What the Doctors Don’t Tell You

Nov 17, 2013

Discussion by: Martyns

Okay, a bit of background. My mum, is religiously a believer in all things alternative, you name anything that you shouldn't believe in and she believes in it. She describes her faith as a blend of budhism and christianity and is convinced such things as spirits, ghosts, angels, heaven and hell all exist. 

She is also a staunch defender and promoter of anti-vaccination, homeopathy, and ever other bit of kwackery you can imagine, for example Reki.

Now she's recently taken to dumping copies of a rather attrocious magazine called 'What the Doctors Don't Tell You' on me, hoping that I'll read some of it and be converted I presume. Now I don't know if anyone has heard of this magazine, but in my view it's downright dangerous. The very title shows how it's targetted at those who distrust science and medical profession and prefer the comfort of alternative pseudoscience. 

Now I'm usually all for freedom of the press, and freedom of expression, but this particular magazine supports all denialists and furthers their cause, it is anti-vaccination for example. Therefore it represents a danger to human society. Now should such publications be banned? If a mainstream islamic magazine started advocating terror attacks, it would be banned surely? Because it endagered people? And this rubbish, which as far as I can see is there to simply lrey on vulnerable people's fears and extract money from them, also endangers people!

I know I sound like I'm venting a bit here, but I think the rise in pseudoscience and the increase in attempts to give kwackery the same weight as medical science in arguments is frightening. 

25 comments on “What the Doctors Don’t Tell You

  • 2
    Michael Fisher says:

    You are referring to an exclusively UK distributed magazine as far as I’m aware. It’s important to state these details if you want to discuss possible actions.

    I don’t see how to construct a code of practice EASILY that could prevent these types of publications reaching the shelves of retailers without certain negative repercussions relating to censorship. We all know how censorship can be used to suppress anti-establishment opinion & thus I’m against censorship generally unless it’s very specific ~ areas already covered by legislation. That said… this rag does cover areas of alternative medicine that the NHS is wrongly pandering to for reasons that escape me. Perhaps the wishy-washy approach of the NHS [National Health Service] to this nonsense should be addressed as part of a general response?

    READ THIS LINK about the distributor of your quack rag & how it’s threatening to sue Simon Singh. It contains relevant links & suggestions on what we could do to fight back in this particular case.

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  • Ask her what she would call snake oil medicine. In all likelihood she will be hard pressed to give a reply. You might suggest if she thinks homeopathy fits that bill, or chiropractic. She’ll probably say no. Then ask her if crystals or magnets are good medicine. She might pause on those saying she’s not sure. As an aside, I can’t recall ever having a person, when asked this question, pick a real medical modality (which I think is interesting). But even if they do, you can address that in the same way.

    The point is, when she finds some bit of quackery (and there will be something) that finally makes her say, “I don’t believe that” then ask her why she draws the line at that. She might say that she doesn’t believe X, but while that’s not her belief, it may be others’ (insinuating it works for others). Don’t accept that dodge, hold her to why she doesn’t believe in X.

    I employ this method frequently (getting people to name a bit of quackery) and I think it’s pretty effective at getting them to pause and evaluate their own positions.


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  • 4
    The Vicar says:

    At first, I thought this was a reference to Kevin Trudeau, who published a book (and, IIRC, some other media) with a very similar title about a decade back. Turns out he’s a notorious grifter and thief who turned to medical fraud because books are protected by the first amendment in the U.S.:


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  • In reply to #5 by David W:

    Surely promoting or practising quackery is medical fraud? If that’s not already illegal, it should be.

    Definitely practising. Publications are more of a grey area. I’m sure there are already safeguards against stuff like ‘Regular doses of Mercury will make your skin shine’. But yeah, seems that we are too lenient. These people make money on bullshit, and is actually damaging to public health.

    And there should be a publication called “What The ‘What The Doctors Don’t Tell You’, Doesn’t Tell You”.

    If a mainstream islamic magazine started advocating terror attacks, it would be banned surely?

    It is censored. Probably under terror laws, but racism is also censored. Like porn.

    I know I sound like I’m venting a bit here, but I think the rise in pseudoscience and the increase in attempts to give kwackery the same weight as medical science in arguments is frightening.

    It’s always been like that. It used to be actually worse, Radium toothpaste, anyone? X-Ray tan? Publications mostly follow public demand. The public wants quakery, they will get quakery. It is also unfortunately positive feedback. The more the demand for that stuff, the more the supply.

    Science can be hard, it’s not as sexy. Pseudo-science is easy to digest, easy to understand, comfortable. All you have to do is follow. I mean, believe. And pay of course.

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  • 7
    Mickey Droy says:

    There have been quite a few people having a go at WDDTY.
    It was even on a BBC Radio 4 medical show. I can’t help thinking that the time for alternative quack medicine has come – especially as the National Health Service in the UK is gradually reviewing it out .

    This shows just how badly their advertisers have done.


    From my point of view -this is another example of why weak scepticism is not the main problem.
    For example I married my Catholic wife with the full acceptance that we would be in a Catholic family, and even got formally Christened and had communion myself. I just came back from church an hour ago.
    I have no problem with this, and we live in a country (and not the US) where belief in God goes hand in hand with a great scepticism of the church.

    But nobody told me I’d be in a homeopathic family – and this causes serious problems – even 18 years later. And i married a maths graduate too. I do think Sceptics would be doing a much more useful job concentrating on more obvious lunacies than religion.

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  • 8
    SomersetJohn says:

    I have a suggestion which may be just as controversial as WDDTY being on sale in mainline bookstores and supermarkets. Keep it on sale, but use it as a learning resource for sceptical thinking. How about a little competition among the scientifically inclined, the sceptic community, the humanists and rationalists and anyone else who wants to expose the damage this woowitch is perpetrating on the community.

    The competition will be to write a refutation of any “article” in WDDTY. The refutation must be accurate, truthful, honest and where appropriate include references to any peer reviewed research papers or articles by respected members in the appropriate field. Most importantly it must be published in a publicly accessible forum, e.g. local or national newspapers radio, TV. I hesitate to include the Net, but anything with, say, 1000+ views would qualify.

    No prizes, beyond the satisfaction of exposing the idiocy contained in WDDTY and respect earned in the rational community. The aim is to show this rag bears the same relation to reality as the Harry Potter books, though, I assume, not having read it, vastly less entertaining.

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  • 10
    crookedshoes says:

    No, it should not be banned. However, it’s circulation should be so low that it is not sustainable. However, there is no shortage of idiots (no offense to your mum), so, freedom means freedom. You have a right to be wrong!

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  • The great mind behind WDDTY is Lynne McTaggart, described (mainly by herself presumably) in the following terms. :

    Lynne McTaggart
    is a best-selling author, researcher
    and lecturer whose work has rightly been described as
    “a bridge between science and spirituality”.
    For the past 20 years she has been researching medicine and its
    shortcomings, and quantum physics and what this means for you
    and the world we live in.

    I haven’t found any scientific qualifications credited to her.

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  • I posted earlier, but it disappeared. This roughly what I said.

    Your mom might say “But Mrs. Beetleman swears by Dr. Horsman’s heart pills and she is healthy as a horse.”

    To us, it is obvious the errors she is making:

    1. extrapolating from a single anecdote.
    2. presuming Mrs. Beetleman even needs medication.
    3. presuming you need medication. Nearly always alternative medicine is self-prescribed.
    4. the medicine contains some active ingredient. These things tend to be mostly alcohol.

    Corporations behave badly. This drives people like your mom into the arms of even worse crooks. Mom presumes because they are smaller they have to be more ethical.

    What might you do to counter: compose some jokes and fables to illustrate the logical errors people make with alternative medicine.

    1. I met a guy compulsively snapping his fingers. I asked why he was doing that. “To scare away the elephants.”. “But there are no elephants in Canada.” “See. It works.”.
    2. about error of extrapolating form single case.
    3. about error of trusting a con man just because he is a small operation.
    4. error of trusting a story passed from person to person that started out as a joke.

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  • In reply to #5 by David W:

    Surely promoting or practising quackery is medical fraud? If that’s not already illegal, it should be.

    Well, the “Quack Miranda Warning” steps in whenever woo is peddled:

    “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

    This warning needs an addendum: “…by supporting quackery you are enabling a culture that does real harm and real medicine might be too late to be effective for you when you come knocking. And you will come knocking.”


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  • 14
    Zeuglodon says:

    Instead of censorship, would legal liability be effective? If someone publishes flyers urging people not to vaccinate, and someone who can be proven to have taken their advice falls ill from a curable disease, then maybe the distributors of the flyers could be held responsible and penalized. Effectively, it would be a deterrent to prevent people from causing harm with impunity. That would enable free speech on the condition that the person be held responsible for giving out dangerous advice, thereby preventing people from abusing the system and hurting others.

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  • 15
    pedro.carreira.167 says:

    All freedoms should have limits and freedom of press is no different. If her magazine is just propaganda and some form of hate speech against doctors and medicine in general she should be censored, or at least be ridiculed so that people know her magazine is just pseudo-knowledge.

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  • 17
    sciling says:

    The main problem facing all mega-lifeforms on our planet is the usurping of the planet & its resources by a silly species that thinks its very smart. Now as Martyns has realised the vast majority of this species are dumb idiots. Let them do everything to exterminate themselves. Allow them to forego vaccination and do all the nonsense they do, which will lower the population pressure of this species on the planet. A very very good outcome. Its most important we permit the potential fast breeders amongst the species to lower their numbers.

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  • 18
    SaganTheCat says:

    it’s getting worse. the internet is awash with such balls. anyone here with a facebook account will have been spammed with ads showing a before (elderly woman with missing teeth) and after (supermodel) and headlines about doctors being terrified you might find out about their product. it shows a breathtaking lack of skepticism among most apes.

    such medical understanding is best summed up with a bit from blackadder II

    Nursie: You’re so clever today, you better be careful your foot doesn’t fall off.
    Queen: Does that happen when you have lots of brilliant ideas? Your foot falls off?
    Nursie: It certainly does. My brother, he had this brilliant idea of cutting his toenails with a scythe, and his foot fell off.

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  • 19
    Paleophyte says:

    Now should such publications be banned?


    The simple practical answer here is that legislating against this type of publication will only drive it underground, lending support to the “Gov’t owned by Big Pharma wants us shut down” shrieking. The best place for these quacks is out in the light of day where you can point at them and laugh.

    Yes, this publication will do damage, but largely amongst those already incapable of critical thought on the matter and who will damage themselves anyway. It’s a group-think magazine, unlikely to have much impact outside the group. Over the centuries we’ve been unable to legislate against people being damned fools, probably because the legislators are some of the worst offenders. I see no reason to expect it to work now.

    And of course there’s the extremely dangerous area of legislating against beliefs that you don’t agree with, regardless of how damned foolish they may be.

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  • 20
    ikinmoore says:

    Medical Science has not got all the answers. If you want to use pseudoscience because you have a medical problem which cannot be solved by science then you would try anything to gain reasonable health. In my childhood, instead of using antibiotics for a very large boil on my leg, my mother used kaolin poultis which helped draw the pus out of the boil. No medication was used.

    Whilst I believe vaccination has benefitted millions around the world, I do not believe in it being made complusory which I believe it is in America for children of pre school age. Medication has it’s benefits if you are in ill health, but to medicate the healthy is just not on.

    You mention Kwackery…maybe science should investigate this rather then laugh at it. Most Medication does come from the natural world. If say, a leave in a tea, helped an acne sufferer then why don’t science investigate this.

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  • 21
    TaraHanrahan says:

    “Now should such publications be banned?”

    No thank you, I would rather maintain freedom of speech.

    If some people want to experiment and dabble with unproven, or only anecdotally proven wellness technologies that is their choice and their right. Who knows, they may well discover something that actually works!

    It isn’t the government’s job to protect us from every possible fraudster or quack out there. In fact, the more ‘protected’ and sheltered we feel by the government in this way, the less discerning we will be.

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  • 22
    max_sterling says:

    To me, the level of bias and misinformation in this article is far worse than the magazine it purports to criticise. What nobody here seems to apprehend is that there is not a level playing field for natural and alternative medicine. Substantive randomised clinical trials cost millions of pounds to undertake, and as natural products cannot be patented such an undertaking cannot be contemplated, as there is simply no-way to recoup the massive investment needed.

    I became a convert to natural medicine for one reason, and one reason alone – because it works – profoundly, remarkably, and completely.

    With every health condition I’ve experienced, I have indulged my doctor and his prescription remedies with little or no effect. On every occasion, I’ve gone on to research and identify a natural remedy that has completely cured and reversed my condition, while modern medicine has entirely failed me.

    Let me give you just one quick example of what I mean. Science has yet to conclude a substantive study which proves outright the benefits of the Echinacea herb. Yet after suffering severe bronchitis every year for 10 years I stepped out on a limb and gave it a try. As a result, I’ve completely eliminated bronchitis for the last 9 years running. No more Christmas’s ruined by the misery of painful coughing and wheezing due to a terrible infection. Result – one very happy camper!

    If you want to wait until the benefits of Echinacea have been completely substantiated, go right ahead. For me, I prefer to make my own mind-up and live healthily and happily now, thank you very much. I’ve now cured and reversed every condition from IBS to heart disease. I literally owe my life to natural medicine – and have often been led toward the cure by articles such as those you are so ready to criticise and condemn. Call me crazy – but I believe articles like these are doing more good for the health and wellbeing of our nation than the entire medical establishment combined (who admittedly do much good). And I will continue to invest my money and my faith in natural remedies – because they work – full stop. A fact which is a far cry from the barrage of synthetic chemicals produced by corrupt drug companies which are deliberately designed to do nothing more than mask and ameliorate the symptoms of disease. If you care for your health and that of your loved ones, I sincerely hope you leave your bias under you seat long enough to discover this happy truth for yourself.

    And the good news is that as high quality natural supplements pose no risk to your health, you can experiment and try them out for size until you find one that gives you the results you’re looking for. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of pharmaceutical drugs. Death due to adverse drug effects is now estimated to be the fourth leading cause of death in the world.

    Unfortunately, due to the dynamics of modern medicine, natural medicine will be forced to remain the poor brother to the pharmaceutical industry – and those of us who have experienced the life-changing benefits of natural medicine will have to continue to rely on tradition and small scale studies to uncover the truths of nature’s miraculous remedies.

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  • I looked in edition with article about treating uterine cancer with chocolate cake diet. I had uterine cancer, it was diagnosed at stage 1 and I remember me and an old lady waiting for histology results: I was told that they were almost 100% sure I was cancer free (I am still free after 6 years) , but the lady, who had delayed going to doctor had to deal with: “O, darling, don’t worry, I have a patien who has been coming to visits already for 7 years. And she is still somewhat alive….”

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  • 24
    henrytegner says:

    I’m with the view that such publications should not be banned in defense of freedom of speech. And I worked as a doctor in the UK for 40 years and was presented with this nonsense often enough. I always wondered why people needed to be so uncritical and credulous. The real tragedy is that so many charlatans have got rich out of other people’s ignorance and gullibility. Part of it is, of course, a form of jealousy and resentment of the medical profession which is seen as needing to be taken down a peg or two. On vaccines: it is too easy to spread misinformation about these and to forget the scourges of smallpox and polio, the former eliminated from the planet and the latter now confined to isolated corners of the world where ignorance and religion still prevail.

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  • 25
    Andrea R says:

    I guess she uses homeopaty products. After she used one for a while, ask them if it works. She will entusiastically reply “yes of course”. Tell them by night you changed the product with water. Tell her she drank faucet water and she was not even able to distinguish. She’ll eventually get mad at you but you’ll eventualy proved your point.

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