Sunday, November 21, 2010

Medical outsourcing - Liberation Treatment in Costa Rica

An article in The Record on Saturday November 20, 2010, was entitled "Woman to have controversial MS surgery". It was about a Canadian with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) that decided they wanted to receive Liberation Treatment. But you can't get that procedure in Canada.

The problem is there is very little evidence that the surgery does anything useful. On the other hand, the procedure has some very serious risks. In a rational health system, unproven mediocre gains do not outweigh serious risks. That's why Canada doesn't offer it.

So, people are spending big bucks to fly down to Costa Rica and get the surgery done there. Well, that's their prerogative. What I don't like is that the Canadian health system will likely end up paying for the medical complications. That can cost a lot of dough.

A couple things I would also point out. The clinic is called Clinica Biblica. I, personally, wouldn't feel comfortable getting a medical procedure done at a clinic named after a book of magic.

Also, the article says that the patient will continue treatment in Canada, including homeopathy. Figures.

There is a follow-up article in The Record, Nov. 21.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Journals, make up your friggin' minds!

I just love going through the "Instructions for Authors" when I submit a manuscript to a journal. The instructions are often grossly out-of-date, and usually self-contradictory. Here's a very typical example,
Each figure should include a single illustration.
If a figure consists of separate parts, it is important that a single composite illustration file be submitted, containing all parts of the figure.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cell-tower and WiFi hysteria: the REAL science

Have you ever heard of the dangers of living too close to a cell tower? I have, and I wasn't sure what to think of it. Recently, some of the same people have been lobbying the government to ban WiFi from public school because some of the students were having "cardiac arrest". Sound sketchy? You bet. Read this scathing review on SkepticNorth about the case for electrohypersensitivity.

If you read the deposition of Mr. Rodney Palmer to the House of Commons Standing Committe on Health, my favourite line is, "Some [student] report dizziness and vertigo, but only when they're in the school."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dude, don't rain on my placebo effect

This article by Edzard Ernst puts homeopathy in its place. It's simply placebo.

I agree. But when I condemn this sort of quackery, people sometimes ask me why I have to be such a downer... what's wrong with placebo? If it's helping someone, then why not just let it be?

In the words of Prof. Ernst,
The answer is that it prevents clinicians telling the truth to patients. Being honest would defeat any placebo effect: if I tell my patient, "Take this remedy; it contains nothing and the trial data shows nothing," she is unlikely to experience a placebo response. Hence, homoeopaths, knowingly or unknowingly, deprive patients of informed consent. This paternalistic approach is recognised as unethical.

Furthermore, he points out that the placebo effect is often slight, unpredictable, and short-lived.

Prof. Ernst says that If you want someone to experience the placebo effect, give them a REAL treatement. Then they can benefit from both the treatment and the placebo effect (and the doctors don't have to lie).

Monday, November 8, 2010