Is This Man A Doctor?

Mosaraf Ali comes to our attention by way of a suit being brought against him by a man who claims Ali's treatments let to the amputation of both his legs. Some background first.

Dr. Ali is a practitioner of integrative medicine, which is to say he combines traditional forms of medical practice with alternative medicine, so supposedly you get a strong, underlying foundation of science based medicine surrounded by the fancier trappings of woo. He "trained as a Doctor" at the University of Delhi before moving on to the Central Institute for Advanced Medical Studies in Moscow. According to Ali,
It was here that his belief in complementary medicine was cemented. The eminent cardiac surgeon Professor Yuri Romashoff was the dean of the faculty and he encouraged his students to study fasting therapy, iridology, tongue diagnosis and yoga along with their conventional courses.

As a result, Dr Ali left Moscow with the strong belief that every person has their own unique healing power. "I thought the time had come to integrate these systems", he says.

He moved to London in 1991 and, after a chance meeting with (and future support of) Prince Charles, he set up his own clinic and started treating the rich and famous, and his reputation spread like bell-bottom jeans, Izod logos, and Pokemon cards. In short, he was nothing less than a fad to the stars.
The Guardian
Ali's status as a doctor to the stars rests on him having helped Prince Charles's wife Camilla to 're-energise' and quit smoking, treating socialite Tara Palmer-Tompkinson for her cocaine habit, and advising former Spice Girl Halliwell on her weight problems.
So, with his glittering reputation and movie stars gushing praise, it it any wonder that Raj Bathija would seek him out? A stroke victim, Raj was confined to a wheel chair, with his mobility limited to only short walks around his home. The famous Ali, he thought, is the best of the best. Who better than him to help Raj walk again?

Long story short, Ali prescribed a diet hight in potassium and massage sessions. Days later, complaining his left leg was turning pale, his feet were cold, and he constantly felt pins & needles in his left foot, Ali reassured him and prescribed a supplement, more massage therapy, and to soak his feet in warm water. Results of this "treatment"? Raj Bathija had both legs amputated.

Of course, there are two sides to this story and only one of them will be the truth. Ali's lawyers have told him not to release his side to the public just yet. Did Raj follow all the directions issued by Ali? Was he irresponsible in not being more adamant about the pain he felt? As a skepTick, it's quite easy for me to say that Ali was pushing woo and testimonials from movie stars are not evidence of efficacy. For them, Ali was the new, popular drug. Still, their words carry weight. Too many people ascribe undeserved authority to people like Prince Charles or the Spice Girls. And the only critical bit of journalism I could find before this case became public is Edzard Ernst's thrashing of Dr. Ali's promotion of iridology.

For several reasons, this example is, I think, particularly telling:

  • Dr Ali has considerable influence, for example, he advises Prince Charles on alternative medicine. His opinion therefore weighs heavily.
  • He seems to have little knowledge about the published evidence in an area that he readily comments on (for example, iridology).
  • He seems to misunderstand what science can and cannot achieve.
  • He seems to believe that his knowledge is more advanced than science (‘… scientific parameters are currently so restricted’) or that, in other words, science will one day catch up with his wisdom.

I find the last aspect especially infuriating: not only are these promoters of nonsense uninformed about their very own subject, they also have the audacity and arrogance to imply superiority of their disproven assumptions over multiple scientific investigations. There you are: I have lost my sense of humour!

Like me, Ernst Edzard also laments the journalistic acceptance (often with much fanfare and, of course, little skepticism) of this type of quackery.

But hey...Doctor Ali is a doctor, right? He has a stethoscope. And people call him "doctor". And he went to doctor training. And he went to an advanced medical institute. Again, from the Guardian:
The Bathija family have raised questions about Ali's credentials as a doctor. He always calls himself 'Doctor' but he is a natural health practitioner, not a conventional medical doctor. The General Medical Council, which licenses doctors in the UK, said he was not registered with it. Ali's medical degree came in 1980 from the Patrice Lumumba Peoples' Friendship University in Moscow. The GMC says 'Doctor' is a courtesy title that can be used by anyone with medical or academic qualifications, which Ali has.
So, he may be a "doctor" (make sure you use the finger quotes), but he's not a licensed doctor...at least not with the General Medical Council. I suppose there must be some manner of certification in the UK. Here in the US, doctors have to be board certified so there is an official organization with official standards of practice and behavior that's giving us some reassurance of competence. I don't know whether the term "doctor" is restricted or not. I've heard of cases where people have been brought up on charges for misrepresenting themselves as a doctor. However, it seems silly that the General Medical Council will minimize "Doctor" as nothing more than a courtesy title. I've taken my share of biology courses. I don't consider myself to be a Doctor.

Alas, that is my failing. Perhaps a new career is on the horizon.


Clay Aiken Prediction Confirmed

On May 4, 2008, a self-described PRECOG posted the following:
I feel a famous sports figure, musical star, actor/actress of TV or Movies will soon be outed or decide to come out of the closet. Let me clarify that it will be one person from some well known field of endeavor as I listed. This might be a shocker. When it happens you will see where I was heading.
Then, after waiting for just under five months, the prediction came true. On September 24, 2008, Clay Aiken announced to the world that he was gay. For some, this might have been a shocker, and when it happened, we saw where the PRECOG was heading. To put this remarkable feat in perspective, you have to realize that there is only a finite number of famous sports figures, musical stars, actors of TV, actresses of TV, actors of movies, and actresses of movies in the ENTIRE world. The percentage of the total human population that fulfills these requirements is very small. In all likelihood, you are probably not one of them (and remember, if you think you are, you have to also be famous - which you're not). Then, in only 143 days (barely four tenths of a year), one of them must come out of the closet. This happened in under half a year, folks! And if you don't think the powers of the PRECOG are significant, then when was the last time you predicted someone famous will come out of the closet and it actually happens in 143 days?

By the way, if you're planning a water voyage in the near (or far) future, I'd recommend against it, because the PRECOG has just come out with another prediction:
Some type of water craft, most likely a big ship possibly a cruise ship or other, will be in trouble and a rescue may ensue. It will be newsworthy and we may get footage of this incident. I'm not sure at this time what that may be. Could it be an iceberg again? Or a rogue wave?
Something that floats on the water will get into trouble and a rescue may be necessary...and you'll know it when it happens because it will be on the news. And it could be due to an ice berg (as in the thing that brought down the Titanic). Or it could be a large wave...a rogue wave (as in the thing that brought down the Poseidon in that famous movie). Although I'm not a PRECOG, I'm willing to bet it could even be an ice berg riding a rogue wave! And a starving polar bear might be on the ice berg (anyone but me heard of global warming?). And though the wave and ice berg will cause the damage and sink the ship, it's the polar bear that will end up paddling after you and your rubber life boat. Like for 3 days, maybe...just him steadily, patiently paddling and you rowing like hell. And there will be some kind of bond that develops between the two of you. You know, that "I'm going to eat you...I really don't want to be eaten...mutual respect" kind of bond. Although you'll be spared, the bear will attack the Coast Guard rescuer, whose last thought will be "WTF? Polar bear!!!" I'm not sure but when it happens you'll know where I was heading. Again, I'm not a PRECOG. I just have these sneaking suspicions every now and then...


Wagih Samweil - Wrong on Hillary, Wrong for Australia

Just for the record, Wagih Samweil, Australia's "favorite psychic" and "Victorian psychic of the year" failed in one of his more significant predictions:
Victorian Psychic of the Year's Predictions
"And get ready to see much more of Hillary Clinton - Mr Samweil predicts she will become the first female president of the US."
Of course, I am being a little premature. After all, the elections haven't happened yet, so there's still a chance that Wagih's prediction might come true. But just between you and me and my two other readers, you'd be better off spending your money on slots than wasting time with Wagih.


Arghhhh! Sarah Palin's Email Hacked!

So, what's the difference between hockey-mom governors and pit bulls?
Pit Bulls don't conduct official business over hackable email accounts!

With just about everything Sarah Palin said during her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention now proved wrong, who is she to complain about anyone being "inconsistent and purposefully misleading"?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, check this out.

She was wrong about her original stance on the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. She was wrong about visiting Iraq. She was misleading in saying she visited Ireland. She was wrong in implying that past VP candidates, like her, hadn't met with foreign dignitaries prior to their campaigns. She was wrong about how much energy and/or oil Alaska supplies to the U.S.

Is it any wonder she's been kept away from the press? On most accounts, she's either lying, intentionally misleading, or making clueless misstatements.

Spam Blogs? What's The Point?

I have a Google Alert set up for "Geoffrey Simmons". Anytime he posts to his Amazon blog or the DiscoTute, the good folks at Google will let me know and I can start dismembering his tortured logic and pseudoscience. Last month, the bat phone rang:
S taken me a little bit of time, but I. Barack Obama ended his trip to Israel this morning with a surprise visit to Jerusalem. I also hammer Geoffrey Simmons every time he squeaks. Described the crisis to CIO Magazine.

I checked the website out and found it to be an unintelligible mish mash of random phrases. But the "I also hammer Geoffrey Simmons every time he squeaks" phrase struck a chord with me. I can admire a person who does that.

Oh snap! That person was ME...and I did it here, as a comment on P.Z. Myer's Pharyngula blog, trying to get a little love.

I Googled the phrase and found that there were six different websites that used it, all the same mashup of garbled claptrap. For the life of me, I can't figure out what they are all for. Nothing about them makes sense - the content, post titles, blog title...even the url is crazy.

So, anyone know what these are for? The only thing I can guess is that they are sites fishing with keywords and phrases to suck you in. But, there are no ads. What's the point other than to grab statistics? A lot of the stuff in the right column looks like spam websites, selling useless crap, but there's nothing to motivate you to click on any of those links.

Homeopathy Gets Another Swift Kick

Huzzah! Science and rational thinking win another round in England. Homeopathy is really getting a bad rap as more and more people across the pond realize what nonsense it represents.
Homeopathy degree suspended after criticism
The undergraduate degree in homeopathic medicine at the University of Central Lancashire has stopped recruiting new students after "relentless attacks from the anti-homeopathy league".

The course leaders, Kate Chatfield and Jean Duckworth, blamed low recruitment levels for the decision not to enrol new students on to the course this year or in 2009.

But academics against the "pseudo-science" degrees, led by Prof David
Colquhoun, a pharmacologist at University College London, are claiming the move as the "first major victory in the battle for the integrity of universities".

Still, adherents to homeopathy will persist because, frankly, you don't need a degree in the U.S. to sell this kind of fantasy snake oil - just a cleverly worded advertisement.

Way to go, Brits.


A Reason to Blog

What should an atheist do when his next door neighbor puts a Christian bumper sticker on her car? He can do nothing...or he can attempt to convert the Christian:
Atheist's bizarre bid to convert Christian
AN ATHEIST subjected a devout Christian woman to a “relentless” campaign of harassment in which he smeared dog faeces on her car and urinated on her doorstep.

If your feelings run that strong, how about start a blog? Put your feelings out there if it makes you feel better. But don't lose touch with the rest of the human race by acting irrationally.


Test of Faith

If God exists, why doesn't he show him(her)self? Most often I hear it's a test of faith. If you believe, you pass the test. If not, you fail. But there's plenty of people who believe, so why doesn't god just show him(her)self to them? Again, the most oft quoted answer is that it's a really long test of faith...perhaps as long as one's lifespan. I suppose a few wild mushrooms might shorten the time before you experience God...unicorns...pink elephants...hobbits.

The bible (or your text here") is the basis of faith, and in it, God appeared quite frequently, administering all kinds of cruel tests of faith to some very devout people. It seems that now our particular test of faith is to endlessly have faith without confirmation, up until the day you die. And you don't get to find out who passed and who failed because that ruins the whole point. Oh, and there's also many different testing organizations and their are no standard questions between them. One question, for example, is "Did God have a son?" At some test centers, the correct answer is YES, while at others, it's NO. And in some, it's a trick question...the son is God!

But here's a very interesting take on why God doesn't show himself:

(via Atheist Media Blog)