Trio cleared over diabetic boy’s death after Chinese slapping therapy

Is this justice? I just don’t think so. When you read about the horrific circumstances in which this poor boy died, then this is a terrible judgement. Furthermore, this verdict now provides a safety net for parents who consider themselves ‘open-minded’, ‘making use of their freedom of choice’ and ‘being in charge of their children’s health’. And this in an environment with a rapidly increasing number of utter ridiculous and dangerous quackery being peddled to defenceless children (the anti-vaxx movement is also a case in point).

In short; slapping therapy involves slapping yourself or being slapped by someone else until (severe) bruising occurs, which is claimed to be ‘toxins’ that’s being released by your body (it is in fact nothing more than a very cruel form of child abuse). So, this poor child was taken of his insulin which caused him to start vomiting and eventually faint, which prompted his parents and the slapping therapist, Hongchi Xiao, to employ ‘emergency slapping’ to revive the child. Quite predictably and unfortunately, he died.

child abuse
An unrelated photo regarding ‘slapping therapy’ that I found on internet. This is child abuse!!!

This level of delusion is very hard to comprehend, and with this verdict the chances are very good that this sort of incident will become more common. For some background on this case, detailing all those involved in this tragedy you can find here and here. Below is the very short newspaper article reporting on the outcome of this court case. I do not know if the parents will now face lesser charges or if this is it. The slapping therapist is yet to be sentenced.

Start of article

“Three relatives have been found not guilty of the manslaughter of a diabetic six-year-old boy who died after attending a Chinese slapping and stretching therapy workshop in Sydney.

The boy’s mother, father and grandmother, who were accused of breaching the duty of care they owed the boy through gross negligence, had pleaded not guilty to his manslaughter in April 2015.

A NSW District Court jury, which was told the boy’s last insulin injection to treat his type 1 diabetes came on the first day of the week-long “radical” workshop, on Friday found the trio not guilty of manslaughter.”

End of article

Will keep you posted on any future developments.

The Slapping Therapist’s Day in Court. Traditional Chinese Medicine on trial – Day 1

And so the long-awaited trial against a super quack finally begins. Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald published an article documenting the court proceedings of the notorious “Slapping Therapist” Hongchi Xiao, whose ‘failure’ to manipulate a 6yo boy’s ‘life force’ (Chi) by slapping him led to the boy’s death (another victim fell in the UK, but he was extradited to stand trial in Australia). Here you can find some background info regarding this tragedy. I’ve copied the article below and afterwards I will give some comments, which may, or may not, contain a number of swear words.

Start of article

“A six-year-old boy who was subjected to “slapping healing” was not given insulin, was forced to fast for three days, and had his arms and legs slapped as he laid on a Sydney hotel bed dying and unable to breathe, a court has heard. The child, who cannot be named, had Type 1 diabetes and was given his final insulin injection on April 22, 2015, at the beginning of a traditional Chinese medicine workshop at Hurstville in Sydney’s south.

His health deteriorated and he died five days later from diabetic ketoacidosis, a build-up of acid in the body after no insulin is administered.

The boy’s mother, father, maternal grandmother and Chinese medicine practitioner Hongchi Xiao have been charged with manslaughter, with the Crown alleging each owed a duty of care to the boy that they breached through gross negligence. All have pleaded not guilty.

On Wednesday, at the opening of a trial at the NSW District Court, a jury heard the boy vomited frequently in the days before his death and became so weak he had to be pushed around in a pram because he could not walk or stand. Crown prosecutor Sharon Harris said the boy’s mother took part in a police interview after his death and told officers his face and eyes began to turn yellow on the day he died, he couldn’t talk or open his eyes and his breathing was not normal. People at the workshop then slapped the boy on the arms to wake him up.

The child’s mother and grandmother were allegedly told the boy was adjusting to the “paida lajin” treatment – which involves stretching and being slapped to “activate the body’s self-healing power” – and he would improve after toxins were released from his body. That night, on the evening of April 27, the boy was staying at the Ritz Hotel in Hurstville with his grandmother when he started vomiting a black substance and had a seizure, the jury heard. Ms Harris said another patron at the hotel earlier heard slapping sounds coming from the room.

The boy’s grandmother, who does not speak English, ran hysterically out of the room to raise the alarm. Ms Harris said Mr Xiao and his associates, who had been having dinner nearby, returned to the hotel and went to the boy’s room, where they began slapping him on his limbs. “[The boy] wasn’t breathing by this stage and he didn’t have a pulse,” Ms Harris said.

Hotel guests and staff performed CPR on the six-year-old before emergency services arrived and he was taken to St George Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

Ms Harris said the workshop, which involved slapping some participants until they were “quite heavily bruised”, claimed insulin could be generated by slapping and stretching and such exercises could also heal Parkinson’s disease and cancer. She said the boy’s mother was drawn to the workshop after the recommendation of a friend, because her son was growing tired of being injected with insulin four times a day and she wanted him to be like other kids. The mother’s barrister said her client was not an “alternative therapy fanatic” looking for a “miracle cure” for her son. “She tells police about being betrayed by Master Xiao, a man she refers to as a doctor,” the barrister said.

“This trial is about misplaced trust, and whether misplaced trust in all the circumstances of this case amounts to manslaughter.”

Mr Xiao’s barrister Robert Cavanagh said his client did not owe a duty of care to the boy and disputes that he told the boy’s mother to stop giving him insulin. “It’s our case he did nothing that caused the death of [the boy],” Dr Cavanagh said. He said the method of “alternative self-healing” taught by his client was not confined to slapping and stretching, and involved “many other things” including jogging and meditation.

The trial continues before Judge David Arnott.”

End of article

This article details a drama about people suffering from incomprehensible levels of delusion. What is striking, is the fact that at no time during this unfolding tragedy did any of the adults consider given this poor boy his insulin.  His medical condition is known, an effective treatment is known and available, and yet, it simply does not occur to any of them. No, in the end they reverted to ‘emergency slapping’. I cannot get my head around this. What type of salesman can instil such an undying believe in a person’s mind that by manipulating Chi you can cure disease? Mr Xiao should seriously consider becoming a second-hand car salesman. With his power of persuasion, he will be the employee of the century.

My anger, however, is primarily directed towards the people in positions of power who continue to promote the existence of ‘Chi’ and that it can be manipulated by treatments and practices falling in the realm of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).  Prime examples to name but a few; Prof Alan Bensoussan, director of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM). The brand new and much beloved parliamentarian Dr Kerryn Phelps – part of the NICM and their drive to integrate quackery with modern healthcare (it will be interesting to see how she uses her position in parliament to further the interests of the NICM). Dr Ven Tan, director of Tasly Healthpac (where this slapping therapy workshop took place) who was assisted by the NICM to integrate TCM with modern healthcare. In a separate court case the parents of the diseased boy have sued Dr Ven Tan and his ‘integrative medicine’ clinic. Hopefully they will also consider suing the NICM as they are the kingpins in establishing these ‘open-minded’ integrative clinics in Australia.

The sad part is that the number of these tragedies will in all likelihood only increase. Because Alan and the boys are hellbent on assisting the Chinese Communist Party to globalise TCM in all its forms.  Why? Because they want to tap into the $170 billion TCM market. But they are clever. They have a safety net. They continue to insist that they only promote ‘evidence based’ treatments and the integration of these treatments with modern healthcare. As long as they promote TCM in general terms, without specifying treatments, they will continue to get away with murder.  They know that many TCM practitioners are so delusional and have such a hatred of modern medicine, that many will insist that their patients should stop taking modern treatments. If you can manipulate Chi you simply don’t need anything else.  It is a lucrative risk-free strategy. They make money by promoting Chi, and when things go wrong, the individual practitioner and the members of public who fell for their scam will be in trouble. The NICM gets away scot-free.

It is also a very effective strategy because in the last couple of years they have managed to convince authorities to establish a national registration board for TCM practitioners, which elevated TCM from quackery to an excepted healthcare profession. They managed to include TCM in the Australia-China free trade agreement, they convinced the regulators in Australia (TGA) to except Chi as a real thing. TCM producers can now sell ‘medications’ in Australia that influences ‘Chi’. Via the pacific office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) they have managed to convince the WHO to accept TCM in all its forms. Even the WHO now promotes and endorse TCM in general, again, without specifying which treatments or medications are effective. This strategy comes straight from Alan’s book of evil plans. The impact that all of this will have on healthcare is difficult to comprehend. What I do know is that this is a tragedy of epic proportions.  The fact that China quite recently lifted the ban on rhino horn and tiger bones for medicinal use indicates that they promote all of TCM and the blatant lie that Alan continue to tell, that they only focus on ‘evidence-based’ treatments, is a smoke screen. We have now entered ‘Open Season’ – many will die. You can read about how Alan managed to get all of this done here, here and here.

I consider this court case as extremely important, because TCM is on trial and I truly hope that this case will wake people up (e.g. the minister for health, Greg Hunt). I will definitely keep an eye on proceedings and will update whenever new information becomes available.

China Power and Influence. TCM and how to ‘bribe’ the NSW Minister for Health!

You’re sitting on a beach when suddenly not far from you, you notice a commotion. Your fear is confirmed when you see life guards dashing into the sea and moments later they drag a lifeless body of a young child from the waves. Because the life guards are well trained, they manage to revive the child, resulting in a collective sigh of relief from the gathered crowd. Happy endings like this makes people feel good – it is good news. But this is not where it ends. Suddenly you hear screaming and to your shock you witness something truly amazing. The parents of this boy sprints down the beach, bursts through the crowd, all the while shouting that they will save their child. To your amazement they pull the child, still gasping for air, from the arms of the life guards back into the ocean where they hold his head under water until he drowns!

I don’t know if anything like this has ever happened but I’m almost convinced that the crowd, after recovering from their shock, will most likely attack the parents and more people might die that day.

Now, one of the hallmarks of a fake healthcare system is the fact that just about everything works. Think of rhino horn, acupuncture, homeopathy etc. but also something such as slapping therapy – everything works. Surely, when you allow a practitioner into your clinic to provide people, including children, slapping therapy then you acknowledge that it works? If not, you are intentionally misleading your patients (interesting catch 22). But let me explain the analogy. These parents suffer from a level of delusion that most people simply cannot understand and sadly this type of scenario plays out far more often than most people would like. And if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has its way, these tragedies will increase significantly and it might even become quite common. Take for example the tragic slapping death tragedy.

The poor parents were misled into believing that they can cure their 6yo son from diabetes type 1 by attending an expensive ‘slapping therapy’ workshop in Sydney. The child was taken off his medication (out of professional care) and was slapped (allowing the sea to finish the job) in the believe that this will cure him. It did not, and the child died. The slapping therapist and the parents are now facing court, but this should be seen as treating the symptom while the cause, the people responsible for creating this level of delusion, are continuing to relentlessly disseminate their misinformation regarding ‘integrative medicine’.

Image 1. Slapping therapy
From the website of ‘Master’ Hongchi Xiao. Left, an 8yo boy who suffers from a serious kidney disease, right, the leg of a 13yo suffering from diabetes. The type of injuries caused by the slapping therapy is easily visible (it is unknown if these children survived and how many victims ‘Master’ Xiao made during his lucrative career).

The unseen war that’s being fought

To use war terminology might be a bit far-fetched but I don’t think it’s unreasonable. This war is being fought between an army of pseudoscientists (backed by the CCP and others) and a few scientists (backed by, uhm, no one) and it’s about the ‘integration’ of fake medicine and medical procedures with evidence-based healthcare under the umbrella term – ‘Integrative medicine’. For most people, hitting a young defenceless child to such a degree that he dies of his injuries and/or lack of medication, is surely a heinous crime. But others apparently see this practice to be okay, and these deaths should be considered ‘collateral damage’. After all, many innocent people die in war zones, and although undesirable, it is an inadvertent consequence of achieving the greater good – to win the war.

Slapping therapy is part of the pseudoscientific Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) industry, and because of the sheer economic size of this industry, the CCP decided to revive it, protect it and promote it nationally but also internationally. Any critique of TCM within China is met with the long arm of the law. Quite recently a Chinese doctor was jailed for three months after he wrote an opinion piece regarding the dangers of a specific TCM remedy. So, TCM is here to stay and is also one way of how the CCP is exerting its influence overseas.

Their current excursion is to steamroll over science (and the few scientists willing to defend it) via some Australian universities (who in turn derives financial benefit) by creating ‘scientific’ legitimacy for TCM and thereby increase their Australian (and western) market penetration. They use the billions of dollars that Australian universities receive from (Chinese) international students as a silent threat in order to keep these universities in check and dancing to their tune. Via some Australian academics they have infiltrated and now have the support of Australian regulators and politicians. All in all, it is going quite well with their plans to internationalise TCM.

The main problem is that they have vast resources which most scientists don’t have. Take for example the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM). They’re about 50 people with Western Sydney University (WSU) pumping millions of tax payer dollars into their coffers every year. Controversial companies such as Blackmores also donates millions and much more money is flowing in from China – all of these resources are being used to integrate dis/unproven complementary and alternative medicine, with a specific focus on TCM. For example; the clinic, Tasly Healthpac, that promoted and hosted the slapping therapy workshop was founded and is managed by Dr Ven Tan whereas Prof Alan Bensoussan, director of the NICM, collaborated with Dr Tan to integrate fake healthcare (slapping, acupuncture, TCM etc.). A MoU was signed between Tasly and the NICM in 2011, which states that the NICM will provide “assistance in the development of an Integrative Care Model: to assist the Tasly Healthpac Centre of Excellence in Integrative medicine so that its structure aims to integrate TCM and western medical diagnostics and treatments in an integrated, patient centred way.”

Image 2 Ven Tan Alan Bensoussan
Clockwise from left. Dr Ven Tan; ‘Master’ Hongchi Xiao, the slapping therapist; Prof Alan Bensoussan giving a speech in Beijing after receiving a ‘prestigious’ prize for his work on integrating TCM in Australia; the signing of a MoU witnessed by Prof Bensoussan (standing left) and Dr Tan (standing 3rd from the right)

Facing this tsunami of misinformation, and defending the battle front, you have a few lonely scientists. Nobody is pumping millions into warning people about fake healthcare systems, because there is no money to be made from it, and hence with their meager resources, they simply do it because their conscience demands it.

I have written about the Australian academics who facilitated the CCPs plans to internationalise TCM, mainly by lobbying for the national registration of TCM practitioners, and also about the Australian politicians (former trade minister Andrew Robb and PM Tony Abbott etc.) who were lobbied to include a free flow of TCM practitioners into Australia under the Free Trade Agreement signed in 2015. TCM producers such as Tong Ren Tang were of course elated with this arrangement because “….we will have an increasingly wider road, and open more and more branch stores in Australia.”

In this article I will focus on the role of the former Minister of Health for New South Wales, Ms Jillian Skinner, and her role in this calamity.

Image 3 PM Tony Abbott and Ven Tan.png
Former PM Tony Abbott (red tie) and Dr Ven Tan (to the right of Mr Abbott) here in his capacity as Executive Vice Chairman of the CCP-linked ‘Australia-China Economics, Trade & Culture Association’

The Minister of Health and the tale of two letters

Two letters were send to Min. Skinner, one warning her about integrating TCM (and other disproven and unproven healthcare systems), the other letter promoting TCM. So which one had an impact?

Letter 1: A word of warning

Any health minister would surely understand the dangers of supporting the principles of TCM, which is that disease is caused by disturbances in your (pseudoscientific) life force, or Chi, that flows through ‘meridians’. Inserting needles (acupuncture), taking Chinese herbs or slapping yourself all ‘aim’ to influence and/or restore your life force and cure you of whatever ails you. That some herbs might be beneficial is a given but it is because they contain very specific compounds (and very few do) – this has nothing to do with your life force! Supporting the integration of pseudoscientific healthcare with real healthcare is very dangerous as was illustrated by the slapping therapy death. Hence, one might expect that the minister would be accompanying Dr Tan/Prof Bensoussan to the police station, because something like this should surely not be allowed?

To warn the Minister about the NICMs modus operandi I’ve send her a letter and attached a 6000-word document detailing my concerns (a shortened version can be found here). It can be summed up as follow:

The NICM supports and promote any form of complementary, alternative or traditional (CAT) medicine and do not advise the public, as claimed, about the dangers of disproven CAT medicines such as homeopathy, TCM etc. because most of their funding depends mainly on misleading the public.

In my email dated 4 February 2016 I stated that; ‘These concerns are of such a nature that I believe the public is in danger of suffering injury or even death as a result. I have shared my concerns with the NICM management as well as the vice-chancellor of WSU (in June 2015). Needless to say, the WSU management do not share my concerns and hence my urgent call on your office to investigate this matter further.’

One example in my letter, to illustrate the problem, was the NICMs response to the well-known NHMRCs report regarding the ineffectiveness and dangers of homeopathy. It is fascinating how they pumped misinformation, via their partner ‘Complementary Medicines Australia’, into the world. Their response, entitled “The Five Fundamental Flaws of the NHMRCs Homeopathy report” is currently being used by homeopaths around the world to ignore the urgent advice that ‘Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness”. The press release ends with the ‘wise’ words “Homeopathy has been around for hundreds of years, and I am sure will be around a lot longer than some of the critics.”

People, including children, die because of this misinformation. But for some reason the courts only take action when children are involved. Here is another tragic example of a 9-month old baby that died. And just recently the Australian government even ignored the recommendations of a new review and decided that; “Homeopathic products will continue to be sold in Australian pharmacies, despite a long-awaited review warning the government the practice could compromise the health of consumers.” Obviously, their lobbying has been quite successful to date!

But this shows that the NICM and their partners will defend just about any fake ‘medicine’ including TCM because they derive funding from it. This cunning ability to mislead the public, regulators and politicians was at least rewarded with the Bent Spoon award for quackery in 2017 – for what it’s worth.

Letter 2: A letter with impact

The NICMs job regarding TCM is to open the floodgates into Australia (and the world), but to do this they need the support from Australian politicians and hence, Alan and people like Marcus Blackmore (CEO of Blackmores), endlessly lobby politicians (you can read about this here). Here you can find one such letter (May 2014) written by the NICM and send to Min. Skinner. This letter contains the predictable praises of the integrative medicine industry, the ‘importance’ of integrating CAT with conventional healthcare, and the world class standards of the NICM etc. but there is one sentence that stands out above the rest. And this is what it’s all about;

“….NICM needs this positioning if it is to help consumers and health professionals choose safe and effective complementary medicine (and discard ineffective treatments)…”

If you consider the fact that they were involved with the slapping therapy workshop (people died), their response to the NHMRC Homeopathy report (people died), and even that one of their business partners were send to jail after being caught importing rhino horn into Australia (endangered animals died) – all of the above are ineffective remedies or treatments and therefore this sentence is not misleading, it is a blatant lie.

The slapping therapy death occurred in April 2015, and although I noticed it in the newspaper at the time, I was not aware that the NICM was intricately involved (I was actually quite busy trying to get out of there). What came as a shock a couple of years later was when I accidentally came across a travel itinerary of Min Skinner. It turns out that she invited Dr Tan and Prof Bensoussan to accompany her, not to a police station, but to China in April 2016, barely 2 months after I’ve send my letter to her office. The reason for this trip was to garner support for their plans to integrate TCM with conventional healthcare in Australia. To quote from her travel itinerary “To assist the University of Western Sydney’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) secure investor and donor support for the NICM’s integrative Chinese medicine facility medicine/treatment on the Westmead Campus and related complementary medicine research initiatives.”

Image 4 Skinner MoUs.jpg
Left. Minister Skinner (seated in red) signing a MoU with Vice Governor of Shandong Province, the Hon Wang Suilian. Right. Min Skinner (in red) witnessing the signing a MoU between TCM producer Tong Ren Tang and Ramsay Healthcare.

Their trip to China also caught the attention of the media because she decided that integrating quackery was more important than solving real health problems in Australia. “Ms Skinner defended the trip, taken with NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, saying it led to an agreement between Westmead Hospital and Shandong’s Qilu Hospital designed to ­ enhance … understanding of traditional Chinese medicine” and “The MOU will establish formal links between Westmead Hospital and Shandong’s Qilu Hospital and is designed to enhance NSW’s understanding of traditional Chinese medicine.”

But here is a fun fact. Close to 100% of clinical trials on TCM conducted in China gives positive results, coupled to the fact that any scientific criticism of TCM can see you get jailed, then surely, the minister must know that they are dealing with a fake healthcare system? Apparently not, or they just ignore the obvious because the potential economic stimulus seemingly overrides the political risks associated with causing a number of preventable deaths. It is a scary thought that former Min Skinner now serves as a director at the Children’s Cancer Institute (I requested her contact details from the institute in order to give her the opportunity to respond but no response was received thus far.)

But did the NICM break the law?

Min. Skinner eventually responded (Nov 2016) but then only by referring me to the Federal Minister of Health, Sussan Ley (who also resigned around this time), but by then the damage was already done. Clearly, the NICM managed to get funding from China because they will be moving into their new TCM hospital pretty soon. This hospital will be co-occupied (and managed) by the CCP linked Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM). In their document ‘some brief notes regarding the BUCM collaboration’ they state; “It represents an unprecedented opportunity for the advancement of Chinese medicine in Australia, including the development of the Chinese medicine market in the West; promoting Chinese heritage and culture; and integrating Chinese medicine with the Australian healthcare system.”

But did they do anything illegal? I am no expert in the law but I believe that providing misleading and/or false information to ministers, who then based on this promote the integration of ineffective healthcare might indeed break the law – especially when this result in the death of members of the public. Did they provide former Trade Minister Andrew Robb (discussed here) and Min Skinner with correct and unbiased info about what TCM is? Well, their letter tells me that they did not. As far as I can tell, neither of these former ministers have a background in science, and as such, can easily be misled when it comes to complex scientific issues. But then again, you need to be receptive to these ideas and propaganda, because at the end of the day they signed off on it.

I sometimes just wonder where all of this will end. If organisations such as the NICM (they are not the only ones) are not reeled in now, how will the Australian (or western) healthcare system look like in 10-20 years’ time? They are masters of deceit with a clear intention to mislead the public for the sake of making money. For example; their new TCM ‘hospital’ in Westmead will not be called exactly that, they have chosen a much more mundane and misleading name; ‘Western Sydney Integrative Health Centre’ – it will fool many, because it is right next to the southern hemispheres’ biggest health complex and it is backed by a Australian university to give it even more credibility.

NICM_Westmead_Precinct_Banner_1200x628_2
The new TCM hospital in the heart of Sydney. The NICM and BUCM will move in during June 2018 and will immediately start to dish out TCM treatments to the unsuspecting public.

Concluding remarks

I used the phrase ‘China Power and Influence’ in this article as well as in two previous articles that you can find here and here. But this is only one side of the bigger picture because most people are well aware that China, as an upcoming super-power, wants to exert its influence in various ways in various countries. But I do hope that I’ve managed to highlight that TCM is also part of this and as such, a threat, not only to the health of people, but also wildlife. The reasons why China included TCM in their plans are probably complex and likely multifactorial and I will attempt to deal with this question in a next article.

But the main message that I wanted to get across is that although China is the source of TCM, and hence the problem, any country can quite easily recognise it as such and say; ‘no thank you, we will stick with modern evidence-based healthcare, but will gladly collaborate with you in other areas.’ This has not happened in Australia. And this is the message. There are Australian citizens in positions of power who has gone out of their way to legitimise and normalise TCM in Australia and hence aided the CCP in executing their plans for the sake of, mainly money.  Some people are capable of doing strange things for money and some even have the ability to completely switch off their conscience.

All of this is now playing out in Australia (where and how it will end is anyone’s guess), but will this be all that different than what is happening regarding TCM in other western countries?  I fear not.

(This article was first published on the website of Prof Edzard Ernst. You can find the original article here)

Death by ‘Slapping Therapy’. The role of the NICM, and others, in this tragedy.

It is always a terrible day when children die at the hands of fake medical practitioners or pseudoscientists. It is so unnecessary and preventable, and yet, it happens every day everywhere around the world. The proverbial snake-oil salesman is not a new phenomenon, it has always been with us, but it is becoming a global epidemic since some universities decided to elevate this type of quackery, to become state-funded and university-supported quackery. This turn of events lends undue credibility and legitimacy to these ineffective and dangerous ‘treatments’ and this translates into more people being fooled, while the snake-oil salesmen and those universities stand to make more money. It is always about money! But let’s have a look at how it works with the following tragic example, followed by some suggestions as to what you can do to help prevent these things from happening.

The controversial ‘Slapping Therapy’

This example involves a complementary therapy within the realm of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), called ‘slapping therapy’ or ‘Paidalajin’. A 6yo boy suffering from type-1 diabetes attended a slapping therapy workshop in Sydney with his parents, but sadly, the boy died in his hotel room shortly afterwards. Although the case is still before the courts, it is believed that he was deprived of medication and food during the workshop. The parents and grandmother have been arrested and faces manslaughter charges while the TCM practitioner, Hongchi Xiao, was only quite recently extradited from the UK, where another person died at one of his workshops. He was not granted bail and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment.

But what is this ‘slapping therapy’, and why is it called controversial? It involves the flow of ‘energy’ or a ‘life force’ (chi) through channels (meridians) and by slapping yourself, or being slapped by someone else, you restore the flow of chi and your body starts to expel ‘toxins’. These toxins become visible when your skin turns red, and I guess, purple and blue, depending on how hard you are being hit. The theory was, therefore, that by slapping this boy he would be cured from diabetes, and this belief is so strong, that he was also taken off his medication – a life threatening scenario. But what does science say? Chi does not exist, meridians do not exist, diabetes cannot be cured and especially not by slapping, and the so-called toxins that your body expel are called bruising (the slapping injury causes tiny blood vessels to burst and the blood gets trapped below the skin’s surface, which causes a bruise). Just imagine how many people get hurt or die, due to TCM practitioners using chi, meridians etc. to diagnose and treat disease. Because it does not exist, they cannot really diagnose anything, and hence cannot effectively treat anything!

Here is a photo of the type of bruising that you can expect, posted as a testimonial from a cancer sufferer and devout follower of Master Xiao (I always wonder how many of these testimonials are real). In addition, if you hit a young child to a point of severe bruising it is called child abuse, but in the pseudoscientific world it is apparently called ‘self-healing’.

All of TCM is controversial, or none of it is!

If you promote TCM, in whatever shape or form, you also promote its underlying pseudoscientific principles. Let’s look at acupuncture; You insert needles at specific points (acupoints) that supposedly manipulate the flow of chi through meridians – and this, according to practitioners, cures disease! This acupuncturist (at Western Sydney University – WSU) recently published a case study where she reported that her patient did not recover after receiving an acupuncture treatment. What was her conclusion? “Despite this, I found that my confidence was undermined by being out of touch with my own inner knowing or Yi.” So, what is Yi? It is your intent (yi 意 ), and when your intentions (to cure disease) becomes permanent, then it becomes your will (zhi 志 ). In other words, acupuncture works and nobody should argue with that, the problem, this time, was that her intention for it to work were insufficient. Solution: believe more deeply!  And to think that this was part of the ‘science’ that was reviewed by the Australian Research Council in their Excellence of Research for Australia scheme, which they rewarded with the highest possible ranking (5) “evidence of outstanding performance well above world standard (something is rotten, but more about this in a next article).

But the same goes for herbal TCM, which also aims to manipulate the flow of chi through meridians. As described by ‘Prof’ Alan Bensoussan (director of the NICM at WSU) in a radio interview; “The first patient would receive acupunctural herbs that disperse the accumulation of energy, the second patient would receive acupunctural herbs that strengthen and tonify the low back. It’s a tool like this concept of circulation of energy, that actually allows the Chinese Medicine practitioner to distinguish these patients, and allows the Chinese Medicine practitioner to treat the patients in a way that the patient themselves may understand better,”.

Disease is therefore seen as an imbalance of a non-existent energy that flows through non-existent meridians, and the ‘slapping therapist’ makes use of these ‘fake’ principles to mislead people. In their strange world, bacteria, viruses, pancreatic cells secreting insulin etc. do not exist, but rather disease is caused by your chi clogging your meridians and hence slapping yourself, or inserting needles, or taking herbs, will unclog your meridians and you will be cured of whatever ailment you might suffer from. They are continuing, to this day, to promote these false and dangerous ideas to the Australian public. And again, it is dangerous because if you cannot diagnose a disease, you cannot effectively treat it. Any successful TCM treatment (some herbs might be effective) is therefore purely based on luck. Ever wondered why a TCM practitioner will prescribe a patient a combination of 10-20 different herbs? Because it improves their chances of getting lucky, but also amplifies the many risks, 20-fold.

This is why scientists call TCM, and the many other forms of complementary medicine, belief-based healthcare systems. You only have to believe hard enough that it works and that’s it, there are more than enough gullible people who will fall for your trickery. Sure, you get true believers (delusional) and unscrupulous people (criminals) that only make as if they belief, for the sake of misleading you and to make money out of you. If you fall for them, then, unfortunately, you are on your own. Master Xiao’s comments after his arrest? “This has nothing to do with the workshop. This boy had a lot of diseases, more than we ever know.” It is never their fault.

But now a very unfortunate death has occurred, which means that many of the important role players in this tragedy will disavow the slapping therapy ‘treatment’ in order to absolve themselves of responsibility and to stay out of the news. They do not accept any negative reports because it tends to clash with their Yi and Zhi. And hence they continue to promote acupuncture and TCM, even though many deaths have occurred as a direct result of acupuncture and even more due to herbal TCM remedies. And to think that most deaths, by far, occur as an indirect result after using these pseudoscientific therapies by neglecting a treatable or manageable medical condition, such as malaria or diabetes. The total number of deaths? Nobody knows.

Either all of the above therapies and treatments are controversial and should be stopped, or none of it is. I am fully supportive of the former, but those ‘open-minded’ people whose brains have fallen out, albeit delusional or criminal people, will obviously choose the latter and they will continue to make money out of the misfortunes of others. And with the current support of some universities, this problem will only get bigger.

Who is now really to blame for these tragic events? The role of Tasly Healthpac and the NICM.

No real doctor or scientist or any decent person with ethics and morals would allow a slapping therapist to give a workshop on their premises. Especially not to children suffering from serious medical conditions. What you should do, especially if you are an evidence-based healthcare practitioner, is to explain to this person that what he does is dangerous and that he should please stop doing it. And then you report him to the police. But this did not happen. So, the workshop was held at the ‘Tasly Healthpac Centre of Excellence in Integrative Medicine’. According to a Tasly spokesperson, the slapping therapist “Mr Xiao rented a room from our centre to conduct what was described to us as a series of health seminars. The boy and his mother were participants in the seminar.” Apparently, they did not know about the slapping therapy, but is this true?

It is telling that Tasly have deleted their website or they have changed their name to Medicentral, where they continue to provide TCM and acupuncture alongside conventional treatments. No information can be found on their new website regarding the workshop, but from the internet archives, it is clear that they themselves advertised this workshop. Their old website received up to 538 daily visitors, and hence their marketing efforts via their website reached many people in Australia (I would not be surprised if the parents of the deceased became aware of this workshop via Tasly’s website). On Master Xiao’s website he also states that his workshop was co-organised by an Australian medical institution. Therefore, Tasly’s statement is false. Slapping, acupuncture, herbal TCM – it is all the same thing, and that is why they allowed this workshop to be held on their premises.

A key person at Tasly is the founder, Dr Ven Tan, who started the practice more than 20 years ago and ‘through his own practice he has come to realise the limitations of conventional Western medicine and to worship the merit of Traditional Chinese Medicine’. Having a well-established practice and making statements such as above will draw the attention of pseudoscientists at some Australian Universities. WSU in Sydney (and they are by no means the only Australian university who have decided to put money before science and ethics) used public money to convert TCM practitioners into ‘Professors’ and hence, it is to be expected that they will seek funding from, or collaborate with Tasly in exchange for providing extra credibility and legitimacy for Tasly’s pseudoscientific services. ‘Integrating’ TCM with conventional therapies, with the involvement of WSU, creates trust and a sense of security in patients that all of the provided services at Tasly’s are underpinned by science, and thus more and more people will be misled.

Here (second photo on the left) is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chinese and Australian governments ‘aimed at promoting TCM in Australia through a collaborative initiative’ witnessed by Dr Ven Tan (Tasly) and Prof Alan Bensoussan (NICM at WSU). Another MoU was signed between Tasly and the NICM in 2011 which states that the NICM will provide “Assistance in the development of an Integrative Care Model: to assist the Tasly Healthpac Centre of Excellence in Integrative medicine so that its structure aims to integrate TCM and western medical diagnostics and treatments in an integrated, patient centred way.” The result of doing just that, speaks tragically for itself.

It is well known that the Chinese government wants to internationalise TCM, it is, after all, a $170 billion industry. An excellent article about this issue, a real eye-opener, was recently published in the Economist “State-funded Quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos.” The NICM has played a crucial role in the national registration of TCM practitioners in 2012, which elevated TCM to the same level as conventional healthcare, lending undue credibility to TCM. This extra legitimacy was used by the NICM to facilitate China’s plans for internationalisation of TCM via Australia. They lobbied various Ministers and managed to get TCM into the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement in 2015, shortly after the boy’s death from slapping. In 2016 a trade delegation of the Minister of Health (Jillian Skinner – now retired) visited China, accompanied by Dr Ven Tan and Prof Alan Bensoussan. Part of the mission was “To assist the University of Western Sydney’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) secure investor and donor support for the NICM’s integrative Chinese medicine facility medicine/treatment on the Westmead Campus“.

Yes, they are building a large integrative TCM facility in Sydney, which will open in 2018. They will obviously sell this as a ‘research’ facility, but in truth, it will be operated like a commercial facility. All of this is good news for China, Tasly and the NICM, but it is definitely not good news for the Australian public.

Tasly and NICM should therefore also be held responsible for these tragic events.

The role of the regulator, the TGA, and the NICM’s influence

In Australia, this very important function to protect the public against the sort of quackery described above, is being done by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Pseudoscientists also know that the TGA is a potential key hurdle that must be overcome. They therefore lobby intensely, and some infiltrate the TGA (Alan Bensoussan has served many years on the TGA panel for complementary medicines), where they actually managed to get the job done. Even though the golden rule is that you really do not need to be a pseudoscientist in order to know what pseudoscience is, or to adequately regulate it. And yet, there are a number of TCM practitioners currently involved with regulating TCM at the TGA.

The NICM, and others, have managed to convince the TGA that almost all of these products and services are ‘low risk’, meaning low direct risk. Unfortunately, the high indirect risk is being ignored. You are probably not going to die after being slapped, but if you stop taking your real medicine it can lead to your death (the possible cause of the boy’s death). And this is exactly what this slapping therapist says. Medicine is poison so let’s slap your medical condition out of you.  What is my evidence for the bold statement regarding the TGA? They recently published their draft list of ‘permitted indications’, or the ‘medical’ claim that manufacturers can make for their products. Included in this list is 140 TCM indications. For example: “Harmonise middle burner (Spleen and Stomach)”, “Unblock/open/relax meridians”, “Balance Yin and Yang”. When a regulator allows pseudoscientists a foot in the door, then the above is the only logical outcome and now the TGA accepts the notion that meridians, chi, Yin and Yang etc. is real. And here again, the NICM is assisting Chinese companies to help them get past the TGA bureaucracy in order for them to register and sell their products in Australia. Having a partner such as the NICM in Australia, obviously makes a lot of Chinese companies very happy. Shouldn’t the TGA also be blamed when people get hurt after using these pseudoscientific healthcare treatments?

In a nutshell. The bereaved parents of the deceased are in trouble, while the slapping therapist is in jail where he will hopefully stay for a long time. But what about Tasly’s which promoted and hosted this workshop as part of their integrative medicine approach, or the NICM who collaborated with this clinic and facilitated their ‘integrative’ approach and who promoted TCM for decades and probably have misled thousands of people over the years, or the regulators who have opened their doors for pseudoscientists and who are continuing to allow this to happen? (I’ve actually volunteered my services to the TGA, but they were not interested.) Not even to speak about the politicians who could actually do something about this, but apparently have little interest to go in against the zhi (will) of the industry.

I can only hope that the courts will also look at the other players in this scenario who are partly responsible for this boy’s death, because it is time that the underlying problems be addressed, otherwise more and more people, including children, will get hurt.

What can you do about all of this?

Unfortunately, if you fall for their trickery and you get hurt, then you will be all alone. The bureaucracy involved is extremely complex so the best thing to do is prevention. Stop buying complementary, alternative, traditional or integrative ‘medicines’ and stop  using their ‘treatments’. Inform yourself and your family and friends about how these people play their game and what the dangers are, regarding these ‘treatments’. ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ provides valuable healthcare information as well as the website of Prof Edzard Ernst, where he discusses everything complementary medicine (what works and what doesn’t). If you are interested in receiving automatic updates regarding the NICM and how they continue to promote these ‘medicines’ and ‘treatments’, you can always follow my Blog,  Twitter or connect on LinkedIn. Will keep you posted regarding the outcome of the 2017 Bent Spoon Awards, for which the NICM has again been nominated. Please, ‘Like’ and share this article via FaceBook etc. – options below.

Stopping your support of these products and services, by informing yourself and by creating awareness about these issues, are pretty much the only things you can do in order to prevent these needless deaths. It is just such a pity that the VC’s, regulators and politicians (all funded by the taxpayer!) don’t have much interest in this, or just can’t seem to get the job done because of vested interests.  I’ll end with the wise, but somewhat empty, words of Prof Barney Glover (VC of WSU) “universities must stand up for facts and the truth – if we don’t, who will!” – Clearly Prof. Glover will not stand up for the truth, hopefully, the public will!