Catastrophic CAM

Catastrophic CAM

In my role as an infectious disease physician and Chair of Infection Control I get to participate in disaster planning.

It is not simple. We worry about plagues, earthquakes and other disasters that will lead to a large number of ill or injured people coming to our hospitals.  I remember peaking at our surge capacity with the 2009 H1N1 epidemic and the thought of mass casualties gives me pause, since I live on the ring of fire and have an office in an old building made of unreinforced brick.

Last week we had a false alarm.  We were told there was a potential Ebola patient landing at PDX at noon and the patient would be sent to one of my hospitals. We did not know it was going to be a false alarm so we prepared assuming it was going to be the real deal. It was not an Ebola case but going though the preparation was interesting and enlightening. I think we are ready as we can be for a case of Ebola.

At first it was a little chaotic, but everyone rapidly organized and prepared. Everyone knew their role and was ready, metaphorically speaking, to hit the beach should it be a real case.

What we did not have, and did not need, was any integrative medicine practitioners helping prepare for an Ebola patient. The last thing we needed was an acupuncturist or reiki practitioner getting in the way of reality-based medicine for what could have been a dangerous and novel patient for us.

Not everyone thinks that pseudo-medicines would be at best in the way and at worst dangerous to the function of reality based medicine. For example take The Roles of Acupuncture and Other Components of Integrative Medicine in Cataclysmic Natural Disasters and Military Conflicts.

The lead author, Richard Niemtzow, has been a proponent of battlefield acupuncture i.e. adding the minor trauma of needles in the ear to the major trauma of bullets and shrapnel. Treating military trauma with acupuncture seems a perversion of medicine straight out of Catch-22.

Not satisfied with giving useless placebos to the military wounded, they want to add the vast panoply of worthless pseudo-medical therapies to hurricane, earthquake, radiation and tsunami victims.

Of course there is the use of acupuncture, electroacupuncture and

ear acupuncture and National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) approaches, treatment has been provided to thousands of individuals.

the final nonsensical intervention wasting the time of 911 victims.

He suggests the fantasy-based medicines of homeopathy and CranioSacral therapy and evidently considers the following delusional statement as reasonable:

Some of the men (in this all-male group) she treated had been exposed to significant environmental toxins from trash dumps or the fires that inevitably follow heavy combat. “We were able to do detoxification protocols to help them clear the toxins,” she said. Sgt. Lipscomb found homeopathy to be an invaluable healing ally: “It really is an amazing modality. I treated soldiers with spider bites, chemical burns, mortar wounds. It is highly effective."

Mortar wounds with homeopathy?  Really?  I so feel sorry for our soldiers. 

He also suggests yoga and hypnosis for injuries and the stress of disasters as well despite

Hypnosis is not effective in all patients and the reason for that is not well-known. It is likely that up to 10% of patients will not have much of a response even with experienced providers.

Wasting time during times of trauma with hypnosis. He also suggests

Hormesis may be a possible consideration for future protection from such toxic exposures. The use of hormesis as a therapy or for protection would involve administering low, not toxic, doses of the primary agents to induce resistance or to accelerate cellular repair mechanisms. This process is called rapid induction of protective tolerance (RIPT).26

Reference 26 is from the journal Homeopathy and it has been noted 

...that while certain differences exist between hormesis and homeopathy, hormesis may in fact be a subset of homeopathy.

It would appear that there is no worthless fantasy based pseudo-medicine these authors would not inflict on the traumatized victims of disasters of all kinds. Odd how they are not using their approaches in West Africa. Short of reccomending magical spells, I cannot imagine a more fantastical approach to a disaster. At least they will no be sitting on my disaster preparation meetings.

One Retraction Down, One to Go
Points of Interest 10/21/2014