Skeptics with a K: Episode #192

Conferred legitimacy, interfering wizards, and blink reflexes. Plus burning rats, M-potencies, and arseholes. Exercising free speech, it’s Skeptics with a K (and Alice).

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Be Reasonable: Episode #39 – Lee Piercy

In this episode, Marsh is joined by paranormal investigator Lee Piercy, to discuss ghost investigations and Lee’s theory on the physics behind ghostly apparitions. You can find Lee’s Youtube at: youtube.com/user/leejonastattoo.

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #191

Erectile dysfunction, handwriting analysis, secret topical cream, and skeptical ethics.  Plus passports, guest hosts, tunnels, and casting Doctor Who.  It’s the secret of eternal youth from Skeptics with a K.

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InKredulous: Episode #042

Episode 42 of our satirical, skeptical comedy podcast. Your host is Andy Wilson (@InKredulosi) of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and co-organiser of QED conference.

Appearing this time are:

  • Co-organiser of QED Conference, Michael “Marsh” Marshall of Skeptics with a K, Be Reasonable and the Good Thinking Society (@MrMMarsh)
  • Hayley Stevens of ghostgeek.co.uk, podcaster and ghost hunter (@HayleyStevens)
  • Dr*T former blogger at Thinking Is Dangerous blog and fine guest on many podcasts (@Dr_star_T)

As ever, thanks for listening and for all the lovely comments.

Support the MSS, our work and all of our podcasts by making a monthly contribution via Patreon.

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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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