Pope Dope

April 7th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, religion | 1 Comment »

Bad science

Ben Goldacre
Thursday April 7, 2005
The Guardian

• Pope of Popes, the People’s Pope, Pope John Paul the Great. But to many he will perhaps be remembered as the African Aids Victims’ Pope. Who could forget Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, telling us all that HIV could pass through impermeable latex condoms? “The Aids virus is 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon,” he said. “The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ formed by the condom.” The devil sent half of all new HIV infections to people under the age of 25, most of them women in developing countries, to taunt him, but JPII steadfastly presided over cardinals, bishops, priests and nuns in four continents, spreading the message that HIV can pass through tiny holes in condoms, discouraging use of barrier contraception, and making this a better world for us all. Bravo.

• Meanwhile, more Bad Science mortality from Ireland, where a coroner has found that 49-year-old dad Paul Howie died needlessly after his alternative therapist advised against medical treatment. I leave the story to his widow, as she told the inquest: “Mineke Kamper had repeatedly said to us that … if we did get medical treatment Paul would die, and that she could and would cure him…On the day Paul collapsed at her house, I specifically asked her if there was a point in her treatment where she would refer Paul to a hospital if needed and she assured me she would. She then relayed stories to me of people who did not follow her advice and who were now dead. She looked me in the eye and said ‘did I want my husband’s death on my hands?’. She looked at our baby, Alan, and asked ‘could I look him in the eye and say I was responsible for his daddy’s death?.” Mineke Kamper did not even attend the inquest. She was fined €6.35. The coroner said that if Mr Howie had received medical treatment he would still be alive. “Instead, the deceased found himself under the total control of a domineering, self-styled natural health therapist who insisted on his surrendering himself exclusively to her care.”

• This was the second coroner’s inquest Mineke Kamper has decided not to attend: in 2001 a client of hers died of an asthma attack, after recording in her diary that Kamper had recommended she give up all her asthma medication except for Ventolin, a suggestion that Kamper denied in a statement. If you have received dangerous advice from any therapist, or indeed pontiff, I want to know about it.


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