Regulation, Regulation, Regulation.

February 24th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 1 Comment »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday February 26, 2004
The Guardian

· There are a few alternative therapists out there with plenty of time on their hands to do some extra reading. Reina Chavarria, a faith healer in Los Angeles, was this week sentenced to nine years in jail after her treatment of a man who came to her with eczema: she injected him with a mystery substance, he had a fit and promptly died. Not so much as an “I’m sorry” from Reina, who refused to give $250,000 compensation to the family – from her personal wealth of $1.5m (£800,000) – in return for three years off the sentence. A martyr to the cause? The injection contained anti-inflammatory drugs, so it looks like she might have put her faith in proper science after all: but then I guess faith is no substitute for knowledge.

· Meanwhile Reginald Fenn, a naturopath in Australia, is this week looking at a five-year stretch for killing an 18-day-old baby. He claimed herbal drops had cured her, so her parents cancelled an operation to repair her heart valve. She was dead less than a week later. Justice Newman said the sentence should act as a deterrent to other alternative practitioners. The full weight of the law would fall on them if similar tragedies followed their interventions. I suppose our battle is international. If anyone in government is interested in regulating this bizarre market do please let me know.

· Of course, that’s not as easy as it sounds. Osteopaths, or “overpriced pony-tailed private physiotherapists with plenty of time for a nice cup of tea and a chat” as my friend Alex the physiotherapist knows them, became the first alternative therapists to be chartered in the UK in 1993. The battle almost tore the profession in half, with the squares in the General Council and Register of Osteopaths desperately trying to stay evidence-based and conventional, while their colleagues got all huffy about this missed opportunity to get the state’s authority behind the idea that osteopathy – which proposes that diseases are caused by mechanical interference with nerves and the blood supply to organs – could be effective in a range of conditions, from asthma to painful periods. They recently hired a private detective firm to spy on their ex-friends in the GCRO as part of a legal case: nice. And their counsel? Carole Caplin’s best mate, Cherie Booth QC. Don’t hold your breath for regulation.

Please send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk


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One Response



  1. Lozzamatorials said,

    May 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    “osteopathy – which proposes that diseases are caused by mechanical interference with nerves and the blood supply to organs”

    You can’t fight bad science, with bad journalism. This definition dates from the days when Doctors were bleeding patients and poisoning them with mercury.

    Joking aside, it is worth getting up to date information for your articles. Saying that, I can see the attraction of using such outdated, but amusing definitions.