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The Selectiveness Of Science Denialism

Statement #1:

The holocaust never happened. Hitler loved Jews and respected Jewish culture. The photographic evidence of the camps, including the bodies and atrocities, were all fakes designed by the State of Israel to generate international sympathy.

Statement #2:

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an effective treatment for numerous medical conditions. Acupuncture has been around for centuries and is widely practiced in China and elsewhere. Science has proven its efficacy in controlled experiments.

With any luck, that first statement should generate dozens of hits from watchdog groups berating me for spreading the vile lie of Holocaust denial.

The second statement, or words perilously close to that effect, has appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, a previously-prestigious medical publication now revealed to be no better than the National Enquirer or any other sleazy tabloid, fit only for lining bird cages and wrapping week-old fish. Thanks to this wonderful article by Harriet Hall, it turns out that the first reference to “needling” in Chinese medical literature is from 90 B.C., although it doesn’t refer to acupuncture. It’s talking about lancing abscesses and bloodletting. The technology required to make sufficiently thin needles didn’t even exist until 400 years ago.The Chinese government tried to ban acupuncture several times around the turn of the twentieth century. The actual term “Traditional Chinese Medicine” was coined by Mao Tse Dung in the 1960s! (Go read Hall’s article linked above. It’s awesome.)

So riddle me this, campers: Why (and how) do science denialists get away with these outrageous lies? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Patients Are Avoiding Healthcare Because Of Costs

One in five Americans didn’t seek medical care for a recent illness or injury, often because of the cost, according to a survey of adults polled by a healthcare consulting firm, and the number of people who saw a doctor fell as well.

Four out of 10 adults said the cost was the main reason not to seek care, a trend that be driven by unemployment and health insurance costs, said a survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. They surveyed more than 4,000 adults. Also, 79 percent of respondents sought medical attention from a doctor or other health care professional in 2010, down from 85 percent in 2009. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

The Case Of The Winkler County Whistleblowing Nurses

I can’t speak for anyone else who blogs here at Science-Based Medicine, but there’s one thing I like to emphasize to people who complain that we exist only to “bash ‘alternative’ medicine.” We don’t. We exist to champion medicine based on science against all manner of dubious practices. Part of that mandate involves understanding and accepting that science-based medicine (SBM) is not perfect. It is not some sort of panacea. Rather, it has many shortcomings and all too often does not live up to its promise.

Our argument is merely that, similar to Winston Churchill’s invocation of the famous saying that “democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried,” science-based medicine is the worst form of medicine except for all the others that have been tried before. (Look for someone to quote that sentence soon.) It’s not even close, either. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Pain Relief Study Has Potential — With A Spin

The development of drugs and other treatments for specific symptoms or conditions relies heavily on either serendipity (the chance finding of a beneficial effect) or on an understanding of underlying mechanisms.

In pain, for example, there are limited ways in which we can block pain signals –- such as activating opiate receptors, or inhibiting prostaglandins. There are only so many ways in which you can interact with these systems. The discovery of a novel mechanism of modulating pain is therefore most welcome, and has the potential of leading to entirely new treatments that may have a better side effect profile than existing treatments and also have an additive clinical effect.

A recent study by Nana Goldman et. al., published in Nature Neuroscience, adds to our understanding of pain relief by identifying the role of adenosine in reducing pain activity in the peripheral nervous system. The researchers, in a nice series of experiments, demonstrated that producing a local painful stimulus in mice causes the local release of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) that peaks at about 30 minutes. This correlates with a decreased pain response in the mice. Further, if drugs are given that prolong the effect of adenosine, the analgesic effect itself is prolonged. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

For Cancer Survivors, Yoga May Ease Sleeplessness And Fatigue

People who’ve been diagnosed cancer can be heartened by the results of a study that will be presented June 5 at the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting. The researchers found that the practice of yoga helped cancer survivors improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue.

The lead researcher, Dr. Karen Mustian, professor of Radiation Oncology and Community and Preventive Medicine at the University of Rochester in New York,  followed 410 patients who had already completed treatment for cancer but who experienced sleep disturbance that required medication. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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