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Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: The best possible start

Highly Commended  2013This site was Highly Commended in the 2013 Millenium Awards. The citation read:

Initially the judges wanted to give this site an Encouragement Award but after some discussion it was decided, quite rightly, that the use of university degrees that one does not have should not be encouraged in any way, not even as a joke. Dr Buckley wins a Highly Commended Award for her adamantine refusal to do the right thing and for her suggestion that there might be some way that someone who has a living family thanks to medical intervention in childbirth would want to cooperate with someone who opposes the use of such interventions. I watched doctors save my daughter's life, just before they saved my wife's life. I have little time for anyone who suggests that neither should have been done.

Another lie about university degrees? (5/10/2013)
In 2004 I wrote about a doctor who sold books and rubbish using a degree she didn't have from a university she didn't attend (and which had no medical school). Some years later she finally got round to doing something about this - she threatened me with a claim for trademark violation. You can see some of the story of Dr Sandra Trademark™ here.

I've been alerted to another one doing the same thing - claiming a degree she doesn't have as some sort of marketing thing. I'm sorry, but you can't claim what you don't have and you have to use the abbreviation approved by the institution that awarded it. (I have a Bachelor of Arts from Macquarie University which entitles me to put "BA" after my name. If I had attended Harvard it would be "AB". Similarly, you don't get a PhD from Oxford, it's "DPhil".)

I have written to the doctor in question (who quite possibly does have an actual medical qualification, even if she can't get the name of the university right):

Dear Dr Buckley,

On your books and web sites you refer to yourself as "Dr Sarah Buckley MD". I won't quibble about using both "Dr" and the degree which is not normal practice, but I am concerned about the use of "MD". On your web site you say that you received your medical education at the University of Otago (which you incorrectly call "Otago University"), but you do not mention any postgraduate training except "a Diploma in Obstetrics and a certificate in Family Planning". As the University of Otago grants MB ChB to medical graduates I'm wondering where you acquired the MD.

I'm sure you are aware that it is dishonest to claim academic qualifications that you do not have, and also that the abbreviations that must be used are those approved by the university.

Please tell me which university granted you the MD degree and in which year. I would not like to think that you are being less than truthful about your qualifications.

Oh, and please don't say, as another well-known doctor does, that "MD just means medical doctor, not Doctor of Medicine". It doesn't.

Thank you.

I will be watching the email eagerly for the response. I predict if anything comes back at all it will be rationalisation of the deception, a threat or simply non sequitur. The lady has a big business to protect so my money is on "threat". Or maybe just more lies.

I get an answer. Sort of. (26/10/2013)
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Sarah Buckley MB ChB who deceptively puts "MD" after her name despite not being a holder of that qualification. She has replied to my email. I'm not quite sure how I can respond, but somehow I don't really think we could work together comfortably given that I have a wife, two daughters and a grandson, none of whom would be alive today if the two of them who have given birth had followed the nonsensical advice that Dr Buckley seems to sell for a living.

Dear Peter Bowditch

Thank you for your email and for your attention to detail. As you note, I have a medical degree (M.B, Ch.B) from Otago University in New Zealand, (properly known as the University of Otago, as you point out) as well as a Diploma of Obstetrics from the University of Auckland.

I use the term MD with my US audiences to signal that I have a medical qualification, which is the usual nomenclature in that country. I understand that this can be confusing from the perspective of Australia. In response to your email, I have provided an explanation of my qualifications on my Facebook page and website.

I see from your website that you are affiliated with the Skeptics. I am familiar with this organisation, my parents being long-term members. I hope you are also doing some good work for the related group, Friends of Science in Medicine.

In the almost 30 years since I graduated, I have become more and more concerned about the pseudo-science (and even pseudo journals) being published by the pharmaceutical industry. These corporations have increasingly positioned themselves to set the agenda for medicine, and at the same time are making enormous profits at the expense of good health and good medicine. Their unethical and unscientific practices are likened to the Mafia in this editorial* in the British Medical Journal.

I can see that you are strongly committed to the effective, ethical, and scientific practice of medicine.

I would love to see you and your associates apply your considerable passion and skills to expose unscientific and unethical practices by pharmaceutical companies here in Australia.

I would be delighted to work with you on this topic.

Best wishes
Sarah Buckley
Dr Sarah J Buckley
MB, ChB, Dip Obst
Author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering

* I removed the link to the BMJ article. It was a book review and hagiography of its author. The book (Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare by Peter Gøtzsche) is a rant by someone who opposes mammograms as well as most of the drugs that make our lives longer and more comfortable. (His only concession to the pharmaceutical industry in the book is the following: "My book is not about the well-known benefits of drugs such as our great successes with treating infections, heart diseases, some cancers, and hormone deficiencies like type 1 diabetes". Everything else is about how bad the industry and its products are.) I get enough Big Pharma bashing without adding to the pile.

What am I going to do about it? (26/10/2013)
Lovers of quackery keep telling me about the dreadful actions of the pharmaceutical industry, but they are very thin on the ground when it comes to doing something about it. A few days ago I spent a day with Medicines Australia as a lay member of a consumer panel providing input to a review of the Code of Conduct for the prescription drug industry. (You can download a copy of the current code here.) The current round of discussions is concentrating on transparency, with particular attention to which benefits can ethically be given to medical personnel and how these benefits should be recorded and reported. Everyone there was critical to some extent of the actions of pharmaceutical companies, but absent completely were any representatives of the snake oil industry who complain on a daily basis about doctors only prescribing drugs because they are paid to do so.

Disclaimer: Members of the panel were provided with a free lunch, reimbursement of taxi fares and a small monetary payment (enough to buy a meal and some cheap wine at a reasonably-priced restaurant). We also got to keep the pens, but they bore the brand of the place that rented out the conference room so do not count as Pharma swag. I am now officially a paid Big Pharma Shill, although I would starve (except for lunch) if I did this every day just for the money.

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