A general record of my ongoing battle with all forms of nonsense.

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Quest for “Dr” Paul Homoky’s Secret Evidence

Following my previous post about how Edinburgh City Council now has secret evidence that Chiropractic is an effective treatment for colic, I have been pursuing two different routes to try and get at it. The importance of this evidence – like any evidence of clinical efficacy - cannot be overestimated.

Firstly, I sent the following FoI request to Edinburgh city council:

Hi Lynsey,

I am really quite confused about what has happened over my complaint, and really want to get to the bottom of it. Hence this FoI.

1. What are City of Edinburgh Council Trading Standards' criteria for sufficient evidence when assessing a claim to be able to treat disease?

2. Would City of Edinburgh Council Trading Standards accept simple case histories as adequate evidence when assessing the efficacy of a treatment to treat a self-limiting disease?

3. Would City of Edinburgh Council Trading Standards accept unpublished studies as adequate evidence when assessing the efficacy of a treatment?

4. What training do City of Edinburgh Council Trading Standards' Enforcement Officers receive to ensure they can adequately assess the validity of studies testing the efficacy of a medical treatment?

5. What is City of Edinburgh Council Trading Standards' policy for dealing with trading standards complaints where an assessment of the evidence falls outside the expertise of the enforcement officers?

Many thanks,

Simon Perry

I also contacted “Dr” Paul Homoky, asking for this evidence (see last post). I have now received his reply:

Dear Simon,

Thank you for your email. I’m afraid I won’t be sending you any information. I am far too busy helping patients to improve their health through natural, safe techniques and to help educate the public regarding prevention and lifestyle management. You and your colleagues have already sent an unreasonable complaint to the Edinburgh council and General Chiropractic Council without having even met or talked with me and discussed our approach. If you had done so, or even examined my website properly, you would have learned that we do not treat colic, nor do we claim to treat it on our website or in the clinic. We deal with spine and nervous system complaints, the treatment of which sometimes has a positive effect on other conditions too.

We are a reputable clinic with great success and happy clients. I do not have anything to prove to your sceptics society. Our mode of therapy is chosen specifically because it is safe and effective. I wonder if you have applied the same rigorous analysis to a wide range of medical treatments which are provided by medical doctors on a daily basis—many of which are proven to be ineffective, unnecessary and/or carry a high risk of negative outcome.

My new wife and I have had our first baby, and we would like to enjoy his beautiful entry into the world. Please do not send any further emails to me. I was happy to provide details to the Edinburgh Council as they requested, but this is, quite frankly, our business and not yours. I have taken the time to write this email to you because I believe you deserve a response. If you have any further questions regarding chiropractic care of the spine and any of its researched effects, please direct them to the British Chiropractic Association.

I wish you and your sceptics society well. I am a sceptic too—we have much in common.

Best wishes,

Paul Homoky, B.Sc., D.C.

Chiropractor

I don't think it is correct to say that he does not claim to treat colic. From what I can make out of the wording, he seems to say they don't treat colic, but colic is caused by misalignment of the spine and they treat misalignment of the spine. That would seem to imply that they treat colic, even if indirectly. The text on his site is as follows:
But chiropractic isn’t a treatment for colic! If vertebral subluxation is present, interfering with the proper function of any part of the body, restoring proper nervous system control allows the body to heal. This can happen regardless of age and regardless of what the symptoms are called.
So “Dr” Paul Homoky has decided to keep the evidence secret. All UK chiropractors are bound by the GCC’s code of conduct, which includes:
E1.4 must avoid conduct which may undermine public confidence in the
chiropractic profession or bring the profession into disrepute, whether
or not such conduct is directly concerned with professional practice.32

Now publicising irrelevant evidence, or evidence that has already been publicly debunked, is likely undermine public confidence in the chiropractic profession so it may be that this is his reason for not providing it. However, should the evidence be strong, it would of course undermine public confidence in the profession if he refused to provide it.

I will take up “Dr” Paul Homoky’s suggestion and ask the BCA if they are aware of this new evidence.

After my last post, Felix_the_Mac commented on why I had not asked Edinburgh City Council to provide the evidence for a second time within my FoI request. In reality, this might work. But I don’t think that’s the best approach. Once I finally get hold of the evidence, it’s likely to make for one amusing blog post and die away.

But in all likelihood I’ll get refusal after refusal. And that means I can drag this out for months.

12 comments:

Le Canard Noir said...

You could just provide the latest BMJ review of chiropractic evidence for colic and ask why the 'secret' evidence trumps this?

Andy said...

This "we don't treat X" nonsense is getting beyond a joke.

I've been working on an article on weasel words and this particular, oft-used, claim is a central part of it.

The relevant definition for treat is: "to deal with (a disease, patient, etc.) in order to relieve or cure."

So, if someone brings in a colicky child and you perform manipulation in the hope the colic will go away, you are treating the patient for colic.

Otherwise the word "treat" would likely have no use anywhere in any medicinal modality because almost every "treatment", from antibiotics to heart transplant, is really just performing an action in such a way as to enable the body to take over and "heal itself".

Andy said...

I should add that if someone brings in a colicky baby hoping for the colic to go away and you go ahead and "treat" it for something entirely unrelated to colic with no anticipation/promise/suggestion at all that the colic will go away, then I'd think you offer a very strange service indeed.

It's like taking you car to get the brakes repaired but the mechanic changes the wiper blades instead and says your brakes might work better now because some people think that happens sometimes... but rest assured he doesn't claim to "repair" brakes.

Simon said...

Thanks for that Andy. You just made me laugh my tea all over my desk.

Ziztur said...

Does this smack of "depends on what the definition of "is" is to you?

It sounds to me like they are saying something akin to, "We don't treat back pain, we do disk herniation surgery. Disk herniation surgery may help your back pain, but disk hernia surgery isn't a treatment for back pain!"

Halbfrosch said...

It is word play. When you search on his website, colic comes up about a dozen times, and it is featured on a number of pages. Actually, towards the end of the "Colic" page it says (among other recommendations): "Try chiropractic therapy!".
Their "clever" way out: Babies cry, and this can have a lot of reasons. Colic is one of them. It may also be that the birth has misaligned their spine, which causes issues, so chiropractic may help here. We don't treat colic, we treat the misalignment of the spine...
Again, where is there evidence that "aligning the spine" of a crying baby is better than just holding it? (Which, actually, they say on the very same page!)

Derrik said...

I find reading letters like that from your Chiro quite upsetting. Chiros are tragic figures to me. They’ve spent so much money on being educated in a subject disconnected with reality. They’ve craved the status that the title “Dr” brings. They provide a service they seem to think benefits people but doesn’t. For all this effort and expense their lives and work are a sham and they don’t realise.

I think I’ve found a parallel in fiction. Does anyone remember “Charlie Chalk”, the stop motion animation children’s program from the 80’s? There is a character called the “Litter Bug” who spends all day picking up litter on the desert island where the show is set. He works tirelessly for the community and doesn’t understand why his efforts aren’t better appreciated. His efforts are in vain however, because there is a hole in his sack.

Simon said...

@Derrik. I thin you mistunderstand my motives. I'm not looking to harass Chiropractors. I'm doing it to protect those that are wasting their money on quack treatments.

Derrik said...

My apologies.

I think you are right to do so. There can be no argument that the general public should continue to fund the Chiro's through fees for bogus treatment. In fact I signed your letter.

I just think there is a certain tragic pathos to Chiropractors. Perhaps I am needlessly sympathetic.

Have you seen the articals on:
http://www.chirobase.org/

If find this one in particular quite interesting:
http://www.chirobase.org/01General/career.html

These stories of disillusioned Chiro's leaving the profession are also quite harrowing:
http://chirotalk.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=quitters

SkepticBarista said...

Simon;
2 of the 11 letters I posted today were to Edinburgh TS. I'll be interested in seeing if they give a similar response !

Apart from listing the individual names of the chiropractors in each practice I also referenced the latest BMJ review (as suggested by Le Canard Noir) so I'll see if that makes any difference.

Alice said...

I couldn't resist writing up this one: http://aliceingalaxyland.blogspot.com/2009/08/adventures-in-nonsense-correlation-and.html

Great post, thanks Simon!

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