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April 7, 2012

A homeoquack doesn't like publicity (7/4/2012)
Penelope Dingle died on August 25, 2005, from rectal cancer. During her illness she was "treated" by a homeopath named Francine Scrayen. Ms Scrayen had no medical training of any kind (except a St John's First Aid Certificate) but her hubris allowed her to give medical advice to someone with terminal cancer. The Coroner was less than complimentary Coroner's Reportwhen he referred to Ms Scrayen's involvement in the management of Ms Pringle's illness. Here is part of what he had to say:

COMMENTS IN RELATION TO MRS SCRAYEN'S INVOLVEMENT

It is clear that over a period of time Mrs Scrayen's relationship with the deceased changed and particularly after her diagnosis with rectal cancer that relationship went far beyond what would normally be expected of a health professional/patient relationship.

Mrs Scrayen's explanation in respect of the increased number of contacts was that she was a dedicated professional and that more and more regular contacts were necessary so that she could change her treatment plan to accommodate changes in the deceased's condition.

In my view the relationship between Mrs Scrayen and the deceased was not a healthy one. The deceased clearly became more and more dependent on Mrs Scrayen.

The events which followed highlight the dangers associated with persons relying on non-science based alternative treatments and the importance of placing reliance on reliable information.

I should, however, record that by purporting to treat the deceased's cancer and, for example, suggesting that she insert velvet soap Mrs Scrayen was not acting in accordance with the Australian Homeopathic Association Code of Professional Conduct. It was recognised by Sylvia Neubacher, who gave evidence about homeopathic practices in Australia, that a non-medically qualified practitioner should not claim that he or she could treat, cure or prevent cancer. The use of soap, was not a recognised homeopathic practice as described.

Chemotherapy, radiation and surgical procedures in this type of context are never an attractive option even when they are manifestly the best option available. In that context it was particularly important that any decisions should be based on the available reliable and accurate information and statistics, unfortunately it appears that Mrs Scrayen provided the deceased with false hope and provided a much more attractive non-scientific based treatment plan.

The unhealthy reliance placed on Mrs Scrayen's homeopathic "cures" by the deceased and her husband, Dr Dingle, who appears to have been very much involved in the decision-making process, resulted in a tragic series of events and the deceased suffering extreme uncontrolled pain over an extended period of time at a level not normally experienced in societies where there is access to modern medical treatment. During the period of the deceased's treatment by Mrs Scrayen her cancer developed rapidly and at the time she was taken to Fremantle Hospital for an emergency procedure, tragically it was too late for her to be saved.

It was submitted on behalf of Mrs Scrayen that her evidence should be accepted to the effect that she was not told that the deceased would die reasonably soon if she did not have the operation recommended by Professor Platell. It was noted that her evidence was that if she had been told about the advice that Professor Platell and Dr Barnes had given to the deceased (namely that she would die if she did not have the operation reasonably soon), she would have advised the deceased to follow Professor Platell's advice without delay.

Considerable reliance is placed on the fact that as the deceased was not available to give evidence in respect of the matter, the only direct evidence in relation to what was said during the many consultation was that of Mrs Scrayen.

I do not accept the above contention. While I accept that in the absence of the deceased it cannot be established with precision what was said during the consultations. I am convinced that Mrs Scrayen was well aware of the situation. I make the observation that having observed Mrs Scrayen give evidence I did not consider her to be a witness of the truth in respect of these matters.

Mrs Scrayen had over 100 consultations with the deceased in the period leading up to the emergency operation. Mrs Scrayen knew that the deceased had bowel cancer and must have known that she was experiencing great pain.

The deceased's diary entries are supported by the evidence of all other observers of her to the effect that she experienced gross unmanaged pain in the period prior to the operation which she could not adequately conceal. I do not accept that over the vast number of interactions between them, even though a number of these were over the telephone, Mrs Scrayen could have been in any doubt as to what was happening.

It was submitted that, "it was not incumbent on Mrs Scrayen to ascertain precisely what the content was of each treatment program that Penelope was receiving from other doctors". In respect of that submission I observe that Mrs Scrayen is not a doctor, but was purporting to treat the deceased who she knew was very ill and in that context it was incumbent on her to find out whether the patient she was treating was receiving appropriate medical attention.

It was also submitted on behalf of Mrs Scrayen that she was unaware of the extent of the deceased's rapid deterioration in condition between 16 September 2003 and 9 October 2003 as for some of that time Mrs Scrayen was in Sydney and the contact during that period was over the telephone and not in person.

I do not accept that submission and I am satisfied that Mrs Scrayen was well aware of the fact that during that period the deceased was desperately unwell.

In my view the deceased was extremely unwell prior to 16 September 2003 and that fact was known to Mrs Scrayen. Her own notes contain multiple references to the deceased suffering pain during the period in question and during the very many telephone conversations which took place I am satisfied that the situation must have been made very clear.

Other witnesses who saw the deceased during this period describe her in such pain that she could not have concealed the fact of her deteriorating condition from Mrs Scrayen even if she had wished to do so.

The coroner made some quite clear statements about his opinion of Ms Scrayen:

Although Mrs Scrayen stated that she had completed a first aid course with St John Ambulance Service, she stated that it was a "very basic" course and that her understanding of medical issues was relatively poor.

The problem in this case was that Mrs Scrayen was not a competent health professional.

I do not accept this claim by Mrs Scrayen, whom I did not generally regard to be a witness of truth.

In my view Mrs Scrayenís advising against surgery in these circumstances was an outrageous thing to do. Mrs Scrayen had minimal medical knowledge and was giving dangerous advice on matters in respect of which she had no expertise.

I accept that Mrs Scrayen discouraged the deceased from receiving appropriate pain management and that she did tell the deceased that she was imagining much of her very real pain.

The events which followed highlight the dangers associated with persons relying on non-science based alternative treatments and the importance of placing reliance on reliable information.

I make the observation that having observed Mrs Scrayen give evidence I did not consider her to be a witness of the truth in respect of these matters.

During the period in 2003 while the deceased was relying on the treatment provided by Mrs Scrayen, not only did she lose whatever chances of life she had, she suffered extreme and unnecessary pain. Evidence at the inquest was to the effect that had surgery been performed earlier much of that gross pain would have been avoided.

This situation was made even worse by the fact that Mrs Scrayenís advice to the deceased was that she should avoid or take a minimum of pain reducing medications. The deceased accepted this advice and only reluctantly used minimal analgesia.

The Coroner also had some comments about medical quackery:

This case has highlighted the importance of patients suffering from cancer making informed, sound decisions in relation to their treatment. In this case the deceased paid a terrible price for poor decision making.

Unfortunately the deceased was surrounded by misinformation and poor science.

In her decision making the deceased placed great reliance on Mrs Scrayen who represented to her that she could treat cancer by homeopathy. ... I have serious reservations about any efforts to register or otherwise legitimise homeopathy or other similar alternative forms of medicine.

While I do not agree with the proposition that such alternative medical regimes should be outlawed, unless and until their supporters can provide appropriate and sufficient science base, any apparent legitimisation of these regimes could provide mixed messages for vulnerable and often desperate cancer suffers.

In a context where health costs are increasing at an alarming rate and private health insurance companies struggle to meet the full costs of procedures, medications and hospital beds, it is a matter of concern that funds which could be allocated to such fundamental health needs are being allocated to non-science based alternative medicine practitioners.

You can read the full Coroner's Report here.

There can be no doubt that Ms Scrayen was aware of the damage she was doing to Ms Dingle. You can see this in the tragic letters that Penelope Dingle wrote to her former friend. If you do not alternate between sorrow and rage when reading these letters you should probably go away and read some other web site.

In March this year, Ms Dingle's sister sued Francine Scrayen.

So what would you do if you were a discredited homeopath who had caused someone to die horribly in great pain, had been soundly slapped by a Coroner and was being sued by the victim's family? Well you would do what all homeopaths do which is carry on dispensing witchcraft and nonsense. You would also do that other thing that crooks and quacks do when criticised and start threatening to sue people who talk about you.

On April 5, lawyers acting for Francine Scrayen issued a demand to Dan Buzzard, a blogger who had had a few words to say on the matter. You can see the lawyer's letter here. You will note that the the action in response was demanded for midday, April 10, five days after the letter was written. The intervening days were the Easter public holiday, a time when there can be a reasonable assumption that people are neither at home nor at work or are busy with preplanned activities such as religious observation or taking the kids to the Royal Easter Show. This sort of precipitate action, demanding that things have to be done with no time to consult a lawyer, is typical of the way charlatans and crooks behave. (When I was sued by a pyramid scheme operator they actually went to court without notifying me at all, and a friend of mine was served with papers on a Saturday morning demanding he appear in court at 9:30 on Monday.)

Let's look at the things Ms Scrayen and her lawyers are complaining about, taken from the threatening letter.

What a homeopath whines aboutWhat I have to say about that

1. has been sued for the death of Penelope Dingle

Yes, she is being sued.
2. defrauded Penelope DingleDid she provide what was promised and paid for? No, therefore fraud. This leaves aside the fact that homeopathy is always fraud.
3. sold witchcraftWhile real witches might disagree because their potions and spells could possibly have more efficacy than homeopathy, selling magic water is close enough to the general public's idea of witchcraft.
4. killed Penelope DingleFine point of law here about whether hastening someone's death by keeping them away from medical care is actively killing. The result is the same. Ask anyone involved in the legalities of the euthanasia debate.
5. intentionally influenced Penelope Dingle into making bad medical choicesWho am I to disagree with the Coroner? Perhaps Ms Scrayen should sue him too.
6. is the very worst type of fraudSemantics here - can a person be a "fraud" just because they commit fraud? Well, she is a homeopath.
7. cheated her victim [Penelope Dingle] of moneyI don't know if the whine here is about the word "victim" which is undoubtedly true or the accusation of cheating. Did Penelope Dingle pay for her treatment? Yes. Did she get what she paid for? No. QED.
8. cheated Penelope Dingle out of lifeHave I mentioned what the Coroner found? Ms Dingle might still be alive if she had been allowed to have proper medical treatment.
9. sold fake medicineMs Scrayen is a homeopath, so nothing more has to be said.
10. actions are despicableRead the Coroner's Report. Read Penelope Dingle's letters.

1. is a callous individual who cheats, exploits and swindles the sick and desperate in the pursuit of profit;Again I must mention Penelope Dingle's letters to Francine Scrayen. The words "callous" and "swindle" just leap from the page.
2. scammed Penelope Dingle to deathScammed her until death might be more accurate, but there is no doubt that the homeopathy scam contributed to Penelope's early (and painful) death.
3. took Penelope Dingle's moneyIs there even any dispute about this?
4. took Penelope Dingle's lifeSee my comments above about "killed" and "cheated".
5. killed Penelope DingleThe lawyer must be getting paid by the word to include this twice.
6. is a fraud happily endangering lives in the pursuit of profit.She is a homeopath, she claimed to be able to cure cancer, she does this for a living. Three out of three ain't bad.

Dan has rightly refused to make any changes to his published comments. I doubt if Ms Scrayen wants to extend the Streisand Effect any further, but if she goes ahead with court action I can assure her that she will become very (in)famous very soon.

And what is the reaction of the homeopathic and general alternative medicine community to this? Business as usual, of course. What's one dead patient when there's money to be made?


I get mail (7/4/2012)
I take constructive criticism seriously. We practise continuous improvement here.

Date: Sun, 01 Apr 2012 20:15:13 -0700
From: Bill Gross
Subject: Your web page is a joke and it only makes you look bad.

The good Doctor has already been through enough shit without your jealous ass spreading more crap. So do us all a favor and just go play in the busy street.

Hello Bill,

Thank you for your useful comments, which have been passed on to our editorial team for their amusement. The comments would be even more useful if I knew which "good Doctor" you were talking about


I have a blog! (7/4/2012)
I have decided to join the human race and I now have a blog. It's at my personal web site at peterbowditch.com and will almost certainly reflect the things I do here at the RatbagsDotCom Empire, but might also include stuff I do in the rest of my life. It has been given the imaginative name of "Peter Bowditch's Blog" and I encourage you to go there to read, comment, shout at me and generally have a good time.


My Internet has been broken twice in the last week (7/4/2012)
So this -


See more Abstruse Goose here

April 21, 2012

So where has he been? (21/4/2012)
Last weekend I was in Melbourne with 4,000 other nonbelievers for the Global Atheist Convention.

Media passI hadnít originally intended going to the convention itself, just to be in town for the fringe events, the socialising and the networking. When I saw the list of speakers there was only a handful that interested me, with the rest being divided up into people whose stories I had heard many times, people whose books I had read and hadnít been really inspired by, and even a couple that I would pay extra not to have to have anything to do with. My experience of conferences in the past has usually been that the benefit comes from the face-to-face contact over food and drinks rather than the speeches anyway. You can always get the DVD with the speeches.

I was able to attend some of the convention, because following the principle of "If you donít ask, you donít get" I was able to get a media pass for the entire weekend. (I write for several publications and I am a member of the MEAA, the journalists' union, so donít start complaining that I got something for nothing which others had to pay for.) As it happens I didnít get to see everything anyway. I had already made arrangements for activities over the weekend (such as seeing a talk by A. C. Grayling at Embiggen Books), and injuring my foot on the Friday night limited my ability to do all the things I would have liked to do. The real advantage of a media pass is access to press conferences, and I was able to see Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali at close range rather than as tiny figures on a huge stage.

Where plantar fasciitis happens
Where plantar fasciitis happens

Those of you who place significance on coincidence might like to know that I have now suffered from plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tendon running forward from the heel on the bottom of the foot) on two occasions. Both were while attending conferences with a high emphasis on atheism and skepticism. (The other was TAM2 in Las Vegas in 2004.) If I were the sort of person who believed in a judgmental god I might think that he was giving me a hint that I should stay clear of heathenfests.

I wonít go into great detail now about the talks I saw, but I have to give kudos to one in particular. I am not a great fan of Sam Harrisís writings and I went in to his talk with low expectations. He then gave what I consider to be the presentation of the convention. Getting 4,000 atheists to close their eyes and meditate was quite a feat. I sort of knew what was happening because I studied psychology and perception and Iíve practised meditation, but Harris explained at the press conference why he did it. He has often been told by atheists that they canít understand how anyone can believe they have had a transcendent, religious or spiritual experience. This experiment took a large number of skeptical people a long way along the path to such an experience. Sure, nobody started talking in tongues or claimed they saw visions, but there would have been a lot of people feeling things that they would formerly have put down to the overactive imaginations of religious believers.

Other notable talks were those by Daniel Dennett, Eugenie Scott and Annie Laurie Gaynor. The common thread was that grassroots activism can become very effective in the fight against unreason. I was disappointed that I wasnít able to limp fast enough to see Ayaan Hirsi Aliís talk but at least I was able to see her at her media conference, and I got to see A. C. Grayling twice over the weekend. Iíll have more to say about Lawrence Krauss (who was also excellent) in a piece Iím writing about various arguments for the non-existence of God.

As I expected I met a lot of people that I had only known vicariously before as well as renewing old friendships from conferences past. The only low point for me, apart from the sore foot, was that I found that at least one of the 4,000 people there was a little less honest than I would like. Ever since I started this web site in 1999 Iíve had a black baseball cap with "www.ratbags.com" on the front. I took it off when I entered the Hilton bar on Friday afternoon, put it down with my jacket and backpack, and I have not seen it since. Iím all for collecting souvenirs, but I never thought I would be donating them.

Still, if that was the worst thing that happened I havenít got a lot to complain about. The speakers, organisation, the catering (mostly) and the friendliness were everything that anyone could want. I will be back at the next convention, but I will walk carefully and carry painkillers, just in case.



Does anything more need to be said?


Timmy's wild imagination (21/4/2012)
Patrick Timothy Bolen, spokesturd for cancer quacks and dentists who sexually molest their patients, publishes an insane newsletter which he claims goes to "millions of health freedom fighters". In his latest rant he has this to say about me:

Example Ė suppose one of the more well known pseudo-skeptics, Peter Bowditch, decides to ignore the "Protective Order," and attack witnesses on his Australian based websites. Easy answer Ė heíd get one Order signed by the court, and a time limit to comply, whether he is in Australia or not. After he refuses to obey, or misses the time limit, Doctorís Data simply informs the judge of that fact, and hands the Judge a new Motion Ė one, this time, ordering the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), based in Marina Del Rey, CA, to seize Bowditchís internet domains Ė and turn them off. Poof Ė in a microsecond, Bowditch is gone from the internet, a bad memory, like a fart in an elevator.

Just try it, Tim. Iím waiting.

Background about the crooks at Doctorsí Data can be found here.


Speaking of turds ... (21/4/2012)
I was attacked on Twitter during the week by a particularly vile anti-vaccination liar named Liz Hempel. She has been allowed free rein in Australian Vaccination Network forums to defame and abuse any critics of the AVN, and as she has not been reined in even after many complaints one can only assume she speaks for the AVN and with the approval of its management..

She started on me with an anonymous account and got upset when I pointed out that anonymous critics are both worthless and also liars by definition as they don't tell people their real names. She then announced that she had blocked me, which means that neither of us can see each other's messages. As she kept attacking me and I could see the posts I pointed out that she must have been lying about blocking me. She then said that she had created a new account and it was the other account that had me blocked. As both accounts had exactly the same user name I treated this as another lie.

In one of her rancid posts she started talking about my criminal record, using words that seemed to come from the pen of Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group. It included the claim that I had been convicted of contempt of court. Yes, a contempt charge was engineered against me by the pyramid scheme operator that sued me in 2005 (and I mean engineered - they set it up). Three allegations were made and all were rejected by the court. This happened on September 23, 2005.

I wondered where she had got this information from as she seems too dumb to have invented it herself. A Google search turned up something I hadn't seen before - a blog named Dead Peter Bowditch, created in 2005 with a single post in it. The writing style is so familiar that I have absolutely no doubt who made it.

Misspelling the Judge's name once is a mistake. Misspelling it four times reflects the mental capacity of the author, as if there could be any doubt about that.

Coincidentally, someone started posting messages to Usenet groups this week using my company's name as a user ID. The anonymous person was clever enough to use a system which revealed their IP address, and it just happens to be a cable internet customer of Videotron in, guess where - Canada. That account might not be long for this world as the complaint has already been filed.


Bad news about the AVN (21/4/2012)
A couple of pieces of bad news came out about the Australian Vaccination Network recently.

The first was that the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing has restored the AVN's charity status, thereby allowing them to take donations from non-members and recruit new members. The reason given for the action was specious, and ignored the 25 possible breaches of regulations that the OLG&R investigation had uncovered. The decision to cancel the charity status had been made by a Minister in the previous government, so the only reasonable explanation for allowing the AVN to return to the practices which attracted attention in the past is that anything done by the previous government which can be undone by Ministerial decree will be undone. Members of Parliament have been contacted in an attempt to have sanity restored and the 25 allegations of misconduct properly investigated.

The second piece of bad news came in the form of a media release from the AVN. You can read the entire disgusting thing here, but the relevant part says:

The Australian Vaccination Network's President, Meryl Dorey, has recently participated in an interview which will air for two months on all American Airlines domestic and international flights for the months of July and August, 2012.

That's right - one of the USA's leading airlines is going to provide free advertising for an anti-vaccination loon with the potential of it being heard by more than 8 million passengers. Complaints to American Airlines produced a statement that listening was optional.

This brief program is produced by a third-party supplier for our audio channels and as is duly noted in our onboard American Way Magazine, the opinions expressed on any such features do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of American Airlines. There are many different video and audio entertainment choices onboard our aircraft. This program is optional as to whether customers wish to listen to it.

There has been an immediate, world-wide backlash against American Airlines over this promotion of ill-health, with many of the people pointing out that the airline you fly with is also optional, and that option will not include American for future flights into, out of or within the USA. I'm disappointed, because I have always had good service from American in the past. But the past is past.

Update 25/4/2012

A storm erupted in Twitter and blogs and the airline came under criticism for promoting ideas which could cause severe health issues for its passengers. American has now issued the following statement via Twitter:

This interview has not been submitted to AA yet. We decided not to air this audio. We thank those who shared their opinions.

And in an email:

Despite what you may have read from press releases, the interview in question has not yet been submitted to American Airlines, and we will not be running it if, and when, it is.

I would like to thank and congratulate American Airlines for this action. I can fly with them again.

Oh, and did you notice that Ms Dorey was a little "premature"* in announcing that AA were going to run the audio. It hasnít even been submitted to them yet.

* The word "premature" is a euphemism. You can guess what for.



See more Atheist Pig here


The last thing about the AVN today, I promise (21/4/2012)
Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network made the following claim, related to her appearance at a health liefest over the last few days:

On the funny side (perhaps funny is not the right word?), we were again forced to hire a security guard for the event because of the emails and phone calls from our Ďfriendsí at the Australian Skeptics and Stop the AVN who just canít stand to see public debate on this issue and have to act in a threatening manner towards innocent third parties who are simply providing a venue for us.

These contacts are so abnormal and frightening to these venues that they have no option but to request extra security be provided at our expense. The security guard was lovely and had to laugh when he saw us Ė but he wasnít hired because of any threat we provided Ė a bunch of mums and dad Ė many with young babies or pregnant. Instead, it was the threat of that violent group of harassers Ė Stop the AVN Ė that necessitated their hiring.

A couple of things for those who came in late Ė this is not the first time Ms Dorey has claimed that she has been threatened by members of Australian Skeptics and Stop the AVN. She even managed to have security guards at an appearance in the New South Wales Supreme Court, and I can assure you that if we are ever going to harass her it wonít be anywhere where a judge can lock us up for contempt.

So here are the facts Ė nobody from Australian Skeptics made any threats or tried to stop her appearing. To say so is a lie. Nobody involved with the group Stop the Australian Vaccination Network made any threats. In fact, Stop the AVN doesnít even exist as any type of formal organisation, itís just a bunch of people on Facebook.

This is not the first time Ms Dorey has lied about skeptics at a conference. In 2002 I attended an AVN seminar with a friend. We sat in the middle of the room, my friend asked a question in the Q&A and we left after the meeting was closed. Ms Dorey reported twenty-four hours later that I had been sitting in the front row with a group and we had all walked out half way through the proceedings. You might think she was just mistaken but an AVN committee member told me that she had pointed me out to Ms Dorey during the night. When she told her followers that I had left early she knew that this was not true. We call that sort of statement "a lie".

Iíd probably be only half as pissed off at Dorey as I am over these claims of threats if I hadnít been in a small press conference room with Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the weekend and seen the two gorillas that were making sure they were never more than a couple of metres from her at all times. When one of the twelve or so journalists in the room approached her for an autograph the bodyguards moved in reflexively to make sure that no harm came to her. Hirsi Ali lives her life like this because she is the subject of real threats.

Dorey whining about imaginary threats like people complaining to venues or calling her names makes me sick when I see what it really means to be threatened.

April 28, 2012

Anatomy of a quack (28/4/2012)
My latest Naked Skeptic column in Australasian Science magazine deals with cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski and how well he fits Bob Parkís "Seven signs of pseudoscience".

In his book Voodoo Science, physicist Bob Park lists seven signs of pseudoscience. They are:

  1. Discoveries are announced to the media, not in peer-reviewed journals
  2. A powerful establishment suppresses the discovery
  3. The effect is at the limits of detection and usually only demonstrated by torturing statistics
  4. Evidence is anecdotal
  5. The knowledge has been known for centuries, because people who lived in the past knew more than we know today
  6. The pseudoscientist works in isolation, not as a part of any establishment research facility
  7. New laws of nature need to be proposed to explain what is happening.

Recently I have had my interest in Houston cancer curer Dr Stanislaw Burzynski revived and I thought it might be instructive to see how many of these signs he shows. But first some background.

You can read the rest here.



See more Jesus and Mo here


The lies about doctors killing patients never go away (28/4/2012)
Lies are being told again about how many deaths in Australia are caused by doctors and real medicine. The specific claim this time by Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network is that adverse drug reactions kill between 18,000 and 94,000 people each year. The wide range is apparently because most of these events are not reported.

Letís look at some facts. The first of these is that according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 141,707 people died in Australia in 2009, the last year for which final figures have been published. A reasonable person would assume that it is highly unlikely that 66% of all deaths are caused by drug reactions. Still, when bashing doctors is the cause any tools or words can be used. The second fact is that according to the Therapeutic Goods Administration they have 233,000 such adverse events (not deaths) recorded in their database. Over a period of 50 years. Here is a graph from the TGA showing reports over recent years:

You might notice that most reactions are reported by pharmaceutical companies. This does not fit with the world view of supporters of quackery because they all know that Big Pharma is evil and will do or hide anything to keep the profits up. In 2010, the TGA received 14,200 reports of reactions to drugs. Not deaths, reactions, so even at the lowest estimate in Ms Doreyís fantasy there were 26% more deaths than incidents.

It is also worth noting that "adverse reaction" can mean almost anything, even coincidence. Sometimes you donít even need drugs. I had an adverse reaction the last time I donated blood, but as it hasnít happened before Iíll mention it the next time I go to the Blood Bank, theyíll record it on their records and it might never happen again. Iíve had bad effects from certain drugs, but usually a phone call to the doctor followed by a change of prescription has reassured me. I have Type 2 diabetes and take metformin every day. A proportion of people who take this drug suffer from diarrhea and excessive flatulence when they first start taking it (I didnít Ė I was one of the lucky ones, or perhaps it was my family who were lucky). There is no known toxic dose, new patients are advised of the possibility, and no doctor would report it unless the problems persisted or became disabling.

As you can see from the graph, a very large proportion of reports come from outside the medical bureaucracy. It can safely be assumed that many of these were coincidence ("I took Mycoxaflopin and an hour later I had a headache".) and almost certainly most were not checked by a medical practitioner, otherwise the doctor would have done the reporting.

So, considering all of the above I think it is safe to say that Meryl Dorey was exaggerating when she blamed medications for that enormous number of deaths. Did I say "exaggerating"? Having looked at how easy it was to debunk the ludicrous numbers I might even think that it went beyond exaggeration into the realm of dishonesty. You note my lack of surprise.

The attack on real medicine using made up numbers is not new. Here is something I wrote in 2002. The quote in the middle starting "Iatrogenic Injury in Australia" was made by Meryl Dorey among others. It can still be found using a Google search.

"14,000 preventable medical deaths"



See more of Judy Horacek here


Intimidation by morons. But it doesnít work. (28/4/2012)
Mad Magazine owns this pictureIf you have a presence on the Internet that has even the remotest possibility of offending or upsetting people you can expect anonymous attacks. Here is what I have to say on the "About this site" page here:

The use of anonymising services to send email tells me three things about the senders. The first is that they are prepared to lie, because they are already indisputably lying about their names. The second is that whatever they have to say is worthless, because they do not even believe in it enough themselves to put their names to it. The third is that, because it is impossible to reply to the messages, they show that they are frightened of engaging in debate.

It isnít just anonymous email. Iíve been subjected to anonymous abuse in many forms over the years. One of my favourites was when someone actually paid money to run an advertisement supposedly from me looking for people to cast in porn movies. You can see the advertisement here. I found out about this when I finally managed to get someone who rang me about the job to overcome his embarrassment and tell me where he had seen the ad. Apparently there was a similar advertisement paid for on Penthouse magazineís web site but Penthouse wanted me to pay just to look for it. (I assume anyone saying they just wanted to look at the pictures and not read the articles was considered suspect.)

Attacks arenít confined to me personally but also include attempted damage to my employer. I received an automated email during the week from a business directory site asking me if I wanted to approve a review of my company:

Albert Smith gave you a rating of 1 Star and said: Pretend business as as front for internet hate campaign. Run by convicted felon Peter Bowditch. Has been sued numerous times for defamation. Hateful inconsequential alcoholic/diabeticÖ

This one wonít see the light of day on the directory site of course, although I would assume that any potential clients might see it as the puerile nonsense it is. (This could be a dangerous assumption. I lost a lot of business in 2005-2006 when I was sued by a company which had been found by the Federal Court to be operating an illegal pyramid scheme. Being sued by a multinational corporation was seen as a bad reference, despite the fact that the court finding of illegal activity was just another in a long line of similar court rulings in other countries.)

And the facts Ė I have never been convicted of any crime, I have never been sued for defamation (I was sued under the then Trade Practices Act for damaging the complainantís illegal business), I am not an alcoholic. Yes, I do have Type 2 diabetes, but thatís hardly a secret and nothing to be ashamed about.

The same nonsense was recently used to attack me (anonymously) on Twitter. I asked for evidence and got none of course, except references to other anonymous lies. My policy has always been to publicise these ridiculous attacks and I can then say that if there was any truth I wouldnít be telling people about them. In one wonderful moment an attacker gave a solid reference to evidence without actually noticing that the "evidence" was in a link to where I had published an email on The Millenium Project. But nobody ever said these cretins were smart.

As I said above, I have been putting up with this for years. Here is a talk I gave to the Australian Computer Society in 2002: A Different Internet Security Problem: Harassment, stalking and identity theft



See more XKCD here


Memo to Meryl Dorey at the Australian Vaccination Network (28/4/2012)
Do not even suggest that anyone contacts my family. I realise that you have in the past harassed the family of at least one child who died of a vaccine preventable disease. But donít start on me.

You might think you can get away with continual defamation of Australian Skeptics. You might think you can get away with continual lies about the activities of the members of Stop the AVN. What you will not get away with is involving my family in your insane campaign to harm children. If you donít like me asking tasteless questions about dead babies then stop spending your days trying to increase the number of dead babies.

If you or any of your followers come near my family I will react and it will not end well for you. Donít even suggest it in a joke. And if you think thatís a threat, think again. Itís a promise.




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