Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Away With All Your Superstitions

Away With All Your Superstitions
A set of conference resolutions

by Carl Kenner


Here are some resolutions against sCAM (so-Called "Alternative" Medicine) and quackery that I am putting forward at the Socialist Alliance national conference in June. The Socialist Alliance is a small political party in Australia. Hopefully some of these will get accepted. These are the sort of policies on sCAM that I think all parties should adopt.


1. Remove references to "alternative therapies" from our policies.

We support the extension of Medicare to all facets of health care, but only to treatments that have been shown to be safe and effective. This does not include the majority of "alternative therapies". As such we will remove all references to extending Medicare to cover "alternative therapies" from our policies. This includes our "Health Charter", "Money for Medicare, not war", "Resolution on Healthcare" from the 2004 conference, and "Universal, Free, Quality Health Care" from the 2003 conference.

2. There is no alternative to medical science.

The Socialist Alliance recognizes that there is no alternative to medical science. All therapies must obey the laws of physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics in order to be effective. There is no such thing as chi (aka qi, ki, doshas, prana, fohat, orgone, odic force, mana, etheric energy, or life-force) or the "meridians" it supposed flows along. Diluting makes chemicals weaker rather than stronger. People do not have magical auras. There is no such thing as healing energy. Body parts are not mapped onto other body parts. Psychic powers do not exist and cannot heal. Subluxation of the spine is not the cause of most disease and can't be healed by a chiropractor.

3. Prosecute health fraud.

We recognize that health fraud is no different from any other kind of fraud. There should be no exception to consumer protection legislation for fake medical treatments. Alternative medicine should not be above the law. The same laws that ban defective and ineffective products from being sold or advertised should apply to medicine. We completely oppose the buyer-beware attitude of consumer protection, and place all responsibility for proving the effectiveness of a product on the companies selling and producing the product.

4. Support fluoridation of water supply.

We support the fluoridation of the water supply as a preventative treatment for costly dental health problems.

5. Defend vaccination.

Vaccination is an essential preventative measure. Its enormous benefits far outweigh the miniscule risks. We wholeheartedly support vaccination and defend it from the anti-vaccination lobby.

6. Reject AIDS conspiracy theories.

AIDS is caused by the HIV virus which developed naturally in western Africa. Condoms are an effective and essential preventative measure against HIV, unlike abstinence programs which are not effective. Folk remedies for aids such as the raping of virgins are abhorrent and should be stamped out. Conventional scientific medicine is the only way to deal with the AIDS epidemic.

7. Support and defend stem-cell research.

We support and defend stem cell research. We oppose attempts to restrict it from using human embryos.

8. Support animal testing.

Animal testing is an absolutely vital part of medical research. We expect that all medical treatments should undergo testing on animals. Animal testing is no worse than eating meat or the conditions animals endure in farming, and is far more beneficial to humanity. We defend scientists' right to conduct tests on animals without harassment.

9. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is psychological.

We recognise that "Multiple Chemical Sensitivity" usually has a psychological cause rather than a chemical one.

10. Support and defend the view that cigarette smoke is dangerous to your health.

Cigarette smoke is a health risk regardless of whether you are inhaling it deliberately or are exposed to it as part of your work environment. We support anti-passive-smoking legislation to protect workers' health.


I have avoided mentioning religion so as not to alienate religious people who may otherwise support it. I have also tried to keep a sort of consumer-protection focus. And I tried to avoid mentioning genetic-engineering, organic farming, or nuclear medicine. Notice that I have focused on attacking the anti-science principles that sCAM is based on rather than just attacking specific treatments or making a broad generalisation about the lack of effectiveness of sCAM so that I don't have to defend against "but it worked for me" or "but (insert quack study) has shown ... to be effective". I also don't explicitly try to defend mercury, but rather defend vaccinations, which should be easier to get voted on, and be just as useful a policy. I wasn't sure whether I should mention fluoridation since our water supply is already fluoridated and none of the political parties in Australia explicitly oppose fluoridation, and I don't want to stir up anti-fluoridation sentiment, but in the end I decided there was a risk an anti-fluoridation movement would develop in the near future and I had to prepare us for that.

I mention second-hand smoke to distance myself from the Libertarian anti-sCAM activists who reject mainstream scientific consensus when it doesn't fit their warped ideology (eg they reject the scientific consensus on Global Warming and venerate the handful of unqualified "heros" who "corageously dare to question scientific consensus" and are "cruelly oppressed" for it).

The round number of resolutions is a coincidence. There is no reason to present 10 resolutions rather than 9 or 11.

Carl Kenner
May 1, 2005