The Gamification of everything has gone too far.

bullshitmeterRemember when you were a kid and your parents saddled you with some boring as hell thing to do like mowing the lawn and when you complained they told you to try making a game out of it? Well over the past couple of years that idea has gone from being a stupid way for parents to try to get kids to do something they don’t wanna to do to being a way to motivate adults to do something they don’t wanna do. It’s called Gamification and has been used for everything from getting folks to exercise to “check in” on apps like Foursquare. Now it’s showing up on healthcare websites like United Healthcare’s Wellvibe program.

I mention this because I have UHC myself and it’s not half-bad health insurance, or at least it wasn’t until last year when the company I work for changed things so that instead of having a handful of plans to choose from we were all forced into a single high-deductible plan. I went from having a co-pay to having a $3,000 deductible and a health savings account to try and offset those out-of-pocket costs until the deductible was met. That was annoying enough, but they also introduced this Wellvibe nonsense that requires you to jump through hoops to qualify for an annual contribution from your company to your HSA.

Every year we have until September 30th to complete a number of activities on the Wellvibe website our we won’t get the company contribution to our HSA. These activities include things like watching a video to learn how to pick a Tier 1 doctor that UHC feels offers excellent service at the best price. My doctor is not considered a Tier 1 doctor because, while she is considered to offer excellent healthcare, apparently she costs UHC too much money. The problem is I’ve gone to the same doctor for over 15 years and I trust her decision making so I’m not going to switch unless I absolutely have to. Luckily, I don’t (she’s still considered in-plan), but that won’t stop UHC from making me go through an activity pointing out she’s not what they consider to be the best value.

They also have a system in place on their website that helps you to find the cheapest applicable drugs for whatever is it your doctor has prescribed. My doctor already tries to make sure we’re taking the generic equivalent of whatever it is she thinks we need so that part of the site is of limited use to me, but I still have to watch the stupid video each year and answer a bunch of questions about it with multiple choice answers. I never watch the videos because the right answer is so blindingly obvious that you’d have to be an idiot to not be able to figure it out just based on the choices in front of you. I hit play and then race through the questions and get it right before the video has a chance to get past the cheesy porno-music opening.

There’s also a health profile you have to fill out where you have to get a UHC Annual Biometric Checkup done. You print out a form and take it to your doctor and they run blood tests and report your sugar levels, cholesterol, etc. and stamp it with an Official Doctor Seal and you send it back. You cannot fill this form out yourself. Then there is a redundant Health Assessment form you have to fill out that asks for the SAME FUCKING MEASUREMENTS YOUR DOCTOR FILLED OUT ON THE OTHER FORM. I can only assume they’re checking to see if you’re lying about the condition of your health.

All of that is annoying and insulting enough as it is, but this year they’ve tried to Gamify the entire process by putting in an Xbox-style achievement system where you can earn badges and “leaves.” Logging into the site for the first time since last year when I completed the previous activities, I got a popup announcing I had earned a “Here I am!” badge and 10 leaves for completing registration, logging into, and visiting the Wellvibe homepage.

I boggled at it not sure what the hell it was, but I went ahead and did one of the activities and got this badge as a result:

wellvibebadge

Holy shit! You did something! HAVE A FUCKING COOKIE!

That’s when it dawned on me they were trying to make it into a game of sorts. Oh joy. It’s not enough that they insist on holding my hand when I didn’t need their help before, but now they want to give me meaningless rewards for grudgingly complying with their stupid requirements. I got another badge by accident when I checked my profile and saw that I didn’t have a phone number listed. It was the much-coveted “THIS IS ME!” badge earned for updating your account profile and granting 10 more leaves.

If you poke around long enough you eventually will find the “Wellville” page where you can see all the badges you have earned along with those you still haven’t acquired. It’s here where you finally found out why you’ve been earning “leaves” with your badges. It’s for your Health Tree! The more leaves you earn, the healthier your tree becomes! Isn’t that amazing?

Welcome to Wellvile. Where patronizing you has been taken to an entirely new level.

“Badges?? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!!”

As you can see, my tree is in pretty piss-poor health at 14%. Some of the other things you can do to earn a badge include: Complete your first Optional Activity (if it’s optional, I’m not going to do it), print out your first “bar code scan form activity”, email your “bar code activity” (which I did last year and it nearly cost me my company’s HSA contribution because it didn’t work right), login once a week for 3 months straight (that’s so not going to happen), and — I shit you not — reset your login password. That last one is called: “I FORGOT, BUT IT’S OK!”

Fuck you, United Healthcare. Seriously. It was bad enough having to do all this bullshit for my company to put $500 into my HSA every year, but now you’re insulting my intelligence. I will never have my tree to 100% because I will not do any more of the activities on your website than I absolutely have to in order to qualify for the employer contribution. This is the sort of bullshit that if I had any reasonable alternatives I’d probably be dropping you like a hot potato. Lucky for you my company doesn’t offer any alternatives and what they do offer is considered good enough that it would cost me more to go through something like Obamacare.

Needless to say, I don’t appreciate you trying to turn my healthcare into some sort of game.

Doctors are taking a firmer stance with anti-vaxxers in their clinics.

Click to embiggen.

If anyone should know the benefits of vaccinations it’s pediatricians. With the growing number of parents refusing to vaccinate their kids the waiting room of your family doctor could be a dangerous place to be. So a number of doctors around the country are now insisting that parents with unvaccinated kids sign a waiver or find another doctor to go to:

Pediatricians get more firm when parents refuse vaccines for children – USATODAY.com.

Doctors are growing increasingly frustrated with what they characterize as misinformation linking childhood immunizations to autism, but many parents continue to be wary of vaccines. While parents research vaccine risks, their sources usually aren’t the medical journals that doctors read.

“My response usually is for them to look at credible, researched information and data and really make an informed decision for themselves versus what someone told them,” said Breaux, a doctor at Brentwood (Tenn.) Pediatrics.

Dr. Robert Lillard of Jr. of The Children’s Clinic of Nashville refers parents to websites for respected hospitals. Doctors have a responsibility to make their clinics as safe as possible, he said.

“We want you to feel if you’re in our waiting room that you are safe,” Lillard said. “By that I mean if you have to come in for a sick visit and you are sitting in the waiting room next to a child that has a rash, we want you to feel pretty comfortable knowing that’s probably not measles. If you are in our practice, you’ve been vaccinated against measles and you’re not going to be exposed to that.

This is a trend I hope will grow among doctors across the country. Pediatricians in particular are in a good spot to educate parents on the real risks and benefits of vaccines. If you don’t trust your doctor enough to provide advice on that topic then you are probably going to the wrong doctor. Or you’re an idiot.

*Cartoon by Stuart Carlson.

The potential one shot Leukemia cure that almost never happened.

There’s a new experimental cure for the most common form of Leukemia that has scientists stunned at how successful it is with only a single injection. And it almost never came about due to lack of funding:

Doctors had told Bill Ludwig, one of the research volunteers, that he would die from his leukemia within weeks. Then he got the experimental treatment a year ago.

With tears welling up, he told NBC, “I’m more closer to the people I love and I appreciate them more… I’m getting emotional… the grass is greener and flowers smell wonderful.”

The other two patients have chosen to remain anonymous but one who happens to be a scientist himself wrote,  “I am still trying to grasp the enormity of what I am a part of  — and of what the results will mean to countless others with CLL or other forms of cancer. When I was a young scientist, like many I’m sure, I dreamed that I might make a discovery that would make a difference to mankind – I never imagined I would be part of the experiment.”

via New leukemia treatment exceeds ‘wildest expectations’ – Health – Cancer – msnbc.com.

Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania published research on Wednesday on their efforts to come up with a treatment for chroniclymphocytic leukemia (CLL) which is the most common form of Leukemia. Usually it’s treated with chemotherapy, but that’ll just keep it at bay. The only way to cure it previously was via a bone marrow transplant which only has about a 50% success rate and brings with it a whole host of problems.

This new treatment involves using a modified version of the HIV virus to insert modified genes into white blood cells collected from the patient which makes the white blood cells into lean, mean, cancer killing machines. They cultivate a whole bunch of these new super-powered white blood cells and then inject them back into the patient:

In similar past experimental treatments for several types of cancer the re-injected white cells killed a few cancer cells and then died out. But the Penn researchers inserted a gene that made the white blood cells multiply by a thousand fold inside the body. The result, as researcher June put it, is that the white blood cells became “serial killers” relentlessly tracking down and killing the cancer cells in the blood, bone marrow and lymph tissue.

As the white cells killed the cancer cells, the patients experienced the fevers and aches and pains that one would expect when the body is fighting off an infection, but beyond that the side effects have been minimal.

How awesome is that? That’s pretty fucking awesome! So why did it almost not happen?

Both the National Cancer Institute and several pharmaceutical companies declined to pay for the research. Neither applicants nor funders discuss the reasons an application is turned down. But good guesses are the general shortage of funds and the concept tried in this experiment was too novel and, thus, too risky for consideration.

The researchers did manage to get a grant from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, a charity founded by Barbara and Edward Netter after their daughter-in-law died of cancer. The money was enough to finance the trials on the first three patients.

There’s still a ways to go before this will become widely available, but it’s a stunning result so far to cure two out of three people and on the one it didn’t cure it still made a helluva difference. Most exciting is the fact that this technique could possibly be effective on other forms of cancer as well. The good news is that there should be plenty of funding coming in now to really put it to the test and see if these results are a fluke or a real breakthrough.

*Science. It works, bitches graphic lifted from the XKCD store where you can buy it on a t-shirt!

It has come to this: Man robs bank of $1 to get medical care in jail.

What do you do when you’re jobless and homeless with a host of medical problems none of which justify a visit to an emergency room? Well, they provide free medical care in jail.

That’s the solution James Verone of North Carolina came up with so he walked into a local bank and handed the teller a note that simply said: “This is a bank robbery. please only give me one dollar.” Then he went over to a bench and sat down and waited for the police to arrive and arrest him:

“I wanted to make it known that this wasn’t for monetary reasons, but for medical reasons,” he says.

That’s right James Verone says he has no medical insurance. He has a growth of some sort on his chest, two ruptured disks and a problem with his left foot. He is 59-years old and with no job and a depleted bank account. He thought jail was the best place he could go for medical care and a roof over his head.

Verone is hoping for a three year sentence.

He’d then be able to collect social security when he got out, and says he’d head for the beach.

“I’ve already looked at a condominium. I’ve spoken to a realtor, on Myrtle Beach,” he says.

via Man claims he robbed bank of $1 in order to secure jail health care | wlbz2.com.

It’s arguable whether or not he had no other choice, I’m not familiar enough with what options for free medical care exist in the region of North Carolina he resides in, but it’s probably the approach with the least red tape. He doesn’t recommend everyone take this approach to getting needed medical care, but he doesn’t have any regrets even after the jailhouse doctor scolded him for manipulating the system.

There’s just one small flaw with his clever plan:

Because he only demanded one dollar and didn’t have a weapon police charged him not with bank robbery, but larceny, so he might not get as much time in the slammer as he was hoping for.

Ain’t that a bitch? You go through the trouble of robbing a bank and the cops only charge you with larceny. What’s an honest man got to do to get three years of jail time around here?

Of course if we had a single payer system here in America then even the homeless could get needed medical care without having to resort to crime to get it. But that would be too much like those cesspools of communism known as the U.K. and Canada.

New study determines that abortions don’t cause mental health issues.

One of the arguments put forth by anti-abortion advocates is that it causes major mental health problems for the woman who has one, but a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine says that’s not the case at all:

“This is an extremely, extremely well done study,” he said. “There is no evidence that abortion predisposes a woman to psychiatric and mental health problems.”

[…] Blum, a former president of the Guttmacher Institute, would like to say goodbye to the political buzz words.

“There is no post-abortion trauma, post-abortion syndrome, or anything of the like,” he said.

Danish researchers looked at the health records of 85,000 women who had had first-trimester abortions. Those women were more likely to seek mental health treatment while they were pregnant, but didn’t need more help after having the abortion. That’s not surprising, says Nada Stotland, a professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago. She says that women considering abortion are often struggling with problems with a partner or family members.

“People have abortions often under troubled circumstances,” she said. “You have an abortion because there is a problem.”

What makes this study unique is that it looked at women who chose abortions and also looked at women who chose to have the baby. Stotland says this gives us a much better picture of the stresses of abortion and childbirth.

“Above all it really fairly contrasts the outcomes of abortion with the outcomes of pregnancy,” she said.

via Study: Abortions Don’t Cause Mental Health Issues : NPR.

As it turns out giving birth is actually more likely to cause mental health problems with postpartum depression being one of the major ones. It would help quite a bit if more resources were devoted to post-birth mental health care for new mothers.

While this study most likely won’t end the debate anytime soon, it does debunk one of the common arguments against abortion.

hCG spammers descend on SEB in less than 24 hours.

Pic of homeopathy poster.

It's an obvious implication of the theory, but no one mentions it.

As if to drive home the point of how profitable the hCG diet supplement scam is, it took less than 24 hours from the time that I posted that entry to the arrival of a spammer trying to submit entries promoting that “product.”

After registering with the username hcgdietinsight5 he or she then submitted two short entries the first of which carries the title: Drastic Weight Loss with HCG-HCG Dangers. I present it to you now, with my comments added in.

Are you still tormented by your fat body and which had made you too fat to move? And have you found a fast way to lose weight? There are lots of questions about this but do you know why? Why people are looking for a fast way to loseweight? Now let’s start the journey for body shape slim.

Yes, I do know. Because people are basically lazy and would prefer a solution that involves no real effort and no real change to their lifestyle and which works almost immediately. Being someone who falls into the category of obese myself I can attest that it takes a lot of willpower to motivate oneself to get off their ass and exercise and to push oneself away from the table. If someone ever does manage to come up with a pill or spray that could magically induce weight-loss they’d be a billionaire overnight. Alas, it’s highly doubtful such a pill is possible.

Now I will tell you HCG diet can help you. First you must know why you are fat. There were generally three different types of fat stored within the body structural fat which is stored between the organs, normal fat, which is available freely as fuel when needed and abnormal fat, which is locked away and cannot be used by the metabolism until all other fat has been burnt. The truth is we can run out of these abnormal fats so that give back a sexy body by using HCG products. But we should pay attention to the HCG dangers.

What a crock of shit. In actuality there are two types of adipose tissue, or body fat, as it is technically known. They are white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT). WAT is the stuff we want to get rid off as it’s basically fat stored in a cell for later energy use. BAT is used primarily for non-shivering thermogenesis, probably better known as body heat. BAT actually makes use of WAT as part of that process which could lead to a method of weight-loss through the stimulation of BAT growth. Something scientists have accomplished in mice already.

If you do a Google search for “abnormal fat” you won’t be surprised to see that most of the sites that mention it are selling, you guessed it, this hCG bullshit. There’s no such thing and no evidence that hCG has any effect on fat deposits of any kind.

Many people are surprised by it. They don’t know the HCG dangers. What you should know is HCG works at the metabolic level to discharge these stores into the bloodstream so that they can be used as fuel, and this is why a very low calorie diet must accompany the HCG dosage.

The HCG dangers are very little. The content of HCG dieters is very natural, which is not man-made products. So many people using HCG will not feel the bad effect of HCG. This is the evidence of the safety of HCG.

I’m surprised that anyone falls for this nonsense. You’ll note that this helpful person doesn’t bother to describe how hCG supposedly works at the metabolic level. Nor do they specify what the danger actually is. The low calorie diet is so that you actually experience some weight-loss making you think the product is working, but it’s not doing a damned thing. You’re just starving yourself.

The specific physiological effects of the HCG make the body feel as if it’s getting plenty of food. But in reality, dieters are only eating approximately 500 calories. This limited caloric intake is simply not enough to support an intense workout.

You will never be distressed by your double chin and your fat body because you have HCG without dangers.

Here’s a question: If hCG is releasing the calories in the fat stores to be used as fuel then shouldn’t an intense workout even at only 500 calories a day be perfectly OK? Presumably the body is making up for the lost calories from the fat stores being released by hCG so why should an intense workout be a problem?

I’ll tell you why: Because you’re only getting 500 calories a day and your body is slowing down its metabolism to try and prevent you from starving.  You simply don’t have the energy needed for an intense workout without causing major problems.

Which brings us to the second attempt at an entry titled: HCG Works Well, But Please Notice HCG Dangers.

HCG(Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) is a hormone produced in large amounts by pregnant women to control metabolic functions, but is found in both men and women. HCG diet works directly with the Hypothalamus gland. This gland actually controls body fat, emotions, and helps to develop the reproductive organs during puberty. Each and every person is given HCG at birth. Many people don’t notice the HCG dangers because of this.

Quite a bit of the nonsense that’s endlessly repeated about hCG comes from the work of British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons. It was his theory that hCG must be programming the hypothalamus to protect the developing fetus by promoting mobilization and consumption of what he called abnormal, excessive adipose deposits. He believed that an ultra-low calorie diet (high-protein, low-carbohydrate/fat) in conjunction with daily low-dose hCG injections would promote WAT loss without losing lean tissue in the process, something that often occurs on starvation diets. He was wrong, but that didn’t stop unscrupulous “alternative therapy” advocates, such as the infamous Kevin Trudeau, from promoting it as a weight-loss miracle.

An important point to make is the fact that Simeons’ theory involved daily injections of hCG. The vast majority of hCG products being sold on the internet are “homeopathic” which means they contain little to no amount of the hormone at all. That makes them a doubly stupid purchase.

Recently Most of the food has been overloaded with chemicals. These chemicals are designed to remove HCG from your body. So we use HCG products can supply you this element. But you must know that each medicine has side effect, so does HCG. This means that there are no HCG dangers at all. We all know that HCG will reduce your craving for food and metabolize stored fat. You will not experience irritability, headaches, weakness or any hunger pains as with other low calorie diets, but you will lose abnormal fat, reshape your body and look the way you are supposed to. Particularly, it works regardless of whether you exercise or not. Nonetheless, you will not lose abnormal fat so much if you do a mass of exercise rather than use HCG diet.

I can only assume that whoever wrote this doesn’t speak English as their primary language. At least I hope that’s the case because otherwise they’re a babbling idiot.

Ignoring the obvious contradiction for a moment, it’s worth mentioning that diet alone will not “reshape your body” to “look the way you are supposed to.” All of those diet plans that show someone going from fat to ripped neglect to mention that you don’t get ripped without exercise. I also like how they claim that you won’t lose “abnormal fat” with massive exercise. Which is technically true seeing as there’s no such thing as abnormal fat.

There is also no appearance for HCG diet’s dangers and HCG side effects, maybe there are some but the property are incredibly rare!

Gotta love this bit. There are no side effects except maybe some but you’re probably not one of the very rare people who do experience side effects that never happen anyway so don’t worry about it.

The HCG diet is widely available over the Internet and often cheap. Nowadays, peoples are researching of HCG diet to make a medical breakthrough on how we can control the body’s fatness. The results shows that HCG diet is effective, completely safe, having little dangers. The HCG weight loss diet consists of either a 23 or 40-day protocol. Don’t be hesitate anymore and just say “bye-bye” to your fatness without pains of exercise. This answer is HCG diet.

The only true claims in the above paragraph are the very first two about hCG being widely available over the internet and often being cheap. Every other claim in that paragraph is false. The research that has been done does not indicate that hCG is effective or safe and, according to the FDA, isn’t even legal.

It says something that this spammer considered it worth their time to show up here and submit a couple of cut-and-paste entries despite the fact that just the day before I posted an article trashing their product. The desire for a quick and easy weight-loss solution encourages lots of wishful thinking and, even with bad publicity sitting right next to it, they know that some folks are going to buy into it regardless of how badly their article mangles the English language.

The best defense against these scumbags is education. Don’t take my word for it, look this stuff up yourself. Preferably from sites not trying to sell you on it. If that’s too much work then just read what they’re saying very carefully. If you break it down like I did it’s pretty clear they’re full of shit.

FDA says hCG weight-loss products are nothing but bullshit.

Pic of bottles of HCG.

You wanna lose weight? Try eating less and exercising more.

Well, not literally bullshit, but bullshit as in they-don’t-do-what-they-claim-to-do. I know, I know. A diet program that doesn’t work? That’s unpossible!

HCG weight-loss products are fraudulent, FDA says – USATODAY.com

HCG weight-loss products that promise dramatic results and claim to be homeopathic are sold as drops, pellets and sprays on the Web, in drugstores and at General Nutrition Centers. They are supposed to be used in combination with a very low-calorie diet of 500 calories a day.

The fact that they claim to be homeopathic is your first clue that the claims are full of shit, but who doesn’t realize that any weight-loss they experience is because they somehow managed to stick to limit of 500 calories a day?

Hell, if you can manage that without gnawing your own arm off in a fit of hunger then, yes, you’re probably going to lose weight regardless of whatever bullshit supplement you’re taking. Assuming, of course, that you don’t spend 24 hours a day just laying on a couch someplace.

Consider that experts recommend between 1000 – 1200 calories a day for women and 1200 – 1500 a day for men. Then add in the fact that consuming less than 800 calories a day can actually interfere with weight-loss as your metabolism slows because it thinks you’re starving. A limit of 500 a day is just stupid.

Many of the labels indicate the products contain HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone made by the placenta during pregnancy. The hormone itself is approved as a prescription treatment for infertility and other conditions.

There is no evidence the oral over-the-counter products are effective for weight loss, says Elizabeth Miller, FDA’s leader for the Internet and health fraud team. While they may not be dangerous, they’re at least “economic fraud,” she says.

Because the products do not seem to be “a serious direct health hazard or a serious indirect health hazard,” they have been a lower priority for FDA action than other products. Still, Miller says, “they could be subject to enforcement at any time.”

While the “drug” itself may not be harmful, sticking to such a diet probably is. If for no other reason than it’s actually undermining your goal of losing weight plus you may be burning up lean muscle as your body struggles to deal with the huge decrease in caloric intake.

Apparently the idea of using hCG in combination with a ultra-low calorie diet has been around for a long time:

Miller says HCG began being used for weight loss in the 1950s when a British physician had a theory that it could help people on a near-starvation diet not feel hungry. “Since then, a lot of research and clinical trials debunked that theory.

Samuel Klein of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis agrees: “Data from most randomized controlled trials show that HCG is no better than placebo in achieving weight loss or reducing hunger.”

Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who operates quackwatch.org, says, “The bottom line is there is no reason to think the product works.”

Even experts in the supplement industry say the products aren’t legal and don’t work. Andrew Shao of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group, says HCG is “not considered a legal dietary ingredient and therefore cannot be sold as a dietary supplement. I am not aware of any scientific evidence that supports its use when taken orally.”

Think about that for a moment. What this product is supposedly doing for you — if it actually did anything at all — is mask the fact that you’re starving yourself. That’s like taking morphine so you can walk on your broken leg without bothering to get the bone set. Sure, you can do it for awhile, but you’re not really helping to solve the problem.

A simple Google Shopping search reveals that there are still plenty of sites out there offering this product with prices ranging from $10 a bottle to $600 for multi-person diet kits. (Because if you’re going to starve yourself you may as well share the misery!) The number of books on the topic, including an entry in the venerable “For Dummies” series,  is amazing and shows that this is a big seller. Which means that until the FDA actually starts cracking down on some of the vendors out there they’ll probably continue to offer hCG for as long as they can.

Good news in the U.K. as doctors vote to drop homeopathy funding from the NHS.

The advocates of woo-woo in the U.K. have had a bit of a setback:

In all the furore over cuts to the NHS, doctors have voted to stop one service all by themselves – and unlike what is expected to follow, this is something we should all celebrate. The British Medical Association (BMA) has voted to stop offering homeopathic treatment on the NHS.

It’s better still. They also say that homeopathic products should no longer be labelled “medicines” and should instead be marked “placebo” when sold in pharmacies. In entertainingly robust language, Dr Tom Dolphin of the BMA’s junior doctors committee described homeopathic remedies as “nonsense on stilts”.

It’s worth reading the full “nonsense on stilts” quote from the news article:

Dr Tom Dolphin, from the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said that he had previously described homeopathy as witchcraft but now wanted to apologise to witches for making the link.

“Homeopathy is not witchcraft, it is nonsense on stilts,” he said.

“It is pernicious nonsense that feeds into a rising wave of irrationality which threatens to overwhelm the hard-won gains of the Enlightenment and the scientific method.

“We risk, as a society, slipping back into a state of magical thinking when made-up science passes for rational discourse and wishing for something to be true passes for proof.”

According to the Society of Homeopaths, homeopathy has been available through the NHS since its creation in 1948. You’d think that 62 years would be more than enough time to establish that it actually does something, but so far there’s not much in the way of evidence to suggest that it does.

It does my heart good to see doctors in the U.K. standing up for evidence based medicine. Perhaps there’s hope for all of us yet.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Man dies waiting for God to heal him.

Another in our ongoing series of people who had perhaps a tad too much faith takes us to South Carolina and 33 year-old Mr. Tillman. It seems Tillman tore his ACL back in March and when he went to the doctor’s office to get patched up they told him he’d have to pay $300 upfront before the repair could be done. Mr. Tillman couldn’t afford the appointment so he drove back home and settled his 550-pound frame, naked save for a blanket, into a recliner where he took up a Bible and stayed… for the past eight months believing all the while that God would heal him.

His wife tended to his needs as best as she could, but in the end God decided he had via better things to do than to heal Mr. Tillman:

“He read his Bible daily, he spent his full focus on God,” said Webb. “And he was literally waiting and praying for a Job miracle. If anybody knows the Bible and knows Job, he really and fully believed that God was going to heal him just like he did Job, because he said he couldn’t think of a better testimony to go out and to tell people.”

For eight months they had no visitors. Webb rarely left his side, and she tried to keep him clean.

“I couldn’t get him rolled over to use a bedpan,” said Webb.

Other than eating and reading the Bible, she says Tillmon posted sermons online and texted messages of faith through his cell phone.

“He wanted so much to get up and you know, he wanted to tell everybody what Jesus done,” said Webb.

I can only imagine the filth that must have gathered in that chair as he sat there, for eight months, relieving himself. I can’t imagine anyone else putting up with it for that long, but put up with it she did until the bitter end:

Webb says Tillmon consistently told her not to call for help. She says Wednesday morning he was in so much pain that she finally called an ambulance.

Greenwood County authorities say they found Tillmon covered with sores, and that he appeared to weigh about 800 pounds. They say he was stuck to his chair, and they had to saw the recliner apart. They cut a large hole around the front door to get him out.

He died at the hospital.

He had managed to pack on another 300 pounds in eight months? That’s an impressive feat in itself.

The wife, as you’d expect, is beside herself with grief for not getting help for her husband sooner.

Actually, that’s not true at all. She’s fine with it:

Webb says she has no regrets about leaving him in that recliner.

“If I feel anything right now, it’s envy for him because I wish he had taken me with him,” said Webb.

Officials, amazingly enough, aren’t charging her with a crime. I guess the figured they couldn’t come up with a punishment worse than what she’d spent the last eight months living with.

I get emails all the time from various True Believers™ with uplifting stories about how they prayed and God cured them of cancer, or gallstones, or whatever and I often write back and ask if they sought any medical treatment for their condition. Each time the answer is yes. I wonder how well they would have fared if they had the amount of faith in God that Mr. Tillman had. I wonder if their God would’ve been as happy to help had they not sought medical treatment. It’s somewhat amazing how often God’s willingness to cure you is tied to whether or not you’re getting medical attention.

The other aspect of this story that isn’t as obvious is how it shows the need for a public health care system in this country. Perhaps if Mr. Tillman didn’t need to worry about whether or not he could afford to go to the doctor he’d still be alive to spread the message of God’s love.  At the very least, his wife wouldn’t have gone through eight months of hell on earth.

Found over at Pharyngula.

Jobs I’m Glad I Can’t Do: The Pelvic Model.

There are people in this world who go to great lengths to give back to the community in various ways. Some are firemen who rush into burning buildings, some are policemen who patrol dangerous neighborhoods, and some are teachers of a very specialized sort that ensure our doctors know what they are doing:

I am a Pelvic Model.

More precisely, I am a Non-MD, Gynecological Instructor.  Sort of a “professional vagina,” I use my own body to teach health care professionals how to perform gentle and effective “well woman” breast and pelvic exams.   

It’s not your typical job.  Not something you tend to see advertised in the Classifieds.  Not a profession well represented on Career Day.  Type “pelvic model” into any search engine and you won’t get a lot of hits.  (Actually, you will, but they are of the “Secretary Whores” variety.)

Despite what people first think, the Naked Job, as I call it, is not sexual.  It’s not voyeuristic, it’s not freakish, and it’s definitely not glamorous.  (Admittedly, only one person ever thought it might be glamorous – and she doesn’t get out much.)

What the Naked Job is falls somewhere between “Rewarding/Giving Back” and “Well, I Guess Somebody’s Gotta Do It.”

[…] A “Gynecological Instructor” sounds odd, yes, but face it, the only other way young doctors learn how to perform pelvic exams on a live person is to learn on their patients – i.e. you.  So, besides being an exceedingly well paid gig ( it’d have to be), it’s actually rewarding in that I’m helping make pelvic exams kinder and gentler the world over and my students are always so appreciative… how many times are you hugged at your job?

It’s a fascinating read and will make you appreciate not having to undertake the job yourself, but also glad that there’s someone out there who is.