Questionable Motives

September 28, 2011

What ever happened to Baby Joseph, ‘saved’ by the Priests for Life stormtroopers from the evil clutches of Canadian health care?

Back on March 22 of this year, I posted about why Priests for Life are theological thugs, fanatical religious stormtroopers who prey on the hopes of others to aid and abet and revel in the unnecessary suffering of others in the name of  honouring their god. Their latest victim was Baby Joseph Maracchli who, in October of 2010 at 10 months of age developed a brain fever and became vegetative just like another previous child of the Maracchlis. The family wanted a tracheotomy performed so that they could take the baby home to die but the hospital disagreed on compassionate medical grounds:

Eight physicians at LSHC were unanimously of the opinion that Joseph had no hope of recovery, and there was no possible treatment that could reverse his condition. They quite rightly pointed out what was obvious that he would never get out of bed nor interact meaningfully with his environment. As responsible and caring medical professionals, the doctors sought a second opinion from colleagues in Toronto. The director of the critical care unit for Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto (a world class facility and recognized leader for pediatric medical care) there agreed that further treatment was futile. Joseph’s doctors therefore proposed removing the tube that was assisting his breathing. If he could breathe unaided, he would go home to be cared for by his parents. If not, he would be given medication to ensure that he did not suffer, and allowed to die. A Canadian Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the Canadian hospital, ordering the life support removed.

This is when the Priest for Life entered and through their efforts helped make this sad story into a fundraising campaign, where they spent a considerable amount of donated money to fly the baby to St. Louis and have the tracheotomy. From their warped point of view, the priests were ‘saviors’ of the baby, vilifying the baby’s Canadian health care team in the process. The baby was released at the end of April and went home to Windsor Ontario.

Today, the Windsor Star reports:

Br. Paul O’Donnell, Major Superior at Franciscan Brothers of Peace, posted a message posted early Wednesday reported Baby Joseph had died.

“It is with great sadness that I report to you the passing of our dear Baby Joseph Maraachli. He passed away peacefully at home with his parents and family at his side. Praise God he had seven precious months with his family to be surrounded by love and was not put to death at the hands of doctors. May Joseph rest in the loving arms of his Heavenly Father surrounded by all the angels.”

Back in March, I pointed out that:

What is not reported very widely is that the couple’s first child who suffered from the same condition did receive a tracheotomy, at the parents insistence, and died a horrific death at home. That child suffered from infection, followed by pneumonia and eventually choked to death… it just took six months of additional suffering for this to happen. The physicians were rightly concerned on behalf of the quality of life of their patient to do as the family asked.

This time it took only five additional months for the baby to die after our priestly heroes intervened. They’re slipping as they get older, I guess, but any additional unnecessary suffering is a real feather in their theological caps.

February 18, 2010

Question for advocates of alternative health: is living to an average age of 35 really the Good Old Days?

Filed under: Argument,belief,CAM,Health care,Medicine,Science,vaccination — tildeb @ 1:49 pm

From ScienceBased Medicine by Dr Amy Tuteur:

There once was a time when all food was organic and no pesticides were used. Health problems were treated with folk wisdom and natural remedies. There was no obesity, and people got lots of exercise. And in that time gone by, the average lifespan was … 35!

That’s right. For most of human existence, according to fossil and anthropological data, the average human lifespan was 35 years. As recently as 1900, American average lifespan was only 48. Today, advocates of alternative health bemoan the current state of American health, the increasing numbers of obese people, the lack of exercise, the use of medications, the medicalization of childbirth. Yet lifespan has never been longer, currently 77.7 years in the US.

Advocates of alternative health have a romanticized and completely unrealistic notion of purported benefits of a “natural” lifestyle. Far from being a paradise, it was hell. The difference between an average lifespan of 48 and one of 77.7 can be accounted for by modern medicine and increased agricultural production brought about by industrial farming methods (including pesticides). Nothing fundamental has changed about human beings. They are still prey to the same illnesses and accidents, but now they can be effectively treated. Indeed, some diseases can be completely prevented by vaccination.

Alternative health as a form of fundamentalism also makes sense in that it has an almost religious fervor. It is not about scientific evidence. Indeed, it usually ignores scientific evidence entirely. All the existing scientific evidence shows that all of the myriad claims of alternative health are flat out false. None of it works, absolutely none of it. That’s not surprising when you consider that it never worked in times past; advocates of alternative health merely pretend that it did, without any regard for historical reality.

Alternative health is a belief system, a form of fundamentalism, and like most fundamentalisms, it longs for a past that never existed. It is not science; it has nothing to do with science; and it merely reflects wishful thinking about the past while ignoring reality.

February 13, 2010

How does evolution inform modern medicine?

Filed under: Biology,Health care,Medicine,Science — tildeb @ 3:51 pm

Today is the 201st birthday of Charles Darwin. It is worth celebrating this anniversary not only because of Darwin’s great contributions to science, but also because of the practical ways his theory of evolution improves our lives today. From an article that explains in more detail how the theory of evolution guides medical advances, here are five reasons–drawn from medicine–why evolution is important:

1. H1N1 and emerging diseases

2. HIV

3. Vaccines

4. Antibiotic resistance

5. Drug development

These are only a handful of the reasons why evolution is important to medicine (check out more information at the links here and here). There are a host of other applications of evolution–agriculture, forensics, bioengineering. But the importance of evolution extends beyond its practical side; evolution explains the diversity of life on this planet, shows us our connection to other living things, and reveals profound insights into the processes of nature. Today, on Darwin’s 201st birthday, take a moment to reflect on the importance of evolution.

January 11, 2010

What should religious belief NOT sound like?

Rachel Maddow’s show is often very well done with good research, pointed questions, and biting commentary. This story reveals lunacy in the religious Right, which seems to be successfully hijacking the Republican party.

PZ Myers has a very valid point when he comments on the subject of Rachel’s show and  says:

Here’s what we get in American government: a room full of morons, eyes squeezed shut, bobbing their heads back and forth as they beg an invisible man in the sky to smite health care reform. Witness this and realize that religion is a pathology, an evil mind-rot that makes the stupid even more stupid..

To view the video, please go to PZs site here (I can’t embed it, but I’m working on it).

December 19, 2009

Immunization rates and measles/mumps outbreaks: are vaccinated populations safe?


And that’s the scary part, because within the vaccinated population 3 to 10% of the population would remain susceptible to the disease even if we had 100% of the population vaccinated. (Ref from Science-Based Medicine)

From a study done on a measles outbreak in Quebec, the Journal of Infectious Diseases discusses the results here:

Despite a population immunity level estimated at 95%, an outbreak of measles responsible for 94 cases occurred in Quebec, Canada. Unlike previous outbreaks in which most unvaccinated children belonged to a single community, this outbreak had cases coming from several unrelated networks of unvaccinated persons dispersed in the population. No epidemiological link was found for about one‐third of laboratory‐confirmed cases. This outbreak demonstrated that minimal changes in the level of aggregation of unvaccinated individuals can lead to sustained transmission in highly vaccinated populations. Mathematical work is needed regarding the level of aggregation of unvaccinated individuals that would jeopardize elimination.

So one point of contention remains that people who choose not to vaccinate their children or themselves are ADDING to the risk of infection within the vaccinated population. This fact makes the choice whether or not to vaccinate as much a civic choice as a personal one. What consideration do you owe to your neighbour and what consideration does your neighbour owe to you?

To err on the side of caution, which I think is the responsible adult choice based on the preponderance of evidence that shows vaccines to be safe and effective, all of us need to get inoculated with MMR.  For those who choose not to join the ranks of the civic-minded and refuse inoculation, should they not also forfeit their civic rights to join publicly funded programs like education and health-care where their choice can have deadly consequences? Should there not be a civic cost to making such adverse civic choice?

November 25, 2009

Coma patient conscious for 23 years or a case of really bad reporting?

Filed under: Health care,Medicine,Skepticim — tildeb @ 1:42 pm

This is a wonderful story for the media. But to this neurologist, and I would think to any critically-thinking journalist, some questions come to mind. The biggest problem with this case as presented is that the finger-typing of Mr. Houben looks suspiciously like facilitated communication (FC is the technique of holding a patient’s hand to “help” them communicate by pointing to letters on a board.)

Unfortunately, FC was promoted prior to proper scientific validation. When it was studied in properly controlled blinded trials it turned out the the facilitator, and not the client, was doing all the communicating. FC is nothing but a well-meaning delusion. But it is also a dangerous one – FC testimony has led to the false conviction of adults accused of abuse.

My best guess is that Dr. Laureys is correct about the preserved cortical activity, but he is simply not familiar with the phenomenon of FC (he did not sound familiar on the interview) and has been deceived by it.  If this is so, then the FC is an unfortunate distraction from this case (and getting disproportionate attention from the media). It is also, in my opinion, a further abuse of this patient. Mr. Houben, if he is truly conscious, has now been deprived once again of his ability to communicate – usurped by a facilitator, who will be communicating in his name (and even writing a book, we are told). Never underestimate the ability for pseudoscience to make a bad situation worse.

Here is a new video in which Houben clearly has his eyes closed while the “facilitator” is typing furiously. This is completely impossible. (Hat tip to Orac for the link – he has also discussed the case.)

Read the entire article from Science-Based medicine here.

November 21, 2009

Christian Science therapies: the conspiracy behind paying for prayer revealed

Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.

Senator Harkin, says

“It is time to end the discrimination against alternative health care practices.”

“This is about giving people the pragmatic alternatives they want, while ending discrimination against practitioners of scientifically based alternative health care. It is about improving health care outcomes. And, yes, it is about reducing health care costs. Generally speaking, alternative therapies are less expensive and less intrusive – and we need to take advantage of that.”

Why would the government want to make sure prayer could be reimbursed as form of medical intervention? Surely our elected representative would not pander to their constituents? That would be beyond the pale.  There must be a deeper, more sinister, reason.  And I remember: dead people cost no money.

The application of Christian Scientology, er, no, it must be Christian Scientist therapies has well documented effects upon the Christian Science population. And those effects are not beneficial to anyone who is not a mortician.

For example, in 1989 JAMA published a cohort study (Yes, I know from the last post that cohort studies prove nothing nothing nothing, but I am uncertain how one would apply Christian Science in a randomized, placebo controled, double blinded manner).

They looked at outcomes in 5,500 Christian Scientists and compared them to a group of almost 30,000 controls using conventional medicine.

For each age group from 1934 to 1983, there was a greater death rate in the Christian Scientists when compared to the control population, a difference made more remarkable as Christian Scientists neither smoke nor drink.

So the real conspiracy (how’s that for an oxymoron) is that the US government wants to save health care dollars by recognizing and legitimizing complimentary and alternative medical procedures and therapies. Why? To kill you! Now there’s a death panel!

The complete article can be read here.

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