Bent Spoon Nominations

The nominations for 2019 are:

  • SBS-TV Medicine or Myth?
  • Dr Thierry Beths and Melbourne University
  • Good Price Pharmacy
  • University of Newcastle/Assoc Prof Pamela Van Der Riet
  • Peter ‘The Rainmaker’ Stevens
  • ABC Landline

  • Nominee: SBS-TV Medicine or Myth?

    Nominated by: Gary Bakker
    Date: 12/6/2019

    Every episode of SBS-TV’s Medicine or Myth? television program misinforms the public as to how products and therapies can or should be tested for safety and effectiveness. What is displayed is ‘television’, not ‘science’. In particular, the episode telecast on June 2 included a segment on ‘Emotional Freedom Techniques’ — a process of tapping “with two fingers” (why two?) on putative points along one’s “meridians” to relieve stress. It is referred to as “psychological acupuncture”. I am a clinical psychologist and had a review of this technique — and its cousin procedure, Thought Field Therapy — published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Psychologist in 2013. (“The current status of energy psychology: Extraordinary claims with less than ordinary evidence.”) The review revealed that every “clinical trial” that claimed to support the effectiveness of these “energy psychology” techniques had major methodological flaws, and that every trial that used a meaningful control group found no effect beyond placebo. The panel on Medicine or Myth? was convinced to extol the tapping procedure’s effectiveness by a momentary trial targeting a back pain in one of the presenters, and then an uncontrolled trial among a tiny number of subjects who reported their subjective impressions of success. This may have been good television, but it was abysmal science, and highly irresponsible when people with real psychological issues are likely to be misdirected toward quackery and away from help that we know is effective beyond short-term, shallow placebo effects.

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    Nominee: Dr Thierry Beths and University of Melbourne

    Nominated by: Hugh Ham
    Date: 12/6/2019

    Dr Thierry Beths, Head of Anaesthesia and Pain Management, Assistant Professor in Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia at the University of Melbourne, and the University itself, for promoting animal acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine at the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital.

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    Nominee: Good Price Pharmacy

    Nominated by: Geoff Andrews
    Date: 27/6/2019

    The Good Price Pharmacy gives away a magazine called Natural Health Crusader which is in reality an advertising channel for Caruso Natural Health Products. Although the propagation of unproven therapies alone should be enough to win them the award, they also use Pete Evans to push their products, with an interview “How Pete Evans Changed our Lives”. Evans is a supporter of the anti-vaccination movement, which worships at the feet of the discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield. Although the article does not mention vaccination, anyone reading it could come to the conclusion that Evans is a Great Guy and must be right about vaccination too. Ironically, this magazine is placed on the counter of the pharmacy next to a poster hyping their vaccination service for influenza.

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    Nominee: University of Newcastle/Assoc Prof Pamela Van Der Riet

    Nominated by: Stephen Allen
    Date: 27/8/2019

    University of Newcastle is offering a course in complementary medicine for nursing degree students – NURS2163 Complementary Therapies in Healthcare. This is being taught as a second year elective course for nursing degrees alongside normal science-based courses, with aromatherapy, Reiki, meditation, and guided imagery mentioned specifically in the course website.
    In addition, lecture slides used for the course mention naturopathy, iridology, acupuncture, reflexology, kinesiology and homeopathy (to name a few). The notes show that the course endorses all these as being sound and even give references to papers.
    The course is run by Associate Professor Pamela Van Der Riet.

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    Nominee: Peter ‘The Rainmaker’ Stevens

    Nominated by: Dave Hudson
    Date: 27/8/2019

    Peter Stevens has been promoting his atmospheric ionisation research machine throughout Australia. This is a 2m diameter portable device that uses focussed mirrors, infrared energy and magnets to “create an intense warm section of air that charges particles in the atmosphere causing clouds to form and rain” It is alleged that when this device is turned on, it will create rain with “100% accuracy”. Stevens has been encouraging people to use his device in rural areas of Australia that may be subject to drought to help bring rain to parched lands, despite this device never having undergone any kind of rigorous scientific testing and has been dismissed as implausible by the Bureau of Meteorology.

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    Nominee: ABC Landline

    Nominated by: Ron Paynter
    Date: 6/9/2019

    The generally informative ABC program Landline aired a segment on 18/8/2019 commemorating the passing of Alex Podolinsky, the “pioneer of biodynamic farming”. Essentially the biodynamic principle revolves around a magical conversion of cow manure filled cow horns when buried to produce a mystical brew which has an amazing effect on a farm’s productive capacity once sprayed on the soil. It was topical back in the 1970s when it had significant media attention, but has been a fringe arm of the organics and wellness movement since then, although it is becoming more prominent with biodynamic produce becoming more popular. Viewers of Landline were provided with anecdotes about how the use of the product meant that biodynamic farms flourished while neighbouring ones failed, the organic greengrocer attested that the biodynamic fruit was heavier due to the extra minerals in it, and that producers who tried it but failed to see any result were not applying the principle in the right way. The journalist was uncritical and almost fawning in acceptance of all this ‘evidence’ about the system.

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