Worrying: WordPress shut down a Blog of a Student Critizing the Naturopath Christopher Maloney

21 02 2010

Last Thursday PZ Myers, author of the very successful science blog Pharyngula tweeted that Christopher Maloney was a quack” (see first tweet below). Prior to that tweet I’d never heard of Christopher Maloney.

I used to be rather indifferent about homeopaths and other people practicing CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine), thinking that it might help some people in some cases.

But examples of patients harmed (even to death) by alternative forms of healing are increasing. In the Netherlands we had two examples of well-known people dying of (curable) cancer after seeking help from alternative practitioners: Sylvia Millecam and the ex-wive of the politician Roel van Duijn. In addition, babies have died as a consequence of craniosacral therapy (see one  recent case in the NTVG (the Dutch Medical Journal) and the English translation of this case at the Anaximperator Blog here).

What is particularly dangerous about the alternative medicine movement is the way it is able to influence and/or mobilize people and media. Read for instance through Roel’s own words (and shiver) how his wife came under influence of macrobiotic healers and was convinced she could conquer the cancer by getting her “yin and yang” more in balance.
And what about the anti-vaccination movement? In our country the vaccination campaign against cervical cancer for teenage girls failed, because of negative publicity propagated via the Internet (and this is just one example).

CAM-movements are also very powerful in trying to silence their blogging opponents, mostly very esteemed journalists and scientist. Simon Singh, a British science writer, is currently being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association. Why? Because he wrote an article in the The Guardian “Beware the spinal trap” in which he states that The British Chiropractic Association happily promotes bogus treatments (which he substantiates). This resulted in Singh being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Suing for libel is one foul approach to try to silence the anti-quack scientific writers. Another is trying to shut down the blog of those critical writers. These two approaches have been used by Christopher Maloney.

Maloney, as I learned from P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula:

“… is a naturopath in the state of Maine, where quacks like him get to call themselves “doctors”. These so-called “doctors” get to make recommendations like this, in which he disparages standard flu vaccines and suggests these useless prescriptions:

Parents waiting for vaccinations can provide their children with black elderberry, which blocks the H1N1 virus. A single garlic capsule daily cuts in half the incidence and the severity of a flu episode for children.”

But Christopher Maloney is also dangerous in another respect. He tried to cut out a student*, Michael Hawkins, who criticized him, pointing out that “Naturopathic medicine is pure bull”, first by demanding the student to alter the blog post, next by asking WordPress to shut down the blog, which they did!!! (see FTSOS Fiasco)

This is the letter WordPress sent to Michael (see Pharyngula again); the picture below is from the Google cache http://tinyurl.com/ylbeshp (thanks Cryptocheilus, see comments)


And this is what you see when you search for: forthesakeofscience.wordpress.com:

That is a real spineless action and extremely unfair. I know so many sites and blogs that are spam or just contain a lot of abusive language. One such (Dutch) blog geenstijl.nl even won several blog wards.  Undeserved I think, but that is another issue.

WordPress shutting down a blog on request of a naturopath, who calls himself Dr. without having a true medical education (which seems allowed in the US State Maine). Without rigorous checking. That is creepy…..

Should I now fear the shut down of my blog criticizing WordPress?

Dear WordPress, the true power of blogging is that we, bloggers, can have a critical function in society, we can have  a voice. Blogging is almost identical to freedom of speech. When you shut down a blog of someone who is (rightly) criticizing something or someone you are endangering this process of debate, that scientists adhere to, but many CAM-proponents do not.

Shame on you WordPress. Shame on you!

———————————

Added: 2010-02-22:

* The blocking procedure was started by another quack:  Andreas Moritz. He admitted to getting WordPress to pull Michael Hawkins’ blog (source again Pharyngula).

If you want to read more on the dangerous nonsense Andreas Moritz is selling (i.e. cancer is a manifestation of “unresolved conflicts”) then you should read this article at Respectful Insolence (of “Orac”).

Below are some tweets about this WordPress/Maloney incidence in chronological order.

  1. PZ Myers
    pzmyers Christopher Maloney is a quack. http://bit.ly/aFJFNZ Spread the word.
  2. Laika (Jacqueline)
    laikas #Wordpress shut down a blog critiquing “Dr” Maloney (Quack) on his request. Shame on U WordPress! http://bit.ly/aFJFNZ (previous tweet also)
  3. Laika (Jacqueline)
  4. gimpy
    gimpyblog This is shocking and worrying for antiquack bloggers pls RT RT @laikas: #Wordpress shut down a blog tackling quack http://bit.ly/c3gsRF
  5. Elmar Breitbach
    ElmarBreitbach RT @gimpyblog: This is shocking and worrying for antiquack bloggers pls RT RT @laikas: #Wordpress shut down a blog tackling quack http:/ …
  6. trancegemini
    trancegemini RT @pzmyers: Christopher Maloney is a quack and WordPress censors Free Speech. #quack
  7. Liz Ditz
    lizditz Repeating @pzmyers http://bit.ly/bZBKLn Naturopath Christopher Maloney is a quack. http://bit.ly/bXsjT9 And WordPress lacks spine.
  8. Laika (Jacqueline)
    laikas RT @wordpressdotcom: WordPress.com is down, we’re working on restoring service now. @pzmyers what did you do? Witchcraft?
  9. Pamela
    timorousme So this infamous quack doctor had WordPress shut down the blog of a kid I know, and is threatening to sue: http://bit.ly/cDMC1E
  10. Chris Patil
    DoNotGoGently WordPress made a student who criticized a naturopath edit his blog – and then shut him down anyway. http://bit.ly/aFJFNZ

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Maloney is a naturopath in the state of Maine, where quacks like him get to call themselves “doctors”. These so-called “doctors” get to make recommendations like this, in which he disparages standard flu vaccines and suggests these useless prescriptions:

Parents waiting for vaccinations can provide their children with black elderberry, which blocks the H1N1 virus. A single garlic capsule daily cuts in half the incidence and the severity of a flu episode for children.

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Complementary Medicine & Pharmacists

30 11 2009

I don’t know if the situation is the same in other countries, but in the Netherlands we can only get prescribed medications in pharmacies. Drugstores are only allowed to sell over-the counter (OTC) medicines.

Most Pharmacies have a small shop of 5 square meters (besides a large storage room). What surprises me is that the counter is not only full with non-allergic creams, and the shelves are not only filled with liquorice and plasters, but the counter and shelves predominantly display naturopathic and herbal “medicines”. In this flu-season there are even leaflets how to prevent flu with all kinds of naturopathic medicine. Dr Vogel’s Echinaforce “helps to augment your natural resistance, lowers the risk of flu and shortens the duration or decreases the severity of symptoms once you have the flu” (..”vermindert u de kans op griep en herstelt u sneller als u toch ziek wordt“). Apparently A Vogel.nl (via Biohorma) started a campaign in the Netherlands. At their website there is even an advertisement for an offer by an insurance company -OHRA- because it generously refunds homeopathic medicine. Biohorma also made a You-Tube video.
In contrast, in the US there is a disclaimer at the Echinaforce site:” These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

There is no evidence that Echinacea prevents flu (see Cochrane Review and de Volkskrant [Dutch newspaper referring to clinical trials]), although it is not excluded that it helps for the early treatment of colds in adults.

Isn’t such a promotion of ineffective stuff a bad advice considering we have  a real flu-epidemic, and given the inverse relationship between pediatric vaccination and CAM usage (see Respectful Insolence)?

It is quite confusing, however, because Echinacea is advertised as an homeopathic medicine, whereas it seems a herbal medicine (not diluted ad infinitum). To date there is no evidence that homeopathy ‘works’. All 6 published Cochrane systematic reviews with ‘homeopathy’ or ‘homeopathic’ in the title conclude that there is little or no evidence that it works beyond the placebo-effect.

During the recent The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee meeting calling in homeopaths and scientists to discuss evidence for the alternative therapy Prof. Dr Ernst (with experience as a homeopath) said: “I have supplied a list of systematic reviews of homeopathy. There are two dozen. None in that list were positive.” (see this excellent summary of the meeting by Ian Sample). For the entire memorandum of Dr Ernst see here.

Besides that the clinical trials are ineffective, the whole theory is incompatible with the laws of physics and chemistry.

Nevertheless:

  • There is a lot of homeopathic research going on, i.e. funded by the NHS (National Health Sevice) in the UK and the NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicin, NIH) in the US.
  • In the UK homeopathic medicine is endorsed by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency)
  • CAM is booming business (£1.5bn industry in the UK)
  • CAM is covered by insurance companies.
  • CAM is sold and sometimes advocated by pharmacists.

Thus all over the world people are buying these ineffective homeopathic medicines while believing they ‘work’, or at least cause no harm. However, while homeopathic medicines may not harm themselves, they may cause harm if they are used in place of proven treatment for any life-threatening illness.” Indeed the WHO has warned people with conditions such as HIV, TB and malaria not to rely on homeopathic treatments (BBC NEWS 20 August 2009

For me it is incomprehensible, that pharmacists who are trained in pharmacology and chemistry (at the University Level), just sell those ineffective costly water-dilutions and advocate them directly or indirectly by putting them on the shelves, providing ample leaflets and brochures and giving positive “advise”. What could be the reason for doing that other than ignorance or MONEY?


Recommended Reading:

Photo Credits

  1. Pharmacists mortar and pestle http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PharmacistsMortar.svg
  2. Homeopathic Medicine on the shelves http://www.flickr.com/photos/caseywest/ / CC BY-SA 2.0
    (this photo has nothing to do with the subject)
, but all kind of complementary medicine (CAM).
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