Archive for the ‘Alt Med’ Category

Bad FaithRecently Dr. Paul Offit, a doctor and author who I greatly respect, wrote a new book, Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine. I knew from reading reviews and from participating in a conference call through Voices for Vaccines that this was going to be a hard book to read. Not just as a Christian, but also as a mother. I know the most visceral emotion I feel when my children are in pain, the fear when I don’t know what’s wrong, the panic when the fever starts to creep up. I won’t read books or stories where children suffer and die. I avoid news headlines. So picking up this book and knowing what’s in it is a difficult and painful thing for me to do.

I’m going to review this book chapter by chapter from the perspective of a Christian (I’m a Calvinist), a pastor’s wife, and a mother. This isn’t going to be cold and analytical, these are going to be my emotions and perhaps even my tears.

Dr. Offit, in his introduction, commends religion for the good acts and in fact dedicates this book to “all those who perform good deeds in the name of their faith.” I respect that he hasn’t taken a hostile view like Dawkins or Hitchens and that he admits the good commands that those who believe are called to do. While I don’t believe good works is how we enter into heaven (salvation is through faith in Christ), I do hear what James says when he writes that faith without works is dead in this.

Chapter One

I know the second I see the name and the religion where the story is going to end and my stomach churns and twists. I hate Christian Science. I hate it. I don’t hate the people within, I hate the lie that they’ve been told. Before I explain the story of Rita Swan, who watched her child die of a preventable illness (bacterial meningitis), I want to quote Offit with regards to Christian Science as I think it is incredibly accurate:

Eddy used the term Science because healings could be demonstrated, and Christian because healings follow the ministry of Jesus. Christian Science, however, differs from Christianity in nearly every central doctrine; mot importantly, whereas Christians believe that Jesus died for their sins, Christian Scientists believe that Jesus died to prove that diseases aren’t real. As for the word Science, Christian Science doesn’t incorporate any known scientific discipline. Arguably, Christian Science is neither Christian nor Science.

This is vital to understand no matter your faith or lack thereof. Christian Scientists aren’t Christians. Furthermore their beliefs are deadly. This is evident in Rita’s story.

For an opening chapter, this packs a punch. I could barely breathe as I read through the Christian Science practitioners blaming Rita for not believing enough. That they all stood by, so convinced of a lie, that when this child was screaming in pain they did nothing. Admittedly, I grabbed my toddler and I held him so tightly and yes, I thanked God for vaccines, for the doctors at our local clinic, for modern medicine.

I held back tears when Rita and her husband realized much too late that they’d been lied to.

This is how the chapter ends, with the death of a child. A baby.

It’s only chapter one and I’m furious.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with depression, particularly chronic depression, is seeking treatment.

There’s a stigma with mental illness and that stigma gets multiplied and added to any conventional treatment. Antidepressants are derided, whether it be through hushed whispers about ‘happy pills’ or those who have never faced true darkness simply hand waving the depression away. “If only she would eat a paleo diet and run twenty miles a day…” It’s an exaggeration, and yet with depression, that’s exactly what every dietary/exercise suggestion sounds like.

The implication, whether the person realizes it or not, is that it’s my fault somehow. I’m not strong enough, smart enough, fast enough, positive enough, optimistic enough, committed to my health enough. I’m not enough. I’m a failure. I’m broken because I broke myself somehow. I am unworthy. I am small. I am weak. I need medication. I can’t find medication.

Something about me is broken and it’s my fault.

As with anything there’s a kernel of truth. I live in a fallen world with sin and we’re all broken on some level, just my brokenness shows up in the form of an impossible darkness.

And from there I get a lot of “You just need to have faith in Jesus.” I used to wonder what that meant because the truth is, it’s my faith that gets me up in the morning and gets me to take care of my children. So far God has done nothing about this weight on my shoulders and I honestly don’t know if he will. In America we like to think all our problems can be solved because we can get a cheeseburger down the road or drive to Whole Foods and buy organic kale and vaccines work so well we think they must not have worked at all.

11 19 11_1540God doesn’t work like that, I say. No one listens. Because the idea that one might have to live with a wound that hurts for the rest of one’s life is too much to bear.

I know because I bear it and there are many moments I don’t know if I will make it to the next one.

It’s a lonely road to commit oneself to the path I’ve chosen. Naturopaths are swindlers and alternative medicine is a scam 99% of the time. Pharmaceutical companies aren’t altruistic, so I find good doctors, the ones that want to help. That doesn’t stop people from suggesting supplements and acupuncture which I smile graciously and don’t bother with. It’s too easy to get sucked into a world where my idol is health. I’ve made a decision as to what I will try and what I won’t try and it’s based on my faith and what I believe about God and salvation. It’s more complicated than I can explain on a blog post and more personal than I would want to share in public anyway.

I’m very tired these days. Maybe it’s the winter. Maybe it’s one more medication that hasn’t worked but has given me frustrating side effects. Maybe it’s a depression that dogs my every step and has haunted me since I was a child.

Maybe it’s the loneliness of realizing that no matter how much help I ask for, it’ll never be enough because no one else can fight my demons.

My paternal grandmother was known for her lack of skepticism. There was a saying in our family – “If the snake oil man is in town, she’s buying.” She insisted every time I saw her that she was getting better even though she clearly wasn’t. Perhaps she hoped sheer willpower would save her life but as I often pointed out to her, even if she’d magically been cured of her ailments, at 70+, she was on the wrong side of spry.

I used to think that getting taken in by charlatans was something only people on the fringe and a little unhinged tended to do (my grandmother used to also talk about the Bildebergs and something about global domination). However, as I’ve become more vocal about my position on vaccines (I’m for, very for, 100% for), I’ve noticed that people I consider relatively put together are buying into the weird, wild world of conspiracies. They’ll whisper to me about vaccines with things like, “Don’t you know what’s IN them?!” (I do, thank you, which ingredient would you like to discuss?) or “They cause autism!!” (for the 800 bajillionth time, they don’t. They don’t. They don’t. Stop it). In fact, I could list a dozen more but every single one of them is based on fear and misinformation.

So the next time you read an article on the internet, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is there a store?

Every single nutjob site out there that posts nutjob articles has a store. Mercola has a store. NaturalNews has a store. Tenpenny has a store. Seriously, I went to every one of these pages just to tell you for sure that they have a store. This is a red flag. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong (that would be a logical fallacy) but it does mean you should eye their information a little more carefully. Mercola, for example, sells a 30 day supply of his “Premium Immune Support” package for $69.97 that is put together based on claims from articles on his own website. Do you know how much my flu shot cost me? $0. If they are telling you something is bad but then offering to sell you something good, that is a red flag.

Calvin & Hobbes Natural

2. Do they cite their sources?

NaturalNews is notorious for citing themselves as a source. They’re so hilariously wrong 99.9% of the time that I wonder why they haven’t been categorized as a comedy site. However, for kicks, I’ve debunked their articles for friends because I can’t let that crap just go unanswered. When I manage to dig out their sources (by having to do my own google search), all I find are twisted words and lots and lots of lies. Occasionally they’ll have a link to a scientific study that usually doesn’t say what they think it says. So check the facts.

3. Google the title of the article.

I’ve found that crazy nutjob articles are usually only reposted on other nutjob sites, very rarely do they ever see the light of mainstream media. I’m not saying that this is the litmus test (all of these suggestions should be used together). What I’m saying is, if Mercola is posting it and then it’s NaturalNews and then it’s Whale.to, you probably have a tabloid article on your screen.

4. Does it make any logical sense?

This seems obvious and yet I see the stupid onion article posted and reposted so clearly people are not asking themselves this last question. Why the hell would an onion suck the virus out of the air? If you really think it’s plausible look for the science behind it. Or at a minimum, please check Snopes. But just stop yourself and think “Does it make sense?” For example, all the claims made about vaccines boil down to having to believe that pharmaceutical companies are paying off all the scientists in the world. The entire world. Look, I know Big Pharma can be shady and I know they rake in a lot of money, but it makes more sense that they rake in the dough for things like Viagra and Cialis and painkillers than they do on vaccines (and truthfully vaccines make up less than 2% of their revenue). Where are the Facebook posts telling me Big Pharma is giving everyone erectile dysfunction?

This is by no means a comprehensive list. In fact, I recommend the less snarky post here. My point is, before you repost, before you whisper it to a friend, before you claim it as fact, check yourself. Make sure your source is good.

Oh. And get your flu shot if you haven’t.