Archive for January, 2017

Cancer researchers respond to Liverpool Echo’s alternative cancer ‘cure’ story

LiverpoolEcho-Letters-20170227

Liverpool Echo letters page, 27th January 2017

On the 26th January, the Merseyside Skeptics Society sent a letter to the editors of the Liverpool ECHO and Mirror, concerning their uncritical promotion of Gerson treatment and other alternative cancer ‘cures’ in their Saturday 21st January editions.

UPDATE: our letter was published in the print edition of the Liverpool ECHO on the 27th January.

Dear Sir/Madam

Promotion of disproven treatments puts vulnerable patients at risk

Saturday’s edition of the Liverpool Echo featured the story of Sean Walsh, a local cancer patient who has elected to ignore the advice of doctors and to refuse treatment for his condition (Man with cancer beats 8 month prognosis – despite shunning hospital treatment, Liverpool Echo, January 21st 2017).

While we sincerely wish Mr Walsh the best of health, we believe the article’s uncritical promotion of his regime of alternative ‘treatments’ is deeply troubling and irresponsible.

Throughout the article Mr Walsh’s choice to dismiss the advice of cancer specialists is praised, with his “different approach” to treatment described as being “gentler on his body”. Also troubling is the positive report that Mr Walsh is “bringing his knowledge back to the UK to help people in Liverpool” – a statement which can only be seen as encouraging other vulnerable cancer patients to follow his example. This is the kind of advice which can lead people to make dangerous and misinformed choices with their healthcare, with potentially lethal consequences.

The Echo may argue that the inclusion of an opinion from Cancer Research UK absolves the newspaper of any culpability for its promotion of these dangerous quack treatments; given that the overwhelming majority of the article is dedicated to the uncritical promotion of disproven therapies, this justification holds little weight.

The treatments promoted in the article have been investigated and studied, by independent researchers and professionals, and for each there is no suggestion that they are worthy of any of the faith some patients and practitioners place in them. There are, however, hundreds of very vulnerable patients who have sadly been convinced by savvy practitioners of regimes like the Gerson regime to waste thousands of pounds – and, worse, critical treatment time – on interventions that have been comprehensively disproven. For many hopeful patients, their last months were spent not in the company of their loved ones, but in a foreign country, undergoing an invasive, deeply uncomfortable and fruitless regime of enemas, vitamin injections, restrictive diets and false hope.

The clinics offering these types of treatment are often based abroad, in jurisdictions where regulations are more lax, allowing them to continue making claims and advertising cures without good evidence of effectiveness. They often promote their successes with case studies and testimonials of ‘cured’ patients – sadly, too often those testimonials are quietly removed from their literature when the patient succumb to their disease. For the clinics, there is little or no repercussion, they merely erase the patient from their literature and carry on; for the patients and their families and friends, there is only heartbreak and tragedy.

The miraculous claims for ‘alternative’ cancer cures make for impressive headlines which are doubtlessly seductive, but as a responsible publication you have a duty to your readers to put truth ahead of sensationalism. By promoting these so-called cures without scrutiny, the Echo lends these dangerous quackeries the legitimacy of the publication’s well-earned reputation, and promotes clear misinformation to some of the most vulnerable of its readers.

We sincerely hope that Mr Walsh’s condition is as positive as he believes it is. However, it is almost certain that any recovery he has made has nothing to do with the ruinously-expensive diet and vitamin regime he has been sold; it is unlikely that the next Echo reader to follow the advice promoted in this article will be so fortunate.

Yours sincerely

Alice Howarth – Research associate, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool; and Company Secretary of the Merseyside Skeptics Society

Professor Sarah Coupland – Director of the NWCR-UoL Cancer Research Centre

Professor Andrea Varro – Principle investigator, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Professor Michael Clague – Principle investigator, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doctor Diana Moss – Principle investigator, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doctor Ewan MacDonald – Post-doctoral research associate, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doctor Fiona Hood – Post-doctoral researcher, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doctor Adam Linley – Post-doctoral research associate, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Vicky Smith – Research technician, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Aitor Martinez-Zarate – Research associate, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Zohra Butt – Post-graduate researcher, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doug Grimes – Post-graduate researcher, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Leah Wilson – Post-graduate researcher, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #190

Gerson therapy, burnt toast, and jade eggs. Plus lazer quest, smokey whiskey, and candy floss. Followed by obnoxious eight-year-olds, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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Be Reasonable: Episode #038 – Mark Sargent

Joining Marsh this episode is Mark Sargent, author of Flat Earth Clues and owner of the website EnclosedWorld.com.

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Ask an Archaeologist – Paul Duncan McGarrity

When:  Thursday, February 16th 2016, 7.30 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

15283939_1168632886556158_6362493368872952143_nAn archaeologist and comedian (same person, Paul Duncan McGarrity) sits in a room and answers your questions on any subject as honestly as possible. Could be rude, probably crude. Be prepared to talk candidly with the protection of context.

‘Like a very tall, funny, excited child’ (Scotsman).

Our speaker events have wheelchair access, via a portable ramp which can be installed on-demand. If possible, please let us know you’re coming through contact@merseysideskeptics.org.uk so we can make sure the ramp is ready.

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Crucifixion’s a Doddle – Julian Doyle

When:  Thursday, March 16th 2016, 7.30 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines, 81 Lime St, Liverpool

15337616_1168644423221671_3847331051881702007_nJulian Doyle is a writer, director, photographer, editor, movie special-effects creator. He is most famous for editing the Monty Python films and for shooting the effects for Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits and Brazil, which he also edited.

His occult movie, Chemical Wedding, has become a cult classic and his acclaimed play, Twilight of the Gods, about the tumultuous relationship between the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the composer Richard Wagner, was described by the magazine Philosophy Now as ‘Masterful’.

Our speaker events have wheelchair access, via a portable ramp which can be installed on-demand. If possible, please let us know you’re coming through contact@merseysideskeptics.org.uk so we can make sure the ramp is ready.

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GHost Hosting 17, No Such Thing As Gravity

When:  Friday, January 27th 2016, 6pm
Where: The Williamson Tunnels, Liverpool

16003246_1208210502598396_4630370098395663644_nSkeptics! Chris French is coming to Liverpool to help deliver GHost Hosting 17, part of FACT’s “No Such Thing As Gravity” exhibition.

This is not an MSS event, but we expect many Skeptics to be interested in coming along. It is free to attend, but requires registration: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ghost-hosting-17-ghosts-in-body-and-mind-tickets-30217321823

If you fancy joining us, register yourself and we’ll meet up at the Williamson Tunnels shortly beforehand at 6pm.

Event details:

What makes a ghost? GHost is a visual arts and creative research project which explores the nature of ghosts both metaphorically and practically in its activities. Serving as a supporting platform (or host) GHost aims to enable invited guests to visually and conceptually manifest and interrogate the idea of the ghost. The project takes its title from a work by Marcel Duchamp: “A GUEST + A HOST = A GHOST” Marcel Duchamp (1953).

For GHost Hosting 17, No Such Thing As Gravity artist Sarah Sparkes continues this programme of research seminars with an interdisciplinary seminar and performance event exploring the concept of ‘a formula for ghost making’, focused around faith, belief, and religious practice. How do spirits and ghosts contribute to or affect different religions and beliefs? How are practices used to embody, evoke or communicate these notions?

Sparkes will be joined by Professor Chris French, professor of Psychology and founder of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (APRU) at Goldsmiths, specialising in the psychology of paranormal beliefs and experiences, cognition and emotion; and by Christian Weaver, a specialist in ethnomusicology and musician, composer and practitioner of ritual drumming. Artist Birgitta Hosea will also present Medium, a site-specific performance in which the artist takes the role of a techno-medium.

You’ll also have a chance to explore the Williamson Tunnels, and discover the other end of the GHost Portal that you might have already seen in FACT.

A new commission for FACT and the Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre, in association with National Museums Liverpool. The project has been supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

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