Medical wisdom

Cover - for blogAnyone who has read my book, Finding My Invincible Summer, or spent any time with me knows that I have only tentative respect for the medical wisdom we are exposed to in today’s “evidence-based” world. Most experts contend that medical truth can only be verified if is subjected to the gold standard of double-blind placebo-controlled trials. They automatically reject any approach that doesn’t pass this test—be it homeopathic, traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic, Anthroposophical, or from any other system. “It’s all a crock,” to quote a doctor mentioned in my book.

Moreover, these “experts” have repeatedly tried to get the U.S. Government to outlaw the sale and use of any treatment that has not been “proven” to be safe and effective in double-blind placebo-controlled trials.

Several questions come to mind. First, these trials, regardless of their results, do not guarantee safety. Safety depends on many factors: accurate reporting of the (inevitable) side effects; the doctor’s interpretation of these reports, knowledge of the patient, and overall judgment; and, most important, the patient’s circumstances and the extent to which he or she actually follows the treatment.

There are also questions about how the double-blind placebo-controlled trials are conducted and reported. This subject is covered in detail in the Carl Elliot’s White Coat, Black Hat, which I will review in another blog.

Samuel Hahnemann Father of homeopathy

Samuel Hahnemann
Father of homeopathy

For now, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that these studies are objective and that their results are reported honestly. I believe that the concept itself of the double-blind placebo-controlled trial is naïve and deceptive. It is premised on an extremely narrow view of health and the human condition. It ignores most of the variables that affect a person’s overall health and resistance to disease. I believe that the very notion that human “subjects” can be compared under the same conditions is deeply flawed.

This concern applies especially to cancer, a major target of drugs being tested in these so-called objective trials. It is well known that cancer is the result of many different factors acting upon the body. The World Health Organization recognized long ago that cancer is multi-causal. It is dizzying to think of all the influences that could contribute to a person developing cancer or dictate the course of the disease.

Ideally, the subjects in a trial for a cancer drug would have to be matched for the following criteria:  existing health issues, family health history, prescription medicines, over-the-counter remedies, dietary supplements and herbs, body mass index, metabolic type, digestive status, blood type, exercise regime, current and past smoking habits, environmental tobacco smoke, alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, sleep patterns, daily fluid intake, diet (including types of sugar and fat, meat, dairy, eggs, gluten, corn, diet drinks, colas), pollution in the environment, workplace conditions, exposure to TV and computer screens, cell phone use, history of past exposure to radiation, socioeconomic status, urban vs. rural residence, family dynamics, social support, pet ownership, and many others—all trumped by the single most important factor: the patient’s attitude.

And what if the subject is also engaged in one or several alternative practices? For example: acupuncture, aromatherapy, biofeedback, chiropractic, crystal healing, emotional freedom technique, homeopathy, hypnosis, massage therapy, meditation, Reiki, Qigong. There are dozens of possible approaches, and any of them could be affecting the patient’s status. These effects would also have to be factored into the results.

And here’s a thought: maybe the body does what it does through its own natural intelligence, beyond anything we can measure or control.

We simply don’t know, and it’s simplistic to believe that the placebo-controlled double-blind study yields anything but a very rough impression.


Filed under General, Health, My book

6 Responses to Medical wisdom

  1. Sandy Sundquist

    I enjoyed this article and hope that it was a revealing one for people who do not believe in or try alternative healing methods. Knowing your own body and believing in yourself helps to be and stay well. Any of these trials are in my opinion a waste of time because of the way that they are done and who might be running them. Muriel, you went through a great number of experiences and therapies before you found what worked for you. Kudos to you for taking your life into your own hands and from that, to helping others.

    • Hi Sandy, Thanks so much for your thoughtful–and generous–comment. I wanted to create some awareness about the concept itself, forgetting how it has gotten skewed by Big Pharma. Society seems to follow in lock step, not even questioning the results of these trials. Soon I will be writing about the hanky-panky that goes on behind the scenes with these trials. I’m reading “White Coat, Black Hat.” The real story is appalling.

  2. Kate O'Connell

    There won’t be any debate from me, cheerful look: as a past cancer patient as well, I agree with Ms. Vasconcellos that comparing reactions to drugs and treatments between individuals, is extremely random and not conclusive. She is absolutely right that without taking into account all the variables that exist, double blind studies do not actually ‘prove’ anything, and are not accurate. At best they are guidelines, and at worst they can be dangerous.

    I am becoming quite a fan of Ms. Vasconcellos’ blog, but am hardly surprised that she has so many intelligent things to say. She couldn’t and wouldn’t have written her book if she didn’t!

  3. Daphne /gray

    I wholeheartedly agree with you and appreciate your extensive knowledge. I see the pharmaceutical industry as out to control — and practically already does — our very lives. They create medicines, not to cure, but to keep people on for the rest of their days, treating only symptoms and not causes. A quick look @ any list of possible side effects of any prescription is a horrifying experience. Sadly to say, people are still willing to take them, and suffer many of those effects. Is it because our public is totally brain-washed? It seems we have lost touch with our inner beings and thus feel the need to have someone else, an “expert,” tell us what to do.
    Thanks, Muriel