I beat CBS to the punch by two years in what they said about the Oxycotin pharma fraud. It is in the Prince chapter of Tom Irregardless and Me, there because Prince died a victim of that fraud. Since the Prince chapter is Chapter 1, it is even in the free preview section.
I didn’t mention the company or the drug by name. I followed the lead of Watchtower publications, which seldom names individual villains. You do not name a villain, for as soon as you name one, you create the impression that removing that villain will fix things. Instead, if you should succeed in taking him out, another villain immediately steps into his shoes and the play continues with barely a hiccup.
It is the play we are watching, not the heroes and villains in it. You do not have to know the names of the actors to follow the play – it can even be a distraction if you do. The names don’t matter. If one actor doesn’t show up for curtain call, they simply plug in a substitute, and the play continues.
'Tom Irregardless and Me', in the Prince chapter, quotes a Dr. Johnson, who wrote to say he was
“forced to paint an unflattering picture of the industry that I have been a part of for the last 15 years. I wish I could tell you that this epidemic was due to an honest mistake. That the science was unclear or had mixed results that only later became evident. But I can’t. I also wish I could tell you that the only reason the problem persists is a ‘lack of physician awareness.’ But I won’t. The reason this opioid problem started and the reason it continues is sadly for the most American reason there is - business.”
At one time, Dr. Johnson points out, American doctors prescribed opioids as did doctors everywhere: for pain relief from cancer or acute injury. He then tells of a drug company, introducing a new opioid product in 1996, that swung for the fences. It didn’t want to target just cancer patients. It wanted to target everyone experiencing everyday pain: joint pain and back pain, for example:
“To do this, they recruited and paid experts in the field of pain medicine to spread the message that these medicines were not as addictive as previously thought...As a physician in training, I remember being told that the risk of addiction for patients taking opioids for pain was ‘less than one percent.’ What I was not told was that there was no good science to suggest rates of addiction were really that low. That ‘less than one percent’ statistic came from a five-sentence paragraph in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980. It has come to be known as the Porter and Jick study. However, it was not really a study. It was a letter to the editor; more like a tweet. You can read the whole thing in 90 seconds.”
The CBS story of 5 days ago reveals a former drug rep of the company who spills for them.. I had it all two years ago, and it is even more damning. I didn’t put it in the book because illuminating Prince’s JW life was the object of the chapter, not crusading against pharma.
In fact, not only was the drug far more addictive than doctors and reps were led to believe, but the pain relief it delivered only lasted a few hours, not the 12 that was advertised. Yet, when complaints of such were received, the company would not permit reps to advise patients to take it more often, since that exposed the fact that the much more expensive drug was no better than what was already being used for pain. Instead, the advice was to increase the dosage, and that obviously served to intensify the addictive quality. Prince and millions like him got hooked on a drug that the doctor prescribed, and when doctors started to get squirrelly, withholding supply for fear of what they were unleashing, these ones were driven to the black market to find substitutes.
It is here in the first chapter, Prince, which, to my knowledge, is the most complete, and perhaps only, published collection of the artist's JW experiences and interactions. And it is in the free section.
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I Asked My Doctor about My Problem Prostate, and He Prescribed Takapis

I like to live life to the full. And just because I have entered my 60's - well, there is no slowing down for me!

But, I had a problem that almost stopped me cold from enjoying everything life had to offer - my Prostate. Twenty times a day and twenty times a night it called me to the bathroom. But once there, i couldn't "go." Well, I'm not a man to let these things slow me down! So I asked my doctor about it.

He said I had a badness problem prostate and that there was a name for my condition: BPP disease.

And he prescribed Takapis. Now my life is full again. Ask your doctor if Takapis is right for you. If he says no, he'll hear about it from us.

(Takapis is not for everyone. The most common side effects are nausea, incontinance, suicidal thoughts, hemhoroids, bad breath, cancer and leprosy, which can lead to death. Tell your doctor right away if you experience death. Do not stop taking Takapis before talking to your doctor. We'll make sure he says no. Do not take Takapis with food. Do not take Takapis within 200 yards of a fire hydrant. Do not take Takapis on an empty stomach. If you cannot afford your medication, tell us just how much money you do have. Maybe we can reach a deal )

Takapis changed my life and made me one happy camper. Maybe Takapis will do the same for you! That's Takapis. T A K A P I S, to live life to the full! Download

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Will Trump Bring in Socialized Healthcare, Beat Dems to the Punch?

I will be very bold and predict that Trump will bring in socialized medicine, though it will not be called that. Even I do not think this likely, but most do not think it possible, so I still come off as being bold, though some will say insane.

Trump is pragmatic and has shown he is not bound by ideologies. I can't imagine how healthcare could work via competition among insurance companies when healthy persons can opt out. Obamacare, though it will surely crash of its own weight, has planted the notion, accepted everywhere else, that everyone deserves access to healthcare. Trump himself seems to embrace the idea. He may take the bull by the horns, figure he can craft a system that incorporates the private sector better than any Democrat can, for they distrust the private sector, and charge ahead.

It will be a very hard sell. He will lose many of his own people, but may gain from the other side. Even then it may be doomed. Americans are used to Cadillac treatment, and while universal health care is universal, its quality goes down. Pharma too, may scream, because they are used to soaking Americans to offset the modest profits they must take elsewhere. They will carry on about 'choking innovation,' and so forth. As it is, they don't bother innovating unless they see a substantial buck in it; that's why there is MRSA with no new antibiotics to fight it. It's hard to be overconfident here, but I can imagine Trump may try tackling it.

Maybe he can still sell it. Overall healthcare quality in America is well above that of any third world country. But among the developed countries, it comes in dead last. I'm tired of playing Russian Roulette with my modest net worth for every sliver I have removed. Perhaps other people are, too.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Should Pharma Be Expected to Cut its Own Throat?

The 14 year old girl that hung herself and streamed it live on Facebook, which continued live until cops arrived and shut it off? Which Facebook took down as soon as they became aware, but it was too late because other sources picked it up and would not take it down because their lawyers told them they did not legally have to? The one that the head cop in Georgia just assumed would be taken down upon request, simply out of common decency? Silly him.

That girl had just had her prescription of Zoloft doubled, so said a Florida newspaper. Zoloft, it turns out, has a black box warning at the FDA. It increases the risk of suicides in teenagers. Minors taking it should be watched closely. Do you think her parents (or anyone) were made aware of this? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

It gets more personal, though not more tragic. For a suspected UTI, not an established one, just a ‘maybe,’ my doctor said I ought to take Ciprofloaxin. I don’t like drugs, and if I am taking any, I try to get off them as soon as possible. But a UTI is not a big deal, and the doctor is a competent and likable guy, therefore trusted, and he writes the prescription off so casually, as though he was recommending M&Ms, that I filled the prescription and took 3. (With an antibiotic, you’re supposed to polish them off, one at a time, until the bottle runs out.)

My wife is smart and on top of things. She uncovers things and soon advised me not to take them. Uncharacteristically (just kidding) I listened to her. Like the New York State PSA guy ecstatic that he heeded advice to get his colonoscopy said, I’m so glad I did.

It turns out that Ciprofloaxin has TWO black box warnings. One of them (perhaps both) says you DO NOT take it for a UTI or other minor things. It is a last-ditch Hail Mary recourse to be tried when facing calamitous illness and everything else has failed.

If you go online, you will find experiences that will scare the pants off you. Plenty from individuals, but individuals are individuals. Sometimes they are just big crybabies. Go first to the New York Times.


There you will read of people absolutely and PERMANENTLY ruined by this drug. It tears you up inside, similar to the weapon in some Star Trek episode (or was it a Star Trek movie, for it is almost too nasty for Star Trek the TV show?) that doesn’t just kill you, it tears apart all your guts in doing so. This is not an exaggeration – read the New York Times article. Satisfied that it is genuine, then search out the individual stories online without concern that they are just whiners who are carrying on. Those pants that were scared off you and that you put on again? They will not only be scared off you once more, they will disintegrate.

The New York Times is ever so deferential toward the drug’s maker (far more than I am going to be) because it is Big Pharma and Big Pharma loves us and pulls our bacon out of the fire routinely. I don’t share that love.

If my Chevy is in danger of a nut wobbling loose, GM will tell me. They will not just tell me once. They will nag me about it. They will not just post it on the government website and pray that neither I nor my dealer sees it. They will not just sell as many of the villainous Chevy’s as they possibly can, while ‘lawyering up’ for the inevitable barrage of lawsuits that will one day in the (hopefully) distant future hit them, which they will fight vehemently, case by case, by saying: “Well, it’s on the government site, you idiot. Can’t you read?” and then after many years when plaintiffs have become thoroughly disheartened, offer a class action settlement for pennies on the dollar, which is exactly what Merck did with ‘It’s a beautiful morning’ Vioxx.

There is a former Merck representative online who states that for every dollar Pharma spends on educating you through drug ads and otherwise, they spend six times that amount ‘educating’ the medical field. There is another Pharma VP who says: “Look, nobody has any money. Government doesn’t. Researchers don’t. Universities don’t. But Pharma does.”

“Conduct a study for us,” Pharma says, “here’s tons of money to fund it.” If the results come back favorable to Pharma, they can expect more funding for other studies. If the results come back unfavorable, they will never hear from Pharma again. ‘No money has changed hands,’ the VP says. ‘No agreements have been entered into. But everyone knows what they must do.’

I am so done with these scoundrels. Absolutely, you do not trust them as far as you can spit. You stay away from them to the extent possible. When it is not possible, you independently verify every word they utter. They are not your friends.

And yet, within the context of this system of things, there is an excuse that can be made for them. Ciprofloaxin was originally intended as a cancer drug, since it kills everything in sight, and possibly it will kill more of the bad guys than the good guys. When it didn’t turn out that way, Pharma didn’t want to be stuck with the bill. And the FDA didn’t want them to be, ether.

See, the FDA is scared silly, as everyone should be, that there are devastating bacteria on the loose, such as MRSA, that are completely impervious to existing medicine. The FDA wants Pharma to come up with new, better, antibiotics, to take out the bad bacteria. But Pharma doesn’t want to do it because there is no money in it. You take your single bottle of antibiotics, it cures up your infection, and that is the end of it. What Pharma wants is a blood pressure medicine that you take for the rest of your life. So the government allows them to ensure their profits, letting them sell Ciprofloaxin and other poisons, knowing it will cause irreversibly harm in some, but figuring it is all collateral damage en route to the greater good.

Are they evil? Yes. But the basic evil, which forces their hand, is beyond them and is not of their doing. It is an economy, indeed an entire systems of things, that is based upon self-interest, and often outright greed. Should Pharma be expected to cut its own throat and bankrupt itself? Does anybody else?

How foolish that so many do not listen to Jehovah’s Witnesses (in Russia, even seek to ban them!) who alone tell of the government by God, the Kingdom government of the Lord’s prayer, under which God’s will is to be done “on earth, as it is in heaven.” We can assume God has it together up there in heaven, as the prayer says, but it sure isn’t done on earth, and when it is, it is the exception, not the rule. How foolish that people do not consider (and at some times vehemently oppose) the one organization that publicizes the Kingdom and that right now lives under its self-sacrificing model of love, not greed. How foolish that so many will oppose, unwilling to make the minimal self-sacrifice required.

Let them continue to think, if they must, that this system of things can be fixed. How’s that project going, anyway?

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Carl Jung, Job, and the Holocaust

I've said nice things about Carl Jung on this blog before. For example:

“The next time I need my head examined, that’s the kind of guy I’ll seek out, rather than some modern-day critical type who declares: 'first thing we have to do is get rid of this nutcake religion!'”

Not only does Jung, unlike most of his colleagues, acknowledge that there is a spiritual side of things, but he maintains that the spiritual side is the more genuine, the more real, the more 'true.' The “statements of the conscious mind,” he says, “may easily be snares and delusions, lies, or arbitrary opinions, but this is certainly not true of statements of the soul.” However, these latter statements “always go over our heads because they point to realities that transcend consciousness.”

The “inferior” statements of the conscious mind, which initially seem persuasive, but in reality may prove to be “snares. delusions, lies, or arbitrary opinions,” are not limited to the conscious mind of the individual, but include entire populations, movements, nations, and eras. Doesn't history continually bear this out? Nor do I think for one second that the modern day “age of science” will remedy this woe. Science gives us iPods and iPads, but doesn't teach us how to get along with each other.

I like Jung. I like his writings on extroversion and introversion. I like his analogy on how the perspective of the rising sun differs from that of the setting sun. I like his work on personality types. Did you know his insights are the driving force behind those ubiquitous vocational tests that counselors foist upon us, in which you answer nosy-type personal questions, and they tell you what you ought to do for a living? 

Moreover, you have to be careful critiquing Jung, since he is a Great Man, and you're not. If he writes something spiritual with which you disagree, upon what basis do you disagree? “The Bible SAYS what it MEANS and MEANS what it SAYS!"? Be careful. You don't want to come across as some Bible-thumping redneck.

But sometimes, even with Jung, a guy has to stand up and say “the emperor has no clothes!” Such is the case when Jung starts analyzing the Book of Job, which he does in  Answer to Job, published in 1952.

Now, you have to know going in that, if Jung believes in spiritual things, that does not mean he is believes the Bible. Rather, he maintains that certain spiritual legends and myths are universal; they are to be found in our “collective unconscious.” Furthermore, they pop up continually.....wisps and ghosts and hints....in various places, the Bible being but one. Now, I don't know why one need take this viewpoint; it seems to me but a manifestation of the “we are wise and learned adults....far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve...what's next, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?” syndrome. The Bible itself, far more simply, accounts for the fact that diverse religions, peoples, and cultures share common myths and legends: they all have a common origin and share a common spiritual past, as described in Genesis chapter 11. But that explanation requires acquiescence to “Adam and Eve,” for which we have grown “far too clever.”

You remember the story of Job, don't you? He's set up as an example....a test case, if you will, to settle the question of whether man can keep integrity to God under adversity. Satan, who appears only in the first two chapters of the book, charges that he will not:

 “Skin in behalf of skin, and everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul. For a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch as far as
 his bone and his flesh [and see] whether he will not curse you to your very face.”

 It's a challenge. God takes him up on it, and gives Satan permission to raise all manner of hell. In short order, Job loses everything he has. Too, he is struck by a painful sickness; chapter after chapter describes his suffering. Job's three pals come to visit, supposedly, to comfort him. As time goes on, though, the comfort turns into accusation. “You know,” they point out, “God doesn't punish people for nothing. If you've fallen on hard times, it must be your own fault. Yes, you may have seemed upright outwardly, but God knows a scoundrel when he sees one! He knows your true worthlessness and so he's “settled the score.” They merely hint this at first, of course, but as Job protests his innocence, they become more and more strident, till toward the end, they're fairly hurling epithets at the poor fellow. Just what a guy needs when he's on his sickbed.

Now, Job is unaware of the Satanic challenge. He hasn't the least notion why he is suffering, nor does he have any indication that it will end. But he does know that he's done nothing to “deserve” it. Goaded on by these false friends, he gets increasingly heated declaring his innocence, hinting at first, then hinting more strongly, finally outright accusing God of viciousness. Yes, if he could confront God face to face, he'd show Him who's in the right, who's moral! He'd argue his case....it was irrefutable.....and God would have no choice but to back down! Job really lets fly under intense suffering and the provocation of his pals. Who hasn't been there before: doing something we would never do otherwise but for the goadings of others?

Toward the end of the book, he gets his wish! God does speak to him! But not to be reproved by him. Rather, God poses a long series of questions to Job that serve to readjust his thinking. Afterwards, health and possessions are restored....Job has successfully answered Satan's challenge....a challenge he never knew existed in the first place!


Now, there's a lot of things that annoy me about Jung's commentary on the book of Job. In fact, almost all of it does. But for now, I'll focus on only one or two. Maybe I'll revisit the subject later.

Why does Jung have to put the worst possible spin on everything? For example, with regard to when God manifests himself to Job, Jung writes:

“For seventy-one verses he proclaims his world-creating power to his miserable victim, who sits in ashes and scratches his sores with potsherds, and who by now has had more than enough of superhuman violence. Job has absolutely no need of being impressed by further exhibitions of this power.....Altogether, he pays so little attention to Job's real situation that one suspects him of having an ulterior motive.....His thunderings at Job so completely miss the point that one cannot help but see how much he is occupied with himself.”

But isn't it Jung who completely misses the point? Why not phrase matters as the Watchtower does (10/15/2010, pg 4)? “During his time of suffering, Job struggled with despair and became somewhat self-centered. He lost sight of the bigger issues. But Jehovah lovingly helped him to broaden his viewpoint. By asking Job over 70 different questions, none of which Job could answer, Jehovah emphasized the limitations of Job's understanding. Job reacted in a humble way, adjusting his viewpoint.”

There! Isn't that better? I mean, before you go telling God how to run the universe, ought you not be able to answer at least one of the seventy questions? Issues were swirling about which Job knew nothing. Isn't that always the case with we humans on earth?

“For the true God is in the heavens, but you are on the earth. That is why your words should prove to be few.”      Eccles 5:2

And don't carry on about God bullying Job while he is in abject misery, as though holding a captive tortured audience through a boring lecture! An appearance of God will always make your day. It completely overrides everything else. Besides, God is shortly to restore his health.

Furthermore, Carl Jung presents the entire matter as though it were a friendly wager between God and the Devil, serving no purpose other than their amusement, treating as nothing the intense suffering Job goes through! Why does he do that? It's Jung who completely misses the point that Job is a test case to establish that man can keep integrity to God under the most extreme conditions.

For, the fact is, people do suffer intensely at times. And when that occurs, some are inclined to blame God. Should they? In its opening chapters, the Bible spells out how mankind came to be in it's present sorry state. In its closing chapters, it spells out how matters will ultimately resolve. (Abundant) supporting details are in between. Make a search of these things , and you'll find why God is not to blame for human suffering.

Now, in chapter XVII of Answer to Job, Carl Jung observes regarding evil: “We have experienced things so unheard of and so staggering that the question of whether such things are in any way reconcilable with the idea of a good God has become burningly topical. It is no longer a problem for experts in theological seminaries, but a universal religious nightmare....” Carl Jung wrote this book in 1952. What unheard of and staggering evil do you think he had foremost in his mind? Take a guess. Hint: the Nuremberg trials, which brought justice to some Holocaust Nazi criminals, took place in 1945-46.

Perhaps the most sadistic example of mass suffering in history occurred in Nazi Germany a mere decade before Jung wrote his book. Entire populations were herded into concentration camps, where many were gassed, starved, beaten, or otherwise worked to death. Twelve million died. The ones who survived left as walking skeletons. When General Dwight Eisenhower liberated Germany at the close of World War II, the mayor of a certain German town pleaded ignorance. Enraged, Eisenhower made him tour the nearest camp, he and the entire town's population. Next day, the mayor hung himself.

Among those imprisoned were Jehovah's Witnesses. They were unlike all other groups in that they alone had power to free themselves. All they had to do was renounce their faith and pledge cooperation with the Nazis. Only a handful complied, a fact which, 70 years later, I still find staggering.

From the Watchtower of 2/1/92:

'In concentration camps, the Witnesses were identified by small purple triangles on their sleeves and were singled out for special brutality. Did this break them? Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim noted that they “not only showed unusual heights of human dignity and moral behavior, but seemed protected against the same camp experience that soon destroyed persons considered very well integrated by my psychoanalytic friends and myself.”'

Why didn't the well-integrated psychoanalytic-approved prisoners hold up? Probably because they read too much Jung and not enough Watchtower!! Not Jehovah's Witnesses! They weren't hamstrung by having been nourished on Jungian theology. Job meant something to them. It wasn't there simply to generate wordy theories and earn university degrees. A correct appreciation of it afforded them power, and enabled them to bear up under the greatest evil of our time, a mass evil entirely analogous to the trials of Job! They applied the book! And in doing so, they proved the book's premise: man can maintain integrity to God under the most severe provocation. Indeed, some are on record as saying they would not have traded the experience for anything, since it afforded them just that opportunity. (another fact I find staggering)

So Carl Jung, in Holocaust's aftermath, stumbled about trying to explain how such evil could possibly occur, and could do no better than endorse the view already prevailing among intellectual Great Ones that the God of the Old Testament is mean, whereas the God of the New Testament is nice. He ought to have spoken to Jehovah's Witnesses. The latter didn't experience the Holocaust from the comfort of their armchairs. Those in Nazi lands lived through it, due in large part to their accurate appreciation for the Book of Job.

******  The bookstore

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Jehovah's Witnesses and Blood Transfusions

Here's a med student who posted something critical of religion in general and Jehovah's Witnesses in particular. He has no ax to grind (I don't think). He just reflects upon experiences he's had and reports he's heard. Why not answer his post? I did. Here's the post (with limited peripheral material edited out) entitled:

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood Transfusion

One of the most important aspects of science is it’s progressive nature. Our knowledge of any subject is always changing. Nowhere is this more evident than in science-based medicine. Physician guidelines change on an annual basis depending on studies and evidence supporting new treatments, therapies and procedures.

I can not imagine anything more contrasting to this than religion. Religion is structured in such a way as to prevent its beliefs from changing. Only when the most superior leaders of a religion decide that it should be changed does the doctrine itself change......

Last week, I was doing rounds in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) when I was introduced to a lovely little patient attached to IV lines and a nasal cannula for oxygen supplementation. This unstable newborn baby was suffering from hemolytic disease of the newborn, which occurs when maternal antibodies still present in the baby attack its red blood cells (RBCs), causing their contents to spill out into the blood stream. If it wasn’t for the concomitant jaundice that developed, this baby’s fatally low hemoglobin levels would have caused him to be almost as pale as the page these words lie on.

When a pediatrician is confronted with this scenario, the treatment is rather common sense: stabilize the patient, attempt to clear the serum of toxic levels of bilirubin (to prevent irreversible brain damage), and transfuse the patient with compatible blood. Otherwise, the baby’s blood cells will continue to be attacked until there are none left and the central organs cease to receive oxygen.
But alas, the baby’s parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood transfusions are strictly against their beliefs because a nearly 2000 year-old scripture warns against eating blood. Not that eating blood and a transfusion are the same thing but according to the religions main legal entity, The Watchtower Society, it is. “The Society,” as it is often referred to colloquially by Witnesses, directs, administers and develops the doctrines for the religion and followers.

The Watchtower Society doesn’t draw the line at whole blood transfusions but rather at any components of blood. This includes platelets, RBCs, white blood cells (WBCs) and blood plasma and further discourages the use of fractions from any of these blood components, including albumin, globulins, clotting factors, erythropoietin (EPO), and hemoglobin. These restrictions have lead doctors to develop bloodless surgery techniques. Such surgery is not yet common, and very few have the luxury of utilizing it.

In the meantime, Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to die during the desperate times requiring blood transfusions, which are more common than one might think. This is exemplified by the Jehovah’s Witness magazine Awake, which explained in its May, 1994 issue that:  “In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.”

If practicing Jehova’s Witnesses do receive transfusions, they are ousted from the religion in what’s known as disfellowshipping. These individuals are cut off from their families and friends who are also Jehovah’s Witnesses because the religion attempts to limit social interaction with non-Witnesses.

With increasing pressure in our technologically-advanced era, the Watchtower Society has very gradually loosened its grips on its opposition to blood transfusions and blood products. In the last few years the religion has allowed their followers to use specific blood products in special cases. For example, hemophiliacs are no longer shunned for using blood clotting factors under special circumstances. The church also seems to be heading towards the direction of allowing autologous blood donation, a process where a patient donates blood for storage that is used later in his own surgeries.

This raises the question, why not speed up the process? Why let so many people die in the past because of rules that will ultimately change in the future? Can’t Jehovah’s Witnesses just skip all the politics and allow their followers to use modern medicine like everyone else? It would certainly place the religion in a better light by removing one of its most significant criticisms. A giant weight would be lifted from the backs of so many hemophiliacs, anemics and pregnant mothers.

In the USA, the law requires doctors to overrule the wishes of families that want to deny their children procedures that would prevent long-term complications and death. This is not true around the world, however, and here in Poland, where I go to school, that is not the case. Doctors need to acquire court orders to treat children who’s parents deny them basic lif e support or treatments that would prevent end-organ damage.

As for the baby whom I saw myself in the hospital, well she did receive a court-ordered life-saving blood transfusion. If she hadn’t, there’s no doubt she might not be alive anymore. According to the resident physician, when the parents heard of this they decided to give her up for adoption. It’s still a mystery to me how religions can override our most innate emotions. To me, however, the adoption was a blessing in disguise.


A reply:

 Really, nothing has changed with regard to JW views on transfusion other than adjustments to keep pace with changes in transfusion therapy. In recent years, fractions have been developed that are a much tinier component of blood than the platelets, RBCs, white cells, and plasma you mention. The Bible speaks only of blood. Are these small fractions “blood” or not? Some will reason that any percentage, no matter how tiny, constitutes blood; others will think “it’s not a cake until you mix the ingredients.” I do not agree that the Watchtower Society discourages these fractions. Rather, they make clear that their use is subject to individual conscience, since the Bible doesn’t specifically say. By outlining the reasons some might decide to refuse them, you might think they are discouraging the fractions, however they also outline the reasons others might accept, making clear that it is a personal choice.

Only when the most superior leaders of a religion decide that it should be changed does the doctrine itself change.

In my opinion, it is not good to look at matters in this way. It will inevitably lead to looking down on your patient, maybe thinking them deluded, manipulated fools, given to fanaticism. Can that possibly lead to mutual respect or the trust a patient ought to be able to have in a doctor? Moreover, if you view them as slaves to “superior leaders of a religion,” that is another disconnect, since they do not view it that way. The “superior leaders” may have alerted them to what the Bible says, but having done that, it is the Bible itself that guides the Christian conscience, and not the leaders. Proceeding on an interpretation which the patient does not hold can only cause alienation.

Having said this, I can well appreciate the frustration of a doctor upon discovering his preferred method of treatment, perhaps his only method of treatment, is categorically rejected for reasons he neither understands nor agrees with. However, respect for the patient’s conscience might permit the doctor to make a mental adjustment. If a patient had a severe allergy, say, that absolutely ruled out the preferred treatment, doctors would not become angry, nor resent the patient for being uncooperative. Rather, they’d accept it as part of the big picture, and try to work with it. Every population of Jehovah’s Witnesses maintains a Hospital Liaison Committee, which serves to connect local doctors with whatever bloodless resources may exist locally, if only to arrange a transfer. (not sure what is available in Poland, as I am in the U.S., but it may be more than you are aware) Bloodless medicine is a specialty, and one can hardly expect all doctors to specialize. We simply appreciate it when doctors attempt to work with our beliefs, rather than trod over them.

The fact is that Jehovah’s Witnesses have decided to live their lives in harmony with Bible principles. In most cases, this serves them very well. The same Bible that prevents them from accepting blood transfusions also prevents them from drug abuse, from overdrinking, from smoking. If the entire population became Jehovah’s Witnesses, surely the mortality rate would plummet, since any complications arising from their view on blood is far offset by benefits from their overall healthy lifestyle. If a doctor focuses on this larger picture, he could not ask for a better patient. But regarding blood, the Bible says what it says. Witnesses don’t have the authority to change it, not even the “superior leaders.” It says it not once, but repeatedly, over many different timeframes. Moreover, Witnesses are well aware that eating blood and accepting a transfusion are not the same thing. But the Bible reasons that preclude “eating” blood apply equally to accepting it via another means.

If you are aware of the advancing nature of science-based medicine, surely you know that rethinking transfusion therapy is an area in which it is most rapidly advancing. A 2008 article in New Scientist magazine is entitled: An Act of Faith in the Operating Room. The act of faith is not withholding a transfusion. It is giving one. Says Gavin Murphy, a cardiac surgeon at the Bristol Heart Institute in the UK: “There is virtually no high-quality study in surgery, or intensive or acute care – outside of when you are bleeding to death – that shows that blood transfusion is beneficial, and many that show it is bad for you:”

 The U.S. Army is now training its medical personnel in bloodless medicine, convinced that such training will save both lives and money. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. Might the day come, or is it here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition?

Lastly, according to the resident physician, “when the parents heard of this they decided to give her up for adoption.”  I can’t conceive of this happening. Not that I doubt your sincerity in telling the matter. But for it to be true, there have to be other factors at work. No one in the Witness community would think such an outcome a good idea. Perhaps the parents were otherwise unstable? Perhaps the state removed the child and left the parents no choice? I don’t know. But it doesn’t ring true. Jehovah’s Witnesses will strive diligently for their Bible-based view on blood to be respected. But if they are overruled (which often happens, as you point out) they don’t lose interest in the child.


There were other comments on the post besides mine. One also took issue with that parting slam at the parents: “However, the hearsay at the end – about the postulated adoption – is unsubstantiated and feels slanderous. It detracts from the otherwise well-founded observations and arguments you’ve made.” The author Matt apparently agreed: “Point taken,” he wrote. “I will try to keep this into account in my future blogs.”

I also thought it well to take a look at that May 1994 Awake quote which Matt uses to advance the notion JW youths are dropping like flies for their transfusion refusals:

“In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.”

Not that I accuse Matt of anything devious. I've no doubt he used the quotation in good faith. It's likely from a web source purporting to be informative, but in reality existing only to denigrate a faith its  author dislikes, trying to make JWs look as fanatical as possible, and doing so for philosophical reasons, rather than anything having to do with medicine or lives. So is the statement taken out of context or not?

It's a little difficult to tell, for there is no context. The quote is a one-line blurb on the magazine's table of contents designed to pique interest in the articles to follow. The articles to follow describe the cases of five Witness youngsters in North America. Each was admitted into a hospital for aggressive cancer or leukemia. Each fought battles with hospitals, courts, and child welfare agencies determined to administer blood against the patient's will. Each eventually prevailed in court, being recognized as “mature minors” with the right to decide upon their own treatment (though in two cases, a forced transfusion was given prior to that decision). Three of the children did die. Two lived. It's rather wrenching stuff, with court transcripts and statements of the children involved, and those of the participating doctors, lawyers, and judges. In no case do you get the sense that blood transfusions offered a permanent cure, only a possible prolonging of life, ideally long enough for some cure to be discovered (which has not yet happened). One of the children, who did die, was told that blood would enable her to live only three to six months longer, during which time she might “do many things,” such as “visit Disney World.” There's little here to suggest that “thousands of youths are dying for putting God first” who would otherwise live. Frankly, I think the quote is sloppily written. “They are still doing it,” says the quote. Doing what? Dying? Dying in the thousands? Or putting God first without regard for the immediate consequences?

Speaking of a respectful doctor-patient ralationship, a week after Weedsandwheat had his letter in defense of Jehovah's Witnesses published, City Newspaper published this letter:

…....In my practice years, I served three counties, which meant that I cared for children in at least six families of Jehovah's Witness faith. We worked together in a sense of communication, mutual respect, and understanding. This included ongoing discussion of therapeutic options for various conditions. I'm not sure whether today the Internet would change all of this. Hopefully my “families” might still remember me.          Bernard A. Yablin MD      (do a Google search, and this doctor pops up quite a bit)

It's an oddly touching letter, isn't it? Yes, hopefully they do remember him. Doctors proficient in their craft, who can also relate to the patient with “a sense of communication, mutual respect, and understanding,” are not that easy to find.


Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Alzheimer's Research: So the Cops Shoot the Bad Guys Instead of the Good Guys...

Now that I'm old enough to receive the AARP magazine, I read each issue cover to cover. They're packed with nice articles geared to the aging, and......there's no nice way to say this.....that's what I'm doing. But a recent piece about Alzheimers research in September's Bulletin (Alzheimer's: a new Theory, by Elizabeth Agnvall) left me un-warm and un-fuzzy. I've known people to succumb to Alzheimers. Moreover, I don't have it now, but how do I know it's not lurking around the corner? Some would say it's made certain inroads, already. So...yes...I want medical science to get its act together on this malady. Sure, they have their act together now, the author maintains. But they insisted, with the same fervor, that they had it together just a few years ago. The author points out, however, that today's approach is a 180 degree reversal from yesterday's.

Turns out that for the last 20 years, medical science has proceeded on the theory that “sticky plaques” are the culprit causing Alzheimer's. Drugs have been developed to search and destroy those plaques. Haven't they been peddled on American TV: Ask your doctor if such-and-such is right for you? Those ads drive Pop into a rage. But now sticky plaques are thought to be not the culprit! Rather, they are the body's defense for attacking the real menace: clumps of amyloid beta protein, called oligomers. Oligomers do the damage, not sticky plaques, so the new thinking goes. Sticky plaques are the body's means to take them out! We've been targeting the wrong enemy! Medically sanctioned “friendly fire”…...the practice for the last twenty years!

Now, being a blogger who believes in God, I have to be so careful writing anything that might be perceived as critical of science, lest some science-worshipping atheist come along and lecture me that science is based on EVIDENCE, whereas religion is based on mere BELIEF, and what do I think is smarter when I'm sick: pray myself better, or go to a science-based doctor, and do I still believe that the earth is flat?! I tell you, it's a risky course to take. So, let me say it upfront: I'm not against science. I know it's a discovery process. I know mistakes are made along the way. Alright, so the cops arrive upon the scene and shoot all the good guys instead of the bad guys! Is that any reason to be down on law enforcement? Of course not! A slight adjustment is all that's needed. So let bygones be bygones and we'll all be happy.

No. I'm not critical on that account. Mistakes happen. God knows there's plenty of people who scour past publications of JWs to find understandings which have changed, and then get all hysterical over it, supposing, I guess, that any modification is like smashing the Ten Commandments tablets. Jehovah's Witnesses tack. We hone in. We get ever closer and sometimes alter course. Why should science not do the same?

What grabs me is this quote: “[Andrew] Dillin, of the Salk Institute, started pursuing the oligomer theory several years ago. Then, the idea was so controversial, Dillin says, that some scientists would walk out of the room when he made his presentation at conferences. Now, he says, many of the top researchers in the field are convinced.”

They walked out of the room? How dogmatic does that sound? How in keeping is that with Plonka's manifesto “prove a scientist wrong and he will thank you for it.” It's rather hard to prove them wrong when they walk out of the room as soon as they hear something they don't like. Now, that's intransigence of the sort they would, in a heartbeat, ascribe to religion.  And yet, just a few years later, these same scientists alter and say “Oh.....you know, that fellow was right all along!”

They're not immune to stubbornness, that's all I'm saying. What steams me is those who claim they are.....that second buttressing layer of scientist-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist types who worship science themselves and ram it down all of our throats as the be-all and end-all. For, if this new theory is right, then you were better off declining when your doctor prescribed those Alzheimer's medications. “No, I don't trust it,” and “these guys don't know what they're talking about” are now seen to be perfectly reasonable views to have held. But God help you if you held them while the fat-headed 180 degree ass-backward Alzheimer's approach was in vogue. “Alright, don't take the meds, if you're going to be so pig-headed!” can't you hear some of them say. “Maybe you want to go to a faith healer, or a witch doctor, instead!” But now we see that's exactly what you should have done. They may not have helped, but they wouldn't have hurt, as did the now-outdated science-based approach.

The article soft-pedals this bit of unpleasantness: “And if the [new] theory is correct, then drugs that target plaques – as many of the most promising medications have done in the past few years – may not help people who have the disease. They could even make them worse.” A very deferential statement, is it not? If the theory is correct, they certainly make them worse.....one would think, in exact correlation with how they were supposed to have made them better. Even though they were the “most promising” medications. Unless the old meds never did anything in the first place. Perhaps, in that case, you can now claim they do no harm. But when marketers urge us to pester our doctors for the stuff, surely the response they hope to elicit from that learned one is not “don't bother, they don't do anything, you'll just be wasting your money!”

It took me awhile to realize....dikki clued me in, actually....that pharmaceutical companies advertizing on TV is not a worldwide phenomenon. It happens in only two countries, I am told, of which the United States is one. So it will be hard for non-American readers to fathom just how obnoxious these ads are. Decisive, immaculate and impossibly handsome doctors stride purposefully through futuristic laboratories. They glance alternately at teams of researchers peering into microscopes, at banks of computers, at their clipboard, and, of course, at YOU, as they authoritatively report the very latest astounding medical breakthrough. “Such-and-such is not right for everyone,” they acknowledge, “but...damn it, man,” they seem to be saying, “you know it's right for you!” Even as I write, I'm recalling one such “doctor” striding through a lab reminiscent of Batman's lair, touting some new med that unlocks the very “power of the sea,” (fish oil...the stuff you've been able to buy forever at any health foods store) and.....would you believe it?....the donkey actually ends his pitch peering contemplatively into the lab's full-wall aquarium, as if marveling how his outfit has managed to make a buck out of something God provided free.

This formula is not set in concrete. It can vary slightly. Alzheimer's, for example, afflicts our grandparents, and our grandparents are kindly, aren't they? So a brusque futuristic setting will not do. No. The setting here must be warmer, a kindly doctors office, for example, and the doctor himself ought to have gray hair. Antidepressants, too, ought to be touted by a kindly and caring doctor, not some self-centered jerk who's Porsche vanity plates read “PSYCH DR.” For woman's health, we even change the doctor's gender, for isn't any guy specializing in female issues a little suspect? No longer is the doctor an impossibly handsome man. Now it's an impossibly attractive woman, who's also athletic, has piercing eyes and an oddly spelled first name....you know, a Bond girl.

This type of 180 reversal in medical science happens all the time*, so that one ought to be given more credit than they commonly are (namely, none) if they choose to pass on the latest medical, or even scientific, thinking. It's somewhat as they say about the weather here in Rochester (or most anywhere else, I imagine): don't like the weather? Just stick around. It will change. Those who resist the latest advances of science for whatever reasons....perhaps reasons they can't even articulate.....intuitive reasons, if you will, sometimes come out ahead. They certainly do so often enough that there's no reason to criticize them. To acknowledge such is not to deride science, but only to put it into perspective. It's a generally progressive means of discovery, but not so sterling that it trumps every other sort of thinking. If one accepts that the present scientific consensus is tentative, then one does okay, and one can take it in stride when understandings change, being happy about the advance. Even then, however, it's only a (most likely) forward step taken, and not the finished mystery. Alas, there are ever so many who take the latest scientific notion as dogma. God help you if you fail to embrace their conclusions as truth.

It doesn't mean you ought to disparage science, of course, but surely it means you need not respond “how high?” when science says “jump!”

*********  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'


Know who made that tub? My sons did,” Mama says. “Know who made that picture?” pointing to a wall hanging. “I made it, I did.” See these walls? My sons made them. See that curtain? Know who made that? I made it, I did.” “Didn't your sons make that television, Mama?” I ask. “No, they didn't. I bought that television at Macy's in New York City.” 

Of course, Celeste's not really my mama, though she thought she was. But then, she thought she was the mama of ever so many people. Yes....here is another story from days at the group home.
Celeste had no end of sons. Oddly, she tended to arrange them in groups of fifty, as in the Bible.  Lots of daughters, too, but she emphasized sons. She had fifty sons who were policemen, she'd declare. They carry big guns with them, this long (a gesture about a foot and a half) Mess with them, and they'll crack you right in the jaw! She had another fifty sons who were priests, also sons who were bishops, and a son who was a Pope. Others were firemen. Ah....it's good to have so many sons, she must feel really blessed. “Nah....they're all bastards,” she'd say. “They all have their own wives. They don't come to see their mother. They just think of themselves, they do.”
It must be stated at this point that “bastard” was Celeste's word of choice. Everything was a bastard. She'd use the word when angry. She'd use the word when not angry. Her room was filled with objects both animate and inanimate....they're all bastards, she'd chuckle. “That elephant, that there, he keeps looking at me, he does, the bastard,” she'd mutter, and thumb her nose at it. Easing herself into the sit-down tub, she'd curse her own leg. “Get in there, you bastard!” and then “Hah! Called my own leg a bastard!” followed up by a  laugh at the witticism. “Shut up, you bastard!” she'd tell the toilet, and then: “How can it talk? It don't have a mouth.”
Now, being wholesome such as I am, I gave serious thought as to whether I should really sprinkle this post with “bastards.” In the end, I decided I would. First, it was Celeste's word, not mine. Second, I can't imagine conveying a feel for the woman without using her vocabulary. Third – trust me on this -  I'm sparing the reader (so far) 90% of what she'd routinely say. Fourth, aren't the real swear words ones like “kill,” “rape,” “war,” as Brother Wease told our brother? “The words I use (a lot....he's the closest Rochester comes to “shock jock”) are just silly words,” he says. To which our guy replied that since they are silly, we try to avoid them, but he didn't disagree with Wease's premise. Fifth, I sometimes wonder if strict avoidance of all course words isn't more a Victorian relic than a biblical one. Read through the Old Testament, and you'll find some earthy accounts. Somehow, I can't picture those OT characters using the sanitized words modern translators ascribe to them. When Elijah taunted no-show Baal, for example, in front of  his worshipers: “And it came about at noon that Elijah began to mock them and say: “Call at the top of your voice, for he is a god; for he must be concerned with a matter, and he has excrement and has to go to the privy,” I somehow can't picture him using that word. Celeste refers to the same substance frequently, and, believe me, she does not say “excrement.” Therefore, for this post only, I am relaxing my normally impeccable standards of fine language. [let the reader be warned]
When Celeste was but a young woman, her father gave her in to the latest medical craze – that of lobotomies. For about 15 years, that operation was all the rage in America. Group house lore was somewhat vague on dad's reason, obscured by many decades, but it seems Celeste had borne a couple of children out of wedlock. That didn't sit well with the family, and the operation was deemed a good way to control her behavior.
Lobotomies were first performed on humans by Dr. Antonio Egaz Moniz. He won a 1949 Nobel prize for his work. Dr Moniz' technique was to drill two holes on either side of the forehead, through each of which he would insert a special surgical knife to sever the brain's frontal cortex from its thalamus. As might be imagined, the operation was none too precise. However, it was thought to aid psychotic patients afflicted with repetitive thought, and a number of them did find relief. But there were also some who got worse, and others who showed no change, in fact, the results were in just about the same proportions one might obtain by doing nothing.  In time, Dr Moniz would advocate his procedure for only the most extreme and incurable of cases. He retired from medicine after one of his patients shot him, leaving him paralyzed. It's tempting to say it was one of his lobotomized patients, but no...it wasn't. It was a non-lobotomized one. (but did the fellow fear he might be next on the "to-do" list?)
Once you attuned yourself to Celeste's frequency, she was quite enjoyable to talk to. You'd play along, of course, try to enter her world. What was real and what was delusion? Sometimes, she'd claim to have made this knicknack or that contraption, like that wall hanging, other times she might say she'd bought them at Macy's in New York, a store owned by one of her sons. Life had apparently been harsh for Celeste. Any number of people in the past had hit her, even her own sons. They'd hit her hard for no reason at all, but she'd always managed to get them back, one time, for example, by knocking them “down the stairs and breaking both their f**king legs, the big bastards.”
Yet in public she could be surprisingly gracious, uninhibitedly complimenting this or that person on their dress or shoes or general appearance, going from person to person, then back to a favorite or two. People loved her. At first I braced myself for the type of invective that she would hurl in a heartbeat back home (“My God! Look at that ass! No wonder - she eats like a hog!”) but there was none of it, as if she was a different person. And if you led her in song ("I wonder if we can get away with singing a song for these people, Mama") such as Unforgettable, you'd find she would join in with perfect pitch, though she'd manage only a line or two undistracted. She used to sing, so she said, on a stage in New York City when she was seven years old. Several people at the last doctor's office waiting room said she'd made their day.

They used to come in through the eye sockets, just above the eyeball; American doctors had learned to streamline Moniz's time-consuming European process. And, surely reserving the process for only the most desperate and incurable was too conservative! Insert an ice-pick instrument behind the eye, a light smack of a mallet would pierce thin tissue and bone underneath, and then a quick rotation of the pick end. The knife end would swish like a windshield wiper, severing all in its path. Some experienced doctors, it's said, would faint at the sight. Electroshock sufficed for anesthesia. The entire process could be done in ten minutes. Largely through the near-evangelistic promotion of one American physician, Walter Freeman, (who trained scores of others) lobotomies became accepted therapy for convicted criminals, for discipline cases, for difficult relatives, for those exhibiting otherwise undesirable behavior. Eighteen thousand were performed between 1939 and 1951 in the United States. President John F. Kennedy's sister Rosemary received the operation as a young girl. The mildly retarded girl was going a little “boy-crazy,” much to the well-connected family's embarrassment, so dad took her to Dr Freeman. After the procedure, Rosemary spent the rest of her life institutionalized. Her father never told the rest of the family what he had done. (The case sounds remarkably like that of Celeste, though be assured, they were not the same person; there were many such cases.)
The media couldn't get enough of Dr Freeman. When he rolled into town, in his Loboto-Mobile – yes, newspapers actually called it that! - his exploits would make front page headlines. Curing mental distress was as easy, they wrote, as curing a toothache! Magazines such as Time and Life sang his praises, exaggerating his successes, sweeping aside his failures. A showman, he would sometimes do both eyes at once, two-handed lobotomies! He'd line patients up as in an assembly line, once doing 25 women in a single day.
I'd somehow assumed a lobotomized person wouldn't recall the procedure. I was mistaken. “I got a son who's a doctor,” Celeste confided once, “a brain doctor! He did an operation on me, he did, he hurt me real bad, he did. I saw stars from heaven! See....I got two holes in my head. (I leaned forward to feel them....no, mama, I can't feel them anymore. They must have healed up) I was out cold for a week! It hurt like hell, it did. He didn't give a goddamn. It didn't hurt him any!” I asked why he would do something like that. “Well, I did some things when I was a girl,” she muttered sheepishly, “and he didn't like that.”

She had a lot of anger; that was apparent to all. She took it out on her housemates  - “get away from me, you bastard, I'll cut your throat!” - though they'd done nothing to her. (in time, one of them learned to make preemptive strikes) Yet she could unexpectedly change her tune: “Oh, that dress looks very nice on you, Connie.” And her sorrow at learning of someone's death was genuine. Lots of things frightened her, even things she'd made. She feared death, too. “What do you think happens when you die?” the psychologist probed. “Oh, I'll probably go to hell,” she responded. So the psychologist thought she might do well to see a priest, an idea that gained some traction and I went to a nearby church to see what could be arranged, till Celeste herself slammed the door with: “I don't wanna see no f**king priest!” So I told her later, when she likewise expressed concern over hell, that I didn't think there was any such place. "You know what hell is?" she said to me, dead serious. "This is hell, right here." I swear I don't think there was anything wrong with the woman mentally before the lobotomy. Strong-welled, likely. Rebellious, perhaps. But mentally, I bet she was okay. She isn't now, though.
You couldn't really pin down details, but there was a theme to her early life. It wasn't a nurturing one. Housemates will shed few tears when she dies, I fear, and one or two will positively rejoice. Was she “born mean,” as she herself would tell you? Was she raised mean? Or did she become mean pondering what  had been done to her. For, at a young age, those she trusted most were duped by the latest medical craze. She was put into their clutches, and they lobotomized her, they did.
The bastards.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Vioxx, the Scientific Method, and the Atheists

Lots of people, if you levied a $4.9 billion fine on them, might look for a bridge from which to jump. But when Merck, the pharmaceutical company, struck a deal with lawyers to settle 27,000 lawsuits for that amount, legal and financial types were ecstatic. It could have cost so much more. I've heard 25 billion. I've even heard 50 billion. This is how you do it! one market analyst gushed. This is how you come back from a defective product. You fight each case no holds barred for a few years to discourage plaintiffs. Then you offer to settle for a lowball amount. Merck's stock rose 2.3% the day they announced the move, even while the overall market was sharply down.

Medical and ethical folks were less enthused. Like Dr. Eric Topol, for example, the cardiologist who in 2001 co-authored a JAMA paper warning of heart attack risks associated with the drug company's Vioxx. “I think they’ve gotten off quite easily, frankly, for the problems that they’ve engendered,” he said. A large clinical trial that ended in 2000 showed that Vioxx was much riskier than Aleve, an older painkiller. Four more years were to pass before Merck took the drug off the market, pulling the plug on their Young Rascals jingle "It's a Beautiful Morning" when it seemed the morning might not be so beautiful after all.

But if Dr. Topol groused, you should have heard Dr. Katherine Di Angelis. "What people should learn from this is you don't believe anything, not one thing, put out by a pharmaceutical company. Just don't believe it," she said on National Public Radio. "You start from there." She estimated probably 5-10 % of the people who were taking it really should have been taking it. The other 90% raised their risk of a heart attack or stroke with no significant benefits. "When you want to make money by selling products to people who don't need it....then you're going to get into this kind of trouble"

Dr Di Angelis is Editor in Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Now, this sticks in my craw even more than it might normally because I've just been squabblingwith a flock of atheists who worship science. Of course, they would never use that term - I can hear them sputtering now - yet what they do so closely resembles worship that I can't tell the difference.

"You don't believe anything, not one thing, put out by a pharmaceutical company," she advises the public. Okay. Good advice. Did she have counsel more harsh for medical doctors? After all, you could not get this drug over the counter. A doctor had to prescribe it. The general public can be excused for being duped by drug hype. But what of medical doctors, those high priests of the scientific method? The atheists I mentioned positively gush over the scientific method, the ultimate test of truth. Yet here we see that it's foremost representatives in the medical field, doctors, are every bit as susceptible to error as the average Joe. They uncritically swallow any bilge handed down to them.

My skirmish with the atheists was with regard to alternative health treatments: chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy. All hoax, they insist. They know that because they and their scientific allies have subjected such techniques to the Scientific Method - double blind repeatable controlled studies - with very unspectacular results. The fact that more and more people are choosing these therapies over conventional medicine means nothing to them. Those folks have only testimonials to offer, say the atheists, or even worse, anecdotal evidence. Absolutely worthless, they insist rather dogmatically; it only goes to show how gullible people are.

Tell it to the 27,000 plaintiffs who allege injury or even death of their loved ones from Vioxx. If alternative therapies fail, they simply fail. It's very rare for them to do harm.

One alternative that has gone from cult to mainstream within my lifetime is chiropractic. It's every step forward was fought tooth and nail by the American Medical Association, (AMA) which attempted to use its science stature to label the competition quackery. It took a lawsuitwhich ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court to end the iron fist.

As burdensome as the "quackery" namecalling was the financial hit one incurred in seeking chiropractic care. Insurance rarely covered chiropractic. Patients paid out of pocket. Imagine: medical care could be had for free (or with small co-pay); chiropractic care you paid for yourself. People chose chiropractic care. (To this day, a cynical friend swears by the rule: if it works, insurance won't cover it.) It wasn't superstitious dolts choosing the alternative therapy, which I suspect the science camp would love to maintain. No, it was the more educated and well-heeled, the only persons who could ignore the financial implications of seeking chiropractic care.

To this day, devotees of medical science grouse that chiropractic fails their tests of proof. Some grudgingly allow that it can serve a limited purpose in the case of back pain, but nothing more. Meanwhile, one constantly runs across persons crippled for life by disc removal surgery, (I know some of them) the mainstream medical practice that dominated for years. (still does, I think) How did chiropractic become so well accepted? Largely through the avenues my atheists despise: testimonial and anecdotal evidence. Thirty million people in the United States seek chiropractic care. Are they all fools?

Many areas of alternative medicine are more art than science. Didn't we once refer to all medicine as "healing arts"? They draw on the subtle uniqueness of each individual, not on the broad similarities which we all share. But therein lies a problem for scientific verification. If every single patient is different and your health care is attuned to those differences, that's a problem for the scientific method, which is most useful when there are common attributes readily grouped and measured. Alternative medicine is more like your child who does something irresistibly cute, so that you want to show him off. Will he do the same thing for relatives or friends or camera? Not a chance. How do you apply the scientific method to individual attributes, when it is those very attributes that form the basis of this or that treatment? Insisting alternative medicine conform to the scientific method is a bit like playing an away game, on someone else's turf with all their fans booing you. Better to play on your own field.

Then again, it could be that conventional science simply ignores what is too contrary to prevailing wisdom. This apparently happened withthat studyconcluding the placebo effect is overhyped. It made front page news one day in 2001, then it vanished without a trace, like a mafia don with concrete boots. Nobody ever mentioned it again. Might this be the case with alternative treatments, whose supporting evidence is ignored by the AMA people?

Inconceivable, says my science-adoring atheist: "The vast majority of scientists revel in what they don't know because it provides them with an opportunity to find out what's happening and explain it. Prove one wrong and he or she will be ecstatic," he tells me.

No, I don't think so. Science does not purge humans of human nature. Max Planck the physicist offers a more realistic assessment: "People think new truths are accepted when the proponents are able to convince the opponents. Instead, the opponents of the truth gradually die, and a new generation comes along who is familiar with the idea."

I'm not opposed to conventional health care. I'll see a doctor when sick (unlike Pop). But it's not the monopoly on truth that it would like us to believe. Alternatives work too well. I've seen, heard, and experienced it. When testimonials become overwhelming, you don't reject them simply because it's not the type of evidence you would prefer.

Vincent McCabe's book Let Like Cure Like (1997) discusses principles underlying most alternative therapies (homeopathy in his particular case): These philosophies, both thousands of years old, have yet to be proved scientifically because of the limitations of science, not because they are not true. p 17

Awake!, on the other hand, the JW publication, stays above the fray. Often it discusses matters of health. Invariably it states it does not endorse any specific treatment, but discusses what it does for informational purposes only. In other words, let's not have anyone take my views and think it represents all of Jehovah's Witnesses.

********************************  The bookstore


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Death and Rebirth of the Placebo

For just a brief moment, there was no placebo; there was no such thing. Just for a day. Placebo had its 15 minutes of antifame. And then the day passed, placebos resurfaced, and they've ruled ever since, just as before.

That day was May 24, 2001, and the front page read Survey Finds Placebo Effect Imaginary. From the Associated Press:

"One of the most strongly held beliefs in medicine, that dummy pills or other sham treatments greatly help many patients, has been called into question by Danish researchers who found little or no "placebo effect" in dozens of studies."

Those Danes had looked at study after study after study in which the experimental new drug was compared to the look-alike dummy pill, the placebo. If the new drug was any good, test results beat that of the placebo. But where researchers bothered to include a third group receiving neither drug nor placebo, the Danes found that that group fared about the same as the placebo group. In other words, people sometimes get better all by themselves! They sometimes do, in fact, just about as often as those who received the placebo.

I spoke to a few people involved in pharmaceuticals. They hadn't read the paper and hadn't heard of the survey and didn't believe me. A few days later, I googled "placebo." Conventional wisdom ruled once again. My article was buried many pages back. It took forever to find it. (But you can find it here.) Nobody ever touched the subject again.

I suspect placebo is a notion too good and too lucrative to let die. After all, when you're testing your new drug for efficacy and you can't wait to urge people to ask their doctors if it's right for them, you want it to seem like it has teeth. If it's so much better than the placebo and the placebo is so much better than nothing.....well, you've got some powerful stuff. But if the gap between nothing and placebo collapses, then your drug is not so effective as you thought. Better to keep that gap intact: broad shoulders for all new meds to stand on!

The fact is big pharma pushes a lot of drugs on us. We (in the USA) spent $2.7 billion on prescription drugs in 1960. By 2002 it was $162 billion. There were 600 prescription drugs to choose from in 1960. By 2002 it was 9000. Plus 4000 over-the-counter. Are we that much sicker that we need all those meds? Or conversely, are we that much healthier now that we have them?

And where did this term "meds" come from anyway? They're medicines, dammit! Isn't "meds" a sneaky con attempt to make them seem warm and fuzzy, friendly-like?...every day you take your meds just like you take your tea, or chocolate.


That's why when Pop goes to the doctor and the doctor "puts him on" this or that drug, Pop tells him to forget it. Either that or because he's a stubborn cuss. But it's hard to tell someone 85 who's in perfect health that he'd be so much better if he'd just be gobble down more pills. It's a standing joke with us. I meet him in the doctors office, after his yearly physical. (it took forever to get him to agree to those, and he only did so for insurance reasons) "What do ya think, Pop?" I ask, "Want me to get a wheelbarrow for all your pills?" "HA!" he says, "that'll be the day! No pills!"

Most people, overawed by our age's slobbering idolization of science and the doctor's high-priest membership of that discipline, obediently swallow anything they're told to. Not Pop. "Your blood pressures too high," the doctor says, reading his machine. "I want you to take these beta-blockers." "What I'll do," Pop says, "is buy one of those machines myself and see if I can get the blood pressure down with diet and exercise. If I can't, then I'll think about your beta-blockers." He's been able to do exactly that, aided with an immediate drop in blood pressure that comes just from not being in the doctor's office, where we're all at our hypochondriac worst.

Yeah, the old boy thinks that if you steer clear of drugs then one day you'll die in your sleep or drop in your tracks. And isn't that what we all want? A graceful exit when we go. But if you gobble down every pill someone pushes at you, you'll waste away slowly sans dignity in a nursing home. Who's to say he's wrong?


Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'