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Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 10, 2009

Stories like this make us feel good, hell they even make these into movies. But how much of this is real? How much is just retrofitting? I don’t know and I will actually refrain from voicing an opinion, as I don’t think we have enough information.

The one thing that’s missing, that makes me very suspicious, is interviews with the doctors that were actually treating the kid. Why are the baffled doctors not contacted by the press? They went to the kid’s teacher, but not his doctor? Sure they went to some doctor who is going to study these supplements, but from what he said it does not sound like he was the baffled doctor who was treating the kid.

Something smells here. Was the journalist too afraid they may actually say something to deflate his wonderful story? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. As far as I am concerned the solution sounds too simplistic. He misses 2 aminoacids, give him a few pill containing them and problem solved. On the other hand it is true that sometimes the most obvious solution escapes us, so I guess I will keep the door open to that possibility. But boy, this story has all the red flags of quackery in action if you ask me.

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11 Responses

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  1. Peter Mead said, on February 10, 2009 at 4:39 PM

    Thanks for keeping an open mind. I am Reuben’s father and believe me, it’s real. I have no idea why they haven’t spoken with Reuben’s local consultant, as I have passed his name onto each newspaper we have dealt with. They have spoken to Dr de la Fuente, who is the UK’s leading authority on this condition and has seen Reuben.

    You are right, it is far more complex than throwing a couple of amino acid supplements at him and watching him get better. Fact: before treatment he was having a red cell transfusion every month. Another fact: no transfusions in over three years.

  2. Skepdude said, on February 10, 2009 at 7:27 PM

    I see, and in fact I am not doubting those two facts. Nevertheless, three years is a long time. What exactly happened during those years? Would you be willing to share the name of your child’s doctor so that we may get some more information about the disease and treatment? Thank you for the message. Best of luck to your family.

  3. Peter Mead said, on February 11, 2009 at 5:36 AM

    Before I pass on any information, may I ask who you are and what your interest is? Also, I would not be prepared to post a doctor’s contact information onto a public website.

  4. Skepdude said, on February 11, 2009 at 9:57 AM

    Definitely DO NOT post anything on the website. I am Skepdude and I maintain this skeptical blog with the help of another writer. My interest is in finding out the truth about things that I am interested in and the only way to get the truth is to collect all the information necessary.

    If your doctor is interested in discussing the case publicly (to the extent that you allow him/her of course) please pass along my e-mail address which is

  5. Peter Mead said, on February 12, 2009 at 4:02 AM

    No offence meant, but I am sure Reuben’s doctor has more important things to do this.

    Your scepticism will have to live on.

  6. Cesare Ponchiroli said, on February 12, 2009 at 8:44 AM

    My son Federico, 11, is a DBA child; bone marrow transplanted on summer, seemingly everything getting great, but …..
    As you can easily understand, I am VERY interested in the affair. Would Mr. Mead let me know anything more?
    Best Regards from Italy

    • Peter said, on March 3, 2009 at 10:32 AM


      Please contact

      they will provide you with the information you need.

      • Skepdude said, on March 3, 2009 at 4:32 PM

        I have perused their website, which is very thin at this point and has no useful information that I could find. The study they are funding has not completed yet ( . As far as I can see, the only information they can provide is anecdotal, not scientific. They cannot be a better source of information than your doctor for this simple reason.

        The sensible thing to do is to, at the very least, wait until the study is complete, published in a proper scientific journal and passed the peer review test. But you can head over there and see for yourself.

  7. Skepdude said, on February 12, 2009 at 9:55 AM

    None taken Peter, I didn’t think this was going to go anywhere anyway, I’ve heard these sort of claims hundreds of times and at the end the claimant always takes a step back and never follows through. I can’t even know if you’re really the kids father or not, so I wasn’t holding high hopes, but thanks for the chat anyway.

  8. Skepdude said, on February 12, 2009 at 9:58 AM


    Don’t waste your time with this stuff. I suggest you follow your doctor’s advice. I think if you go after this sort of stuff you’ll only get to spend lots of money, buy false hope and at the end of the day get nothing for it.

    (Forgive my horrible Italian spelling, I never really studied it) Non devi credere tuto cio che dice la gente, perche non vogliono aiutarti, ma vogliono solo i tuoi soldi.

  9. Cesare Ponchiroli said, on February 12, 2009 at 10:25 AM

    Italiano quasi perfetto! Bravissimo !!!

    Obviously I got my own route, but the discussion about amino-acid supplements lasts years.
    Actually my son had to be out of the play, but …..
    In any case, my best compliments for your approach: I love skeptical people, usually useful, clever ever! (“clever ever” doesn’t sings well, I fear ………. ). Ciao

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