Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Quack Clinics

Posted in Science Based Medicine by Skepdude on August 5, 2009


Reuters recently reported on the raid of a stem-cell clinic in Hungary. This is welcome news, if the allegations are correct, but really is only scratching the surface of this problem – clinics offering dubious stem cell therapies to desperate patients. And in fact this is only one manifestation of a far greater problem – the quack clinic. They represent a serious problem for patients, doctors, and health care regulation.

Stem Cell Clinics

There is a very disturbing trend in the last few years – the proliferation of clinics offering stem cell therapy for a variety of serious, often incurable, diseases such as spinal cord injury, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders. These clinics claim to improve and even cure these diseases by injecting stem cells into the spinal cord or other parts of the body. Treatments typically cost 20-25,000 dollars, plus travel expenses, for a single treatment.

The problem is that these clinics do not have any published evidence that their treatments are valid. There is good reason to think that they are not – stem cell technology is simply not at the point yet where we can use them to cure such diseases. There are many technical hurdles to be overcome first – knowing how to control the stem cells, to get them to survive and become the types of cells necessary to have the desired therapeutic effect, and also figuring out how to keep them from growing into tumors. Basic issues of safety have not yet been sorted out.

So in essence what these clinics are claiming is that they are years, perhaps decades, ahead of the rest of the world. And yet they have no science to show for it. They should be able to produce dozens of studies demonstrating their technology, but they can’t.

Further, they should ethically be giving such treatments as part of clinical research, to establish their safety and efficacy, but they haven’t. What little information we have comes from outside observation. For example, Bruce Dobkin published a review of cases at one Chinese stem cell clinic. He concludes:

The phenotype and the fate of the transplanted cells, described as olfactory ensheathing cells, are unknown. Perioperative morbidity and lack of functional benefit were identified as the most serious clinical shortcomings. The procedures observed did not attempt to meet international standards for either a safety or efficacy trial. In the absence of a valid clinical trials protocol, physicians should not recommend this procedure to patients.

In other words – we don’t even know what the clinic doctors are injecting into patient and what happens to the cells, if any are even present. There are risks to the procedure without any evidence of benefit. And the clinic is not following standard ethical procedures for experimental treatments.


Stupid quote of the day

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 5, 2009

“I don’t see it as a matter of taking sides,” Crane added. “I see it as being informed, knowing what’s reputable, and in some cases what just makes common sense. … Organic has intuitively to be better for you.”

Diana Crane

Skepdude says: Obviously, the most comprehensive review of the literature HAS to be wrong. Why it contradicts with “common sense” and “intuition”!! What are those scientists thinking wasting their time doing their sciency stuff,  just to get a wrong result not backed up by this lady’s intuition? Don’t they know that science must conform to common sense?

The Paranoids Will Get You If You Don’t Watch Out

Posted in Gotham Skeptic by Skepdude on August 5, 2009


Last week, I happened upon the 2002 video clip of Buzz Aldrin punching a moon-landing conspiracy theorist in the face–a joyous artifact that had never before come to my attention. The punchee was filmmaker Bart Sibrel, who confronted Aldrin (then 72) and his stepdaughter outside a Beverly Hills hotel, screaming ”You’re the one who said you walked on the moon and you didn’t!” Aldrin warned him to back off, at which point Sibrel called him a “thief, a liar and a coward.” When Sibrel initiated physical contact (as attested to by several witnesses), Aldrin hauled off and clocked him one.

As skeptics, we’re supposed to be elegant in our arguments, relying on the power of sweet reason and airtight logic to flummox the opposition. But I don’t think I’m alone in tipping my hat to old Buzz. Even for those of us who fight our battles with words — maybe especially for us — there’s a primal, meaty satisfaction in watching a judiciously wielded fist interact with an eminently deserving face.

In the vast panoply of hoo-hah merchants, conspiracy theorists are simultaneously the most infuriating and the most difficult to dismiss. Infuriating because their theories come cloaked in righteous wrath; point out the holes in their reasoning and they hurl thunderbolts of moral indignation. Difficult to dismiss because, unlike proponents of homeopathy, for example, they are not trafficking in physical impossibilities. There is nothing intrinsically irrational about the notion of a conspiracy, though the use of the word by paranoid extremists has given it a certain wild-eyed, arm-waving taint. A conspiracy, after all, is merely a scheme — a plot by two or more people to do something nefarious. It happens all the time.


Skepdude says-What a coincidence. Less than 5 min ago I remembered that I had wanted to watch the clip and went to see it on YouTube. Then I fired up Google Reader and here goes this post. Does that make me psychic?

Lame Pet Psychic Tricks

Posted in Skeptico by Skepdude on August 5, 2009


Of all the fake psychics (some redundancy there), the lamest has to be the pet psychic. Think about it.  If a psychic deals with people, at least they have to have some basic skills in cold reading, they have to be able to read the person to some extent, and know the sorts of guesses to throw out and how to follow them up.  Most importantly, they need to know how to extract themselves from the inevitable wrong guesses, and leave the victim still thinking they guessed right. But the pet psychic doesn’t have to bother with too much of that.  After all, Rover is hardly going to sit up and say, “no, I never thought of chasing rabbits,” now is he?

Even lamer than the pet psychic is the reporter reporting credulously and with no skepticism at all about the pet psychic.  For evidence of this, see what somebody called Julia Lyon wrote recently in The Salt Lake Tribune: Utah pet psychic would ‘rather talk to dogs’

“I’ll go to a barbecue and people will have their dogs there — I’d rather talk to the dogs,”

Yeah, I’ll bet the other people there are happier that way too.

Raider, a Jack Russell terrier, loves his name but doesn’t want to wear dog clothing. And that big black dog he sometimes visits? Yes, that’s a friend.

A black dog?  Four of my neighbors have dogs and three of them are “black.”  Well, they are black enough and big enough that they would fit the description “big black dog.” I guess that’s the dog equivalent of “do you know an ‘M’ or a ‘J’ name?”