Friday, May 29, 2009

APA Blues

The American Psychiatric Association meeting in San Francisco this year has left me depressed. The vast majority of my colleagues are either believers or shruggies. Academics I respect and admire feel that fighting quackery is a bad idea.

I related my problem with MDs promoting chelation and other unproven therapies for autistic children to Paul Applebaum. He agreed with my statement to parents, that experimental or unproven therapies must be done in the context of a registered clinical trial so we can learn more about their safety and effectiveness. But when I asked how we as a profession might fight quackery, he shook his head. "I don't know about 'fight'," he said. He seemed to feel that it's enough to limit one's own practice to science-based therapies.

I had a similar conversation with Howard Zonana, who said that there have always been promoters of fringe ideas in medicine. What counts as evidence can be a matter of opinion.

Yes, I said. There are gray areas. But some ideas contradict established basic science. For example, homeopathy-- with remedies so dilute no active ingredient is present-- if it works, we need to re-write physics and chemistry. For that reason we can reject it.

Zonana pointed out that homeopathy was pretty useful in its day when medicines were often quite toxic. He mentioned that the osteopaths, who once held some pretty odd beliefs, have become mainstream.

I started to argue that the shift in osteopathic practice was no natural evolution but the result of the Flexner report.

Zonana interrupted, saying the Flexner report was devastating to a lot of communities. "It closed all the black medical schools. The AMA was politically powerful and really, pretty awful toward blacks."

The implicit point in all this seemed to be: political battles against bad ideas can have unintended, negative consequences.

Chill. Be a lover not a fighter, they seem to say.

And yet Applebaum quite effectively fought against psychiatric involvement in coercive interview settings with military detainees. He said, "not ethical," and snap! Case closed.

Oh, if only. If only he'd take a look at autism quackery and say, "not ethical," in the same way.

Makes me weep. Srsly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pink Lady's Slipper

A few weeks ago my husband said he'd found a patch of wild orchids near a small pond hidden in the woods. Not being much of a flower or plant person, I said, "oh that's nice," and went on with whatever I was doing.

Then yesterday he took me on a hike to see the pink lady's slippers for myself. They are indeed unique (click pic to enlarge).

Hey, get yer mind outta da gutter! It's a lady's pink slipper!

If you happen upon an orchid, don't touch it. They are fragile things. And if the flower dies, the plant itself will die.

Monday, May 4, 2009

moot winz teh internets!

Anonymous crashed the Time 100 on-line poll.

Marble cake allegedly present.

Oh, and The Game.

BRB, soup.

Why aren't more violent crimes committed by ice cream men?

I mean really.

There's an ice cream truck circling the neighborhood presently. It outputs one song on a loop, a midi version of Scott Joplin's, "the Entertainer."

Third time by my building today; parked next door the past twenty minutes.

It's so mechanically cheerful.

It's killing me in my skull.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Which CAM Practice is Most Stupid?

Homeopathy is a top contender for the stupidest of CAMs. But there's a newer variety of CAM that might be even dumber: energy patches.

Energy patches are fancy stickers you attach to your skin or perhaps to certain items. The patches ward off ebil and promote teh goodness.


"The Aura Patch is a small metalized energy patch that attaches to the body and presents a field of supportive and restorative energy back into the body’s energetic field. The AuRA patches are an energy delivery system. They provide specific energy patterns that are found in people with abundant good health. By restoring these energy patterns, we have observed a positive change in people’s health. The patches are programmed with completely natural frequencies with no negative side-effects. There is no chemistry that passes through the skin. This is the same energy that is found inside the healthiest people on earth. "


Maybe I'll cash in with my own brand of healing patches. I'll have them inscribed with the lucky Chinese proverb: "Wa ta goo siam."