The nominations for 2017 are:
- SmartBurn Australia
- Newcastle City Council and The Newcastle Herald newspaper
- National Institute of Complementary Medicine and the Western Sydney University
- Tracey Jones and Kristin Wicking of James Cook University’s short-lived healing touch clinic, and ABC North Queensland and its reporter Nathalie Fernback
- Physician Dr Samuel Tae-Kyu Kim
- ABC Landline
- Metatron, NLS Australia, and DH – Natural Medicine Clinic
- Dr John Piesse
- Sydney Uni Centre for Veterinary Education
Nominee: SmartBurn Australia
Nominated by: Ashley Anderson
SmartBurn Australia (www.smartburn.com.au) promotes the SmartBurn product, which is a flattened tube, crimped at either end, which it says is filled with “all natural” products. The product supposedly extends the life of fire wood by up to 17%, reduces smoke and particulate emissions by up to 54%, cleans chimney flues, produces more heat and thus saves money! But probably more smoke and mirrors than fuel saving.
Nominee: Newcastle City Council and The Newcastle Herald newspaper
Nominated by: Stephen Williams
The former for giving ‘the keys to the city’ in July 2017 to Jackie Gillies, “a successful psychic and businesswoman and has become a reality television star”, as covered in the Newcastle Herald. The recognition is apparently part of the Council’s newly-developed Ambassador program, that highlights individuals and organisations who work across Australia, and worldwide, to promote the City of Newcastle on a national stage. The Council describes Gillies as “a businesswoman, television personality, philanthropist and anti-domestic violence campaigner”, ignoring her role as a ‘psychic’. She describes herself as “a psychic medium who has an incredible ability to see the past, present and future, connecting people with their departed loved ones and spirit guides. Jackie’s abilities are exceptional in their pin-point accuracy, and leave her clients feeling inspired and uplifted.” The newspaper gave her completely credulous coverage, promoting her thus: “The former Warners Bay High School student began her psychic business in 2004, providing $40 readings in a Lake Macquarie shopfront. A decade later she had a three-year waiting list.”
Nominee: National Institute of Complementary Medicine and the Western Sydney University
Nominated by: Australian Skeptics and others
For continuing to promote unsupported and debunked ‘medical’ treatments, despite promises late last year, in response to a 2016 Bent Spoon nomination, that they are “intending to revise our website … and hope to address some of these issues you have raised”. It still promotes the following treatments under the Complementary Medicine banner: acupuncture, chiropractic, aromatherapy, naturopathy, spiritual healing, crystal therapy, reflexology, ‘energy therapies’ (reiki, qigong, electromagnetic field therapy), TCM, Ayurvedic medicine, anthroposophical medicine, healing touch, Rolfing, Feldenkrais, Alexander technique, and homeopathy. Secondly, NICM and UWS are nominated for planning to establish an on-campus TCM clinic for the general public.
Nominee: Tracey Jones and Kristin Wicking of James Cook University’s short-lived healing touch clinic, and ABC North Queensland and its reporter Nathalie Fernback
Nominated by: Tim Harding
These people are all connected with the same pseudoscientific event, namely the opening of a ‘healing touch clinic’ at James Cook University in Townsville. The University later announced that it had disallowed the clinic to operate on its Townsville campus. Theatre nurse and healing touch practitioner Tracey Jones (Tracy Jones?) provided healing touch services at the clinic; senior lecturer Kristin Wicking publicly endorsed the practice of healing touch at the clinic; ABC reporter Nathalie Fernbach uncritically reported on the opening in an unbalanced and uncritical manner (February 15, 2017); and ABC North Queensland published Fernbach’s report on its web site. Healing Touch, also known as ‘non-contact therapeutic touch, is a pseudoscientific ‘energy therapy’, similar to Reiki, which practitioners claim promotes healing and reduces pain and anxiety. Practitioners of therapeutic touch state that by placing their hands on, or near, a patient, they are able to detect and manipulate what they say is the patient’s ‘energy field’.
Nominee: Physician Dr Samuel Tae-Kyu Kim
Nominated by: Ange Lacey
Kim publicly advocates a controversial “spiritual healing” group, Universal Medicine, and refers patients to other devotees of the group for “chakra puncture”, “esoteric lung massage” and “spiritual healing”. He is also an unpaid senior lecturer in the University of Queensland medical school. In May, he was reprimanded by the Professional Standards Committee of the Medical Council of New South Wales for “significant ethical errors and failings in respect of proper professional standards” in treating a woman for more than two years for a chronic cough. Kim had told the woman that “deep-seated grief is a major driving factor in lung disease”. During his disciplinary hearing, he informed the Medical Council that he first believed the patient’s complaint was part of a “conspiracy” to discredit Universal Medicine. (tinyurl.com/y9owu4l7)
Nominee: ABC Landline
Nominated by: Bob Hinds
On August 6, the ABC’s Landline program contained a lengthy segment on biodynamic farming. The segment reported on how some winemakers are using methods which include burying cowhorns filled with manure in the earth for six months before digging it up again. They also use ‘cosmic influences’ such as the phases of the moon to decide when to plant, harvest and perform other husbandry activities. The first couple interviewed denied that they were against science, the male indicating that he had worked as a physicist and the woman that she had been a statistician. The presenters gave every appearance of taking the claims seriously. The whole segment was a monumental waste of air time.
Nominee: Metatron, NLS Australia, and DH – Natural Medicine Clinic
Nominated by: Richard Saunders
I would like to nominate the device known as the Metatron NLS (non-linear scanning), as well as its importer NLS Australasia, and the DH – Natural Medicine Clinic in Menai Metro, Sydney, for promoting it at Mind Body Spirit exhibitions. Hailing from Russia, the device (or program, as it appears to be), runs on a laptop and is used by various so-called natural health clinics in Australia and also makes a regular appearance at the Festival of Mind Body Spirit. The patient is hooked up to the device via a headphone-type attachment and then a series of anatomical, computer-rendered images and an animation of their being “scanned” is displayed on the laptop screen. To quote from the website of DH – Natural Medicine Clinic: “The Metatron NLS is able to trace any condition in the body through changes in the resonance of body tissue. Every object, small or large, has its own individual frequency or oscillation that vibrates at a different frequency from any other substance. Metatron can detect and match the frequency of any human body part, organ, tissue, cell, DNA or chemical. It automatically detects and localises cell changes down to a genetic level and corrects the imbalances.” Other claims for the Metatron revolve around “Finding and zapping specific pathogens”. One wonders why such a device has not yet come to the attention of health authorities.
Nominee: Dr John Piesse
Nominated by: Tim Mendham
Dr (now suspended) John Piesse for his anti-vaccination activities and assisting parents to bypass the “no jab no pay” legislation by providing letters of exemption so their children can avoid otherwise compulsory vaccinations. Piesse, who works (or worked) from the Natural Healing Centre in Mitcham and the Natural Institute of Integrative Medicine in Hawthorn, said he had seen about 450 children since late 2015 but did not provide a letter of exemption for everyone. He publicised his activities during a meeting to screen the Vaxxed anti-vaccination film. In mid-September the Medical Board of Australia suspended Piesse’s registration pending further investigation, making it illegal for him to treat patients.
Nominated by: Mandy-Lee Noble
Medicare for paying out just over 18 million dollars in rebates for chiropractic care and almost nine million dollars for osteopathy during the 2016/2017 financial year, a combined $27 million of federal money for non-evidence-based treatment that lacks the support of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). The RACGP has called for GPs to “seriously reconsider any support for chiropractic involvement in patient care”. RACGP Chair Dr Evan Ackermann stated “Consistent with the general thrust of ensuring MBS expenditure having an evidence base, the Chronic Disease Management items for osteopathy and chiropractic should be removed
Nominee: Aquapol – rising damp repellers
Nominated by: Ian Bryce
Aquapol markets expensive devices which are claimed to exorcise rising damp from your home, using energies unknown to science. Looking like a flying saucer, the device will tap into the earth’s inexhaustible source of energy with its magnetic field. It will solve damaged walls, mouldy smells, and high energy consumption, as well as having positive biological effects on humans, but taking a year to have effect. However, scientists know that there is no mechanism in physics by which it could do anything at all. The earth’s magnetic field is no source of energy, let alone an inexhaustible one. The other forces (gravitational, electric, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear) are even more preposterous. Now targeting vulnerable owners of old damp houses in Sydney’s inner west, Aquapol made the mistake of putting a leaflet in the Australian Skeptics chief investigator’s letterbox.
Nominee: Sydney Uni Centre for Veterinary Education
Nominated by: Victorian vet/dairy farmer (anon)
Sydney University’s Centre for Veterinary Education for promoting a course on veterinary acupuncture that encourages vets to integrate pseudoscience into clinics across Australia. The course is run by the Australian College of Veterinary Acupuncture, and was publicised via email by the CVE. The ACVA says that acupuncture is “an important part of a system of traditional Chinese Medicine”, “based on a different philosophy of health and disease” that “stimulates the body’s innate capacity to heal itself”. I would also nominate the various State veterinary boards for allowing completion of this course to be worth a substantive 211 CPD (required continuing professional education) points. In comparison, a year-long course in cardio respiratory medicine offers 334 CPD points.