Monthly Archives: February 2018

One Last Comment on Guns

By Dr David Laing Dawson

We don’t really need another voice lecturing American politicians “It’s the guns, stupid.” But I can add a perspective to this issue:

For many years I have had a large caseload of troubled teenage boys. And always, always, on any given week at least one is exhibiting an obsession with weapons, and two others are espousing a code of honour and demanding they be respected, and justifying violence as a legitimate response to grievance, and at least three are behaving in a manner that would quash the love of anyone but their mother.

Can you imagine, because I can imagine, how sleepless my nights would be if I thought any one of them had access to a semi-automatic assault rifle? Fortunately these boys do not live in the USA.

There will always be troubled boys and young men, some with treatable illnesses. Better psychiatric services may catch many of them in time. But it is the loaded gun that differentiates a troubling altercation from a tragedy.

 

Advertisements

Alternative Facts

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I was probably ten or twelve when I asked my Sunday school teacher if there was any archeological evidence supporting the parting of the Red Sea and its collapse back over all those chariots. And in grade 7 when our science teacher, Mr. Edmonds, asked the class which way the earth travels around the sun and I told him it depends where in the universe the observer is standing. We argued and he sent me to see the Vice Principal from whom I first heard the idea of ‘convention’.

And then we all run into professors in first and second year university who tell us of the social manufacture of reality, and those who tell us how our attitudes and perceptions are shaped by the power elite. And we run into G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell and ponder the nature of truth. “Moore, are there apples in your basket?” And somewhere along the line a professor turns a chair upside down, places it on a table and asks the class, “What is this?” We tell him it is a chair, and he asks us how we know it is a chair. And someone else tells us that a light switch is neither on nor off, but in a position of relative on-ness, and that an electron might be in two places at once.

During his summer vacation between first and second year university, my grandson, in the comfort of his bedroom, day trades cryptocurrency on his new laptop. We discuss the nature of cryptocurrency, tulip bulbs, and “real” coinage, the very concept of money. I see that some articles on bitcoin are illustrated with a graphic of large, hard, embossed gold and silver coins. The irony is striking. The economists see bitcoin as a silly invented bubble; the bitcoin “experts” talk of cryptocurrency as being as big a social disrupter as the internet, liberating currency as the internet liberated information.

There are ads every night on CNN supporting legitimate journalism. They sometimes show an apple from first one angle and then a second and proclaim that it is still an apple. I think the ad writers missed the Beyond the Fringe parody of Russell and Moore, and Duchamp’s painting of a pipe titled, “This in not a pipe.”

“Moore, are there apples in your basket?”

And then we have Carter Page who apparently is referred to as a “Famous American Economist” when he gives talks in Russia, and Sean Hannity, and President Trump “totally vindicated” by the Nunes memo.

Many explanations for the rise of Donald Trump have been written, grounded in the history of the USA, the technological changes sweeping the world, the paranoia that accompanies mass migration, the always present racism, the forgotten but once privileged white working man, the attraction of populism and demagoguery….

And we are all fascinated by the extent this man can obfuscate, dissemble, lie, confabulate, and contradict himself without consequence.

But, pulling these random thoughts together, it seems to me that with Moore and Russell we left behind the certainty of 19th century truth, and with space travel, the origins of the universe, black holes, space time continuum, anti-matter, the digital revolution, the internet, robots doing our vacuuming and manufacturing, the democratization of information, the ubiquity of video illusion, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and, perhaps most importantly, the development of every day tools that only a few really understand…..we are now a very bewildered species. We used to know where we were going. Now we don’t. We used to understand our tools; now we don’t. We are inundated with fiction; we binge watch Netflix. Many teen boys can recite the political intricacies of the Star Wars series much better than that of their own world. In our fictions there are an astonishing number of American Special forces whizzing around the world killing bad guys and keeping us safe. We find ourselves applying the expectations and conventions of fiction to reality. Conspiracies abound in fiction, though real humans are more prone to folly.

It has long been preached that truth will outlive a lie. But today that lie can be widely disseminated in seconds, with conviction and graphics, while the truth is often slow, difficult, and complex. Today the lie has done its job long before the truth emerges.

It is no wonder that many of us sitting in our puddle of bewilderment and angst are easily coaxed back to primitive religions, pre-enlightenment medicines, strong-men, demigods, and false prophets.

There is a heartening backlash to all this, symbolized in a small way by Georgian College throwing out its program in homeopathy. And in reality the economies of the world are all in better shape than they ever have been, fewer people starve, fewer people die of preventable and treatable illnesses (thanks to modern western medicine), more have access to clean water (modern medicine and science), fewer people are crippled or die from nutritional deficiencies (modern medical use of supplements and scientific dietary advice), fewer people are actually killing one another than ever before, fewer are enslaved, many with chronic illnesses have better lives….. We even have better and better treatments for mental illness…and I don’t mean pig pills, micro-nutrients, and mindfulness.

We are at a tipping point I think. Can sufficient numbers of us, members of this human race, accept the reality of uncertainty, live with the angst of self-aware existence, discard the need for Gods and demigods, accept the scientific manner of seeking truth as primary, accept our species and ecological scientific truths, and get down to the task of preserving and expanding our democratic institutions, accepting this small planet as home to us all, and recognize we face two daunting tasks if we are to survive, that we must deal with over-population and global warming?

And this does not mean we should be wasting time and money shooting large rockets and small roadsters into Asteroid belts.

PS – David Stephan who was mentioned at length in the previous blog, went on a Facebook live video rant earlier this week attacking everyone involved in the cancellation of his lectures including Marvin Ross and Dr Terry Polevoy.

I feel left out. You rant against Marvin Ross and Terry Polevoy. Please add Dr. David Dawson to your list of trolls.

Now, two things: You and your wife were very scientific. You conducted an N of one experiment using nutrition, Pig Pills and supplements on a very ill child rather than taking him to a doctor for appropriate examination, tests and the application of modern medicine. The legal aspects of this are complicated. What is clear is that your pig pills and supplements and “Truehope” failed, and the child died. Your child died.

At the end of your diatribe on Facebook you say the “saddest thing” is the cancellation of your promotional speaking gigs. I would have thought it was the death of your child. It should have been the death of your child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite Science, Alternatives Flourish

By Marvin Ross

exorcism

Despite the tremendous advances that medical science has made over the past number of years, many persist in their unscientific beliefs about vitamins and alternative medicine. A few things cropped up in the last week to make my head hurt. First, the Journal of the American Medical Association released a report on vitamin and mineral supplements and their efficacy. They stated:

“most randomized clinical trials of vitamin and mineral supplements have not demonstrated clear benefits for primary or secondary prevention of chronic diseases not related to nutritional deficiency. Indeed, some trials suggest that micronutrient supplementation in amounts that exceed the recommended dietary allowance (RDA)—eg, high doses of beta carotene, folic acid, vitamin E, or selenium—may have harmful effects, including increased mortality, cancer, and hemorrhagic stroke”

They then go on to discuss what vitamins should be used for and that list is very specific.

At about the same time, it is revealed that Georgian College in Barrie Ontario is setting up a three year course in homeopathy. Dr Stephen Barrett of Quachwatch describes homeopathy as the ultimate fake. I remember an episode on Marketplace a few years ago where they tried to have people overdose on homeopathic medicines (distilled water) and no one could. The public outcry against Georgian College was so strong that they cancelled the program.

Next up was a notice that David Stephan was to be the keynote speaker at the Saskatoon Wellness Conference. Stephan is the man who, with his wife, was convicted for the death of their toddler who suffered from a very curable meningitis but was given vitamins and homeopathic potions instead. One of the products the child was given was EM Power Plus which is the product his father’s company manufactures and sells. More on that in a minute but the organizer of the event (and Stephan is to speak in other cities as well) is that “he judges his vendors based on their products, not on their personal lives.”

Nice but the two are intertwined. I’ve been writing about this product for years and the following is from an earlier Mind You blog:

The blog Neurocritic entitled one of its articles as EMPowered to Kill as one man with schizophrenia went off his meds to take EMP and brutally killed his father in a psychotic state. I have written on this case as well in Huffington Post. Health Canada has declared the product a health hazard on two occasions. I have written critical articles about this in various publications and an e-book with Dr Terry Polevoy and a former Health Canada investigator and now private detective in Calgary, Ron Reinold, called Pig Pills.

Stephan and his wife both worked at the Truehope website advising customers on their treatment. You can listen to some calls that were made to the call centre here.

One of the research gurus for Truehope is a psychologist at the University of Calgary, Bonnie Kaplan. Her research trial on EMP at the University of Calgary was shut down by Health Canada because it failed to meet the proper standards for a clinical trial but she now writes on mental health and vitamins for the Mad in America website. She also gives lectures where she tells the audience not to google her name (slide 3). She even went so far as to bring professional misconduct charges against Dr Terry Polevoy with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario because he criticized her work.

And yet, she was just named as one of the 150 Canadians who make a difference in mental health for the above work.

Meanwhile, the Schizophrenia Society of Canada states in its recent report on re-imagining itself that:

External stakeholders expressed concern that emphasis on a western medicine biological model of understanding of schizophrenia does not reflect the diversity of ways people from different cultural groups understand and explain mental illness.” (P13).

What can I say to this? OK some people do not agree with how science has tried to understand schizophrenia (and it has a long way to go), and would prefer to ignore treatments (again not perfect but reasonably effective) for their own folkways like exorcism to let the demons out as depicted in the graphic that goes with this.

How is that gonna work?

Probably as well as it did for a young Aboriginal girl from the Six Nations Reserve near me who decided to stop her chemo for what was first described as native healing. Her acute lymphoblastic leukemia was given a 75% probability of a cure with conventional medicine. The “traditional indigenous treatment” she sought out was at a vitamin cure spa in Florida called the Hippocrates Health Institute which is being sued by former staff who allege the company’s president Brian Clement is operating “a scam under Florida law” and practising medicine without a licence.

Sadly, Makala died.

PS I wrote this on Sunday morning and by late afternoon Sobey’s,  a grocery chain, had cancelled its sponsorship with the Wellness Expo and the organizers of the event had removed Stephan’s name from its list of speakers.

Ontario’s Flawed Mental Health System and the Failure of the Current Provincial Government

By Marvin Ross

stone of madness

I recently came across an excellent assessment of the very bad mental health system in Ontario that prefers to have people receive services in the forensic stream rather than before they get to that point. The assessment was not published but was obtained under Freedom of Information.

That led me to write this on Huffington Post – Ontario Has Failed to Provide Adequate Resources for Mental Illness. 

After that appeared, the Hamilton Spectator did a feature on a young man named Ross Biancale with the head I’ve already written his obituary: Mom struggles to save son from himself. This sad but true recounting of what it takes to get someone service in Ontario illustrated all the points that I made in my Huffington Post blog. Below is my explanation for this mess.

The reason that Ross Biancale and thousands like him are falling through the cracks of the mental health system (the Spectator, January 23) is easily explained and easily fixed. They have not been fixed because the Liberal government has no interest in doing so.

Justice Richard D Schneider ran the Toronto Mental Health Court for years and then completed a report for the Department of Justice called The Mentally Ill: How They Became Enmeshed in the Criminal Justice System and How We Might Get Them Out in 2015. That report only saw light of day because of a CBC Freedom of Information request.

Justice Schneider points out that the main fault is the Ontario Mental Health Act and the conditions required for an involuntary committal to hospital. Under the current legislation, someone who is exhibiting all the signs of illness, listening to the voices of Martians in his head while denying he is ill, cannot be hospitalized without consent. Neither the police nor the Justice of the Peace will help hospitalize that person if they do not believe there is “clear evidence that he is dangerous to himself or others”. And, even if he is admitted, he is “discharged before he is stable” and “his condition deteriorates”.

Justice Schneider said “if the individual is not seen as dangerous to himself or others he is free to roam the streets ‘madder than a hatter’” And, in many cases, the person will come into conflict with the law and wind up in the vastly more expensive forensic psychiatric system.

The 1967 Ontario Mental Health Act allowed for someone to be admitted to hospital involuntarily if they were suffering from a mental disorder severe enough to warrant treatment in hospital for their own or others safety and they could be held for one month. That was changed in 1978 thanks to the civil libertarians to involuntary treatment only if the person had threatened or attempted to do harm to himself or others. The time held was lowered to 14 days.

Further, the 1967 Act considered that hospitalization meant treatment and people being held were treated. That changed in 1978 and someone could be held involuntarily but they did not have to agree to treatment.

Attempts have been made to change the Mental Health Act in Ontario and that was one of the recommendations of the 2008 all party Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions. Recommendation 21 in that report states that the Ontario government should set up a task force within one year to “investigate and propose changes to Ontario’s mental health legislation and

policy pertaining to involuntary admission and treatment.”

That was 2008 and this is 2018 and the Liberal government still has not acted.

The other barrier to effective treatment mentioned in the Spectator article is our privacy legislation. If a person is over 18, they are an adult even if they live with their parents and are supported by them. Health care providers cannot talk to family without the permission of the ill person and, if they are paranoid, they may not grant permission.

The Select Committee also decided that the government should change the privacy legislation in recommendation 22. “The changes”, they said, “should ensure that family members and caregivers providing support to, and often living with, an individual with a mental illness or addiction have access to the personal health information necessary to provide that support, to prevent the further deterioration in the health of that individual, and to minimize the risk of serious psychological or physical harm.”

The 2013 Mental Health Commission of Canada report on caregivers made similar recommendations but, again, this is 2018 and Ontario has still done nothing.

These are issues that those of us with an interest in improved care for the mentally ill need to ask the candidates running in the upcoming provincial election.