Category Archives: Alternative Treatment

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Mental Illness and the Political Spectrum

By Marvin Ross

I have always been on the left of the political spectrum – more so in my student days – but I still consider myself left and vote for progressive ideas and progressive candidates. Progressive, of course, is a value laden term but what has baffled me has been the lack of progressive ideas by the left on mental illness.

I’ve just done a Huffington Post piece attacking the establishment of a scholarship in anti-psychiatry at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. After it was penned but before it was published, I was sent a link to an article in Rabble.ca written by the founder of that scholarship, Bonnie Burstow, extolling the supremacy of Toronto academia in anti-psychiatry “scholarship”. She equates this anti attitude for the search for social justice and as diametrically opposed to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Aside from caring for patients, CAMH has a research budget of $38 million a year, is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre and home to the only brain imaging centre in Canada devoted entirely to the study of mental illness. Among the supporters and activists of anti-psychiatry, Burstow cites David Reville and Cheri DiNovo. Reville was a politician in the disastrous NDP government in Ontario headed by Bob Rae (1990-1995). DiNovo is also an NDP member of the Ontario Legislature.

For non-Canadian readers, the NDP is the Canadian version of a Labour Party.

That disastrous government in Ontario brought in legislation to establish an Advocacy Commission to protect vulnerable people and to promote respect for their rights. That, of course, is laudable but the bill was so flawed and cumbersome that it was immediately repealed by the Conservative government that replaced them in power.

The Ontario Friends of Schizophrenics (now the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario), told the committee that:

Ontario Friends of Schizophrenics has had dialogue with officials because we have been persistent and because we have done our homework in making some solid proposals for improvements in the legislation. We have been unable to meet with a single minister of the three ministries concerned, despite repeated requests and despite the fact that people with schizophrenia are one of the largest groups in the vulnerable population that will be affected by these bills.”

They then pointed out that the bill excluded families; that it gave more power to the commission to enter someone’s home than the police have; that the test of capacity was ability to perform personal care rather than understanding; the low standard of capacity; no provisions for emergency treatment; and too much power to the Consent and Capacity Board.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Metropolitan Toronto was equally critical arguing that the new act penalized the family. Their presenter told the committee that:

“I have serious concerns about the prevailing use of unknown professional advocates with sweeping powers, heavy demands on their time, unclear qualifications and little accountability.”

In Ontario, the only improvement to the Mental Health Act was brought in by the extreme right wing at the time Conservative government under Mike Harris. They have not always been that extreme and the word Progressive precedes Conservative in the name of the party. That improvement to the Mental Health Act was Brian’s Law which enabled those with serious mental illness to be hospitalized if they posed a danger (not imminent as previously) and to be discharged from hospital under a community treatment order. They could live in the community provided that they were treated.

Only 10 members voted against the bill, 6 of whom were members of the NDP. The Health Minister after this was passed was Tony Clement who showed his support for those afflicted with schizophrenia by attending the banquet at the Schizophrenia Society of Canada annual conference when it was held in Toronto. As mentioned above, the schizophrenia group complained that no elected official would meet with them to discuss the flawed bill they were implementing. I have always had respect for Tony while detesting his ultra right policies further honed in the Federal Harper government.

The one member of the legislature who has done the most, in my opinion, to improve services for the mentally ill and the disabled was Conservative Christine Elliott. It was her pressure that resulted in the Liberal Government establishing an all party select committee to look at possible reforms. Despite an excellent report agreed to by members of all three political parties, nothing has been done. Sadly, she left politics after not winning the party leadership but she is the first ever patient ombudsman in Ontario.

And this regressive attitude on mental illness by the left is not unique to Canada. My advocacy friend, DJ Jaffe of the Mental Illness Policy organization in New York often comments that even though he is a Democrat, the most progressive people advocating for improvements in the US are Republicans. He is referring to a bill by Republican Congressman, Dr Tim Murphy called the Helping Families in a Mental Health Crisis Act. I suggested that Canada could use help in mental illness reform from a Republican back in 2013. In 2014 I wrote about how little we could hope for reform in Ontario.

To demonstrate further the left attitude to mental illness, you just have to look at the critical comments that my most recent blog on the anti-psychiatry scholarship garnered. One woman who is doing her PhD in Disability Studies at OISE claimed that I could not criticize because I am a white male member of the bourgeoisie. My proletarian father who worked in a garment factory on piece work and was a member of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, would cringe in his grave located in the Independent Friendly Workers’ section of the cemetary.

That criticism goes on, quoting Barstow, that all that is needed to cure mental illness is that those with the illness know “we are cared for and that we are in control of our own lives.” Another critic said people “get better because they get free from psychiatry, find peers, get in touch with their inner experience, connect with and rely on others.” That same person also said “Psychiatry was invented by the privileged to dehumanise (sic) women, the neurodiverse, gay and lesbian and transgendered people, the poor, the Indigenous, and never-to-be-heard survivors of child abuse.”

I wonder how the scientists in the Faculty of Medicine or at the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health with their budget of $38 million a year feel about being told they are oppressors?

I haven’t heard such rhetoric since the days of Trotskyites on university campuses in the 1960’s but would love to see these critics spend some time in a psychiatric hospital ward with unmedicated schizophrenics, those experiencing the mania of bipolar disorder, or in a severe depressed state. I’m sure they would find some way to rationalize why their attempts to free them from “dehumanizing” psychiatry did not work.

A Subjective Unscientific Analysis of Anti-Psychiatry Advocates

By Marvin Ross

Many of my Huffington Post Blogs attract some very nasty comments from the various anti-psychiatry adherents. The same applies to the blogs by my colleague Susan Inman and we get some on this blog. The Boston Globe award winning Spotlight Team featured in the film Spotlight, just did a series of articles on the sad state of mental health care in Massachusetts. Wanting to foster dialogue, they set up a Facebook Page for comments. And did they ever get comments!

I’ve been looking at more than my fair share of these comments over the years but decided to try to categorize them. So here goes.

1. I was badly treated, mistreated, misdiagnosed therefore all of psychiatry is evil. In some cases, this alleged mistreatment occurred over 50 years ago. I do believe that this happened in most cases and it should not have happened but it did. Personally, I’ve run into (or family members have) some very incompetent and inept treatment by doctors and/or hospitals. This has occurred in inpatient stays, visits to doctors or in emergency rooms. And some of these misadventures have been serious but I do not spend my time denouncing all hospitals, all doctors or all Emergency Rooms. What I have done is to complain to the appropriate authorities. And most of the time I’m successful.

As my English mom used to say, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”

  2. The other very common cry is that I got help and recovered therefore everyone can recover and if they can’t, it is because the docs are bad or are trying to keep people sick to make money and peddle drugs. I’m sure there is an error term in logic where you extrapolate your particular situation to everyone. That is what these critics are doing. It is like saying I survived prostate cancer which has a 5 year survival of 98.8% so that someone with pancreatic cancer can too. Pancreatic cancer only  has a 4% 5 year survival rate. It is not the same nor is say mild anxiety comparable to treatment resistant schizophrenia. Stop mixing apples and oranges.

3. Involuntary treatment for those who are so sick that they pose a danger to themselves, others, or will deteriorate further without involuntary committal means that the state will lock up, drug and keep everyone indefinitely. None of these fears are true so learn what is entailed and get over it. And when I post a video or an article by someone like Erin Hawkes who went through about a dozen involuntary treatments till a pharmaceutical agent was found that removed her delusions, stop insulting her as some have done by calling her a victim and that she is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

How will you learn if you refuse to listen to other opinions?

What I suspect that these involuntary opponents do not understand is that people are not locked up without just cause or forever. There are safeguards in place to ensure regular reviews and appeals. In Ontario a few years ago, a group of so called psychiatric survivors challenged the constitutionality of community treatment orders and supplied the courts with affidavits from people who found them to be bad. This is what I wrote about that in the Huffington Post:

Justice Belobaba only had to look at the affidavit that the plaintiffs filed as part of their attack on CTOs to get an idea of how well they can work. Amy Ness had, prior to being put on a CTO, been involuntarily committed for showing violent behaviour in 2004. In 2007, while hospitalized, Ms. Ness kicked her mother in the back and hit her repeatedly. Then, in 2009, Ms. Ness grabbed a large kitchen knife and marched upstairs toward her mother after discovering a magazine about schizophrenia. In another incident, Ms. Ness kicked and punched the emergency department psychiatrist. By the time she was given a CTO in 2009, she had five hospitalizations.

Since then, while on a CTO, the judge pointed out, she takes her medication and sees her case worker on a regular basis. She has not been hospitalized, she maintains her housing and she works as a volunteer, has a job and takes courses. She does think, however, that the CTO is an attack on her personal dignity.

Herschel Hardin, a civil libertarian once wrote that:

“The opposition to involuntary committal and treatment betrays a profound misunderstanding of the principle of civil liberties. Medication can free victims from their illness – free them from the Bastille of their psychoses – and restore their dignity, their free will and the meaningful exercise of their liberties.”

A psychiatrist I know who is a libertarian (someone who believes that people should be allowed to do and say what they want without any interference from the government) told me that when your brain is immersed in psychoses, you are not capable of doing or saying what you want. Therefore, he was fully supportive of involuntary treatment so that people could get to the position where they had the capacity to do what they want.

4. And then we come to what Dr Joe Schwarcz on his radio show, Dr Joe, calls scientific illiteracy. He used that in his July 10 interview with my colleague, Dr Terry Polevoy, in a discussion on EM Power + and the conviction of the Stephans for failing to provide the necessities of life for their child who died of bacterial meningitis. They refused all conventional medical care, gave him vitamins, herbal products and echinacea till the poor little toddler stopped breathing.

There was a case of scientific illiteracy in that the parents are totally opposed to vaccinations and work for a  company that encourages people with mental illnesses to go off meds in favour of their proprietary vitamins. They had no idea why they were convicted, lashed out at the jury who convicted them and then, at their sentencing hearing, the wife shocked even her own lawyer when she told the court that the Crown had used a phony autopsy report as evidence.

Other examples are that anti-depressants cause violence and suicide. Violence possibly in those under 24 according to a large Swedish study but not in adults. However, the authors state that these findings need validation. There is no definitive proof of this and no evidence of increased violence in adults.

As for anti-depressants causing suicide, a warning that this might be a concern was posted on the labels. Doctors were advised to be cautious when prescribing these for depressed young people.Consequently, this resulted in an increase in suicide attempts.

“Evidence now shows that antidepressant prescription rates dropped precipitously beginning with the public health advisory in March 2004, which preceded the black box warning in October 2004. Since the initial public health advisory, antidepressant prescriptions for children and adolescents decreased, with a consequent increase (14%) in incidence of suicide in these populations.”

On my to-read list is Ordinarily Well The Case for Antidepressants by psychiatrist Peter D Kramer. Kramer is the author of Listening to Prozac and, in this new book, he continues with proof that antidepressants do work and are not simply placebos. Not only do they work, but they are life savers.

In the New York Times review by Scott Stossel, the reviewer points out that when Kramer first began visiting psychiatric wards in the 1970’s, they were filled with people suffering what was then known as “end-state depression”. These were depressed patients in what appeared to be psychotic catatonic states.

Patients like that have not been seen for decades which he attributes to the aggressive use of antidepressants.

And, lest we forget, there is also the common view that the chronicity of psychiatric disorders are caused by the drugs that doctors force on their patients. People love to quote the work of Martin Harrow in Chicago but I suspect that many have not actually read his studies. Some people, he found,  did better after going off anti-psychotics over time than those who continued with their use but that is not surprising. It has always been known that some people improve while others have chronic problems and still others are not able to be helped with anything.

What they do not realize is that in Harrow’s study, 79 per cent and 64 per cent of the patients were on medication at 10- and 15-year follow ups. And that Harrow points out that not all schizophrenia patients are alike and that one treatment fits all is “not consonant with the current data or with clinical experience.” His data suggests that there are unique differences in those who can go off medications compared to those who cannot. And he points out that it is not possible to predict who may be able to go off medication and those who need the long term treatment. Intensified research is needed.

So stop with the reference to Harrow that no one needs meds. And stop also with promoting Open Dialogue when, first, it has never been empirically validated and second, many of their patients are on medication.

5. Regrettably, many of these people lack any civility whatsoever. People are entitled to offer their comments but they should not do so anonymously. And they should show some respect for those who have different views. I’m told that some have been banned from the Spotlight Facebook page and I’ve just banned one anonymous person who posts here for his/her personal attacks. I mentioned above that Erin has been called a willing victim and one who suffers with the Stockholm syndrome for her video and her article. Refute the points she makes but leave the insults aside.

And, one post that I removed from the After Her Brain Broke page on Susan Inman in response to he video What Families Need From the Mental Health System claimed that Susan keeps her daughter locked up and ill and that she likely suffers from Munchausen by proxy.

 

On Naturopathy and Psychiatry

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Naturopathy, Homeopathy

I am growing intolerant.

Many of my patients over the years have attended Naturopaths. And I assume that for every 10 who confess this, the number must be closer to 20 or 30 for the 10 usually confess with a sheepish grin. I seldom react save for a slight smile and nod for it is usually a harmless event and most Naturopaths, I am pretty sure, do not recommend that their patients stop actual medical treatment.

One mother came back with the story that the Naturopath had studied the blood of her three sons under a microscope and found all three samples revealed high concentrations of parasites. I began to react but first asked what she had recommended. A good diet and lots of exercise was the prescription, so I let it pass. How long would it take to explain that if, indeed, her children did have parasites in their blood we should be heading to the emergency of the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.

Another told me his Naturopath had put him on Lithium. Now, if that were true I should monitor his serum lithium levels, his kidney and thyroid function. But I didn’t. Because I assumed if there was some actual lithium in the concoction he was given it was miniscule, less than might be found in a pistachio nut, or, in fact, embodied that other silliness of naturopathy and homeopathy: some distilled or diluted water that had fond memories of a lithium salt that once resided in it.

So naturopathy and homeopathy are mostly harmless. And it was a logical approach to some dis-ease in the early 19th century, based then on two extrapolations: 1. We thought a few dis-eases might be caused by deficiencies in diets so perhaps all dis-eases are caused by deficiencies. 2. We had no idea what those deficiencies might be so let us give each patient a concoction comprised of small amounts of many things and let his or her body choose which it needs. Not a bad idea at the time. Especially at a time when barber-surgeons and physicians were experimenting with drugs and procedures that could do more harm than good.

But we are no longer in the 19th century, and we know a little more about human and animal physiology now. And we can test for deficiencies if they are suspected. And we now know those deficiencies can occur from an absence in diet, or a genetic or acquired inability to absorb and use a particular vitamin, protein, amino acid, or mineral. And we know that a true deficiency leads to a specific clinical condition.

I forced myself to read an “award-winning” article by Jonathan E. Prousky from the Townsend Letter which purports to be the Examiner of alternative medicine. He starts by presenting two cases (fictional compilations he admits), and then proceeds to slander most medical care and all psychiatric care (with the exception of brief interventions for psychosis). In fact he lists psychiatric treatment and the “mental health system” as “oppressors causing a negative load on the allostatic system”. (meaning they are bad for you)

But then he goes on to list the alternatives that will make you well again and keep you well. They are:

  • Exercise
  • Good diet
  • Connecting with Nature (a walk in the woods)
  • Limiting computer/TV/video gaming time.
  • Religious involvement, or at least paying attention to this
  • Regular adequate sleep
  • And finally, supplements of vitamins and Omega 3

My mother would have agreed in the mid 20th century. Though she insisted on fruit and vegetables for Vit C and A, meat and beans for the B vitamins and iron, milk for calcium, playing outside for Vitamin D, a little extra D through the winter, and Cod Liver Oil for brain development. She would also talk of balance, a good nights sleep, and moderation in all things.

We medical doctors spend a lot of time reviewing exercise, diet, finding a balance in life, limiting gaming and virtual reality, seeking comfort and solace in nature (or vacations, dancing, music, art, work, hobbies, relationships, helping others) finding a way of accepting the realities of life and living with the unknowns, getting a good night’s sleep, eating breakfast, and taking Vit D and Omega 3.

All good advice providing that we don’t overdose on vitamin supplements, for excessive quantities can do damage.

But not as a replacement for medical or psychiatric treatment for illness. Not as a replacement for vaccination. Not as a replacement for real blood tests, scans, medical examinations and investigations, treatment with antibiotics, treatment with modern medicines, medical treatment for depression, severe anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar illness. Not as a replacement or “alternative” for science.

The nonsense of naturopathy and homeopathy is not harmless when it convinces people to ignore or forgo real medical prevention and treatment for themselves and their children.

On The Preventable Death of A Child – The Human Tragedy of “Alternative Medicine”

By Marvin Ross

It is a terrible tragedy and the focus of worldwide attention. Ezekiel Stephan was a 19 month old toddler whose parents are presently being tried in Lethbridge Alberta for failing to provide the necessities of life for him. Ezekiel was treated by his parents with various alternative products for what they thought was a cold and croup until he stopped breathing. He was airlifted to Calgary’s Children’s Hospital where he arrived brain dead and soon died of what was diagnosed as bacterial meningitis.

David Stephan, the father, is the son of one of the founders of Truehope – a supplement company that promotes its product, EM Power + (EMP), for psychiatric conditions and recommends that its customers go off medication. I have been writing about them for over 15 years and, along with Dr Terry Polevoy of Waterloo, ON and Ron Reinhold, a former Health Canada inspector and now private investigator in Calgary, we published an E-book called Pig Pills Inc: The Anatomy of An Academic and Alternative Health Fraud. Ron has done an excellent summary of the Truehope history on his website, Rainbow Investigations

Both David Stephan and his wife, Collet, took EMP and gave it to Ezekiel. And both parents worked at sales and marketing for Truehope.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just obtained and made available the medical interview/history done in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Calgary hospital. Aside from the history of Ezekiel’s symptoms and the emergency that precipitated his being airlifted to Calgary, is the family medical history. It is frightening in my opinion.

Collet had no prenatal care from a physician but from a family friend who is a nurse and who helped at delivery. Ezekiel had never been seen by a doctor and was never given any vaccinations. During her pregnancy and while breastfeeding, Collet took EMP. For occasional colds, Ezekiel was given olive oil leaf extract and garlic. According to testimony at the trial, the nurse did suggest that Ezekiel had meningitis and to take him to the ER. They did not but rather went to a naturopath to get some echinacea.

His medications from about 11 months on consisted of daily smoothies containing EMP, Omega 3-6-9, whey protein, FermPlus, and a digestive enzyme. The autopsy report is also available at the bottom of this article for anyone who can stomach the findings.

According to the label for EMP, pregnant and lactating women should consult a doctor before using the product and it advises that the product be kept away from children under 6. And yet seemingly Collet took the product without consulting a doctor and gave it to her child. When EMP was first used in a study at the University of Calgary, Dr Catherine Field, a nutrition researcher at the University of Alberta, told me that she did not know if this product was safe but felt that it could be used short term as long as the research subjects were monitored by a medical doctor. She further stated that it was unsafe for pregnant women or for women who might become pregnant and thus pregnant women were excluded from the study. (P 66 of Pig Pills).

I also have in my possession a freedom of information document provided by Health Canada to an investigative reporter at the Canadian Television Network (CTV) on the adverse events associated with EMP reported to Health Canada. The document is dated January 2007 and deals with “near misses” and reports of Truehope activities.

In one case, a family contacted the owner of Truehope (not named) and it was alleged the family was advised not to seek medical help from a doctor. In another case, a 50 year old woman with multiple gall stones was contacted by an unnamed owner and told to refuse surgery but to take large amounts of olive oil (which the report said is contraindicated).

Two reports to Health Canada were filed by Truehope employees but the information was redacted. In another case, a doctor reported that his pregnant patient was taking EMP and he cautioned her about it as it had an unknown safety profile. The woman checked with Truehope and was assured that it was safe although the doctor was concerned that the information she was given was inaccurate.

There was a great deal of discussion in these documents over safety in children and in pregnant and lactating women and Health Canada insisted that warnings be given about its use for those populations on the label.

Truehope, for psychiatric conditions, recommends that prescription medication be stopped. In 2012, I reported on a case in British Columbia where a man with schizophrenia replaced his psychiatric medication for EMP and became so psychotic that he murdered his father. The headline on one paper proclaimed that vitamin therapy contributed to murder. I followed up with an article asking why Health Canada allowed this agent to be sold and that question is still relevant.

For those interested in the type of advice that Truehope gives to the mentally ill over the phone, you will find these interesting. We had a doctor develop a number of hypothetical scenarios that were then checked for accuracy by a psychiatrist. Frightening is all I can say.

And undoubtedly Tony Stephan will threaten to sue me for this blog. He once threatened to sue The Scientist for an article I wrote about his company and  he has threatened me  with legal action more than once in the past. More recently, he threatened to sue mental health writer and advocate, Natasha Tracy.

A Psychiatrist Critiques Open Dialogue

By Dr David Laing Dawson

We humans are a strange and contradictory species. While most of us are willing to take any number of potions and pills to limit the effect of the common cold, to boost our energy levels, to ward off aging, sore joints, and failing libidos, and a great many of us are willing to consume dangerous liquids, pills, and injectables to ameliorate the anxiety of knowing we are vulnerable, mortal and inconsequential life forms, and some of us decide to undergo toxic chemotherapy for a ten percent better chance of survival, there are others of us (perhaps not different people) who would deny (proven effective) antipsychotic drugs to someone suffering the devastating and dangerous symptoms of psychosis, of schizophrenia.

Even if some form of two year intensive counseling/therapy/group therapy worked as well as four weeks of Olanzapine, what on earth would be the justification for withholding the Olanzapine?

To be fair we have been here before. We have all, including psychiatrists, wanted to see, to understand, mental illness, both in mild form and severe form, as adaptations and temporary aberrations of the workings of the mind. And, by extension, amenable to persuasion, love, kindness, respect, and a healthy life style. In the Moral Treatment era of the mid to late 1800’s that healthy life style was based in Christian principals of routine, work, duty, etiquette, and prayer in a pastoral setting. For someone with a psychotic illness this undoubtedly would be preferable to the imprisonment that came before, to the massive overcrowded mental hospitals that grew and grew after the industrial revolution, and even, for many, preferable to the mental health systems of 2015. But it did not treat or cure psychosis.

Through the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s many notable psychoanalysts tried treating schizophrenia with their own particular form of “open dialogue”. I read many of their books and case histories. And while they are fascinating explorations of the human condition and equally interesting attempts to find meaning within madness, it did not work, at least not as a treatment to alleviate suffering and disability.

And then in the sixties and early seventies we experimented with therapeutic communities. When I listen to the staff of Open Dialogue in Finland talking about their program I can imagine my colleagues and I saying the same things about our experience in Therapeutic Communities of the 1960’s. It was humbling, as close to a level playing field as possible, a marvelous learning experience for staff, a laboratory of interpersonal and group dynamics, an open, respectful environment for patients, but it was not an effective treatment for psychotic illness, at least not without the addition of anti psychotic medication.

Harry Stack Sullivan, a psychiatrist working before the introduction of chlorpromazine wrote that “schizophrenics are not schizophrenic with me.” And what he meant, I think, was that, with a little skill, plus respect, patience, a non-judgmental attitude, knowing when to talk and when to listen, knowing what to avoid and what to ignore, one can have an enlightening and pleasant conversation (dialogue) with someone suffering from Schizophrenia. But that conversation is not a lasting treatment or cure.

It is also notable, I think, that the psychiatrist and director of Open Dialogue in Finland, in interview, acknowledged that she prescribes neuroleptic medication for “about 30 percent” of their patients. Now, from what I know of human nature and our tendency to round our figures up or down depending on the social moment, maybe that is 35 to 40%. And given the way they work as a 24 hour on call mobile immediate response team, with no filters for severity or urgency, even if only 30% receive neuroleptic medication, it sounds about right. In truth then, Open Dialogue in Finland is NOT not using neuroleptic medication to treat people with severe psychotic illness.

I have no doubt that they have created relationships and a social environment for their patients in which less medication is necessary to help them survive and function. I think it is the same thing our ancestors did in the moral treatment era, and again, what we did in some therapeutic communities of the 1960’s.

Open Dialogue also reminded me of some other experiments with around-the-clock, immediate response teams preventing hospitalization and achieving better results than hospitalization. When I explored some of these in the 1970’s and 1980’s wondering if they could be reproduced outside of their funded clinical trials I found young idealistic doctors and nurses quite willing at that time in their lives to be on call 24/7 without extra pay, with limited personal life during the course of the experiment. We could approximate these programs in real life but we could not replicate them.

We have ample reason to not trust big pharma and their incessant push to expand their customer base, but let us also be aware of both history, and the realities that surround us, of the many people with psychotic illness now back on the streets, in the hostels and jails, of the need for better mental health care systems, and the need for better cost effective treatment, and of the many people for whom our current medications have been both sanity and life-saving.

On the Appeal of Naturopathy

David Laing DawsonBy Dr. David Laing Dawson

It started with a bout of shingles, then a post-herpetic labyrinthitis, and then I got the flu, or at least a very nasty virus within that family of viruses. Into my chest, and then my bowels, fever and chills, exhaustion, anxiety, headache. Could not take solids for four days. On the eleventh day my wife insisted I see the on call doctor at the clinic. They operate out of little rabbit warren closets these days, computer and keyboard on hand.

He was a pleasant young man, asked appropriate questions, examined my chest, looked down my throat, in my ears. He actually asked what I hoped to get from this appointment. I said probably a chest x-ray is in order, and maybe antibiotics. He smiled wanly and said “We’ll see about antibiotics after the chest x-ray.”

So we drove from there to a new building twenty miles away. We parked in front. It is a growing part of town with a big new Grocery Store next door. The entrance hall to this building, number 35, turned out to be lushly appointed, with a pharmacy to the right and a naturopathic clinic to the left. Signage was poor but we eventually figured out the imaging equipment, the x-ray department was in the basement, down one level in a small elevator.

But before getting to the elevator I looked in the naturopathic clinic. It was inviting. A sign outside asked, “Are you feeling unwell.” “Yes”, I said to myself. “Yes. Good Christ yes.”

The rest of the wording promised they’d have something that would surely make me feel better. Come in. Two women stood behind a counter. Soft lighting. Multiple shelves of jars, canisters, packages waited to satisfy my body’s deficiencies, my every need. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to see a very friendly sympathetic person who would tell me what was wrong with me, and then assure me that all I needed was a little of this potion or that. It would make me feel so much better.

In the basement the Imaging Department was also clean and new, but rather barren. The pleasant technician fetched me promptly and led me to that new age machine in another barren room. She put me through the paces: breathe deep, hold, let it out, good. And sent me back to wait. The radiologist would take a quick look; they’d call the family doctor, and then they’d tell me if I could go home or visit a pharmacy or proceed to hospital. It took only about ten minutes, and the pleasant technician called from the reception window to tell me that I could go home.

And home we went, first walking past that naturopathic clinic and its sign that beckoned: Feeling unwell?

Yes, dammit, yes.

Would you like someone telling you she knows what’s wrong and what would make it right?

Yes, dammit, yes.

I didn’t go in.

And we drove home knowing that at least a.) Nothing showed in my chest x-ray indicating imminent cardiac or respiratory failure. And b.) The doc was not going to prescribe antibiotics for what is undoubtedly a virus.

Damn evidence based medicine. Just make me feel better. Please.

Historical Ignorance: Anti-wheat, Anti-vaccination, Anti-anti-psychotic medication

David Laing DawsonBy Dr David Laing Dawson

PART I

We humans tend to be near-sighted. We are born in a time and place; we experience youth in a time and place. Until we are adults we don’t really make many observations and consider at length the wide and diverse world around us. Then when we do we do it without history, without perspective. We filter what we see through prisms already formed. We see only what we want to see. We are greatly influenced by what the statisticians call “peak experience”: that singular event, the one time out of 50 or 100 or 2000 that the slot machine paid out a thousand dollars. We are drawn to magic; we love the concept of luck; and we are lazy. I am disappointed to learn that the fitbit bracelet I put on my wrist every morning merely measures my activity. It does not contribute to it.

How wonderful it would be if taking a harmless pill each day could be a substitute for a good diet and exercise.

Until very recently most of us did not live long enough to experience, as adults, any more than 30 years of human change and development.

Hence the anti-wheat craze, the condemnation of wheat that is “not the wheat your grandparents ate.”

We have been selectively breeding our plants and animals since pre-history, and more vigorously and scientifically since the 18th century. Naturally we have tried to make them more bountiful and more resistant to drought and disease. And we have largely succeeded. Perhaps at the cost of variety of shapes, sizes, and tastes, but our ability to do this is the main reason we now have over 7 billion people on this planet rather than the 2 billion in my grandparents’ time. Our improved wheat may be killing us, but it is killing us because it is allowing us to feed four times as many people on this planet who now clear the land, build cities, eat all the fish, eat all the time, and burn fossil fuels.

The anti-vaxers are similarly near-sighted and ahistoric. They are too young to have memories of polio in the schools, of deaths from measles, mumps, diphtheria, and whooping cough. They are an educated lot, the press tells us, but apparently they have not read any biographies from the 19th and 18th century which invariably tell us of our subject having had 7 siblings, with two surviving into adulthood, the others dying as infants, children, and teenagers of the prevalent communicable diseases of the time.

Yes, there does seem to be an increase in autism. But the very concept of autism is new. Child psychiatry, as a sub-specialty of psychiatry, emerged alongside the concept, the studies, the definitions of this particular disorder of childhood, in the mid 1930’s. The war rather preoccupied us until the late 40’s, so any widespread awareness of Autism as a particular disease of childhood, differentiated from other forms of mental disability, could not occur until the 1950’s and 1960’s. And until quite recently those afflicted with a moderate or severe form of this dysfunction would be sent to an undifferentiated institution for retarded or handicapped children. Out of sight and out of mind. Those with mild forms of this dysfunction might be considered simply eccentric, odd, problematic. And those with mild forms of this dysfunction accompanied by exceptional abilities in other forms of cognition, were simply eccentric geniuses, mad scientists, isolated inventors, obsessive hermits. (Alan Turing)

Not that we shouldn’t study it, do the research, but the apparent increase in numbers of those diagnosed with autism can be explained by expanded criteria (autism spectrum disorder), dramatically increased school testing, de-institutionalization, an abundance of psychologists, and a renewed interest in the problem now that we have means of looking at brain function, examining genomes, and videotaping behaviour. And don’t forget, until recently, half these kids would have died from those diseases mentioned above if they (and 90 percent of their peers) had not been vaccinated against them.

Reflections on the Death of an 11 Year Old Aboriginal Girl Who Was Allowed to Forgo Chemo

stone of madnessBy Dr David Laing Dawson

I can think of a few metaphors that aptly express why one shouldn’t blog about this subject: mine field, thin ice, bramble bush, angels fear to tread. But…

We decided many years ago that we, (and by “we” I mean our organized educated societies, our western countries ruled by civil law), should protect our children, even protect them from their own parents if necessary. Well, truthfully, it wasn’t that many years ago, just over a hundred, and it seems we decided we needed to protect our pets and our farm animals a full generation before deciding we also needed to protect our children. But we did decide we really shouldn’t allow child labour, or pretend that sex is consensual before age 14 then 16, or marry off unwilling teenage females, or cage and beat or starve our toddlers. We know we should not allow a 13 year old to fly an airplane because she wants to, or drive a car before age 16, and even then only with training and supervision.

We expect parents to take their children for adequate medical care, and if they are not doing this we intervene. If we find that a hyper religious Christian couple have caged their 10 year old in a rat-infested basement for two weeks as correction for lying, or taking the Lord’s name in vain, we intervene. We take the child away. It is not a process without complexity but we do act. We do not allow parents to refuse treatment for TB if their child suffers from this disease.

So why on earth do we allow a ten year old, or a 12 year old, to decide with her parents, to forgo life-saving cancer treatment? Why this incredibly deferential attitude toward primitive thought and quackery when it is coming from a person or persons of First Nation Heritage? We wouldn’t buy it from a Roma, a Seventh Day Adventist, a practitioner of Santeria, an Irish healer, a Celtic priest, a new-age diva. So what makes us so cautious, so generous with the fictions of the ancient healing practices of First Nations?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against ritual and faith and any kind of spiritual or psychic healing practices if they give comfort and hope and do not replace actual proven treatment when such treatment exists. Go ahead and burn the incense, do the cupping, chew the wheat grass, wear the garlic, swallow the echinacea, and acupressure to your heart’s content, but if a bacterial pneumonia is the problem, for God’s sake take the antibiotics as well.

I will try to answer my own question because if that were my child, or grandchild, Family and Child Services and the court would have, I’m sure, taken my child into temporary custody and ensured that she be treated.

I think it is the problem of lingering racism and guilt, the guilt being a response to our own history and perhaps lingering hints of racism. My and your ancestors certainly did not treat the First Nations people well. Even when our intentions were basically good, the solutions proved destructive: residential schools, Reserves. So we feel guilty, and angry. Guilty that we still have people living in our rich country in third world conditions. Suicide is endemic, alcoholism epidemic. Many of the young men are in prison, many of the young women disappear or die prematurely. The fire truck does not work; the water treatment system fails. Nepotism flourishes.

I had dinner with the chief of a Northern Ontario band many years ago. He was in a wheel chair having lost his legs on a rail road track in what is often called “an alcohol related accident”.  He was clever and wise and had something of a sardonic sense of humor.  For some reason I was curious about the apparent lack of curse words in his language, and asked about this. He smiled at me and said, “You must remember that the Indian had nothing to be angry about before the white man came.”

Well, I know that is not really true, and I know that they are no more likely to be in touch with, in harmony with, the mysteries of the universe, energies of the wind and rain, the forest animals, the living earth itself than I am (or at least David Suzuki). Though I am sure their ancestors were more in touch with night and day and rain and wind and birth and death, with drought and storm, as were mine living  in their sod huts, cooking over peat fires and herding their sheep through the rocky pastures of the Orkney Islands, unaware, I’m sure, of Galileo’s discoveries, or of Dr. John Snow  staunching the spread of Cholera in London.

No. They don’t have any special lock on the magic of the universe, the spirits of the animal kingdom, the nature of healing, the mysteries of the our cells and organs, of our mortality. They are merely human, like you and I. And Canadian. Living in the twenty first century, in centrally heated houses, with TV and the internet, driving cars, burning fossil fuels. And their children deserve the same protection as mine do from the superstitious beliefs of our ancestors.