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.
You ‘spineless bitch’! No, this is not what I am calling Dr Phelps, this was just one of the reactions from one of her fervent supporters on my article detailing her support of homeopathy. While homeopathy is quite easy to debunk (in short, it contains nothing), traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is somewhat more complicated because of its sheer size, history, the fact that most medications do indeed contain something and its politically loaded nature. However, TCM’s foundation is build on similar thoroughly debunked notions of manipulating a person’s life force with herbs, (endangered) animal material, needles and apparently via ‘treatments’ such as by slapping yourself. So, let us have a look at the role that Dr Phelps is playing in keeping these, and let’s be honest, quite dangerous ideas alive by using the highly effective smokescreen called ‘integrative medicine’.
The company you keep defines you
As a public figure Dr Phelps is obviously very careful about polishing and protecting her squeaky-clean image and is therefore careful with what she says or write. It is thus far better to look at the company she keeps. Dr Phelps is listed as an adjunct at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) hosted at Western Sydney University (WSU). On her campaign website she states that: ‘Dr Phelps is committed to teaching the next generation of doctors as Conjoint Professor at University of New South Wales Faculty of Medicine and in the NICM at WSU.’ She is also a member of the NICMs advisory board which states that “The NICM Board will provide advice to NICM in the advancement of its objectives and priorities….” This is important because their main objective, as advised by Dr Phelps and others, is to integrate ineffective and sometimes dangerous remedies with modern healthcare.
This movement is called ‘integrative medicine’ and Institutes such as the NICM is responsible for expanding this movement (inter)nationally via their catchphrase; “the science of integrative medicine’ (translated; ‘the science of BSing the public’). Dr Phelps also owns her very own ‘integrative medicine’ clinic where she employs a naturopath who also happens to be the vice-president of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society who in turn supports all sorts of quackery (including TCM and homeopathy). Please have a look at their website.
So how do they do it?
The quacks with money
It’s a tightrope act. On the one side you have people such as the esoteric, energy healing, anti-vaccination, homeopathy-loving Judy Jacka. Or people such as the TCM practitioner Dr Ven Tan who the NICM assisted in setting up an integrative medicine clinic (Dr Tan has connections to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who actively pursues the globalisation of TCM). Another example is the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM – also connected to the CCP) who is now in the process of starting their very own TCM hospital in Sydney in collaboration with the NICM. When you read about what Judy Jacka, Dr Ven Tan and other like-minded people believe and say about complementary, alternative, traditional and integrative medicine, then it is very clear that they believe all remedies and treatments work, because it is based on the manipulation of life forces and energy fields. They see themselves as visionaries with the ability and power to heal by manipulating these ‘forces’. Here you can read about Judy Jacka’s ideas on ‘medicine’ and her stance on vaccinations (scroll down). And here is list of quackery that she supports – this webpage was quickly taken down after I’ve written a letter (here is a shortened version) to the vice chancellor of WSU, Barney Glover, complaining about excepting funding from people such as Judy Jacka, because people, including children, will and unfortunately did die as a result.
Now the NICM wants money, and this is exactly what they get, with Judy Jacka donating $4 million (WSU made her a honorary fellow, with Dr Phelps listed as a spokesperson regarding this donation), Marcus Blackmore donating $10 million (received an honorary doctorate from WSU) and at a time there was talk of $20-30 million from China in order to start the BUCM’s TCM hospital in Sydney (this is kept under wraps but I have some indirect evidence). Many clinics also donate smaller amounts, which the NICM does not always declare in their ‘scientific publications’ – clear scientific misconduct. Here is one example where they again deleted the web-page containing the information once I published about it, but the WSU management simply squashed the whole matter.
In return, all of these, lets be honest, quacks want credibility for themselves as well as the ‘medicine’ and ‘treatments’ that they happen to sell. The NICM is happy to provide this ‘credibility’ in exchange for money.
Those that threaten their plans (a.k.a. ‘spineless bitches’)
On the other side of this tightrope act you have the public, politicians, regulators and some brave scientists, and of course, science itself. One abused concept that they exploit to try and keep these people happy is ‘safety’. They lobbied regulators/politicians with examples of people who got hurt or died as a direct result of TCM with the explicit recommendation that to ensure public safety, TCM has to be regulated. It worked really well, because back in 2000 Victoria was the first to regulate TCM and in 2012 this has gone national, and suddenly TCM became equivalent with other evidence based modern healthcare professions. Since 2012 everything went into overdrive with TCM being included in the Australia-China free trade agreement. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) now excepts TCM ‘terminology’ (blood is cold, lack of yin/yang etc) as valid indications and even the World Health Organisation (WHO) are planning to include TCM as an evidence-based healthcare system (the NICM has a thick finger in the pie with all of these events – please read here, here and here).
But the fact of the matter is that they do not give a hoot about safety. They simply abused the concept in order to achieve their objectives. There are two important aspects regarding safety. 1. direct safety e.g. a specific herb containing a poisonous substance and 2. indirect safety e.g. lack of efficacy with people getting hurt or die because of neglecting a serious medical condition. A tragic example to illustrate this is the 10 babies that died and 400 that were sickened by a homeopathic remedy that was incorrectly diluted and contained high enough levels of deadly nightshade. This is a direct safety issue. But let’s say that the homeopaths did dilute everything away, like they should have, and these babies were given this remedy containing nothing to treat a serious medical conditions, then they might have died of their medical condition because they received no treatment. This is then an indirect safety issue. The NICM only focus on the former to reach their objectives whilst completely ignoring the latter which is by far the biggest killer of the two.
This is also the reason why they want to ‘integrate’ TCM with conventional medicine, because they know it lacks efficacy and is therefore an indirect safety issue. They know just as well as anybody else that these life forces don’t exist, and hence manipulating it with herbs, needles, whatever, simply cannot and do not work on its own.
However, to create public trust they invented, or at least, they are exploiting the notorious A+B vs B clinical trial design in which they split patients into two groups with both groups receiving a treatment that works, for example IVF (B). Then they add something that they know doesn’t work eg herbs, acupuncture (A) to only one group which then becomes the ‘treatment’ group. In effect, they are cleverly measuring the placebo response, in order to convince the ‘spineless bithces’ that there is indeed efficacy (or a level of indirect safety), all the while knowing that there isn’t. And sometimes they still struggle to even measure a reasonable placebo response – here is one excellent example where the Australian tax payer dished out more than $600 000 to measure the placebo response of acupuncture.
Here is a video (in English and German) of a presentation given in Germany by the Director of the NICM, Alan Bensoussan, explaining how they played this extremely successful tightrope act in Australia. This methodology will now obviously be used by similar institutes in other Western countries.
The impact on the health of people (and rhinos)
To keep the money rolling in they do however need to show that they truly believe in the magic of TCM and hence have no problem to promote rhino horn as an effective medicine. On their website they even listed an internet site where you can buy rhino horn – again quickly removed after they were notified about it. In their world, rhino horn is excellent to: “Clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying.” And can thus be used for: “High fever, sun stroke, trauma, mania, convulsion, sore throat, epilepsy, febrile disease, infectious disease, macula, bad skin conditions, subcutaneous bleeding.” They have no problem with this, but it all depends on who they are talking to, and on what side of this divide those people are. To add insult to injury one of the NICM’s business partners was even caught and jailed for having many kilograms of endangered animal parts, including rhino horn, in his possession. And as far as I can tell, they are still working with this TCM practitioner. Result. Three rhinos a day are blasted to smithereens to supply these quacks with their ‘remedies’.
And then Dr Phelps have the audacity to tweet about her opposition to live animal exports “We must bring this cruel trade to an end.” Yes, sure, but what about the slaughter of endangered animals to feed the insatiable TCM industry and their unquenchable thirst for more money? It’s about votes! “Polling confirms live export is a hot issue for voters in critical #Wentworth by-election”
Some, if not all, TCM practitioners are so delusional that they truly believe that they can manipulate ‘life forces’ and because of this, they obviously do not need modern healthcare. It is two opposing systems and their income obviously depends on the public believing in TCM. It is therefore quite common that a TCM practitioner will ‘rubbish’ modern healthcare and convince patients to forego their modern medication and only use TCM. According to Dr Phelps, she cares about the health of refugee children on Nauru and yet have no problem misleading parents, via her funders, to believe that they can cure their young son’s diabetes type 1 with ‘slapping therapy’, which aims to restore the flow of Chi (life force) through meridians. Unfortunately, this boy died because the practitioner told the parents to stop their effective medication. Here is another recent example – same story.
The big problem with the NICM, advised by Dr Phelps, is how they have colluded with the CCP and how they are facilitating the CCPs plans to globalise all of TCM (you can read about this extensive investigation here, here and here). This includes how they have lobbied regulators (TGA), the WHO, who both now recommends that TCM, without specifying which ‘medicines’ or ‘treatments’, be integrated with modern healthcare – but what they don’t tell you is that they (via one of the NICMs adjuncts, Michael Smith) was one of the primary drafters of the WHO’s recommendations. So, for the first time in the history of the WHO, they will now endorse TCM!!
It’s about money, and they could not care less about your safety. Here is a couple of recent headlines explaining the situation.
–$170b Global Chinese medicine market behind University of Western Sydney deal with Beijing
– WHO endorses traditional Chinese medicine. Expect deaths to rise.
–State-sponsored quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos
Their safety net
Intentionally misleading people, including children, who then get hurt or die can obviously get them into serious trouble. This was illustrated by the extradition of the Slapping Therapist from the UK (where another person died) to Australia. He is now in and out of court and quite recently the clinic providing this ‘treatment’ and its director (Dr Ven Tan) have also been sued. But unfortunately, the people who are actually responsible for creating and exploiting this growing chaos in healthcare, the NICM and ‘Dr’ Phelps, are still getting away with it. It is because they have a safety net. Calling for the ‘integration’ of only ‘evidence-based’ TCM with modern healthcare is in effect their safety net while performing their tightrope act.
All they need to do is to generalise without naming specific remedies or treatments. Create a bit of public suspicion in modern healthcare, call it ‘western medicine’ and feed of anti-western sentiment, hammer on the popularity of complementary medicines, the public’s’ ‘freedom of choice’, the need to ensure safety, the ‘growing body of evidence’ etc. and they know that the public will fall for it, while they continue to make money from this industry – and they will continue to get away with. Even when they are fully aware that children unnecessarily die because of what they are doing. If anyone asks them about ‘slapping therapy’ they will very quickly claim that they have never supported this specific treatment. They might even call it cruel and inhumane but they know that they have helped this clinic with ‘integrating’ TCM. They are so clever, but morally and ethically bankrupt.
For them the ‘money is in the magic’, and their challenge is to continue with their tightrope act for as long as possible. Unfortunately, they also have the backing of the Vice Chancellor Barney Glover (who is fully aware of all of this) and even the Chancellor, Peter Shergold – and this makes them almost untouchable.
The total extent of the damage that is being done by ‘Dr’ Phelps is impossible to know, but if she wins this election and has influence on government level then the healthcare system is in for a very tough time. If she can mislead young children about the effectiveness of ancient remedies while she knows that it is ineffective, she’ll be able to mislead just about anyone regarding anything. We all know how politics work. ‘if you support our motion, then we will support yours’ And this will be exploited by the NICM once she sets foot in parliament. I can only hope that the ASIO will have a look at her connections, specifically her CCP connections via the NICM and how they are planning to exploit it. It is a strange world we live in when people such as Dr Phelps (and Prof Bensoussan) who should be behind bars actually have a very good chance of getting into parliament.
If you happen to know anyone in Wentworth please forward this info to them. They, at the very least, need to know who they are voting for.
This question will probably enrage many of Dr Phelps’s loyal supporters, but the tallest trees catch the most wind, and with Dr Phelps putting her hand up to run as independent in the all-important Wentworth by-election, a good look at who she is and what she stands for is warranted.
A progressive hero
For many she is a hero and role model for a modern progressive society, and someone who might actually steady the ship in these tumultuous of political times. She is currently married to Jackie Stricker-Phelps and is a well-known advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) rights. “Dr Phelps has been at the forefront of the struggle for LGBTQI inclusion and equality for two decades.”
She is also a well-known GP, was a former president of the Australian Medical Association and has chosen “Better Health” to feature on top of her list of campaign promises. According to her campaign website: “Dr Phelps is committed to teaching the next generation of doctors as Conjoint Professor at University of New South Wales Faculty of Medicine and in the National Institute of Complementary Medicine [NICM] at Western Sydney University.”
Recently I also noticed an interesting tweet from Dr Phelps which prompted me to write this article; “Voting for me as an Independent in #WentworthByElection will help to ensure the religious Right don’t get their way on increasing religious-based discrimination. I stand for social justice, inclusion and community harmony.” Here is another article where she expresses her views on “religious extremists”.
So here we have three aspects; LGBTQI+ rights, health and religion. Although not exhaustive, these aspects are defining of who and what Dr Phelps is. Below are my thoughts in an attempt to get my head around it.
Historical order in society
If you are a human being then you will probably live with or near other human beings in what is commonly known as a ‘society’. As such, it qualifies you to participate in safeguarding society to ensure its long-term survival. The most important aspect for survival is maintaining law and order – people need order. History is littered with examples of what happens when law and order break down and it is easy to imagine what would happen when an isolated society decide to give its citizens a lawless week; no laws, no police, nothing – that society will not survive very long. That this societal necessity clashes with individual wishes and needs, and that some may find it (excessively) restrictive is a given, but based on having some sort of societal order we’ve survived the roller-coaster trip up till now.
Western society is historically based on the Christian order system, or let’s call it God-given order, which, as we all know, has been exploited and abused over the centuries to enrich a few and to abuse and enslave many. This in part resulted in the enlightenment and also effected the steady splintering of Christianity into various sub-groups, each with their own and sometimes quite divergent doctrines. Without unity, confusion reigns leading to chaos within the ranks which resulted in this splintering effect going into overdrive over the past century, bringing us to today, where we see thousands of different Christian denominations.
Even though Christianity has been shattered into a thousand pieces, the Christian spiritually lingers on in a watered-down generalised form in a significant part of Western societies (a well-known Christian saying is; ‘God’s law is written on our hearts’, and this in various shapes and sizes lingers on). Be as it may, the historical Christian order focus on society above the individual and the laws are literally set in stone – it cannot change (but it can be abused). Most laws in Western countries are still based on the Christian order system although this is changing fast. This situation is of course ripe to be exploited by domestic, or even foreign, role players to use to their advantage.
Transitioning to a new order…..
Many people have exploited these historical (and current) transgressions of the traditional system to advocate for a god-less order (or people-given order), based on the humanist individual ‘rights’ as opposed to the traditional individually ‘oppressive’ system. Dr Phelps, as far as I can tell, can probably be called a general in this movement and is indeed one of the more outspoken members who is opposing the influence of the last remnants of the Christian order system in Australia. Her personal life speaks for itself, being an open-minded progressive lesbian, who questions anything that reeks like Christianity or the protection of religious freedom. She not only proposes alternatives but also lives it, hence the promotion of all the various alternatives to the traditional (Christian) family structure and subsequent critique on ‘religious freedom’.
During this power struggle for supremacy (support via votes) the strategy of using emotional pleas for equality and love and the promise of individual freedom and future wealth usually wins out over the long-term survival of society argument. The focus is on the individual and its laws are ever-changing depending on who managed to garner the most support for a given idea. This is of course also a direct result of our aggressive capitalistic ideology, with people making more money when the focus is on the individual rather on what is best for the long-term survival of society.
There is unfortunately no room for two dominant order systems in any given society and while these two opposing systems battle it out, it is causing a lot of friction. A good example of this friction is the drama unfolding around the US supreme court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. The new order obviously loves to jump on any misstep (even though it is not proven yet) from the Knights of Morality in order to lure more people into their camp. This is known as the “culture wars” with the one side who wants to stick to a generalised Christian-based order (conservatives) and the other side who wants anything but. This should however not be treated lightly, because in the US this ‘war of opposing systems’ can quite easily spill over in civil unrest or even a physical war. But as long as there is enough ‘food and water’ it will probably remain a non-physical conflict. Be as it may, whenever humans are involved there will always be exploitation and corruption, so all is obviously not perfect with this new ‘who says’ order system.
….and some of its problems
The new order is becoming increasing chaotic as can be seen in the long list of alternative sexualities, or states of being, with the latest sexuality that I’ve come across called, eco-sexuality or sexecology, which uses “ideas from different regions such as India and their idea of seven chakras to get closer to the earth”. Because ‘who says’ that a male and female belongs together? Well, the old system says, but then again, go to 10 different denominations and you’ll get 10 different answers. So why can’t a female and, uhm, the Eiffel tower belong together? With the new system it is impossible to draw a line, because it is all based on; ‘freedom of choice’ do what you want as long as you don’t infringe on the rights of another individual – not sure how the Eiffel tower feels about this.
The current deteriorating situation can only be described as sexual lawlessness, and I am sometimes amazed at the things people can up come with. It is as if there is such an aversion against the old system that anything goes, people will even shoot themselves and/or society in the foot just to show that they are on the right side of the battle line and not bound by those shackles of the old Christian system (the massive sex industry, in all its forms, feeds off this aversion and on the ‘freedom of choice’ mantra, but when you’re caught in that world, it is a very dark place where many atrocities occur – all the while some individuals enrich themselves). These aspects are also clearly visible when it comes to the other ‘big’ ethical questions of our time e.g. abortion, euthanasia (which based on our increasing individualism and capitalism will be terribly abused – the ABC’s Four Corners program ‘Who Cares?’ is worth a watch in this regard).
With the ever-changing laws anyone can now come up with just about anything, and if you question any of it, you will be sued for discrimination or defamation. Lawyers are making a killing with this new blasphemy laws, called hate speech. Dr Phelps is known to eagerly use their services to get what she wants. A former minister for health said that she had no specialist training (which is true) but faced the threat of legal action because being a ‘specialist’ is the public image she wants to portray. Combined with her promotion of sexual ‘freedom’ in all its forms and peoples’ immense fear to question this, makes her pretty much untouchable, and in my view, quite dangerous. To be honest, it is becoming difficult to converse with, look in the direction of, or even speak freely in Australia because you might just infringe on somebody’s newly discovered rights, which will be eagerly pointed out by those individuals abusing the system and who makes money from it (choose your words very carefully, actually, nowadays it is best to just accept everything, shut up and smile).
Without keeping those people exploiting the system in check, chaos will follow and the notion that this is progressive is questionable. In my view it is currently regressive and a return to the chaotic dark ages, even though it is being sold to the public as moving towards an egalitarian utopia. Unfortunately, this chaos will inevitably and steadily spread into other areas of society. In this article I will only discuss healthcare and how Dr Phelps, who champions ‘progressiveness’ and ‘freedom of choice’, is exploiting the system and how she and her collaborators have opened the door to foreign influence on Australian soil.
Chaos in healthcare
One striking example of how the new individualistic system is being exploited is the growing anti-vaccination movement. “We don’t care about society, it is our right under our ‘freedom of choice’ not to vaccinate!” Individual rights trumps survival of society. It just shows how easily the system can be manipulated and how easy it is the indoctrinate people. I am not sure what Dr Phelps’ stance is on vaccination because it depends a little bit on who she is talking to. When directly and publicly questioned, she clearly supports vaccination. And yet, she associates herself with known anti-vaxxers such as Judy Jacka, who donated millions to promote their cause (integration of disproven remedies with conventional healthcare) at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM). She is listed as a contact person regarding this donation which tells me that Dr Phelps not only accepts the donation but also everything Judy Jacka, who is an energy healer, stands for. And this is typical. When in public she will say what most people want to hear, but when in the company of ‘like-minded’ in those smoke filled back rooms it is the exact opposite.
Although Christianity as an institution will probably disappear in Australia within the next few decades, people’s spirituality will remain (and maybe a few Christians), all the while absorbing aspects from different spiritual ‘ideas’ which just happens to be around at the time. But these ‘new’ ideas can obviously be placed there. The fact that chakras, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) etc. are all products of an ancient world, deeply rooted in rituals, mysticism and spirituality makes it perfect to gradually replace Christianity, or what is left of it, in order to fill the growing spiritual void. And this is where people such as Dr Phelps is making a killing – quite literally.
Dr Phelps has a number of so-called ‘Integrative medicine’ clinics (on her campaign website called ‘multidisciplinary clinics’) where many unproven and disproven remedies are being sold to the public by providing misleading (sometimes false) information. She then feeds on the public’s indoctrinated right of ‘freedom of choice’ to increasingly buy into this ‘integrative medicine’ movement. The increasing sales figures are then used as evidence that her ‘medicine’ works – the well-known appeal to popularity argument. Any valid scientific critique is then refuted by using this argument. She is now also assisting others to start similar clinics all across Sydney.
This ‘regressive’ form of healthcare is nothing more than a smokescreen for quackery, because many of these remedies are based on magical principles and ancient ‘wisdom’ and has scientifically been shown to be ineffective. But for these people it is ‘whatever sells’. For example: Dr Phelps was president of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association which at a time listed TCM, Homeopathy, acupuncture, etc. as part of integrative medicine. Her clinics currently uses naturopathy (which usually includes homeopathy), herbal medicine etc.
But I do want to focus on her association with the NICM at Western Sydney University (WSU) where she teaches the next generation of ‘open minded’ doctors. The NICM is so open-minded and progressive that they promote rhino horn as effective TCM medicine. In their world of magic, rhino horn is excellent to: “Clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying.” And can thus be used for: “High fever, sun stroke, trauma, mania, convulsion, sore throat, epilepsy, febrile disease, infectious disease, macula, bad skin conditions, subcutaneous bleeding.”
One of their business partners was even caught and jailed for having many kilograms of endangered animal parts, including rhino horn, in his possession – and they still work with him. And then she tweets about her opposition to live animal exports “We must bring this cruel trade to an end.” Yes, sure but what about the slaughter of endangered animals to feed the insatiable TCM industry and their unquenchable thirst for more money? It’s about votes! “Polling confirms live export is a hot issue for voters in critical #Wentworth by-election” (this is why I am really sceptical about her supportive stance on vaccinations).
Remedies that have been debunked over and over and which cause harm and death, such as homeopathy are being defended, promoted and sold to the public.
To exploit this new spiritual awakening and interest in mysticism on a global scale they have actively infiltrated the regulators and even the World Health Organisation (WHO) who now recommends that these magical remedies be integrated with conventional healthcare in all its member states. For the first time in the history of the WHO they will now endorse TCM!! This is a travesty of epic proportions with many concerned scientists fearing that many people will die and many endangered species will be wiped out. Their modus operandi was, and still is, very similar to how the mafiaoperates.
The big problem with the NICM and Dr Kerryn Phelps is how they have colluded with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and how they are currently facilitating the CCP’s plans to exert its (soft) power globally (you can read about this investigation here, here and here). This, in part, is also why they influenced the WHO to endorse TCM – because they are toeing the party line of the CCP. Quite recently a new TCM hospital operated by Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (controlled by the CCP) have opened its doors in Westmead, Sydney. From here they will plan and execute further incursions into the Australian healthcare system. Below is a number of headlines regarding the WHO decision to endorse TCM;
$170b Global Chinese medicine market behind University of Western Sydney deal with Beijing
WHO endorses traditional Chinese medicine. Expect deaths to rise.
State-sponsored quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos
Dr Phelps and partners will talk the scientific talk when in public or amongst scientists, but behind closed doors they are just different animals altogether. For them the ‘money is in the magic’, and their challenge is how to more effectively exploit the system making use of society’s increasing individualism, and to be honest, increasing ignorance or benightedness. A relatively old article says it all; “Open-minded consumers driving a $2.3bn industry” This industry is currently worth around $5bn/annum.
Don’t we live in interesting times, with a culture war being waged while being fuelled and exploited from both sides to further the vested interests of a few individuals with the resulting harm caused to society. In the movies, the hero usually give their lives to protect society and the villain ends up behind bars. In reality hero’s don’t exist or is very few and far in between. But when you intentionally mislead society, like ‘Dr’ Phelps is doing on a grand scale, then I don’t care on which side of the culture war she’s on, she is no hero she is villain. She and her associates (especially ‘Prof’ Alan Bensoussan) have vested interests which causes her and her partners to make a lot of money by misleading the public causing a lot of harm and even death. And then to think that she states “Dr Phelps is committed to teaching the next generation of doctors…”
It is this ‘who says’ mentality that questions why you should treat diabetes type 1 with insulin and not with some ancient spirituality-based remedy – be open minded, be progressive. These parents became so delusional and confused by the ‘who says’ mentality that they believed that they can cure their young son’s diabetes type 1 with ‘slapping therapy’, which aims to restore the flow of Chi (life force) through meridians. Unfortunately, the boy died. But luckily the ‘therapist’, the clinic providing this treatment and its director have now been taken to court, but unfortunately, the people who are responsible for creating and exploiting this chaos, the NICM and ‘Dr’ Phelps, are still getting away with it (they are intricately involved with this clinic). Hopefully their day in court will come, but for what it is worth, both ‘Dr’ Phelps and the NICM won the Bent Spoon (BS) award for quackery in 2008 and 2017, respectively.
The total extent of the damage that is being done by ‘Dr’ Phelps is impossible to know, but if she wins this election and has influence on government level then the healthcare system is in for a very tough time. If she can mislead young children about the effectiveness of ancient remedies while she knows that it is ineffective, she’ll be able to mislead just about anyone regarding anything. The exploitation of the new order of which she is a champion is a threat to the long-term survival of society on more than one level. Don’t be fooled by her thin veneer of respectability and caring attitude. Al Capone opened soup kitchens during the great depression where he provided food, drink and clothes to the poor, free of charge. But does this make him a good man? No, it was a smokescreen.
It is 2018 and we should be able to come up with better ways to protect society. Keep these dangerous individuals in check. To use her words “I call BS”.
(a shortened, more in-depth version focusing only on healthcare will follow)
And we thought that the ‘Hogwarts School of Magic’ only existed on the big screen. But, this type of school is actually real. There are quite a number of them currently operating in Australia, where bright-eyed, impressionable teenagers are taught how to manipulate energy fields in order to banish ‘evil spirits’ (or disease), and how to elevate out of their despondent earthly existence into an enchanted state of eternal health and happiness – like flying for the first time on a broomstick (or smoking a joint). It will therefore come as no surprise, that the game of Quidditch, from the Harry Potter movies, is indeed being played at some of these modern schools of magic. The Tri-wizard cup was even won by Western Sydney University in 2013. A real-life fantasy world.
(Quiddich players ‘flying’ in attack formation on their Nimbus 2000 broomsticks)
But there is a problem!
To run around on a field with a broomstick between your legs is, I guess, okay, and not strange at all. It is good exercise, but you are not suddenly going to take off (at least not without a joint), because ‘strangely’ enough this only happens in the movies (or if you are completely stoned). So, for the rest of it, none of it is real – it is all a hoax. And this is now problematic, because all parents would agree that we want the best education for our children. But this is also where we tend to stop our involvement and we do not always ask the important question of; what is actually being taught at these schools? There are many reasons for this, one of them being that we tend to trust that government will protect us from fraudsters. So, when these schools are government funded and regulated, and especially, when they provide them with a stamp of approval via various accreditation schemes, this is usually enough to put our minds at ease – we trust the system!
Unfortunately, some of these schools provide government accredited courses in magic. For example; children are being taught to manipulate ‘energy’, yes, without a wand (although I am not always so sure), but with the use of needles, crystals and various herbs such as the screaming mandrake (oh no wait, that was in the movie).
Specific examples of these courses include; Bachelor in Chinese medicine, chiropractic and osteopathy at RMIT University, Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy – includes homeopathy) at Endeavour College, Bachelor of traditional Chinese medicine at Western Sydney University and Bachelor of Health Science in traditional Chinese medicine at the University of Technology Sydney. The Southern School of Natural Therapies explains that their accredited course in Chinese Medicine; “is an ancient, holistic form of medicine that connects the mind, body, spirit. Chinese medicine believes that the body is made up of Qi – energy which permeates the whole body and flows through our meridians. Chinese medicine aims to stimulate the meridians, producing effects on different organs and systems within the body to restore balance and harmony” – this is pure magic!
This is what our kids are being taught at these schools, and unfortunately, this is pure fantasy because this ‘energy’, which is at the foundation of all of these pseudoscientific healthcare systems, simply do not exist. But, this ‘energy’ do indeed attract large numbers of students, because all of us are fascinated by magic. Regrettably, those students who actually believe in the magic show, tends to pay a significant amount of money to learn ‘magic’, and once they realise that it’s an elaborate government supported hoax, many simply tend to continue practicing magic. Because, by now, they have incurred a lot of debt, they have lost a lot of time, and they don’t want to be branded a drop-out or loser (sure, there will also be true believers amongst them). Hence, the problem of modern day ‘medical magicians’ will continue to be with us and might even surge, if the government continue to legitimise it via their various accreditation schemes.
And this brings me to accreditation, which is arguably a big part of the problem. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) recently invited submissions for their “Independent Review of Accreditation Systems within the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professions”. The ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ (FSM) organisation did submit a detailed report highlighting their many concerns when accreditation is given to these schools of magic. This report was unfortunately deemed ‘out of scope’ by the COAG Health Council which implies that they are quite happy to continue to mislead students and their parents (and this can destroy families), as well as the patients who are on the receiving end of these completely ineffective magical treatments. Many patients do indeed get hurt and some even die, as was tragically illustrated by a practitioner whose magical ‘Slapping Therapy’ did not cure a 6yo boy from his type-1 diabetes.
Below you will find the Executive Summary of FSMs submission (with permission), and here you can find the full submission. But the question remains; why do the government continue to bestow undue credibility and continue to legitimise ‘medical magic’ by providing accreditation to these courses in Australia?
Accreditation is antecedent to, and inextricably bound together with, practitioner registration. This submission raises concerns about registered alternative medicine (AltMed) practitioners, accusing the present accreditation system of failing to protect the public through its legitimising poor quality, belief-based, rather than evidence-based, education and on-going training of chiropractors, osteopaths and Chinese medicine/acupuncturists.
FSM is aware that some higher education institutes and continuing professional development courses give credibility to pseudoscience. Examples of pseudoscience include chiropractic (subluxation theory, Kinesiology, Retained Neonatal Reflex and Webster Technique, osteopathy (Osteopathy of the Cranial Field and Visceral Manipulation) and Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and the teaching of “Qi”, energy blockages that cause disease, as a fact).
FSM also remains concerned with the accreditation process supervised by AHPRA and its Boards.
FSM alleges that:
A. the training of registered AltMed practitioners:
is of low quality;
is based on pseudo-scientific concepts that reject germ theory as the cause of disease;
teach invalid diagnostic technique;
includes potentially dangerous interventions, continued in the ongoing training of practitioners;
wastes considerable public funding allocated to universities which teach these unscientific courses; and
compromises our universities’ reputation within Australia and internationally.
B. thousands of false and misleading claims on AltMed websites breach the National Law. This report demonstrates that registered AltMed practitioners:
are poorly trained;
are not competent to treat patients;
delay correct diagnosis and evidence-based therapies thereby allowing progression of disorders;
may cause harm;
waste millions of health dollars;
undermine the efforts of evidence-based practitioners in their communities;
do not, in respect of exaggerated claims and advertising, behave in an ethical manner;
create considerable confusion for patients with chronic ailments; and
focus their ongoing training on building their practices rather than on the needs of patients.
This report also raises concerns about pseudoscience-based courses, that may attract VET-help fees, such as reflexology, homeopathy, aromatherapy and reiki, that are advertised on Government websites.
C. Government websites are providing undeserved credibility for discredited AltMed.
Underserved credibility is given to discredited AltMed courses including Reflexology, Aromatherapy, Homeopathy, Naturopathy and Reiki that may attract VET-help fees and are advertised on Government training websites.
Using acupuncture as an example, along with valid research findings, informed opinions and advice from medical experts, this report investigates the teachings in one high-profile accredited course and the impact and costs of this intervention on health care. While this report focuses on acupuncture, the same concerns can be extrapolated to other domains of pseudo-science, which is in both accredited university and continuing professional development courses. It also recommends that the scope of practice of AltMed practitioners should be limited to what they can advertise, to further protect patients from invalid diagnosis and belief-based interventions.
While ALL unregistered AltMed practitioners are NOT practicing any form of evidence-based medicine, (reflexology, iridology etc), there are thousands of registered practitioners, bound by the National Law to practice care that is evidence-based, who are practicing pseudoscience. The scope of the recent NHMRC review of natural therapies EXCLUDED interventions offered by registered practitioners on the basis that consumer protection was available through the AHPRA scheme.
This report highlights the millions of health dollars wasted by the Government funding of AltMed teachings and practices. Nearly $220 million was spent on acupuncture, chiropractic and osteopathy through Medicare from July 2011 to June 2016.
AltMed practitioners, who reject evidence-based medicine and over-service patient with placebo interventions are not the ‘right people’ to address patient needs, now and in the future.”
Nooo waaay!! If Gwyneth Paltrow can promote that, then surely, I can promote some of my very own quackery! Don’t call me a snake oil salesman, look at Gwyneth, she is selling ‘psychic vampire repellent’ and ‘jade eggs’ – my quackery is not nearly as crackpot as that, and, she gets away with it!
And off they go, endorsing and promoting everything from water as effective medicine, to jade eggs to be; “used by women…. [to be inserted, you know where] ….to help connect the second chakra (the heart) and yoni for optimal self-love and well-being.” And, yes, psychic vampire repellent to ‘banish bad vibes and shield you from the people who may be causing them.’ Celebrity endorsements, using social status to (un)intentionally mislead the public, and in some cases, enrich themselves even further!
Pure quackery, but whatever these Demi-gods endorse, usually result in a large number of worshippers to blindly follow. Their faith is so blind, that they will even give their own children water as medicine. Unfortunately, but also predictably, some children die as a result, but apparently, this is a small price to pay in order to appease these Demi-gods. But luckily, there are a number of brave warriors (or scientists) who are standing up for science, understands social responsibility, and openly question the validity and motives of these apostles of quackery. And you need to be brave, because this can backfire depending on the unique powers and influence of the Demi-god in question. As was illustrated by Prof Edzard Ernst, after he publicly, but fairly, called a Demi-god a snake oil salesman.
As for Gwyneth Paltrow, she is merrily continuing to promote the most bizarre healthcare rubbish via her company Goop. Her beauty, apparently, has a hypnotic effect on her followers because they just continue to buy whatever she conjures up. At least, she won this year’s inaugural Rusty Razor award for “the ‘best’ promoter of the ‘worst pseudoscience of the year.” Well done, Gwyneth, although this will probably only strengthen the resolve of her followers.
In the picture above there is also a banner that seemingly does not fit the ‘bigger’ picture; “Excellence in Research for Australia” (ERA). The reason for this is because celebrity endorsement of quackery tends to attract the attention of a very ‘special’ kind of person – the promotional ‘scientist’. It is, in fact, a vicious circle. Quackery generates a lot of money, which partly flows into the coffers of ‘willing’ universities who provides further ‘scientific’ endorsement of quackery (much appreciated by the celebrities), and this, in turn, leads to an increase in sales – and round we go. These promotional scientists actively seek endorsements from celebrities or royalty such as Prince Charles, and they pursue any opportunity to make this reality – an excellent way of spending public money! Endorsements gives them, and the quackery that they peddle, (undue) credibility and legitimacy, but at least it leads to increased sales – and that is what it is all about.
And this brings me to the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Australia, who actively sought the endorsement of the Prince of Wales to become their patron. Here is an excerpt of the NICMs attempts, written by Prof Alan Bensoussan;
“I understand that HRH The Prince of Wales is a keen advocate of integrated healthcare and of proven complementary treatments and therapies. His goals align substantially with those of NICM, which seeks to build an evidence-based complementary medicines sector in Australia and more broadly. Subject to the approval of HRH The Prince of Wales, I envisage that the role of patron would be to officially endorse NICM, for example, by the inclusion of letters written by HRH The Prince of Wales on the NICM website and in seminal publications.”
The words ‘proven’ and ‘evidence-based’ is somewhat out of place, because both the NICM and Prince Charles continue to promote debunked homeopathy (water as medicine against malaria etc.) and a lot of other crackpot treatments, so, these words are meaningless coming from the NICM.
But there is another type of endorsement that they actively pursue. And that is being endorsed by a respected organisation, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), or in this case, the Australian Research Council (ARC), which manages the ERA scheme (the NICM does have a man on the inside at the WHO, but more about this at a later stage). Under the ERA scheme, universities submit their research outputs and based on this data they receive a ranking out of 5 for a specific field of research. In the NICMs case, they were ranked in the “Complementary and Alternative medicine” field of research in both the 2012 and 2015 rounds, and they are currently submitting data for the 2018 round. This is what the NICM told Prince Charles;
“We are the only Australian complementary medicine research centre to receive a ranking of 5 in the Commonwealth Excellence in Research for Australia exercise – signalling research well above world standard.”
So, clearly the NICM has been endorsed by the ARC under their ERA scheme, and indeed they did receive the highest ranking of 5, in both the 2012 and 2015 rounds, which they now use to lobby for further recognition and endorsement from celebrities or royalty. They even managed to legitimise traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in Australia using this ARC endorsement, and they are currently building a TCM hospital in the heart of Sydney. This is dangerous, because many people will get hurt, or might even die, because of ineffective fake healthcare systems such as TCM. Here is one example, where the NICM was indirectly involved in the death of a 6yo boy.
But there is a problem with the ERA endorsement. Having first-hand knowledge of the promotional research that the NICM conducts, there is no way in this world that they can or should receive a ranking of 5, so, clearly there is a discrepancy somewhere. For example; below is an abstract of one of their ‘scientific’ articles that was reviewed by the ARC, and you’ll be excused if you think that it was written by Gwyneth Paltrow;
This case report describes a 25-year-old woman who presented with nausea and vomiting (NVP) in her seventh week of pregnancy. The treatment was not successful overall and resulted in both patient and practitioner losing confidence. The following reflective questions challenged my practice and led to an examination of what makes acupuncture work. – Why, after a course of acupuncture, did the nausea and vomiting continue? – What led to a loss of confidence in the effectiveness of acupuncture to treat this ailment? Multiple traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) research reviews show some benefit for nausea and dry retching using acupressure and acupuncture, and limited results for vomiting. Despite this, I found that my confidence was undermined by being out of touch with my own inner knowing or Yi. I needed to encourage the patient (‘Laura’) to take more responsibility for her own health and we both needed clarity around the treatment result expected.
This is not something that you’ll expect from a university in Australia – especially not if they are ranked ‘well above world standard’. The fact that case reports (there is more than one) are ineligible to be submitted as a scientific article is an issue (ERA guidelines section 188.8.131.52 page 41), but I believe the contents of their work is a far bigger problem – it is pure and unadulterated pseudoscience! But this isn’t even the biggest problem. The NICM submitted 89 scientific articles for review in the 2012 round, and 151 articles in the 2015 round. Of the 89 articles, close to 50% was not produced by the NICM and in the 2015 round, close to 25% of articles was produced by otheruniversities. This is not only completely unethical, this, in my view, is fraud. You cannot take the work of others and claim it as your own – just imagine what will happen if you do something like this on your CV! (here is a full list of the NICMs articles – interesting stuff).
But what does the ERA guidelines say about this? Well, to be honest, nothing. I could not find any information in the guidelines, clearly stating that they were allowed to do this. The ARC, and the expert committee members who reviewed the NICMs application, was contacted for clarification, but unfortunately only the ARC responded, and none of the 25 committee members. The answer from the ARC was also somewhat vague;
“Therefore if you review the individual outputs of a specific unit of evaluation within a university they may not all have a publication association listed but could still be within the submission guidelines.”
So, there appears to be an unwritten rule which ‘allowed’ the NICM to submit the work of others as their own – a typical loophole? And what better way to identify these loopholes than to serve on the expert committee reviewing these applications? As expected, the director of the NICM, Alan Bensoussan did indeed serve on the expert committee in 2010, where he, as an expert promotional scientist, identified the loopholes which they exploited in full, during the 2012/2015 rounds. But, this is only true if this is indeed a loophole, otherwise, it is plain and simple fraud! But, to be honest, I could not care less what the ERA guidelines say, it is never okay to take another person’s work! Because what example do you give students, and what about the international universities who have now unwittingly contributed to the legitimisation of dangerous pseudoscientific healthcare systems in Australia?
For example. Leiden University has ‘contributed’ 7 scientific articles towards WSU’s scientific output – obviously without them knowing about it. The authors of these articles worked at Leiden university while being paid by the Dutch taxpayer! And at the time, they were completely unaware even of the existence of the NICM or WSU. But, unfortunately, without them knowing about it, they have now assisted these ‘scientists’ at WSU to promote quackery. I am convinced that Leiden University, and the many other universities who are involved, will not appreciate this.
Although this issue is still unfolding, and there are still a lot of questions to be answered, it just again shows that almost everything that pseudoscientists do, is misleading or false. They will even mislead celebrities or royalty from whom they seek their highly valuable endorsements. And this does not bode well, because the NICM who has extensively used their ERA ranking to lobby the Australian and Chinese governments, has managed to strike a deal with China and, in effect, has legitimised TCM in Australia.
So, if you suspect that this practice is widespread at Australian universities, you can always request the information from the ARC under a Freedom of Information Act (section 6.4, page 69). And if you are an academic considering taking up a job at an Australian university, be careful, because they might just stick you in a dark hole and use your extensive publication record as part of their own scientific outputs – this might be the only reason why the hired you! But let’s hope that this fraud is limited to the NICM, and not a widespread phenomenon.
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!
“We understand conflict of interest concerns, but this is why we have strict guidelines and ethics committees …..” – Prof Alan Bensoussan, director of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Western Sydney University (WSU). All academics, including Alan, are fully aware of the importance of research integrity, in which, potential or perceived conflicts of interests play an integral part. As such, WSU does indeed have many rules and regulations to safeguard research integrity in order to ensure that one thing remains intact – summed up in one word: trust.
These guidelines should ensure that the trust between taxpayer and scientist (or the scientific system) remains undamaged, because once it is broken or damaged it can have very serious consequences. We can notice all around us that the trust in the scientific system has been eroded over time. Just look at the number of people who do not ‘believe’ in vaccinations or climate change, then clearly, many people have grown a very healthy distrust in scientists and in the scientific system. It is therefore extremely important that universities act swiftly and decisively when a scientist endangers this trust, because the public does not necessarily look at the specific field of science where a transgression has occurred, they tend to distrust the whole academic system – and remember they keep the system afloat, financially.
So, what is this all about? About a year ago I noticed that in a large number of published peer-reviewed acupuncture papers, authored by the NICM, they failed to declare a conflict of interest. This was quite interesting because they clearly had, and probably still have, a glaring conflict of interest. For example; both Alan Bensoussan and Caroline Smith is (was) listed as consultants, for many years, of commercial acupuncture clinics (they deleted this information as soon as they became aware that I am investigating this issue – you can find an archived page here), the director of these clinics is part of the advisory board of the NICM, students of the NICM find employment at these clinics, the NICM is actively doing research where a positive outcome will clearly benefit these clinics, and the clinics have donated $20 000 to the NICM for the “IVF project” – clearly something that needed to be declared. You can find more details about this very obvious conflict of interest here and here. But what is this IVF project? An independent journalist called it “Universities in a wacky waste of cash” whilst the NICM called it “Acupuncture to Improve Live Birth Rates for Women Undergoing IVF”, approved by a WSU ethics committee and funded to the tune of $600 000.
This is what an IVF expert had to say about this project: “IVF expert Professor Colin Matthews was outraged the National Health and Medical Research Council had allocated more than $600,000 for a study into acupuncture’s effect on IVF.” The WSU ethics committee that approved this study is fully aware that acupuncture has been shown to be nothing more than a placebo and that it is based on fake scientific principles – hence it is called a pseudoscience. This is now a problem because not only have they abandoned science but they also, seemingly, abandoned their ‘strict guidelines’ to ensure scientific integrity.
But let’s argue that the ethics committee simply did not know about this. Surely, when they are notified about this they will certainly take action to ensure that the trust between the public and academics do not further erode? So, I notified the WSU ethics committee, the advisors to the ethics committee and a number of other people at WSU regarding this issue over a number of months. And now I can reveal their response, and I will quote them; “………………………………..”. Nothing, they did not even acknowledge that they have received this information. After six months, it might be safe to assume that WSU do not plan to do anything about this issue. But then again, I am not at all surprised, as science adheres to the laws of nature (chemistry, physics, biology, etc.), pseudosciences are above those laws. Scientists are held accountable by enforcing these strict guidelines to ensure scientific integrity, sadly, these guidelines do not seem to apply to a pseudoscientist – they are just above it!
Let me try to put all of this into perspective. Most people do not consider infertility to be a life threatening medical condition. It does, however, have a severe impact on a person’s life, causing broken relationships, severe depression and in extreme cases, even suicide. The more treatment methods a person tries in order to conceive without a positive outcome, the more prone a person is to fall into severe depression (maybe it should be considered as a life threatening condition?). And this is where a pseudoscientist strike, they feed off desperation. If a researcher knows that the method that they recommend is only a placebo, then the project is unethical by default, and it should never have been approved. And oh boy, don’t they know this. There is a reason why they want to ‘integrate’ acupuncture with IVF (which has a success rate of around 45% at 35 years of age or younger, and around 5% when 42 or older), because they know acupuncture is nothing more than a theatrical placebo, and therefore they need to piggy back on something that actually works. If acupuncture worked that well, why don’t they use it as a standalone treatment option? Why did they start these commercial clinics in 2008 and only in 2013 are they doing a ‘scientific’ study to test if it is actually effective or not – wrong way round, maybe? And if the study turns out to be negative, will they close their clinics? For some reason, I don’t think so!
Having said that, I do not expect to receive any response from WSU. In a previous article I have written about the dishonest type of people that you need at the NICM, this article illustrates that the WSU management themselves are not much better – they are just as dishonest. Hence, the Vice Chancellor, Prof Barney Glover, who is aware of this and many other issues at the NICM, was also nominated for the Bent Spoon award in 2016. Oh, and did they try to squash this nomination, but to no avail – you can read about their hilarious attempts here. But, maybe it is a good idea if a couple of readers can email the ethics committee at WSU, just to ask what is going on with this issue. This might even prompt them to respond (email Steve Hannan at email@example.com).
This brings me to their scientific publications. Journals are usually independent of universities, and as such, they might be able to perform the important job of being the ‘gatekeepers’ of scientific integrity. I have contacted the editors of four scientific journals regarding only five of the NICMs scientific publications, where they intentionally did not declare their obvious conflicts of interest. Here I will discuss the response that I got from one editor (I’ll report separately on the response from the other editors, and the other organisations investigating this issue).
Here is my original message to the editor of the ‘European Journal of Integrative Medicine’:
“Dear Prof. Robinson
I am contacting you in regard to a recently published article in a special issue in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine of which you are the Editor, “Participation in a randomised controlled trial of acupuncture as an adjunct to in vitro fertilisation: the views of study patients and acupuncturists. Kylie Barr, Caroline A. Smith, Sheryl L. de Lacey. 8 (2016) 48–54”
The authors state under Conflicts of Interest that “There are no known conflicts of interest and no competing financial relationships exist”
Senior author Caroline A. Smith is a Consultant for a chain of acupuncture fertility clinics in Australia who in turn has donated a substantial amount of money to her research group. The information regarding her consultant capacity for these acupuncture clinics has since been removed from their website but can still be found on the internet archive which you can access here. The reason for this removal appears to be based on an article that I’ve written regarding this matter.
This is not an isolated case, with four articles published in 2016 on acupuncture and fertility related issues where their conflict of interest is intentionally omitted. The editors of the other journals have also been contacted.
I hereby request that this matter be investigated.
Thank you in advance.”
And here is her response dated 17/01/2017:
“Dear Dr Van der Kooy
I have contacted my Elsevier publisher and she is investigating as you requested and will get back to you in due course.
Prof Nicola Robinson”
This was unfortunately also the only response that I received from this editor and needless to say, nobody from Elsevier contacted me. As this is now more than 6 months ago, with all my subsequent follow-up emails being ignored, I believe it is safe to assume that this editor never intended to do anything about this issue. So, I had a look at this editor and it turns out that Prof Robinson happens to be an acupuncturist and that she has co-published with the research group in question – and the title of the research paper? “Does acupuncture improve the outcome of in vitro fertilization? Guidance for future trials”. So, she knows the people at the NICM quite well, she know the project quite well, and hence she is also aware that pseudoscience does not abide by the laws of nature nor does pseudoscientists abide by the laws that should ensure scientific integrity. They just need to remain quiet and ignore any complaints, and hopefully everything will blow over and they can happily continue to mislead the public. So, in this case, don’t expect anything from this ‘gatekeeper’ of science – she apparently has way too many vested interests.
In a next article, I will report on the feedback from the other editors, the NICMs attempts to mislead one editor and a couple of corrections to their ‘scientific’ publications that they have been forced to publish.