Investigating pseudo-science and the paranormal from a responsible scientific viewpoint

Bent Spoon Nominations

The nominations for 2013 were:

The joint winners for 2013 : Chiropractors’ Association of Australia and the Chiropractic Board of Australia

Nominee: The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency

Nominated by: Dr Peter Arnold
Date: 21/12/2012

I would like to nominate the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, which has replaced the Medical Boards of all the states and territories. It has just sent out its latest newsletter, in which it propagates its views about the re-validation of medical practitioners, the competence of medical practitioners, the maintenance of up-to-date standards and all of that “good stuff”.

At the same time, nonsense about acupuncture appears on pages 8 – 9 of the newsletter. Surely this is utter garbage from a supposedly scientific, ‘standards’, and ‘competence’ organisation. How can anyone be competent in something which doesn’t work!

Surely this is as bad as the universities’ teaching this stuff and should also be exposed.

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Nominee: Sarah Laurie of the Waubra Foundation

Nominated by: Blair Donaldson
Date: 22/01/2013

Sarah Laurie, CEO and medical director of the Waubra Foundation, is a non-practising GP resident in South Australia, which is nowhere near Waubra.

Sarah Laurie promotes herself as Australia’s foremost expert on an unrecognised, non-specific medical condition that has been labelled Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS) by US pediatrician Nina Pierpoint. No mention of WTS exists in the 22 million peer-reviewed papers indexed by the US National Library of Medicine. While there is no formal definition of WTS, more than 220 symptoms have blamed on wind farms — see

Rather than facilitating medical research to dispassionately test her hypotheses, Sarah travels around regional communities (in Australian and overseas) and presents to town hall meetings organised by objectors to wind farms and climate change denial organisations. These meetings generally create significant outrage and frustrate the development of nearby wind energy projects.

The Waubra Foundation shares an office with a mining investment company in South Melbourne, a long way from the town of Waubra. None of the directors of the Waubra Foundation live within 100 kms of Waubra, yet at least five of them happen to own property very close to proposed wind farms. Sarah does not see any conflict conflict-of-interest arising out of this fact or the fact that the foundation is supported by people with uranium and fossil fuel interests and a strong opposition to wind energy.

Much like the AVN, Sarah amplifies the comments of objectors and ideologues, trades in undocumented and unverifiable anecdotes, and ignores or misrepresents the findings of qualified experts. Dr Geoff Leventhall, a noise and vibration consultant with more than a decade domain experience, recently wrote to a senate committee detailing many of the ways his work has been misrepresented.

Sarah frequently likens challenges to her theories to early denials of HIV / AIDS and the health risks of asbestos and tobacco, yet ignores the conclusions of 17 reviews – that there is no demonstrated link between wind turbines and ill-health.

Sarah vilifies Prof Simon Chapman, School of Public Health at Sydney University, for his suggestions that WTS is likely to be a psychogenic phenomenon. Despite his long and successful career in public health, Sarah suggests that Chapman is not qualified to comment, ignoring the fact she has no qualifications in epidemiology, medical / public health research or acoustics, yet insists that the low levels of infrasound created by wind turbines is highly detrimental human health. This is in spite of the fact that infrasound levels have consistently been found to be much higher along coastlines and in cities where millions of people around the world reside.

Elsewhere, a court in South Australia accepted testimony from Dr Gary Wittert, head of the Medical Faculty at the University of Adelaide, showing that Sarah’s data from Waubra showed the opposite of what she was claiming.

Laurie signs all her correspondence as “Dr Sarah Laurie” despite the fact that she has not been a medical practitioner for more than ten years. The Waubra Foundation has been granted charity status as a health promotion charity, yet does not employ any medical researchers and is essentially an anti-wind lobby group intent on misleading people with unproven claims.

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Nominee: Jason Woodforth

Nominated by: Michael Larkin
Date: 12/02/2013

I’d like to nominate Jason Woodforth, member for the Qld seat of Nudgee, for suggesting that although illegal peptides and hormones in food for performance enhancement were bad, that they weren’t as bad as water fluoridation.

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Nominee: Glenda Mather

Nominated by: Fiona Dobson
Date: 15/05/2013

I nominate Glenda Mather, Rockhampton City Councillor, for successfully getting fluoride removed from the local water supply, stating that “fluoride causes fluorosis and dementia”.

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Nominee: Better Heath Channel Victoria

Nominated by: Dean Jones
Date: 23/06/2013

My nomination for this year’s Bent Spoon is Better Heath Channel Victoria for its promotion of Acupuncture. Here are some of the more outlandish and dangerous claims from the Victorian government website:

Whether or not you believe in the philosophy of Qi makes no difference to the effects of acupuncture. Scientific trials around the world have found that when acupuncture is performed by a skilled practitioner, it is a safe and useful treatment for many different disorders

  • Constipation, diarrhoea, gastritis, ulcers
  • Anxiety, depression
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods, menopausal symptoms
  • Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bell’s palsy, paralysis, shingles
  • Asthma, bronchitis, common cold
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity

Clinical evidence of effectiveness of acupuncture
The British National Health Service carried out a systematic review of the evidence for the use of acupuncture to treat or manage a range of disorders. They found that there was evidence that acupuncture is effective to treat dental pain, jaw pain and to control nausea after operations and chemotherapy treatment.

For many conditions where acupuncture can be used, the evidence has not been systematically reviewed, or the current scientific evidence to prove that it is effective is not yet established.

Clinical guidelines published in many different countries have found that acupuncture is moderately helpful in a wide range of conditions, particularly those which involve pain.

You can read the full article here:

This is a Victorian government website that shamelessly promotes this thoroughly debunked pseudo-science. The scariest of their claims is that acupuncture can treat depression. Here is a link to a 2010 Cochrane review.

Many Australians commit suicide every year due to this illness, so for a government body to promote anything other than a science-based treatment is dangerous and could have catastrophic consequences for sufferers. Better Heath Channel and the Victorian government, you should be ashamed of yourself!

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Nominee: Pharmaceutical Society Of Australia

Nominated by: Denis Freeland
Date: 25/09/2013

I nominate the Pharmaceutical Society Of Australia (PSA) for continuing to misrepresent that the interests of the patient are their first priority.

The “Code Of Ethics” (Sept 2011) states “A pharmacist recognises the health and wellbeing of the consumer as their first priority”, and “consider their duty of care to the consumer first and foremost”. (Rule 1, 1.1).

A 2013 survey of pharmacists, conducted by Safeera Hussainy, lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at Monash University, showed that One in five “believe it is reasonable for their religious faith to influence their provision of the emergency contraceptive pill”.

This confirms what the Queensland PSA State Branch Manager, Dr Lisa Nissan, stated in 2012 when she said, “pharmacists as a group have the ability, due to their moral or ethical beliefs, to not supply the emergency contraceptive”.

Worse than refusing to supply on religious grounds, Pharmacists are actually refusing to supply based on ignorance of human physiology; those who refuse to supply ECP (Emergency Contraceptive Pill) on religious grounds “do so in the belief this contraception is an abortion pill, but the latest evidence shows that this is untrue”, reiterated Dr Safeera Hussainy on SBS, August 2013.

Thus by their own admission, they acknowledge that the views of the pharmacist are primary, and at best the patient is a second priority, yet continue to claim that, “the interests of the patient are their first priority”.


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Nominee: Tony Abbott

Nominated by: Maureen Chuck, Ken McLeod
Date: 28/09/2013

I nominate the leader of our nation, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, for the Bent Spoon Award, due to his anti-science policies such as abolition of the office of Chief Scientist and abolition of the Climate Commission on his second day in office. Surely, with the ever-growing threat of global warming, Australia needs a scientific response, and instead we are faced with dogma and ignorance. The Climate Commission had been established by the previous government to provide public information on the effects of and potential solutions to global warming.

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Nominee: Chiropractors’ Association of Australia

Nominated by: Brendan O’Brien
Date: 30/09/2013

I nominate the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia for the 2013 Bent Spoon awards in the category of ‘risibly ineffective bleating and hypocrisy’.

In a recent newsletter the CAA says: ‘Advice about vaccination is not typically within the usual area of practice for a chiropractor. Current evidence indicates that preventive measures such as vaccination are a cost– effective and clinically effective public health procedure for certain viral and microbial diseases.’

To protect public safety, the Board has:

  • ordered practitioners to remove all anti-vaccination material from their websites and clinics
  • removed several courses from the list of approved CPD programs, and
  • introduced random audits of practitioner compliance with the Board’s registration standards. Media Release August 8 2013]

It seems the CAA says one thing .… Then does nothing about their very own rogue chiros.

Reasonable Hank, who deserves the Straight Spoon Award, has effectively chronicled 50+ chiros who openly flout the CAA’s rulings. He has also blogged about the baby with the broken neck and the chiros who proudly sneak into hospital to manipulate their patients/victims against all National and State regulations about practising within hospitals.

And then the CAA Board hosts a big annual confest, and who is their guest of honour and featured presenter? An anti-vaxxer.


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Nominee: The producers of ABC television show Catalyst

Nominated by: Michael Green
Date: 05/11/2013

I nominate the producers of the ABC television science show Catalyst for their two-part episode on cholesterol, Heart of the Matter. Aired in October of 2013, the episodes questioned the role of cholesterol in heart disease and the use of statin drugs to reduce cholesterol. The stories were based primarily on the opinions of fringe doctors whose views were presented uncritically and whose interests in alternative treatments were not adequately disclosed. The program has since been condemned by experts and medical groups as misleading and potentially dangerous.

Together, the high rate of heart disease among Australians and the high trust placed in the ABC by the Australian public make this an especially concerning error.

The transcripts of the episodes in question can be found at the links below.

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Nominee: Chiropractic Board of Australia

Nominated by: Tim Mendham
Date: 05/11/2013

The Chiropractic Board of Australia, whose stated role is to regulate chiropractors in Australia and to develop “standards, codes and guidelines for the chiropractic profession”, is nominated for a Bent Spoon for:

  • Failing to stop registered chiropractors inappropriately treating babies and children for a myriad of diseases given the lack of scientific evidence of clinical effectiveness for such treatments and the risks of harm outweighing any supposed benefits;
  • Failing to stop registered chiropractors making unsubstantiated claims about the clinical effectiveness of chiropractic ‘treatments’ for non-musculoskeletal conditions;
  • Failing to stop chiropractors from repeatedly breaching their own Code of Conduct.

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