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Connie Pantel

I don't know who Connie Pantel is, but the following Letter to the Editor appeared in the Newcastle Herald on 21 November, 2002.

Whole health is good health
From Connie Pantel

Heard of the Sceptics Society? It is a committee headed by a Professor John Dwyer and its purpose is to weed out bad alternative health practices.

There is no "Sceptics Society". There is a "Skeptics Society" in California headed by Michael Shermer. There is a group called Australian Skeptics, of which I am Vice President and Professor Dwyer is not even a member. He is a good friend of the organisation, though.

Yet its members impress their own bias onto alternative medicine and leave no room for a differing, statistic-backed opinion.

While Ms Pantel is talking about statistics, perhaps she might like to comment on this quotation from the recent study in Denmark which revealed (yet again) the improbability of any connection between MMR vaccine and autism: "The incidence-rate ratios for autistic disorder and other autistic-spectrum disorders in the group of vaccinated children, as compared with the unvaccinated group, were examined in a log-linear Poisson regression model with the use of PROC GENMOD (SAS, version 6.12)."

Could the trend toward alternative therapies be seen as a threat to the medical and pharmaceutical establishment?

Apparently the vulnerable public needs to be protected from "unproven and dangerous" wholistic health practices - yet one hears nothing from the professor about the little matter of some 18,000 deaths caused annually by mainstream allopathic medicine.

Meryl Dorey says that the number is 14,000. Ms Pantel agrees with Mr Richard Jones MLC (when he is not saying 19,000), but not with Ms Hillary who claims only 10,000. These people need to coordinate their lies better. Or perhaps read this.

Who was protecting those vulnerable people?

Professor Dwyer condemns various advertisements in magazines promoting alternative health products - but has anyone notices the plethora of advertisements, editorials, documentaries and news items promoting (or is it 'informing' us of) the latest drug or medical process?

Spend some dollars on some clinical trials, prove the stuff works, and nobody will stop you advertising your cure for all cancers. If it works, I said.

We should all be immortal by now. In fact, the reverse is true. People are generally getting sicker.

Wholistic health treatment could well be considered the true path to good health, with mainstream medicine being the deviant system

Connie Pantel
November 20

The following response was sent to the Herald by Barry Williams, Executive Officer of the Australian Skeptics. He saved me the trouble of writing.

The Letters Editor
The Newcastle Herald

What an intriguing letter from Connie Pantel (Whole health is good health, Letters, Nov 21) and what a pity it was unsullied by anything inconvenient, like facts. I am happy to provide a few so your readers can be properly informed.

There is no "Sceptics Society" (at least not in Australia). There is an association known as Australian Skeptics, which is headed, not by Professor John Dwyer, but by (among others) me. The committee headed by Prof Dwyer (one of the world's leading immunologists) is an advisory committee to the NSW Health Minister. Its task is to advise the minister on undeniably dangerous and unproven therapies and devices that are currently being promoted in this state, mostly by people in the "alternative health" sector, with the view to bringing them under the notice of health legislation.

One can only wonder why anyone in this sector who uses legitimate therapies, would object to having these dangerous items, including cheaply made electronic gadgets, pseudo-vaccines and potions, alleged (without any evidence) to cure many life-threatening illnesses, exposed and removed from sale.

Incidentally, a survey released recently by Prof Alistair MacLennan of the University of Adelaide, showed that in 2000 Australians spent $2.3 billion on alternative remedies, around four times the amount spent on prescription pharmaceuticals. So who is the "big business" in this equation?

The "18,000 deaths caused annually by mainstream medicine", which has acquired the status of folk lore among some alternative practitioners, is an invented figure which has no basis in fact.

Ms Pantel's appeal to difference and "statistics-based opinion" is naive at best. Medicine, like any other science, relies on evidence, not opinion and statistics can be (mis)used to prove anything the proponent wants it to. After all, statistically the average Australian has one testicle and one ovary (or slightly fewer) but I don't suppose any of your readers has ever met one.

Australian Skeptics interest in this matter is confined to urging that anyone practising alternative medicine should be held accountable to standards no less rigorous than those met by any other health practitioner. We do not allow amateur electricians or plumbers to ply their trades for hire in NSW, so is it too much to ask that all people offering health services should be expected to meet similar standards of competence?

Barry Williams
Executive Officer
Australian Skeptics Inc

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