Are vaccinations bad? And homeopathy.

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Thora
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Nov 27 2006 13:24
Saii wrote:
There is a qualitative difference between a poor doctor fucking up and a peer-reviewed scientific study, which is what we're talking about here.

edit: Also, your example doesn't invalidate my point. All it says is that you should listen when you're in pain and go to more doctors, not less. You didn't try and cure yourself of meningitis, you went to a different doctor (in casualty).

I've never suggested people shouldn't go to conventional doctors, or that they should cure themselves instead.

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Steven.
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Nov 27 2006 13:27
Thora wrote:
The issue of having to pay for medical care/healing is separate to whether it works or not.

Someone has to pay for it, but I didn't really expect you to care if the NHS, at the cost of other proven remedies, because of your general misanthrope image you present on the forums (which I don't really believe is genuine). So if you're going to be sensible, how about that scenario then? Or the previous scenario, for free, and your family member decided to go to the healer instead of a hospital?

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 27 2006 13:27

ok i've just scanned the posts since i went to lunch ...

Thora wrote:
Grace wrote:
It depends what you mean by empirical support. I assume you mean conventional clinical tests, tissue samples, animal-based research and so on. That's fair enough, that has its place and has certainly been very effective in many cases; I'm not going to try and argue with you on this point because not only do I think that clinical trials are valuable but I personally have no knowledge of the tests that have been conducted on homeopathic remedies and methods. But I think dismissing anecdotal evidence of people actually getting better or not (in the case of both 'alternative' and conventional treatments, both work in some cases and don't in others) is quite unproductive. The real proof, I think, comes ultimately not from an isolated piece of tissue in a test tube or a rat in a cage, but from the effect that a treatment has on a whole person who is ill, and as such I don't think it's possible to create a binary of "conventional = good, alternative = bad" or indeed vice versa. I'd never advise someone to totally distrust conventional medicine, because it is in many cases the only effective solution (I wouldn't let a crystal therapist remove my tonsils, for example), but equally I'd advise against having a closed mind in the other direction since alternative therapies can often cite real anecdotal evidence of people getting better as a result, (whether that's due to placebo or otherwise) and as I said before, surely that's the main objective?

Disclaimer - I do think the money aspect of alternative medicine is shite and do recognise that vulnerable people can be manipulated into spending too much by unscrupulous practitioners, but I'm talking about the efficacy or otherwise of the methods themselves.

I totally agree with all of this, I think Grace has put it very well.

John - they believe it worked for them, so who am I to disagree? I'm pretty sure they know their own bodies better than I do.

the 'pro' homoeopaths (bad term, sorry) seem to be arguing at the level of the particular, the 'evidentialists' at the level of the general. Grace: i was thinking more of meta-studies encompassing large numbers of people to put the anecdotal evidence in context; an evidence-based approach works at a statistical level, individual experiences will always diverge from norms (remember fudging anomalous results in science class at school?), that doesn't make them the rule or necessarily offer any practice that can be generalised.

Myself, John. et al are being a smidgen ideological insofar as there is an emotive rejection of homoeopathy alongside our evidential arguments - i certainly don't pretend to be objective or immune to anecdote (i - well friends - have had experiences of homoeopathy that inform my view of it), which is precisely why i support looking at the general data to qualify the particular. No doubt our acceptance of the current scientific paradigm is also informing our rejection of homoeopathy (as in the specific diluted potion treatment not the catch-all for alternative medicine).

I'll elaborate - we explain what homoeopathic effectiveness is observed as a placebo effect because its results are statistically equivalent to placebo results. However, it could be that there are some laws/forces of nature that we don't understand yet which could suddenly explain homoeopathy. It's also possible all the studies to date have been structurally unable to detect the effectiveness of homoeopathy due to methodological/design limitations.

Necessarily at any given time there will be effective treatments that have yet to be 'validated' by empirical data/evidence; our knowledge is always partial. But there's no evidence to suggest that's the case with homoeopathy (similarly steven hawking doesn't reject out of hand the possibility of god, or a universe made of giant turtles for that matter - but he does say the evidence as it stands doesn't support such a hypothesis).

HOWEVER, some of the other alternative health stuff powerto mentions is far more promising. Also, no doubt a more preventative approach to health - literally radical healthcare (Grace will appreciate the etymology wink) - would be a vast improvement on western medicine's heavily cure-centric post-facto approach (which no doubt reflects the fact that it allows capital to profit twice, first externalising costs onto us with pollution, work-related injuries/stress etc, secondly creating an industry to mitigate it). And as Grace recognises, 'alternative medicine' is also a massive growth industry, and we should be wary of it as a recuperation of the desire for a radical healthcare system.

Grace
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Nov 27 2006 13:28
John. wrote:
Thora wrote:
Is there not room for both though - why does it have to be either/or? I can accept a lot of science is valid, while still recognising that alternative therapies help people too.

Lots of religious nuts claim Christian faith healers cured them. As you seem to not be able to see any problems in abstract in society as a whole, how about if it was a member of your family who didn't have much money, and was really ill. They didn't have much money, but they believed that maybe a faith healer could help them. So they re-mortgage their house, or go further into debt so they can pay them. Do you think this would be a good thing? If not why not? Because there's no evidence (only anecdotes) that it works?

In that case, why is one unproven method (faith) better than another (water)?

The issue in your example, really, is mostly financial. It would be financially just as detrimental to fork out for private conventional care or non-'faith'-based alternative treatment. This is the problem I have with alternative therapies, is the fact that they often cost so much and can manipulate the vulnerable and desperate.

If they got better as a result, good on them. I mean, I wouldn't go to a Christian healer on the basis that they'd probably try to convert me and the fact that I'm not Christian would most likely negate any placebo effect it might have on other people, but if it actually made someone better then fair enough I guess. Nonetheless it would be a saddening reflection on the state of the health service if someone with no money chose alternative treatments to their severe financial detriment.

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pingtiao
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Nov 27 2006 13:33

Right, there seems to be a problem on this thread of people not being statistically literate. I don't mean to be patronising, but that is what I see, and it is not your fault but the fault of an education system that fails to explain this stuff properly so that all people are equipped to evaluate claims by the time they leave school.

What power and grace have been discussing are anecdotes, i.e. claims made by people or about third parties as to the efficacy of certain medical treatments based on first or second-hand experience.

What we have to do is check whether
1/ There was really an effect
2/ Whether the effect was due to the compound/therapy they took

There are all sorts of reasons why anecdotal evidence is flawed and should not be used to make decisions on clinical effectiveness, examples being
1/ Volunteer bias: the self-selection of people on whom placebo effect is more likely (a staunch rationalist scientist is not likely to choose to go to a herbalist etc). Ref: Meier, P. (1977) The biggest health experiment ever: the 1954 field trial of the Salk poliomyelitis vaccine. in Statistics: a Guide to the Biological and Health Sciences ed. J.M. Tanur et al. Holden-Day, San Francisco.
2/ Reporting: succesful outcomes are more likely to be reported than unsuccessful outcomes
3/ As Joseph said, no controls are available
4/ Individuality: if there is an effect, the treatment might only work on a very small percentage of people
5/ Lack of Follow-up: as these are not scientifically controlled studies, there is no follow-up to detemrine if there were complications (ref: kidney failure associated with use of some chinese herbal remedies http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/405968.stm)
6/ Lack of falsifiability criteria: there is no way of falsifying the claim if the claim is to be judged solely on anecdotal evidence
7/ blah blah blah

EVERYTHING claiming to help people must be tested scientifically in a way that cuts out as many of these biases as possible, and leaves us only testing for the actual effect. The best way that we have- the so-called "gold standard" of evidence- is the double-blind randomised controlled trial (RCT) where patients are randomly allocated to different groups to take either placebos, the drug being tested, or some other drug that is known to work. These trials keep the nature of the drug the patient takes secret from everyone including the doctor or medical personnel administering the treatment.

"Alternative Medicine" and "complementary therapy" are just terms used to denote therapies pushed by people outside the medical orthodoxy. That doesn't mean that they are necessarily "bad", but it does mean that you shouldn't really use them until they have been evaluated by RCTs to show that
1/ they work
2/ they have this this and this as side effects, and the chances of you getting them are x y and z.

Thora
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Nov 27 2006 13:35
John. wrote:
Thora wrote:
The issue of having to pay for medical care/healing is separate to whether it works or not.

Someone has to pay for it, but I didn't really expect you to care if the NHS, at the cost of other proven remedies, because of your general misanthrope image you present on the forums (which I don't really believe is genuine). So if you're going to be sensible, how about that scenario then? Or the previous scenario, for free, and your family member decided to go to the healer instead of a hospital?

I'm not sure I entirely understand what you're asking me, but if a family member was ill I'd hope they would go to a hospital - I'd also keep an open mind about the possibility of alternative therapies being beneficial too though.

If it came down to remortgaging a house to pay for something, then I'd hope they exhausted all free possibilities before resorting to that.

Also, I'm no misanthrope - I like almost everyone.

Caiman del Barrio
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Nov 27 2006 13:43

So basically, the NHS is understaffed and most GPs are overworked and weighed down with fucking loads of paperwork, which means they can't treat their patients as well as they'd like to.

This disproves science. Fuckin a.

If you ask me, let people go to homeopaths. If it means I have to wait 5 mins less in A&E next time I fuck myself up I'm happy. wink

Grace
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Nov 27 2006 13:44
John. wrote:
Or the previous scenario, for free, and your family member decided to go to the healer instead of a hospital?

I know this was directed at Thora but I'm avoiding work so I'll present my take on it too.

Realistically, I'd suggest going to the hospital as well as seeing the healer. If they were intent on going to the healer then denying them that would not aid their emotional and mental state, which could/would have a negative effect on any conventional treatment they might accept. But to just not let them go to the hospital if they were extremely ill would be irresponsible, even if we weren't talking a faith healer but a herbalist, homeopath, acupuncturist, whatever.

In the case of serious illness I think the term 'complementary therapy' is especially relevant since even if you don't believe the methods themselves do anything to help the illness itself, having these kinds of therapies can greatly improve mental attitude in a way that the clinical approach of hospitals doesn't, which is important if one is to benefit from conventional treatment, and so can be very beneficial if used alongside treatment at a hospital.

Grace
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Nov 27 2006 13:46
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
So basically, the NHS is understaffed and most GPs are overworked and weighed down with fucking loads of paperwork, which means they can't treat their patients as well as they'd like to.

This disproves science. Fuckin a.

Nobody has said this. At all.

Jeez, I'm starting to believe my joke post about men being ridiculously closed minded.

Thora
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Nov 27 2006 13:46

I don't think anyone's tried to disprove science Alan. The way I see it, there are quite possibly things that are outside of science's ability to explain.

Thora
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Nov 27 2006 13:49
Grace wrote:
Jeez, I'm starting to believe my joke post about men being ridiculously closed minded.

That's just because you're a silly girl who believes whatever the hippies tell you.

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pingtiao
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Nov 27 2006 13:50
Thora wrote:
I don't think anyone's tried to disprove science Alan. The way I see it, there are quite possibly things that are outside of science's ability to explain.

As a side note: can you think of any examples? I assume you don't just mean something trivial like "humans don't know everything there is to know about the universe"

Thora
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Nov 27 2006 13:55
pingtiao wrote:
As a side note: can you think of any examples? I assume you don't just mean something trivial like "humans don't know everything there is to know about the universe"

Nothing that wouldn't induce you all to shout me down as a hippy and/or nutter, no.

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Rob Ray
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Nov 27 2006 14:15
Quote:
As a side note: can you think of any examples?

Cliff Richards.

In fairness I think you’re being a bit harsh on Thora there, anything which would conventially be considered unprovable by science is routinely dismissed as being believed solely by loons (eg. ghosts, aliens, God, life after death), even though aliens for example I would consider to be pretty much an inevitability given the infinite size of the universe etc.

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Steven.
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Nov 27 2006 14:21
pingtiao wrote:
Thora wrote:
I don't think anyone's tried to disprove science Alan. The way I see it, there are quite possibly things that are outside of science's ability to explain.

As a side note: can you think of any examples? I assume you don't just mean something trivial like "humans don't know everything there is to know about the universe"

Worse than that, the concept doesn't even make sense. You've said that sentence a fair bit on here, but it's just meaningless. What defines "explanation"? I just thought about a chocolate brownie, does explaining that mean explaining that thoughts are generated by neurons in my brain firing? Or does it mean explaining exactly what things fired and how in what sequence and what they all represented in order to determine exactly how any why I thought of it? It just doesn't make sense at all.

And has the fact that basically for the first 80-odd posts we were talking about different things (because some people were not using the standard definition of homeopathy) not changed anything?

And if NHS money should be given to homeopaths (NB to do homeopathy, not anything else), should it also be given to faith healers, witch doctors, or hell even me to do unproven cures? If not why not?

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 27 2006 14:21
Saii wrote:
even though aliens for example I would consider to be pretty much an inevitability given the infinite size of the universe etc.

indeed 1:∞ = infinite probability, simply on our existence alone i think. although i haven't done maths in years tongue

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Nov 27 2006 14:21
Thora wrote:
pingtiao wrote:
As a side note: can you think of any examples? I assume you don't just mean something trivial like "humans don't know everything there is to know about the universe"

Nothing that wouldn't induce you all to shout me down as a hippy and/or nutter, no.

Let me guess: ghosts.

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Steven.
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Nov 27 2006 14:22
Joseph K. wrote:
Saii wrote:
even though aliens for example I would consider to be pretty much an inevitability given the infinite size of the universe etc.

indeed 1:∞ = infinite probability, simply on our existence alone i think. although i haven't done maths in years tongue

Yeah but the universe isn't infinite. Anyway this is derailing. Sorry.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 27 2006 14:28

grin yeah sorry to derail (they wouldn't be able to traverse infinite space to reach here anyway wink)

Grace
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Nov 27 2006 14:33
John. wrote:
And if NHS money should be given to homeopaths (NB to do homeopathy, not anything else), should it also be given to faith healers, witch doctors, or hell even me to do unproven cures? If not why not?

I don't think the NHS should spend money on anything other than getting out of the ridiculous state it's in.

If we're allowed to talk hypothetical situations, if homeopathy and so on were free services and practitioners were regulated in some way to make sure they offered expected standards of care and were not prescribing substances proven to be damaging (poisonous herbs and so on), would you see any problem with them being used alongside conventional treatment or as a last resort where conventional medicine has been ineffective? i.e. do you see the problem with alternative therapies as I do, as a financial issue and an issue of people being manipulated by unscrupulous practitioners, or do you think there is something inherently wrong with alternative therapies being used as another option?

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Steven.
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Nov 27 2006 14:39

I think "alternative therapies" is a bad name. If there's evidence that they work, then they're not "alternative" at all, and should be used. This could well include some things homeopathists + alternative practioners do, such as looking at lifestyle, etc.

But if there's no evidence something works, such as prayer, faith healing, and homeopathy, then public money shouldn't be spent on it, because it would take funding away from providing and researching effective treatments.

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Nov 27 2006 14:43

Depends on which therapies, who's using them, and what level of analysis has been brought to them.

Grace
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Nov 27 2006 14:45
John. wrote:
I think "alternative therapies" is a bad name. If there's evidence that they work, then they're not "alternative" at all, and should be used. This could well include some things homeopathists + alternative practioners do, such as looking at lifestyle, etc.

But if there's no evidence something works, such as prayer, faith healing, and homeopathy, then public money shouldn't be spent on it, because it would take funding away from providing and researching effective treatments.

By 'alternative' I mean practises that are different to the norm of talking for 2 minutes to a man you've never met before and being given drugs you can't pronounce the name of wink

Okay, even more hypothetical. If public money weren't an issue? Isolate the therapies themselves* from financial concerns, is there an inherent wrongness?

*assuming the conditions I specified i.e. proper regulation to ensure no harm being done

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Nov 27 2006 14:53
Quote:
By 'alternative' I mean practises that are different to the norm of talking for 2 minutes to a man you've never met before and being given drugs you can't pronounce the name of

As opposed to visiting a home practicioner of reiki swathed in tie-dye whose idea of hygiene is lighting a special candle in the corner, then paying a shedload of money for the privilege of half and hour of hand waving which, incidentally is also entirely incomprehensible in how it is actually supposed to work?

Try not to use stereotypes Thora, if you don’t like it when it’s done the other way.

edit: The ‘two minutes and you’re out’ thing would apply as much to alternative therapies as anything else if it became mainstream in use. It’s a function of resources not medicinal practice. If you pay through the nose for private healthcare, you get a bed, explanations, sympathy and everything else.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 27 2006 14:55

except you're talking to Grace wall grin

Women are all the bloody same wink

Grace
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Nov 27 2006 14:55
Saii wrote:
Quote:
By 'alternative' I mean practises that are different to the norm of talking for 2 minutes to a man you've never met before and being given drugs you can't pronounce the name of

As opposed to visiting a home practicioner of reiki swathed in tie-dye whose idea of hygiene is lighting a special candle in the corner, then paying a shedload of money for the privilege of half and hour of hand waving which, incidentally is also entirely incomprehensible in how it is actually supposed to work?

Try not to use stereotypes Thora, if you don’t like it when it’s done the other way.

I think you're getting your names confused sweetheart!

Sorry if I didn't make it more obvious I was being slightly-less-than-totally-serious. Probably not a good idea in the presence of serious scientific thinkers eh?

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Nov 27 2006 14:56
Grace wrote:
By 'alternative' I mean practises that are different to the norm of talking for 2 minutes to a man you've never met before and being given drugs you can't pronounce the name of ;)

yeah I know what you meant, but if they work then they're just "medicine".

Quote:
Okay, even more hypothetical. If public money weren't an issue? Isolate the therapies themselves* from financial concerns, is there an inherent wrongness?

Well obviously if something does no harm there's nothing wrong with it. But there'll always be the issue of resources - under capitalism: money but also under communism in terms of labour time and effort. And I would argue against people working in or building say a homeopathic super-diluting plant or something.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 27 2006 14:58
John. wrote:
homeopathic super-diluting plant or something.

oh the image grin

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Rob Ray
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Nov 27 2006 15:06

embarrassed sorry didn't read the name I'm only getting glances cos of work. Knock off the 'don't be humourless' thing though, it was an unreasonable comment even if it was meant to be jokey.

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daniel
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Nov 27 2006 15:09

Back to the question of whether vaccinations are bad or not, there are questions around vaccinations effects on the immune system. Weakened immune systems mean people are more susceptible to diseases. It also means bacteria and viruses mutate, potentially causing horrific diseases. I've heard people argue, in fact, that it is socially irresponsible to get vaccinations. I'm not sure how valid that is, but it's something to think about.
As to homeopathy - I have had a lot of experience with it and I'm coming to the conclusion that it is entirely placebo. Sometimes I get better, sometimes not. It seems to me like homeopaths just take credit for the body's natural healing power. That being said, I'm wary of conventional medecine. I figure that with most stuff I can heal jut by taking it easy and eating right. More serious stuff obviously calls for conventional medecine.