Letters, I Get Letters, Lots & Lots of Letters…All of a Sudden!

35 Comments

Something strange is in the air.

I wrote a post some weeks ago after a brief exchange with a young man in Whales named Rhys.  For those of  you who read Psora Psora Psora regularly, Rhys is numbered among the group of Skeptics in Great Britain who stand opposed to homeopathy, in that they consider it nothing more than placebo and feel that it offers “false hope” to any and all who try it.

All well and good–so far.

As I believe in choice when it comes to medicine and believe that, like politics and religion, one’s choice of medical treatment is not only a basic right, but also a right that should be upheld and respected above all things, I had a brief, and, I thought, respectful exchange of ideas with Rhys and ended up writing him an open letter via this blog.  (And let me note very clearly, when I say respectful, I mean that it was respectful on both sides of the conversation.  I found and find Rhys to be a highly intelligent and very thoughtful young man.  The fact that we disagree when it comes to our chosen medical modality in no way interferes with our ability to be polite and civil with one another.)

I wrote the letter because Rhys and I have something in common, aside from our passionate beliefs when it comes to health, healing and medicine.  (Although, to be clear, when it comes down to it, I believe that my true passion is for healing, while Rhys’ is for medicine, but I do not wish to put words in his mouth.  And I am sure he will clarify my statement if it is incorrect.)

Okay, I wrote the letter because Rhys suffers from Crohn’s Disease, something that I know about first hand, as I used to suffer from similar ailments.  So I feel a special attachment to Rhys and want to see him fully and completely healthy–whether it be as a result of an allopathic or homeopathy treatment.

Weeks passed and Rhys and I went on with our lives.  I wrote my little posts and he Tweeted his tweets.  Then, suddenly, just today, something strange happened.

I started to get comments, not about recent posts, but about my letter to Rhys.  Indeed, seven comments on the letter to Rhys came in between 10:45 and 12:15 this morning (my time–they are five hours ahead in Great Britain).  I found this very odd.  Why would all these people suddenly have something to say on the subject what I thought was a letter of encouragement to Rhys?  Then I went to my Twitter account and saw the answer–that little Twitterbug Rhys had just read the letter (I am hurt that he has stopped reading my Blog, but apparently he has better things to do) had posted ten Tweets to me just over two hours ago.  Just before the comments began.

In the time it has taken me to write this, three more comments have come in.  It is a very busy day indeed, especially since I posted the post to Rhys as long ago as I did.

In that the Flying Monkeys flew in together, I thought that I would print their comments together and then answer them altogether, since the messages all say the same things.  Flying Monkeys, it would appear, think alike.

I present them in chronological order.  First up is Zeno at 10:46 a.m.:  “…people deserve the right to choose the medicine that is right for them.”

Absolutely agree. Do you agree that such choice should be informed choice?

Next is Adam at 11:04:  You are overlooking one important point here: homeopathy doesn’t work.

There have been a great many randomised double-blind trials of homeopathy, and they have shown it to be no better than placebo.

It’s true that homeopathy only kills if people believe it will cure them of a life-threatening disease which could be cured by proper medical treatment. Probably most people are not daft enough to attempt homeopathic treatment for, say, a ruptured appendix. However, by encouraging people to believe in homeopathy, you increase the risks that someone might.

But although homeopathy is unlikely to kill, it is far more likely to be a waste of money and to offer false hope. You talk about economically depressed times. Quite right. All the more reason not to encourage people to waste what little money they have on quack remedies.

Next is Scott at 11:43:  “in these economically depressed times” it is especially wise to not waste money.

Homeopathy is the most outlandish fiction, a complete waste of time and resource. This is not the time we should be considering homeopathy, but stamping it out once and for all.

Next up is Pozorvlak at 11:46:  That’s incredibly patronising.

Poz is followed at 11:49 by the very angry Chunkylimey:  Considering your outright cowardice in addressing Rhys and then deleting his response here’s another one for you to delete knowing that you have been outed as a spineless hypocrite.

Your simpering snide nonsense where you claim sympathy and then patronize and insult shows you for just the kind of person you are.

You’ve outed yourself. The world is aware of you. You might not like the attention it brings. You’d have been wiser to shut up and keep your slimey insults to yourself.

Feel free to look me up too. Unlike you I’m not a coward.

(Note to Chunkylimey:  tone it down, Pumpkin.  No need for such language here.  And none will be tolerated in the future.  And as to deleting any posts from Rhys, to my knowledge I have never done so.  I quite enjoy reading what Rhys has to say and would have no trouble posting any comment from him.  If one got deleted, it was in error.  And one last note–how is it that I am a coward?  I have been teaching homeopathy for over twenty years now and have published endless articles and seven books on the subject.  Take a look at my Amazon Author’s Page.  That is hardly hiding.  Take a look at my web site.  Not hiding there, either.  And you have seen my blog.  Talk about hiding in plain view.  Final note:  let me remind you that it is the basic rule of this little Psoric blogspace that everyone has the right to choose when it comes to politics, religion and medicine.  I respect everyone who has thought these great issues out for themselves and come to conclusions that are right for them. If you cannot share this general and blanket aura of respect, then there is little point in sending comments.  They will be deleted.  This is my blog, Chunky, and it plays by my rules, whether you like it or not.)

Next comment was from MkeHyperCube at 12:15.  He wrote:  What you have there is a very good description of the Placebo effect, i.e. incurring the body’s natural ability heal itself. This is a powerful effect, and saying something “is a placebo” is not the same as saying it is not effective, since placebo is known to be remarkably effective.

However, and this is where I think Rhys’s point is an important one: there are some things which are amenable to the placebo effect – things which the body can cure for itself if you can only “light that spark” as you so eloquently put it. And there are some things that can not.

There are many people, and I am sure from your writings that you are probably not one of them, who mindlessly promote homoeopathy (and other placebo-inducing medications), as the cure for everything, including things which, sadly but demonstrably, can only be cured by allopathic i.e. conventional medicines. Hoping that you can choose to believe otherwise, does not change this basic fact. This means that there are in fact cases where people who could be getting some genuine healing or relief for something, are being persuaded to throw away the medicines they are prescribed and use homoeopathy instead. This is dangerous, as I’m sure you can see. That is why there are flying monkeys and why I think they will continue to fly.

And then there is this very long comment from Fibularis at 12:16:  Dear Vinton

Hmm. While recognising your perfect right to expressing your opinion in this little corner of the internet, and at the risk of being labelled a flying monkey, can I make a point?

I’m delighted to hear that your colitis has disappeared. I hope this is a permanent state of affairs, and I’m sure Rhys Morgan would second me in this regard.

I am not so sure that you can definitely attribute the homeopathic remedy as the causal mechanism of the cure. As human beings we are very much geared to finding patterns in the world, and very useful this has no doubt been throughout our evolutionary history. Unfortunately this ability often leads to recognition of ‘false positives’, i.e. finding a pattern where in fact there is none. We should and need to be a bit cleverer about application of remedies, and we certainly should not rely on anecdote (and, apologies if this sounds a bit rude – it’s not intended as such – your report regarding your colitis, no doubt very real to you, qualifies as anecdote). Randomised, controlled, double-blinded studies are a pain in the butt. They are expensive, labour-intensive and time-consuming, but (let me capitalise, BUT) they are very good at removing the noise, the all-too-human quirkiness and anecdotal non-evidence that clouds the issue of whether or not a particular treatment is having a real effect on a condition.

And the overwhelming body of evidence, and all meta-analysis, shows that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebo. So, irrespective of failures to explain the mechanisms of how homeopathy might work, there is no evidence base for its use.

Now please don’t take offence at this. Your colitis has disappeared and this happened when you were taking a homeopathic remedy. But n = 1 here, and even if you know of other people for whom this seemed to work too, the numbers involved are unlikely to be more than dozens. The RCTs involve hundreds of individuals. By your own admission you were seeking this remedy when you were desperate enough to swallow your pride and seek alternative help. It may be that the condition had reached a crisis and a natural improvement accompanied the homeopathy – this often happens with mainstream medicines as well as homeopathic remedies.

I hope you have a long and healthy life too.

(Note to Fib:  I published your full comment this time.  It was well written, but here’s another of my rules–this is my blog and I am the only one here who gets to go on and on.  Keep them short in the future.)

Now for the most recent comments.  At 12:46, Greg wrote:  Psoric – none of your comments alter the fact that there is no clinical evidence whatsoever – despite your original post – that homeopathy works. It is water. If water cures your ills then more power to you. You are being patronising (life experience blah blah) and spouting the usual arguments that woo-apologists come out with day after day after day and it does not change anything except help me realise that there is just one more person out there who needs help before thy rely on water to sure something which doe not actually get better by itself (that’s called “Regression to the Mean” – it’s one natural symptom that woo apologusts are forever using to show that homeopathy works).

I pity you. I truly, truly do.

Neelan – that’s what happens when you drink water and have a condition where the symptoms ebb and flow.

(Note to Greg:  Not the old “I pity you” ploy–you can and must do better in the future.  As to ebb and flow, a quarter of a century ebb is damned good in my experience.  Especially if it comes from just drinking water as you suggest.)
Finally at 1:01, someone seems to be coming to my defense.  Dr Nancy Malick writes:  Real is scientific homeopathy. It cures even when Conventional Allopathic Medicine (CAM) fails. Evidence-based modern homeopathy is a nano-medicine bringing big results for everyone
Okay, guys, here’s the deal.  I am fully aware that you Skeptics, or Flying Monkeys or whatever is the preferred designation really, really don’t think homeopathy works.  You really, really, really want it to go away.  Like I want Sarah Palin to go away.  But the reality is that I have every right to believe as I do.  I have every right to my life’s experiences and to the lessons that I have drawn from those experiences.  I can draw the conclusions that I like in terms of politics and religion and medicine and I may put those conclusions forth as I like, in accordance with the laws of free speech and the rules of conduct that WordPress imposes.
You are free to take issue with me or not.  You are free to read the blog or not.  And you are free to comment or not as you see fit.
But I am also free.  I am free to have an exchange of ideas with you or not as I see fit.  If you send comments that march in lockstep, that come minutes apart and seem to carry on a single conversation and, most important, that can be traced back to a series of Tweets from Rhys or anyone else, you will not be recognized here.
This is not a debate forum.  Nor is it a place in which you will be setting the agenda.  This is the place in which I set forth my opinions, about homeopathy and about anything else that comes into my head.  If you can deal with that reality, then you are most welcome, as are your ideas.
But if you (like the crazed bleach woman who commented to me on something that was being discussed on Rhys’s blog and that I knew nothing whatsoever about and had never supported or even commented on) come with an agenda just to shout down anyone who the gang mentality has selected for attack, then move on.  If you are going to comment to me, then you had better have read what I have to say and not be continuing some ongoing Twitterfest that you try to drag me into.  I am not interested in your ongoing snit with all things homeopathic.
I have been a part of the homeopathic community for thirty years now, guys.  You may only be hearing of me now, but that does not mean that you just dreamed me up.  I existed before you knew I existed.  And I am aware that there are those who think homeopathy is great and those who don’t.  Long ago I stopped debating the issue.  I believe that it is up to individuals to make up their own minds.
So you won’t get an argument from me.  It is, in my opinion, a serious waste of my time.  Were we able, one on one, to sit down and talk, we might have a great time debating.  But that is not the purpose of my blog.  To wrestle with you is to take time away from what I want to do with it.  And make no mistake.  I will do with it exactly what I like.
Thanks for taking the time to visit today.  Especially you, Fib.  You had a message that, while I disagreed with nearly every word you said, was well written, well thought out and kind-spirited.  You get a gold star.  Chunky gets nothing.

The Healing Spark: An Open Letter to Rhys Morgan

71 Comments

In my last post, I suggested that, in these economically depressed times, it would serve readers well to learn a bit about homeopathy, in order to be prepared to deal with simple household emergencies, such as colds and flus and mechanical injuries, like scrapes, cuts and bruises.  I did not think that anything I wrote was particularly startling or shockingly new–indeed, it is the sort of thing that I have been teaching and writing about for years now.  So nothing prepared me (in my new-to-the-internet naive state) for the wrath of Kahn that was about to descend.

In the post (and I hope you will read it and the myriad comments it engendered) I went to town on the troubles millions of Americans are having in getting access to health care and suggested an alternative.  I finished my little post with a simple question:  Do we really, at this point, have anything left to lose?  True enough, in my opinion, as my years of experience in using homeopathic remedies has shown me time and again that, if you choose the right remedy, remarkable improvement will result, and, if you choose the wrong remedy, nothing whatsoever will occur.  No risk, no danger–indeed, what have you got to lose?

It started simply enough at first, with a comment from a Rhys Morgan that simply read:  “Yes, actually.  People have their lives to lose if they choose to rely on homeopathy for things more serious than self limiting illnesses.”  The opening salvo in Rhys Morgan’s assault.

At the time, I had no idea who he was or the reason for his somewhat over-the-top comment.  Having posted very little about homeopathy to date here at the blog–most of my comments, sadly, have come under the category of “self-absorption”–and having suggested nothing other than that homeopathy is effective for simple household emergencies (it is), I was somewhat taken aback by the sudden accumulation of corpses of people that I had killed by suggesting homeopathy to them.  I wasn’t capable of making the logical leap that Rhys, like an Olympic jumper, had made, but I did recognize the technique.  Having been part of some homeopathic discussion boards in past years, I remember well when comments like this suddenly appeared just before the internet trolls descended like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.

Assuming that I had a troll in my midst, I was unprepared when a friend told me that he was not a troll at all but a Pixie.  I did as my friend suggested and researched Rhys Morgan online.  What I found was a 15-year-old towhead youth; one who is himself stricken with Crohn’s Disease.

This changed everything for me.  He was not someone who was merely looking for attention or someone who takes pleasure in upsetting others and robbing them of their hope for healing:  he was instead one of the many millions of people in this world what suffer, whose lives are limited, often defined, by their diseases.  In his case, whatever past experiences he has had or whatever research he as done has had a great impact upon him–he now is not satisfied with just making decisions–hopefully, with his parents’ guidance and help–as to what treatments will be most effective for him, he has somehow come to the conclusion that it is his rightful role to attack anyone who happens to disagree.

I disagreed and I heard about it.  Some comments were so inflammatory and so downright rude that I trashed them and would not post them.  Rhys’ many comments were passionate, sometimes to the point of melodrama, but excusable, under the circumstances. And then there is the strange case of the letter from “Leigh R.”  This letter first appeared yesterday afternoon.  I read it, and although it went off onto several tangents (including one about bleach that I only found out later was a reference to something going on in Great Britain that I not only had not commented on but knew nothing about), I posted it and answered it.  All well and good.  Except that, a couple hours later, I received the same letter again.  And then again and again and again.  I have, to date, received it ten times now–almost as if it were being sent out by some technological means and not by an individual at all…

Newly intrigued, I went back to digging about Rhys.  I went to his Twitter Account.  There I found that he proudly announces that he has set it to register any reference to homeopathy, so that he can summon his followers to descend upon the poor fool who would dare to mention it.  Those are the flying monkeys I mentioned before.

I decided finally to include in today’s post a letter to Rhys Morgan.  I do this not because of his stand on homeopathy–personally and quite honestly, I just don’t care whether he wants to use homeopathy or not.  He, like every other person, deserves the freedom to determine what sort of medical care is appropriate for him–but because I want him to understand that, while he is remarkably bright and well-researched in terms both of his disease and of various medical studies (read: those that support his beliefs), he is, in my opinion, fighting the wrong fight.  And, like millions of poor Americans who somehow get snookered into voting for candidates who want to give tax breaks to the wealthy with the incredible explanation that, in doing so, they are helping the working poor, he is working against his own self interest.

So, here’s the letter.  If you want to read more of the back-and-forth between Rhys and myself, please look at the comments section of my last post, “Do-It-Yourself-Medicine.”  But, to the letter:

Dear Rhys,

First, let me tell you how sorry I am that you suffer from a disease like Crohn’s.  I know from my own experience how painful it can be–both physically and emotionally.  I know how limiting it can be, how it makes you structure your whole life around it, define your life by it, as it grows worse and worse.  And I know all too well the prognosis that the disease suggests.  The picture that gets painted is upsetting at best, and can be deeply frightening.

I quite understand your take on homeopathy.  I shared it at one time, just as I shared the disease that troubles you.  And I remember very well when my friend Peggy took me to hear a lecture on homeopathy and how I sat in the back row, my arms crosses, my legs thrust out in front of me.  I didn’t want to hear it.  At that point in my life, like you, I was working from a place in which life seemed to be very logical.  That it followed a set system of rules and that those rules were largely determined by doctors and by scientists, who gave and took back hope as if it were their job to do so.

It was a gentleman from India who spoke on homeopathy that night.  I knew nothing about it–had never heard the word.  And as he spoke in his thick accent, I really thought he was a fool.  That he was describing a form of voodoo.  And I let him know it.  I didn’t argue with him as you likely would have, Rhys, instead I used my weapon of choice:  humor.  I made the audience laugh, first with me and then at him.  He continued on as best he could, but very little of what he wanted to teach us got said that night, thanks to me.  Peggy was red-faced and angry as we drove home.  She sat with her face out the side window and we didn’t speak.  Not for a long time.

I went on from there, to some of the best doctors and one of the best hospitals in the world.  I had very good health insurance then, unlike today, and so I could afford the best.  All the news was bad, all the prognoses terrifying.  I was producing television in those days, Rhys, living in a high-stress environment, which was only making matters worse.  I did everything that my doctors told me to do, and nothing was working for me.  I was getting sicker and living with more and more pain, more and more restriction.

Finally, I was at the point of giving up.  I called Peggy and, swallowing my doctor-loving, left-brained pride, I asked for the number of her homeopath.  And, as you know, that very first visit changed my life.  I improved immediately with homeopathic treatment and, in time, could honestly say that I had not had a bout of colitis in a week, then a month, then a year–and now twenty-five years or so.  I can’t even remember the last I suffered from the disease.

I tell you this for one reason, Rhys Morgan:  in order to tell you that healing is still possible.  It is always possible.  You spoke to me in your missives and those of your flying monkeys about giving people false hope. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as false hope, Rhys, I believe that there is only hope.  Hope is an engine of change in our lives, if we let it.  We have an inborn and innate ability to heal.  And this ability is ours from birth until death.  It grows stronger and weaker by the circumstances of our lives.  It is our job, and the job of wise physicians, to do whatever can be done to support this ability to heal, to stoke it and to, in result, allow healing to take place.

The ancient healer Paracelsus, who stood on the gap between chemistry and alchemy, and who died young as the result of a mysterious defenestration, was asked about how he helped his patients to heal.  He said that, when it comes to healing, you can’t measure the material that causes it, you can only measure the result.  He likened healing to lighting a fire. You don’t sit and think, you don’t try to reason out exactly how much spark you have to bring to the wood to get it to light.  You strike a match and touch it to the wood, knowing that combustion is a natural process like healing.  The role of the physician (and that is a topic for another day, Rhys) is to strike the match, not to be it.

In my opinion, Rhys, our difference is not about homeopathy versus allopathy, our difference in viewpoint is about healing versus curing.  You are still working from a materialistic model, not only of the universe, but also of how healing takes place.  I am not.  I do not think that, ultimately, there is such a thing as a “cure,” as all medicine–ALL medicine–ultimately depends upon the body’s ability to heal itself.  Some medicine (homeopathy, in my opinion) assists the body and boosts its ability to heal.  Other medicine (allopathy, in my opinion–which, by the way, includes some natural medicines, such as herbal treatments–again, a topic for another day) is suppressive in its action, and in being suppressive actually weakens the body’s ability to heal itself.  This is the gulf that lies between us, Rhys, not homeopathy.

I believe that you can be made totally well.  I was.

I believe that that can happen in many ways.  I do not say to you that you must do things my way (another difference between us). I say that you should seek healing and not a cure.

I believe that you are a person of unique intelligence and talents, but that you are still young.  Like me, you may find in time that you regret some of the things that your precocious intelligence leads you to do.  I deeply regret that I convinced all those people in that room that homeopathy was ridiculous and that the man who was speaking about it was a clown.  You may, one day, regret that you are issuing fear-speak and robbing people of hope. You may also regret one day that you so defamed homeopathy without having even a vague idea of what you are really talking about, never having really experienced it yourself.  But that may be too much to hope for and an irony that would never get this letter adapted for the silver screen.

I wish you well, Rhys Morgan, I really do.  I have read on the blog that you are becoming quite the media darling in your country.  Don’t let that go to your head.  And remember, as Spider-man says, with great power comes great responsibility.  So be careful where you launch those damned flying monkeys.  (I have so mixed my metaphors at this point that I can only hang my head in shame.)

Finally, Rhys, the one place where I hope that we can agree is that people deserve the right to choose the medicine that is right for them.  Just as I would not want to force the sugar pills of homeopathy down your throat, I don’t want you forcing your bitter allopathic pills down mine.  In all the great areas of belief in our lives, we have to have the right to choose:  what religion we espouse, what political party we support and what form of medicine we wish to partake of.  To eliminate choice in any of these areas is wrong–wrong in every way.

I will never say to you that you do not have the right to freely express your opinions, either.  I applaud your intelligent statements of belief.  And I do not challenge the things you say.  But in the same way, I will not allow you to tell me that I cannot or should not express myself, or to challenge the experiences of my life or my life’s work.  Especially as you do this from a place of ignorance.  I deserve the same respect that I have given you.  This is not a place of debate, this blog.  This is my little corner of the internet, where I get to say what’s on my mind.  Like I just did.

I wish you well, Rhys Morgan, I wish you a long and very healthy life.

Regards,

–V