The power you’re supplyin’, it’s electrifyin’!

Every once in a while I stumble across one of the dark recesses of the internet in which commercial websites shill “free” health information in order to promote their insane pseudoscientific therapies for diseases that may or may not even exist. Let’s play a little game of Sales Pitch Vs. Reality.

Sales pitch:

YOUR BODY ELECTRIC
Rev. Tom Lawler BBA, MBCP

Reality:

Well, the title isn’t too scary. Electricity is absolutely vital to the normal physiology of everything from the smallest cell to the largest mammal. Electricity is just the movement of ions, and the movement of ions powers everything from import of nutrients into our cells to the spread of information in nerve cells to muscle contraction to heart rhythm pacing.

Why do I get the sinking feeling that this will not have anything to do with this article?

Oh, I know, because the author proudly displays his utterly irrelevant degree titles – he’s a Reverend of the Universal Brotherhood (an online “spiritual” diploma mill), has a Bachelor of Business Administration (so?) and an MBCP, which as far as I can tell is a Master Business Continuity Professional certification, which means he worked in the industry of creating plans of action in worst case scenarios for businesses for at least five years. Oooooh. I am so impressed at your credentials as a health professional!

Sales pitch:

NOTHING IS NEW
The first reported use of electricity in medicine was in 2750 BC. Several descriptions of therapeutic benefits, including pain control from exposure to the electric eel, were described by the Greeks in the first century.1 Around 1600, William Gilbert, an English physician, coined the word “electric” and established the difference between electricity and magnetism. In 1752, Johann Schaeffer published the book “Electrical Medicine.”
Electrodermal (sublingual) testing and treatment techniques offer tremendous benefits and safety as compared to traditional invasive testing. Effective results often occur within minutes from the time support is started instead of taking months, years or never with more traditional approaches.
Electrodermal testing utilizes micro amounts of electromagnetic energy to trigger a biofeedback response detectable with very sensitive computerized equipment. It is now possible to electronically “view” the inner workings of your glands and organs non invasively – even from the comfort of your own home.

Reality:

Not only is this painfully self-contradicting (advocating that there’s “nothing new” and then criticizing “traditional” medicine) but it seems that he’s trying to say that because we have a tradition of using this particular concept, we should continue to do so. It works because it’s always worked, i.e. argumentum ad antiquitatem, the appeal to tradition. Please ignore the fact that the ancient Greeks lived to an average age of 28. Please neglect the fact that the Egyptians referenced in 2750 BC electrocuted people with catfish as a treatment for gout, which is sort of just adding insult to injury.

Geez, you're looking pretty inflamed. Here, hug this.

Also, the distinction between electricity as treatment and electricity as diagnostics seems utterly lost here. This false equivalence is hilarious – treatment is doing something while diagnostics tells you something. Imagine if someone started using a deck of playing cards to tell the time because it’d traditionally been fantastic at passing the time. People would think they were insane!

Of course, the blinding with science fallacy comes into play. It’s not applying an electric current to your skin, it’s “electrodermal testing.” It’s not low voltage electricity, it’s “micro amounts of electromagnetic energy.” It doesn’t monitor your skin’s electrical current, it “triggers a biofeedback response.” He finishes off by claiming that electrical energy in the skin allows you to measure the inner workings of both your organs and your glands, since apparently the glands have been demoted and no longer count as organs.While appropriately placed electrodes can indeed measure the electrical impulses of the body, such as those which are active in the brain, heart and muscles, there is little electrical activity that correlates with, for example, insulin resistance. He’s taken a well-known technique like the electrocardiogram, and generalized it to everything. He clearly hopes that people will assume “If it works for your heart, why shouldn’t it work for your pancreas or your liver or your kidneys?” Mechanism be damned!

Sales pitch:

Incredible advancements in the emerging field of Bionetics has now made it possible to send a sample of your own DNA (via blood, urine, saliva, finger nail or even hair) to a state of the art testing laboratory for a BioScan. This computerized process can now accurately identify the underlying stressors in one’s body that can precipitate disease. This process is so sensitive, as many as 10,000 stressors (toxins, bacteria, viruses, mold [sic], etc.) can be identified years before they even appear as symptoms. Thus it is possible to both address active issues and prevent future issues before they may manifest as a symptom or disease.

Reality:

Bionetics sounds eerily similar to dianetics, Scientology’s junk science, so right off the bat I’m wary. Then, they talk about taking a sample of DNA and using it to identify diseases. This, by itself, is the basis of many genetic tests, which are extremely useful for the identification of people with Huntington’s, or Down’s Syndrome, among many, many other diseases. They can also be used to screen for cancer risk. However, the crazy quickly creeps in here. The author marvels at the ability to get your DNA from your hair or saliva, when these are methods usually used to obtain samples, as they’re minimally invasive and rich in cells, and thus DNA. Urine is a silly way to get DNA, because you’re relying on cells that line the bladder, ureter, etc. shearing off and finding themselves in the urine. Not a very high concentration. Blood is even sillier, because the majority of the cells are red blood cells, which are most notable for their complete lack of a nucleus, and thus their lack of genetic material. It is possible, of course, as there are white blood cells circulating as well, but considering it is painful for the patient, if you’re only looking at DNA, why should you look at the blood? And finally, the finger nails? Well, not only are they ridiculously hard to get appropriate samples from, they’re usually only used to get other people’s DNA, from blood, skin cells, or other potential sources that end up trapped underneath the nail. Fingernails, as it turns out, are just made of keratin, not living cells imbued with our DNA. It’s possible to get our own DNA from them, but in order to get at it, you have to break that hard keratin apart. Why go to all this ridiculous trouble when a simple cheek swab will do? (By the way, the cheek cells are what we’re after with the swab, not your saliva.

Of course, all of this is completely ignoring the fact that this information works on the base assumption that 10,000 stressors can be found in your DNA, and not just floating around in these various samples that you’re giving them. Why, exactly, would mould be in your DNA? Some viruses can be found in your DNA, but if you find them there, you have much bigger problems than the kind you’ll fix with electricity..

Problems like AIDS. Yeah, I don't think you want to be treating that with anything but a hell of a lot of drugs.

Illnesses are usually a manifestation of some sort of impairment of the functional aspect of our bodies – the proteins. Although finding the DNA of pathogens in our system is certainly a definitive diagnosis of infection, it isn’t necessarily a diagnosis of illness. Carriers can have a pathogen and never feel ill. Their immune systems deal with it, no intervention required. What is a definitive diagnosis of illness is when we see stuff going wrong at the functional level, and perhaps a DNA test could tell us what the underlying cause is. However, we are not looking at our DNA. Furthermore, what the hell is a toxin? Could someone please define this term for me? You know, aside from “random pseudoscientific word used to mean anything that is bad for you or even potentially bad for you and usually something that isn’t there to begin with.”

Sales pitch:

PROFIT VRS [sic] EFFICACY
Despite the wonderful progress in this technology, it hasn’t been easy to get to where we are today. Around 1910, the Carnegie Foundation established a commission headed by Abraham Flexner, who relegated the well supported science of electrodiagnosis and electrotherapy devices to “quackery” in favor of the more lucrative drugs invested in by Carnegie. Anyone using these devices were cast as charlatans and thus the dominance today of drugs, surgery and radiation.

It has been estimated that only 10 to 20 percent of all procedures currently used in medical practice have been shown to be efficacious by controlled trials.

Reality:

I was unaware that profit and efficacy opposed each other? People make profit off of both efficacious and non-efficacious medicine – see homeopathy, for example. In any case, they make themselves out to be falsely vilified, and yet don’t explain how their devices are well-supported by science. It’s easy to make a claim like that – where’s the proof to back it up? In any case, here’s a fun game. Google “10 to 20 percent of all procedures currently used in medical practice have been shown to be efficacious by controlled trials.” You’ll find websites advocating pretty much every alternative medicine out there, but not the original paper this is supposedly cited from. Interestingly, I could not find this phrase at all in an otherwise decent but anecdotal review of the current (circa 1983) uses of electricity in medicine. The cited data comes from this 1978 paper advocating science-based medicine. The paper throws the statement in as a one-off, with no empirical data to support it. No data, no fact. This is not to say that all procedures in medical practice are efficacious, of course. Overprescription of antibiotics is a major issue. However, to assert something as patently silly as 10% of all procedures in medicine are actually doing anything, we need to demand more than a haphazard statement. Which controlled trials? How long ago? How many people were in them? What was the definition of efficacious? None of these answers are, of course, to be found here.

Sales Pitch:

YOU CAN’T SUPPRESS THE TRUTH FOREVER
“We are accustomed to having men jeer at what they do not understand.”
Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, 1700’s

Reality:

Poor, poor salesman. It’s so much easier to accuse someone who disagrees with you with persecution than to actually deal with their arguments. It must be hard, being asked for proof and mechanism all the time. Life is hard. It’s this sort of persecution complex which lends people to really want to believe stuff like this is true. We want to root for the little guy who’s being censored by the big bad evil government/corporation/entity. Unfortunately, that sort of sympathy prevents us for criticizing the little guy, and little guys can be douchebags too.

Stick it to Big Pharma!... Buy from me.

Sales Pitch:

In spite of the virtual disappearance of all electrical therapy, investigation has continued particularly by Dr. Reinhold Voll, a German medical doctor in the early 1950’s. He developed an electronic testing device (EAV) for finding acupuncture points electrically, known to Chinese acupuncturists for millennia. Voll then began a lifelong search to identify correlation’s between disease states and changes in the electrical resistance of the various acupuncture points. He found, for example, that patients with lung cancer had abnormal readings on the acupuncture points referred to as lung points.

Reality:

Remember that article that he just cited? Yeah, um, I think that sort of proves that electrical therapy has disappeared. Reinhold Voll’s method is essentially dianetics, only instead of holding the electrode, it’s placed on acupuncture points. The needle moves, you make some conclusion from it. The claim that he could detect abnormalities in lung cancer patients – it cites a book, which as far as I can tell only exists for the purpose of this article, from 1980, not the original data. In actuality, studies have been done on EAV devices, especially for detecting allergies. Guess what? Readings are utterly random. Since people are prone to make patterns of random statistical noise (the very concept of “luck” is based on this), maybe a single individual could find meaning in the needle jumping around from reading to reading, but ultimately, there is nothing there.

Now we get to the fun bit.

Sales Pitch:

BioScan (remote DNA resonant testing) – This procedure utilizes extremely sensitive EAV computerized equipment to accurately measure stressors in the body. It bombards the clients sample DNA (usually hair) with up to 10,000 frequencies to locate bacteria, viruses, pesticides, heavy metals, industrial pollutants, chemicals, parasites, foods, allergies, dental materials, trees, weeds, pollens, inhalants, molds, yeast, fungus and many other substances that poison the environment today. These stressors and related deficiencies are identified in print form for the client along with the organs and glands affected by the stressors. Supplements are suggested that resonate with the test subject and homeopathics are customized to support the body to remove the stressors and return to homeostasis.

Reality:

Remote DNA resonant testing? What in the what-ing what-now is that? Remote means from a distant. DNA is genetic material. Resonant means vibration. How the hell do you combine those? Are they saying that they, from a distance, can measure the vibrations of your DNA for diagnostic purposes?? How do you utilize electroacupuncture (EAV) to analyze DNA? Certainly you can use electricity to move DNA (since it has a charge). But where does the acupuncture bit come in? How can electricity tell you about the foods and weeds poisoning your environment? Did you notice how they embedded the craziest things in the middle of that list? Dental materials are poisoning you? Trees? Is M. Night Shamaylan a prophet?

If so, Marky Mark will save us all, and that is not a world that I'm ready to be a part of.

Then they suggest supplements which match your “resonance.” What? Yes, everything vibrates but… What? Oy, so much craziness here, I don’t even know what do with it.

And of course, the old stand-by, homeostasis. Do you know what homeostasis is? That’s your base measures that your body maintains to keep you functioning. Things like 37 degrees Celsius, or fluid retention, or oxygen levels, or blood sugar. Do you know what happens when those go out of whack? You die. Homeostasis is a really, really important part of being alive, and any major fluctuation is lethal. It’s only with modern medicine that things like diabetes aren’t an immediate death sentence. Returning to homeostasis is something our bodies do remarkably well – and if they don’t, you need a little more than an iron supplement help you with it.

Thanks, body, for letting me eat candy without dying!

Sales Pitch:

It is the belief of this writer that the use of electrodiagnostic testing fulfills all the requirements to be considered adequately proven including:

  1. A number of double-blind studies from various centers validating its efficacy.
  2. Experts in the field who deal with this technology acknowledging its usefulness and accuracy.
  3. Electrodiagnostic testing having been in use around the world for many years by thousands of medical doctors.

Because it has virtually no dangers and is very inexpensive, anyone who singles out this procedure for investigation above the myriad of medical procedures which are much less proven, more dangerous and more expensive, does so arbitrarily and capriciously and for reasons other than a concern for the patient’s health and well being.

Reality:

1. Positive clinical trials don’t exist.
2. Appeals to authority aren’t data.
3. Tradition is not evidence.

Because it has no supporting evidence and is a complete waste of time and money, anyone who uses this procedure for investigation above the myriad of medical procedures which are much more proven, more accurate, and more effective, does so arbitrarily and capriciously and for reasons which are based in concern for their own bank accounts and not the patients’s health and well being.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

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4 responses

  1. Pingback: Integrative and allopathic medicine: a medical student’s rant | Subspecies

  2. Pingback: Integrative and allopathic medicine: a skeptical medical student’s rant « The Winnipeg Skeptics

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