Thursday, 30 July 2009


(Note: this is the infamous article on chiropractic that got Simon Singh sued. It is being reposted all over the web today by multiple blogs and online magazines.)

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results - and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that "99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae". In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer's first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying - even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: "Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck."

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Where's the harm?

Homeopathy kills.

Not so much quickly, because it's pretty hard to kill yourself with sugar pills and tap water. James Randi gave it a go, along with a bunch of Belgian sane people - the Belgian mass suicide by homeopathic methods was a complete wash.

But this baby died slowly. In a lot of pain. For months.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Refugees? Bullshit! Lock them up and send them back...

The asylum seeker we sent home to his death

Read the article. The late Mr Gul, murdered by the Taliban, is not the only one. Darth Ruddock has many deaths on his conscience. If he has a conscience, which seems in doubt.

I don't really know for certain that we're doing better now. I hope so. GetUp hasn't sent me any email about asylum seekers recently, and I hear good things about Chris Evans, so I feel cautiously optimistic.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

"Oh God, Doctor, I was hoping it was cancer"

Read this story to understand. It's not a rant; this is the story of an admirable man.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Friday, 6 March 2009

Yet Another Reason to Hate the Catholic Church

Not only does Pope Benny The Rat continue old JP2's policy of sheltering the child molesters, now the church shows an extra wonderful level of compassion for the victim!

Brazil girl, alleged rape victim, aborts twins

The procedure on the 9-year-old girl draws complaints from Catholic church

Right. Because an 80lb (36kg) 9-year old little girl who has been repeatedly raped can totally get through a twin pregnancy without any life-endangering physical or emotional trauma! And so she must, or be excommunicated, along with all who help her. Because the church may be all about love and compassion and community and all that shit, but not for filthy little woman-child sluts. No loving compassionate community for you, you knocked-up mini home-wrecker! You deserve it for daring to hit puberty so early!

And you've gotta love the extra twist in the headline: "alleged rape victim". Ya know, it's got to be "alleged" because she might not have actually been raped. All undeniable evidence of age and pregnancy notwithstanding. Nine year old girls engage in consensual sex, like ALL THE TIME, amiright?

Oh wait, they're religious. Perhaps they mean that she need not have had *any* sex, consensual or otherwise. It could be a magical virgin birth!! OMG she aborted 21st century Twin Jebus!!11! Burn her at the stake right now!

(BTW, having just done my first editing class, I dare say that this aspect is merely a copy editing FAIL. The legal adjective "alleged" belongs to the perpetrator, not the victim. The text of the article is better.)

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

I'm not sure I'm up to this

Fuck Politeness nails it on that fuckwitted douchebag Nalliah. I'm not sure I can come up with any better words. In fact, just about every time I see something that makes me want to rant, someone else has already done it better.

Meh. So it may become a blog'o'links. Whatever.