The Internet places an incredible amount of information at our fingertips (Perhaps way too much). Much of this information is factually accurate while a great deal is biased and some skewed because it has been filtered or cherry-picked. If, say, you are looking for a great Thai restaurant and find out the food or service (or both) doesn’t live up to the reviews, the cost is relatively low to you (Misspent dollars and perhaps a bad case of indigestion or flatulence). But suppose you are suffering from a fairly serious medical condition or disease and decide not to retain the services of the very doctor who could have made a great difference in your situation because of article or reviews that are misleading? Not misleading in the “intentionally lied or libeled someone sense of the word” but in terms of “stacking facts and opinions” to favor one’s negative spin while either ignoring contrary or mitigating facts or information, or just not bothering to gather and include this in your article or review? While this sort of thing may not be illegal or subject to legal remedy it is patently unfair.
Consider this: Many CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine) or integrative doctors have found themselves portrayed as incompetent or nefarious in some way thanks to articles that tell part of their story and conveniently leave out (as famed journalist Paul Harvey was fond of saying) “the rest of the story”. As we all know journalists are supposed to strive to objective and fair. Unfortunately some call filtering out contrary or mitigating facts or information or just not bothering with them “objective journalism”. Critics call it “yellow journalism”. Not surprisingly, it is both alienating and justifiably angering people.
Sadly, many who portray themselves as “consumer advocates” and "skeptics" engage in this sort of skewed reporting. They call it protecting the consumer. In some instances what they publish is misleading and damaging in the sense it steers people away from the very person or institution that could genuinely help them.
Ask yourself this: Is the medical consumers best interests served when a dogmatic skeptic totally discounts information and observations derived from patient histories or testimonials (anecdotes) or when a group of researchers call a treatment "quackery" or "charlatanism" and then turn around and capitalize on it?
Don't think these sorts of unfair things happen? A quick look at the "rest of the story" with respect to one pioneering physician, Dr. David A. Steenblock, reveals some of the ways in which bias and hypocrisy have ignored or discounted genuine medical discoveries and contributions.
Dr. Steenblock is a well known integrative medicine physician who has spent over four decades doing the sort of in-office exploration and experimentation that has traditionally played a significant role in driving progress in medical science. As you might expect he has accumulated a great deal of case history as well as testimonial information and data on patient responses to, among other things, his pioneering use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke and other neurological conditions, and stem cell-rich bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC) for cerebral palsy, Lou Gehrig's disease, and various cardiovascular conditions. Critics have dismissed this sort of evidence as worthless or close to it. However, this does not square with the historic role of anecdotes insofar as they sometimes pointed to things worthy of a formal "look, see" (research). Interestingly, some dogmatic skeptics have written and said as much. In an article titled “Science vs. Alternativism”, writer Gregory L. Smith, MD states that:
“Testimonials can be great places to start looking for answers, but they should not be considered the end
of the journey. Many scientific discoveries start with an observation that leads to a hypothesis that
eventually can be tested with a randomized controlled trial. However, people who use testimonials
probably have little better to offer. After all, it is possible to get a testimonial from someone for nearly
anything. In the 19th century, quack doctors sold medicines that were radioactive or gave patients bits
of radioactive metal to wear near their skin. Many patients gave enthusiastic testimonials. They may
have sincerely felt they were better, but experience showed that it wasn't doing them any favors—it
ultimately made them much worse”.
Steven Novella, MD, an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, ably captures this in an article he penned titled “The Role of Anecdotes in Science-Based Medicine”:
“But should anecdotes play any role in medical evidence? Yes, but a very minor and clearly defined one. Anecdotes, with all their weaknesses, are real life experience. It is possible that a
treatment does in fact work and personal experience may be the first indication that there is a meaningful biological effect in play. But here are two limiting factors in how anecdotes should
be incorporated into medical evidence:
The first is that anecdotes should be documented as carefully as possible. This is a common practice in scientific medicine, where anecdotes are called case reports (when reported
individually) or a case series (when a few related anecdotes are reported). Case reports are anecdotal because they are retrospective and not controlled. But it can be helpful to relay a case
where all the relevant information is carefully documented - the timeline of events, all treatments that were given, test results, exam findings, etc. This at least locks this information into
place and prevents further distortion by memory. It also attempts to document as many confounding variables as possible.”
Despite the limitations of anecdotal evidence, there has been so much of it reported by Dr. Steenblock with respect, for instance, to the use of umbilical cord stem cells and BMAC (for various conditions) that it would be injudicious for him not to share this and encourage suffering people to avail themselves of it. If Dr. Steenblock's claims “go way beyond what is likely” as some dogmatic skeptics and cynics have stated, then perhaps things are happening that are pushing the boundaries of “what is likely” and should be welcomed instead of rejected or rebuffed outright.
One of the more interesting and paradoxical things that seems to crop up in many skeptical reviews and critical articles are statements that are inaccurate or which otherwise misrepresent the subject being discussed, sometimes by virtue of the writer’s approaching their “target” almost in debate class fashion where winning counts but at the expense of truth or fairness.
And what of hypocrisy? It abounds in the worlds of science and medicine. Consider this blatant example: Back in 2003-6 stem cell experts, mostly academics who worked with cell cultures and lab animals and not humans, characterized physician Fernando Ramirez’s use of cord blood stem cells to treat cerebral palsy in children (in Mexico) just so much “smoke and mirrors”, and then turned around and pursued funding to test the use of cord blood or cord blood derived stem cells in animals and humans (Dr. Steenblock spearheaded a study on cord blood stem cells and cerebral palsy that Dr. Ramirez and his associates carried out in 2004-5). Some even sent patients to Dr. Ramirez on the sly.
On January 8, 2012 60 Minutes aired an investigative segment titled Stem Cell Fraud: A 60 Minutes investigation that focused on a doctor who allegedly sold umbilical cord stem cells to a couple in Florida whose son has cerebral palsy. At one point the segment’s lead investigative reporter Scott Pelly brought up stem cell treatment offerings on the Internet with stem cell expert Joanne Kurtzber, MD (Duke University):
Scott Pelley: You know, I wonder how often it happens that you have to tell a patient, 'I'm sorry. There's nothing we can do.' And then they come back to you two days later and say, 'Well, I see all these cures on the Internet.'
Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg: I get many of those calls and emails and, and, see many of those patients. But it's very dishonest to mislead people when there's nothin' you can do.
“Nothin’ you can do” seems to fly in the face of what appears on the Web concerning Dr. Kurtzberg’s work with cord blood and cord blood stem cells for cerebral palsy:
Cord blood: A weapon against cerebral palsy? - April 07, 2008 | Erin Cline Davis | Special to The Times
“Kurtzberg says that of the children she has treated so far, only Dallas and one other child have made such dramatic improvements.”
Neurological Disorders: A Focus On Cord Blood Stem Cells As A Potential Treatment Option - 23 Jun 2008 - 2:00 PDT
“This research also lends support for the pioneering clinical work at Duke University, focused on evaluating the impact of autologous cord blood infusions in children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, a professor of pediatrics and pathology and director of Duke's Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, is infusing the child's cord blood stem cells back into the body in an effort to facilitate repair of brain tissue damaged by perinatal hypoxic (oxygen-deprived) events. To date, more than 20 children have participated in the experimental treatment.”
Cord Blood Reverses Cerebral Palsy in Colorado Girl – Nov. 9, 2009
“The Levines were in luck: Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, a professor of pediatrics and pathology at Duke University, was conducting a study where children with cerebral palsy were injected with their own cord blood cells.”
Kurtzberg and Team Move Forward With Cerebral Palsy Cord Blood Study - 2010
WRAL VIDEO: http://ondemand.duke.edu/video/28000/cord-blood-used-to-treat-cereb . From WRAL: “Duke researchers are exploring a stem cell treatment they hope will help children with cerebral palsy.”
News article: "Stem cell treatment helps Valley child walk" (June 4, 2012)
“Katie was six months old when she was diagnosed. Her parents say she started to make more progress when she got stem cell treatment from Duke University.”
It would seem that work with cord blood stem cells done outside a particular venue constitutes “smoke and mirrors” (A scam) while that done in proscribed settings (university labs, hospitals and research clinics and centers) is genuine and bona fide.
Maybe some of the things so quickly dismissed by "keepers of the status quo" are legitimate discoveries; the kind that medicine should welcome, once did, but appears now does not – at least in some quarters (This at least is how many mainstream doctors and researchers react to anything discovered outside their purview or control or that seems to fly in the face of accepted “truths” or “established facts”).
RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL READING
Anecdotal evidence and observational studies are regarded by some researchers as a more reliable means of discovery and explanation than formal studies. One very cogent paper on this subject is “Observational Research, Randomised Trials, and Two Views of Medical Science” that appeared in the PLoS Hub for Clinical Trials. It can be accessed by licking this link: http://bit.ly/M8WwEV
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
Media bias is real, finds UCLA political scientist
Suppressed Science on Skeptics (Many who loudly advertise themselves as “skeptics”)
Wikipedia: Captured by Skeptics
How the FDA Manipulates the Media (Scientific American, October 2016)
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