From quack to science advocate: Personal journeys

posted in: Stories | 0

Science provides a framework for changing one’s mind given convincing evidence.  Once sucked in to pseudoscientific medicine, many never leave. Others do leave but we never hear about it. A small number of people leave and speak out publicly. It’s hard to admit you were wrong, which is why the individuals listed on this page should be praised. Dr. Edzard Ernst, Dr. David Gorski, and William T. Jarvis, PhD have written about how some health professionals become quacks.

This is a list of heroes who are helping others to not make the same mistakes they did:

 

Britt Hermes, ND (former naturopath)

Britt Hermes was a star naturopath. She graduated from Bastyr University, which its founders considered to be the “Harvard of naturopathic medicine.” Most naturopaths (dangerously) start practicing right out of school but she earned a coveted naturopathic residency. She also had a six figure debt that has accumulated from her time at Bastyr.  She had a top job at a naturopathic clinic, but quit because she realized it was unethical.

A run in with a fake cancer drug called Ukraine caused her to start questioning naturopathy. “I thought I was highly trained and medically competent, but I could not have been more foolish,” she says.

Hermes since completed a masters degree at University of Kiel and started a PhD program.

According to Hermes:

Naturopathy is not what I was led to believe. The profession functions as a system of indoctrination based on discredited ideas about health and medicine, full of pseudoscientific rhetoric and loaded with ineffective and dangerous practices. Naturopaths must be highly scrutinized because they have an on-going history of deceit and exploitation—veiled in good intention.

Britt Hermes’s site: Naturopathic Diaries

Britt Hermes on Twitter and Facebook

Wikipedia: Britt Marie Hermes

STAT News: ‘Essentially witchcraft’: A former naturopath takes on her colleagues

Britt Hermes conference presentation: The Bloody Work of “Naturopathic Doctors”

Britt Hermes explains in writing and in a fascinating talk how she sold a detox scam.

Youtube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srcvHDbBN2M

 

Anonymous Naturopath

In his or her own words:

I’m certainly not the first to say this, but alternative medicine is a fundamentalist religion. It is the same sort of victim-blaming, life-shaming, sacrificial culture that my husband dealt with growing up in an evangelical church. We discuss our parallel experiences often. Alternative medicine is a salvation based religion, except that instead of an eternity in heaven, you get perfect health.

As for my health future, I’ve left it up to chance. I do the best I can at managing my life, and if I end up sick again someday, I will be better prepared to handle it because of these experiences.

I teach science at a two-year college, and the greatest reward is helping my students learn to apply critical thinking to unknowns and understand how knowledge is really acquired in this world.

I don’t know how much good I am doing, but at this point I feel as though this is an appropriate application for my suffering.

Full story: It happened to me: Alternative Medicine (And Poor Critical Thinking Skills) Almost Killed Me

 

Preston Long, DC, PhD (a chiropractor)

Book review: Chiropractic Abuse: An Insider’s Lament

Twenty Things Most Chiropractors Won’t Tell You

 

Dr. Jim Laidler, MD, PhD and Dr. Louise Laidler

Excerpts from Dr. Jim Laidler’s story:

I consider myself to be a very scientific person. While growing up, I was skeptical and inquiring and naturally gravitated to the sciences. My first brushes with pseudoscience and quackery in medical school left me convinced that “it could never happen to me.” I was sure that my background and training would keep me from making the same mistake as “those people.” I was wrong.

Looking back on my experiences with “alternate” autism therapies, they seem almost unreal, like Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. Utter nonsense treated like scientific data, people nodding in sage agreement with blatant contradictions, and theories made out of thin air and unrelated facts—and all of it happening right here and now, not in some book. Real people are being deceived and hurt, and there won’t be a happy ending unless enough of us get together and write one.

 

My personal journey through the looking glass has ended. I stepped into “alternative” medicine up to my neck and waded out again, poorer but wiser. I now realize that the thing the “alternative” practitioners are really selling is hope—usually false hope—and hope is a very seductive thing to those who have lost it. It is really not surprising that people will buy it even when their better judgment tells them not to do so.

An alternative-medicine believer’s journey back to science

Through the Looking Glass: My Involvement with Autism Quackery

 

Denby Royal (former Holistic Nutritionist)

Excerpt from Denby’s story:

The influence of pseudoscience is not harmless and I have seen firsthand how it lures people away from evidence-based help in their times of need. I am fortunate enough that within my practice I had enough foresight to turn away individuals who required more assistance than I was capable of giving. But along the way I made many embarrassing and conjectural recommendations that cost myself, and others, far too much money and time.

The woo delusion

When I could no longer accept the world I had dedicated my career and identity to, I made the difficult decision to leave the Church of Woo. It was an ego-crushing experience to burst my own self-righteous bubble and to let go of the person I had become through a mix ignorance, misinformation, and a misguided desire to be different.

 

Full story: I Used To Be a Holistic Nutritionist

Shorter version: I Used To Be a Holistic Nutritionist

Dr. Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Dr. Edzard Ernst learned several questionable therapies in medical school: acupuncture, autogenic training, herbalism, homeopathy, and spinal manipulation. He became Chair in Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter and set out to study it. And he found out a lot of it simply had no scientific evidence to back it up. Since then, he has become a top critic of quackery.

Dr. Edzard Ernst’s web site

Wikipedia: Edzard Ernst

 

Anonymous Acupuncturist and Herbalist

In his or her own words:

I sometimes still catch myself hoping to find validity for acupuncture and TCM. I think it is indeed “hope” that drives people to alternative medicine. We want to believe that when scientific knowledge falls short, there is another way to gain control of our bodies. The desire for hope is so strong, that perfectly intelligent people can blind themselves beyond basic reason.

The feeling of being wrong is dreadful, but continuing to practice a faith-based system of medicine with indifference is terribly worse. I am hopeful that more people who are wrapped up in holistic health fields will begin questioning the validity of alternative practices. Better yet, I hope these people will open their minds to the possibility that they have been deceived.

Full story: What’s the point of acupuncture? A TCM practitioner wants out