sickkids falls for medical luddism
The SickKids Foundation is a Canadian non-profit organization which runs a very highly respected pediatric hospital and funds research projects to provide cutting edge medical care to children. So you could imagine how bewildered David Gorski, aka Orac, was when he found out that the hospital is hosting a conference on autism with a roster of speakers which reads pretty much like a who’s who list of anti-vaccine woo and New Age quackery. And his shock was only deepened when he confirmed that the anti-vax crowd isn’t just renting space, but has a small grant from the Foundation, which recently started exploring homeopathy.
I know, I know, the vast majority of anti-vaccine activists have nothing but good intentions and they’re doing it not because they want to endanger children, but because they’re sure that they’re protecting them from even bigger dangers than common childhood diseases. But you know the saying about good intentions. The road to hell is paved with them. And far from all the passionate anti-vaxers are doing it for the benefit of kids across the world. In fact, homeopaths are using the media generated panic over vaccine safety to drum up business, going on TV to question the safety of conventional medicine and touting the benefits of their sentient liquids, which unlike real medicine, don’t have evil compounds with big scary names.
It’s a disingenuous argument. Rather than compete with medical professionals on efficacy, the homeopaths talk about the lack of side-effects to their treatments. Which of course don’t really have side-effects since they don’t actually treat anything. For doctors, every medication is a balance between the potential danger and the anticipated benefit, backed by thorough, constantly ongoing studies. For homeopaths, some pseudoscientific forces are supposed to take care of the condition and they never bother to check whether the patient really did recover from something serious. A quick glance and the lack of complaints are enough to pronounce him or her cured, and present a sizeable bill for two atoms of flower powder in distilled water.
When a respected institution like SickKids gives grants to those who call themselves healers after neglecting all the hard work that has to come with that title, and keeps an open ear to outright quacks who ignore good science for the sake of personal satisfaction, they’re giving undue legitimacy to people who have the potential to harm the children in their care either by doing nothing to help them and calling it treatment, or applying an untested, potentially dangerous quack cure to their conditions. Even worse, they’re encouraging them to keep assailing real medicine and creating controversies rather than helping to solve problems. Let’s keep in mind that as much as the quacks may want to help, they also want to be seen as visionaries who had the guts to stand up to the Big, Bad Scientific Establishment who were vindicated by those with an open mind, i.e. those who agree with them and can throw around some serious weight in the medical world.