Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blood sucking parasites


Warning: alternative medicine can be very bad for your health.

Ozon magazine reports that, every year, an estimated five thousand Poles die from cancer after refusing conventional medical help.

Instead of going to see the doctor, these people put their faith in quacks, frauds and charlatans, who dish out potions and remedies which, of course, don’t work.

In a related story, Radio Polonia reports about the rising popularity of using leeches to cure a host of different diseases. 'I do find them incredibly helpful and hope that one day leeches will be accepted as just another medical drug, says Zygmunt Dynowski of Biogen, one of only two leech farms in the whole of Europe.

The practice for using leeches alongside blood letting peaked in Europe, apparently, in the mid-nineteenth century, when it was thought they could cure all sorts of things, from obesity to madness. But a shortage of the parasites led to the decline in the practice, and the belief that they were of any use.

But now leeches, alongside the other pre-scientific remedies, are making a comeback in Poland. Though there does appear to be some uses for the leech in medicine, individuals are also prescribing the use of ‘hirudotherapy’ for themselves, or via 'altervative healers'.

Are we slowly creeping back into the dark ages?

Ozon magazine writes that oncologists blame the media – particularly women’s magazines and tabloid newspapers - for the early deaths of what amounts to millions of cancer sufferers who reject science for the fad of naturopathy, homeopathy, and all the other quack exotica that passes off for ‘alternative’ or ‘complimentary’ ‘medicine’.

But simply blaming the media ignores the fact that people do believe in this stuff, and who hope against hope for some sort of miracle to make them better.

It’s not surprising that this sort of thing goes on in the Polish rural, peasant districts where ‘alternative medicines’ have been part of the culture for generations. What’s stranger is that the quacks are now moving in, and with some success, on the liberal, middle classes.

Alterative medicine has brought together the rural conservative and the hip urbanite, the pre-modern with the post modern.

Which is quite an achievement, when you think about it. So why is it making me feel a little sick?

Related story on the beatroot: Stroking toads

Frank Furedi writes about this stuff and why it is becoming popular here

21 comments:

Michael M. said...

I feel your pain, as Clinton said. The Slovenian parliament is getting ready to legally recognize homeopathic remedies. It's immensely popular here. I hope we're not all moving towards the Dark Ages, but I do think a second round of the Enlightenment wouldn't hurt.

Bialynia said...

I still remember getting the glass with a heated flame applied to my back as a kid in Poland. Homeopathics are making inroads in the US as well, the Wholefoods chain has a hugely popular section with this stuff. My sisters friend had cancer and opted to fly to some "healer" in Argentina instead of bearing the costs of chemo in the US. Sadly this did not work, and she died a few months later.

Nathan said...

Bialynia, one of my host mothers wanted to do the glass on the back thing to me in Uzbekistan. I told her I'd stick with the good old expired drugs from the main office in Tashkent.

Incidentally, my Czech sister-in-law is very into this stuff. It makes for some interesting conversation when she's visiting us as we're a clan of battle-hardened skeptics.

Nathan of Registan.net

Becca said...

My mum's a total convert when it comes to homeopathy but I don't know what would happen if something like cancer was involved.

To be honest though for cuts and bruises homeopathic creams and potions work very well. And taking all these antibiotics for every cough and cold is definitely not good news.

beatroot said...

Michael M - A new round of the Enlightenment? That's exactly what I was thinking we need!

Bialynia - naked flame on the back whenyou were a kid? These\days that would be called 'child abuse'!

Welcome nathan! The glass on the back thing is still being used here by doctors! They tried to it on me once,and I ran out of the room! I'm serious!

becca - how can homeotherapy remedies help if there is nothing in them at all apart fromthe cream? Homeopathy has failed pass the 'double blind' tests every time they have tried it, so how can it be a medicine?

That's why it's called 'alternative medicine - becaquse it ain;t a medicine!

gumish said...

nathan - how can you tell heated glass bulbs would not work for you if you have never tried it? Millions of people every year get them and if they were dangerous they wouldn't be applied so often. Having been treated with bulbs does not prohibit you from taking drugs. So you have missed an opportunity to find out if they work for you. How can you tell they don't if you never tried, unless you believe what someone told you. It's ok if you believe but you cannot from logical point of view state they don't work. The main flaw of so called science is - if it doesn't suit our models it does not exist. This is rather strange attitude to facts. And facts are that alternative therapies healed many people. Facts are that all over the world faith healings happen. If you are serious on seeking truth then why don't you go and find out about them. Is sitting and waiting seeking truth? What are you affraid to discover?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

gumish, the work has been done and is being done. It's just not necessary for every individual to redo the experiments themselves. Whenever alternative medicine and traditional are compared straight-up, fair fight, traditional wins.

Alternative medicines make all their claims at the margins. Any place that traditional medicine turns out to be wrong, such as what causes ulcers, is trumpeted as a general discredidation of science. Preposterous. Alternative medicines are based on possible explanations of what should work, supported by anecdotes about a guy your sister-in-law knew.


In the markets in Transylvania, the herbs are sold by function, not identifying what the ingredients are. "For the stomach." "For the liver." Great.

Pan Emigrant said...

And then these Australians come along with their funny books and try and make us all look like a backward race of plods. But did they know that we are the world leaders in drawing blood from the back using heated glass as an influenza cure? Are they aware of our pioneering efforts to use the crucifix as an alternative to heart bypasses and all those other fancy operations and hi-tech drugs that we can't afford anyway? I rest my case. All I've got to say is, the next time you're in a Polish dentist, make sure you ask for the anaesthetic just after you say 'hello' cause his default setting is to give none.

beatroot said...

Welcome AVI!

Yeah, I would agree that herbs etc are an essential part of 'medicine' and always will be. Many drugs are made from these ingrediants. My beef is with things like homeopathy - and doctors in the UK can now prescribe this stuff on the national health service, when all of them know that they are simply placeebo at best, full of nothing but chalk - which has gained almost the same status as conventional medicine. But as homeopathy cannot pass the same types of tests that we expect a conventional drug to have to pass, then it should not be called a 'medicine'.

But why are people ready to believe in anything these says, no matter how ridiculous? It's irrationalism and anti-science. And stupid!

beatroot said...

Hi Pan Em. Someone I know who employs a woman from a peasant community from a small village near Warsaw, told my friend that the best cure for a headache was to hold a dirty sock to your head for half an hour!

It might actually work with one of my socks - the smell would distract from the headache...or make you passout!

perhaps dirty socks will be on the UK national health service soon.

DBN said...

"perhaps dirty socks will be on the UK national health service soon."

-prescription only.

beatroot said...

I have to say, though, that the reason Ozon printed that story about the cancer patients that never were is becuase it is a bit 'catholic metaphysical', and right wing. but it still isa worrying little trend.

Pan Emigrant said...

But is all this pre-enlightenment naivete or post-enlightenment posturing?

Renegade Eye said...

Add to the list of quacks chiropractors. Tell them your pinkie finger hurts, they'll give you a full body x-ray.

Those ideas are popular all over the world.

See: http://www.randi.org

beatroot said...

But the question is; why are these kind of quack remedies getting more popular in the West with otherwise educated people?

Pan Emigrant said...

Wait until you have a terminal illness and are confronted with the sterility and uncertainty of conventional healing in your country.

Libra Litrou said...

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June
Libra Litrou

Libra Litrou said...

This is a neat blog with lots of interesting stuff in it.

Sincerely,

June
Libra Litrou

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