A couple of weeks ago, I reported an incident in which a flier that was sent to my office advertising a seminar on chelation therapy. In that post, I expressed my irritation and proceeded to debunk the claims of chelation advocates. I promised to report back on the response to a complaint I said I was going to send. Well, yesterday I got the response:
Dr. ORAC (you didn't think I'd really give up my real name here, did you?):

Thank you for your feedback.

Due to similar comments and feedback from the professional clinical
community we have decided to cancel this program at our Center. Please
note that [FACILITY] offers several, much needed community seminars in all
of our communities each month intended to educate the general public on
care options that individuals may find beneficial. These
seminars/programs include topics such as Understanding Alzheimer's
Disease, Caregiver Support Groups, Arthritis Seminar's, Elder Care
Informational Seminars, etc.

Our goal is to educate, we never endorse. I do understand, respect and
in this instance, agree with your opinion, thus the cancellation. As a
health care provider that serves over 3000 seniors in [STATE] daily
in our Centers, please know that [FACILITY] has invested significant time,
financial and human resources aimed at redefining standards of care in
skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. I would hope that you
consider this primarily when considering the care your patients would
potentially receive with us, and not on the topics we present to the

I would be happy to discuss the quality initiatives our company has
implemented to demonstrate our commitment to excellence to clarify any
doubts you have regarding our dedication to quality of care.

Once again, I appreciate your feedback and letter, and can be reached at
them number below if you would like to discuss this further, and we
apologize if we have offended you - I can tell you with full confidence
that was not the intention of this program.


Mr. "Smith"
Vice President
I must say, I rather expected this. I'm just disappointed that I wasn't the first to complain, as the program appears to have already been canceled by the time "Mr. Smith" received my message. I'll try to do better next time--really. I was busy getting the Skeptics' Circle together and being on call, which delayed my complaint for several days. Mea culpa. Fortunately, my colleagues in the state apparently picked up the gauntlet.

In any case, I really hate it when people like "Mr. Smith" try to weasel their company out of responsibility for choosing to sponsor a talk like this by saying something as mealy-mouthed and bureaucratic as, "our goal is to educate, never endorse."

Oh, really?

Somebody from his company decided to pick this particular speaker, rather than other speakers who don't advocate therapies with no clinical or scientific support for the claims made for them. Somebody must have approved that first somebody's choice of speaker and the use of the company's facility. Somebody from "Mr. Smith's" company decided to mail out a flier to physicians, presumably all over the state, to advertise the talk. Letters like this give the impression that little gremlins must have somehow sneaked this speaker onto the company's "educational" program and mysteriously sent out all those fliers. Would the company have picked a speaker for their educational program whose viewpoint on treatment its officers strongly disagreed with? I doubt it.

But what pisses me off even more is this:
I would hope that you consider this primarily when considering the care your patients would potentially receive with us, and not on the topics we present to the community.
Give me a break. He's been burned by a foolish decision that demonstrates a lack of ability to distinguish between treatments based on evidence and those not so based, and now he's trying to convince me that it's OK to send patients to his facilities. I'm sure "Mr. Smith" would argue that what they present to the public in their educational programs does not necessarily reflect on the quality of care they offer their patients. Maybe so. I don't entire buy it, though, and here's why: These "educational" sessions are almost certainly in reality marketing tools for the facility designed to build good will among the public, and for these marketing purposes, they chose a speaker pushing pseudoscience. If "Mr. Smith's" company doesn't even care enough to verify that the topics being presented to the public for "education"/marketing purposes on its premises meet minimal standards of scientific evidence, why on earth should I believe that his company makes sure that their care for patients meets those same standards? After this, how do I know they aren't giving chelation therapy to the elderly in their nursing homes? After all, they're letting some altie present totally unrealistic and unproven claims for chelation therapy to the public using their facility.

I recognize that it's possible (even likely) that this was nothing more than a mistake by someone putting together the educational program who did not have adequate knowledge and critical thinking skills to recognize pseudoscience and the obviously bogus claims contained in the flier. (Whenever someone claims the same therapy can treat many different diseases, it's a sure sign of pseudoscience or quackery, after all.) My rejoinder would be to ask why the company put someone in charge of the educational program who didn't know enough to recognize bogus claims to begin with.

I can only hope that "Mr. Smith" and the company have learned from this incident. I'll be watching. Next time, I might even sign up for the seminar and give the speaker a rather nasty surprise.


  1. I do think you're being a little harsh - or, at least, a little off-point. We who are not 'experts' in a field generally end up accepting seemingly convincing spiels from those who profess themselves to be so. The crucial thing is that though this guy (or whoever has responsibility for this education programme) got suckered, when challenged the decision was to concede to the real doctors and not to the quack.

    What this does, perhaps, highlight is that this facility is being run (as are most other such, I believe) by those who are not healthcare professionals; it also highlights that a policy which makes this possible may open up those in the care of such facilities to harm.

    It does also suggest a lack of critical thinking, of course. We can hope to change this (and perhaps the response to this ill-judged booking will have some effect in this instance) but a general culture of critical thinking really doesn't exist and indeed is often frowned upon (can you believe someone was actually pitching Quantum Healing to me only yesterday?)...

  2. Ok, I'm posting because ... blogger is causing me stress with a pet peeve.

    When you only have one comment, it says one commentS ... you cannot have one commentS ...
    so, I have to make it right so you have tow commentS ...

    hmmmm this has been bugging me about blogger for weeks now. Why I've picked tonight to not be able to ignore it? I've no idea.

  3. Oh, I don't think I'm being too hard on this particular facility. If it's not being run by health care professionals, then presumably they have healthcare professionals whom they assign responsibility for overseeing their educational programs, people who presumably should know enough to justify putting the kibosh on talks like this one. And if they don't have an M.D. overseeing their educational programs, then why don't they have one? Why would they place their educational program in the hands of someone without the knowledge and/or critical thinking skills necessary to distinguish obvious quackery from medicine?

    On the other hand, I did acknowledge that this could have been a simple mistake and express hope that they learned from it.

    As for your comment about the lack of critical thinking, unfortunately my own profession is not immune from this lack. Remember, the speaker who had been scheduled to tout the joy of chelation therapy to the assembled elderly is an M.D. I'm guessing that he probably gives chelation therapy and other unproven and/or ineffective therapies in his very own office. I'm half-tempted to call his office (without identifying myself as a doctor, of course) to ask if they provide chelation therapy there.

    My first fear is that the company won't view the subject matter as the mistake, but rather will view the fact that the Wellness Education Foundation (which appears to be the group that provided the speaker) mailed out fliers to many physicians throughout the state to promote the talk! My second fear is that they'll just fire some poor low-level flunky who got suckered and declare the problem solved.

  4. To Dreaming Again:

    Blogger does indeed have some annoying characteristics, but it's free. I don't get enough traffic to justify moving to a different platform, and Blogger suits my needs fairly well.

    My main irritation with Blogger is with how slow it sometimes is.

  5. You get significantly more traffic than I do (how sad is that!) You're right ... it's not worth paying for's just that one night the grammatical glitch was more than I could bear ...

    Hey ... my husband is in the hospital and the nurses aid referred to him as 'the pneumonia in room 10' ... I thought the nurse in charge was going to tear her apart limb from limb. All I could think of was your post ... I tried not to laugh.

    Maybe others in your field are getting just as fed up with it as you are?

  6. Shoot, I meant to add, I agree with you, I don't think you're being too harsh on the facility.

    When someone endorses a program, even if they don't know anything about it, those whom they are presenting it to, assume, right or wrong, that the facility is in full agreement with the presenter.

    These facilities need to be held accountable for what they are presenting and realize when it is medical in nature it is not just for entertainment sake and someone's life may hang in the balance.


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