted me.
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New to the science-based blogosphere

I’ve been updating my blogroll today, and I’m happy to say that compared to…well, not too long ago, there are plenty of link-worthy new blogs out there.

Most of you probably already know Dr. Amy Tuteur from Homebirth Debate (which is staying in my blogroll even though it’s no longer active, because it’s a great resource). Building upon the success of her newer blog at Salon, she has now launched The Skeptical OB. Some of the subjects might seem familiar to you from her previous blogs, but there is a lot of new material as well, and knowing Amy, the discussions in the comments are sure to be interesting. 🙂

Squillo, a commenter here who I first met in the comments of Dr. Amy’s blog, has decided to try her hand at blogging as well. She does so (and very well, I might add) at Confutata. Don’t miss her recent takedown of Jim Carrey’s HuffPo screed. (Yes, I know I should have tackled that one, but so many have already, and did it so much better).

Lastly, I recently found a new blog (up since January) written by a Canadian pharmacist, Scott Gavura, called Science-Based Pharmacy – not to be confused with the other two blogs in my blogroll with similar names (which are also always worth a look). Scott’s post on bioidentical hormones is a favorite of mine – a fellow family physician with an ‘alternative’ bent living in my city has made millions by prescribing these to all the posh Tel Aviv ladies with hypochondria and money to burn *sigh*. Similarly, his most recent post on the efficacy of other ‘natural’ treatments for menopausal symptoms is a great read.

Have fun reading! 🙂

The Garden of Medical Delights

Posting is a little scarce here these days (sorry!) is because I’m spending a good deal of time in my garden, pruning like crazy while the plants are dormant, doing a huge amount of weeding (which never seems to end) and preparing the areas of land for planting veggies come spring – which in my subtropical part of the world, means early March.

One of the reasons I started this blog last year, in fact, was due to my need for a creative outlet. I could do very little in the way of gardening back then due to its being the Shmittah year, and now I’m trying to get a handle on a garden that’s been left, for the most part, unkempt for nearly a year and a half (I did manage to put in some winter veggies last October – garlic, snow peas, and sweet potatoes, and a few bulbs and flowers which are now coming up, but the clay earth was rock-hard after a long dry summer, and was extremely difficult to dig in until the winter rains loosened the earth a little).

It would seem natural for someone like me, both an avid (though very amateur!) gardener and a physician, to put in a garden full of plants that have medicinal uses. My psychiatrist neighbor has, in fact, put some St. John’s Wort in his rockery – not that he uses it on patients, just for the hell of it. However, while I have plenty of herbs in my garden, they are used mainly for culinary, not medical, purposes. Thyme and rosemary go great with potatoes, basil makes wonderful pesto, I make the occasional tea using peppermint or lemon verbena…that sort of thing. I don’t have any problems with people using herbs for medicinal purposes – as long as they don’t give up any conventional treatments they need, and the herbs don’t interact with said treatment (e.g., various green herbs with warfarin, an anticoagulant). But generally speaking, it’s very hard to standardize treatments with the active ingredients in the plant by ingesting the plant as is. The same plant can vary in its active ingredient content, depending upon the soil it grows in, the weather conditions while growing, the manner in which it’s harvested and stored, etc.

Still, some of the plants may come in useful from time to time, and some of the claims of medicinal properties made for these plants are the kind I might personally use, so I decided it was time to look up the medical literature regarding a few of the plants growing in my garden.
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Denial’s Due: Christine Maggiore, dead at 52

Christine Maggiore, the HIV-positive AIDS denialist whose daughter died from AIDS-related pneumonia, died last Saturday. According to the LA times:

On Saturday, Maggiore died at her Van Nuys home, leaving a husband, a son and many unanswered questions. She was 52.

According to officials at the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, she had been treated for pneumonia in the last six months. Because she had recently been under a doctor’s care, no autopsy will be performed unless requested by the family, they said. Her husband, Robin Scovill, could not be reached for comment.

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Why ‘alternative medicine’ is a misnomer

I’ve made this observation in the comments before: There are treatments that have been shown to work and treatments that haven’t. The latter are what we call “woo”. Often, the woo-meisters accuse “allopathic” medicine of including certain treatments in the former category and excluding others because of monetary interests they hold – usually patents/licenses on drugs.

I’d like to point out a few folk-based therapies which look like woo, but apparently are not. As a result, they’re being tested and used as entirely conventional (if not yet common) therapies in the area of wound care. I’m pretty sure none of these can actually be patented, though, because they exist in nature and can be harvested by just about anyone with money and initiative.
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When Denial Kills: The EJ Scovill case

As we’ve seen in a recent post, turning to “alternative” medicine and as a result, failing to receive timely and medically sound treatment, can lead to devastating results. The circumstances surrounding the death of 3.5 -year-old Eliza Jane Scovill constitute a similar cautionary tale: how a mother’s denial of her potentially deadly, transmissible condition caused her beloved daughter to pay the ultimate price.
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