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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Quackery

July 30, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, order, accidents, allopathy, Andy Lewis, appendicitis, drug-dispensing, fever, genes, headache, health, heart attack, homeopathy, language - ambiguous, Lewis - Andy, medicine - alternative, medicine - conventional, Natural Medicine, naturpathy, New Age, procedure-oriented, profit-driven, quackery, Quackery, quackometer, relationships, science, sleep, stiff neck, sugar pills, supplements, tularemia, vitamins

On the British "Quackometer" site, I have been negatively reviewed: http://www.quackometer.net/.

This is what I answered:

Dear Mr. Andy Lewis,

Basically, I like the idea of a quackometer. On the other hand, I am not tickled that I received all those ducks. They are cute, though.

In my books and health blog, I use easy language while being informed about science. I use some new-agey terms so that people understand me – that explains “This web site is using lots of alternative medicine terms.”

At the same time, you accuse me of the opposite: “It is full of scientific jargon that is out of place and probably doesn't know the meaning of any of the terms.” You don’t want to argue with degrees - but here I have to: I was a teacher of mathematics and statistics, and have a master’s degree in philosophy, especially in epistemology (which is the science of what we can know, and where we better shut up – as Wittgenstein put it). That all before I studied medicine and finished with board-certification here in the U.S.A. in internal medicine. And I hold a degree in “Natural Medicine.” So, in all likelihood, I do understand the medical and scientific terms I use.

“It shows little or no critical thought and so should be treated with caution!” You might have overlooked my blog that states that homeopathy has no scientific basis – therefore I don’t use it with patients. But I did two courses of homeopathy to make sure I did not throw out a valuable tool unexamined. Then again, barely anybody dies of sugar pills – and here in the U.S.A. (unfortunately, I don’t have British numbers) about 100,000 people die per year of allopathic drugs. Only on your website today I found the information of this anti-malaria homeopathic concoction; that indeed is murderous, and I strongly oppose it.

However, since many ailments heal with time and better lifestyle, homeopathy (which is often combined with compassionate care and good advice for exercise and healthy eating) might be less of a safety problem than conventional medicine. I have practiced medicine for thirty years and have become skeptical of profit-driven, procedure-oriented, drug-dispensing allopathic medicine. But I would never discard good conventional medicine where it is needed and useful: When my son came home from camp with high fever, stiff neck and the worst headache of his life, I did not think for a second that “alternatives” were the answer. I drove him straight to the Emergency Room of a famous Boston Teaching Hospital (where they promptly misdiagnosed his tularemia – but that is another story…). – Appendicitis needs a good surgeon. And one doesn’t treat a heart attack by holding hands. – Guess we agree here.

Also, I am very critical of indiscriminate use of vitamins and other supplements without proven value and without documented deficiencies. You might also have noticed that I don’t sell anything – only my books which is the way to disperse ideas and knowledge). Not even a mug or a t-shirt.

There are bad genes and unfortunate accidents. But apart from that, health is a simple proposition, in my opinion: Eat well, sleep well, move a bit, drink fresh water, get your relationships and priorities right – and automatically, you will be healthier. Common sense, not more. But it is so much easier to pop a pill (allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic) than do something yourself - that’s probably why my books sell so poorly.

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

P.S. I forgot two arguments:

1. Using language as the sole indicator for quackery might not work because – as you somewhere noticed yourself – language is ambiguous.

2. Writing on a rather “quackery” website should not constitute quackery itself – I often just bring arguments which might be enlightening – and lure readers to my blog. Also, if writing on a “quackery” site makes me guilty of quackery – then writing on the “Quackometer” redeems me??

Last thought: Homeopathy fills a void that conventional medicine leaves: Homeopathic practitioners care and listen. If we want to persuade patients with our scientific arguments, we first have to return to caring and listening.

Update 1/2/2011:
They took me off the list, after all!!



Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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