MP David Tredinnick calls for more Government Funding of Medical Astrology and Remote Energetic Healing

quack mp Yesterday, the House of Commons saw a debate on the funding of medical astrology. Yes. Medical Astrology. The Hansard Report of the debate has a seventeenth century feel to it. Tredinnick asserts that the phase of the moon influences the number of accidents and stops blood from clotting. He has tales of eastern lands that use astronomical signs to influence health care and governments that have official astrological systems. Britain should have them too.

It goes without saying that David Tredinnick is off with the faeries. He is also the democratically elected representative of the constituency of Bosworth. His parliamentary history is tarred by his involvement with the ‘cash for questions’ affair and the recent revelations that he was using parliamentary expenses to buy astrology software and training from ‘Crucial Astro Tools’.

Whilst we might dismiss this man as an eccentric buffoon, the government’s response to his speech is a large cause for concern.

Tredinnick uses his speech to rant about his desire to see more government funding of quackery within the NHS and to use legislation to support quacks in their work. He covers a lot of ground.

He rants about how homeopaths (a favourite of his) are under attack from the World Health Organisation. He fails to mention these homeopaths are trying to use their sugar pills to treat AIDS and malaria  – a practice that can only really be described as murderous. Tredinnick misrepresent the research on homeopathy and childhood diarrhoea – a condition that kills hundreds of thousands in the developing world – by saying that trials have ‘proved’ its efficacy. Utter nonsense.

Tredinnick brings to parliament’s attention the Simon Singh affair:

There are also serious problems in chiropractic, which one might call an assisted discipline to osteopathy. The General Chiropractic Council has been bombarded by complaints from bloggers—spurious complaints I would say—which it is obliged by law to investigate. I am very concerned that genuine complaints will not get through and that any practitioner, against whom a genuine complaint had been lodged, could continue to practise. Will the Minister look at this very unsatisfactory situation, which arose following an individual losing a court case against the British Chiropractic Association?

This is a very misleading statement. Simon Singh has not lost a court case against the BCA. It has not gone to trial yet. Indeed, the whole libel case has attracted massive media attention due to the terrible way this case is being used to close down debate about chiropractors and their dubious methods.

The complaints from various people to the GCC are far from spurious too. Claims are being made by chiropractors where there is not a jot of evidence to support them. This is a serious public health issue and the MP is completely missing the point.

Most offensively, he claims critics of alternative medicine are from ‘superstitious’, ignorant and racially prejudiced scientists. It would appear he has a cheek calling scientists superstitious. He says that scientists should not criticise other culture’s quackery because “Criticism is deeply offensive to those cultures, and I have a Muslim college in my constituency.”

One would have thought the only reasonable response to such a display of delusion, stupidity and irrationality would have been to laugh the poor man out of the chamber. But the minister for health, Gillian Merron, appears to take him seriously. I would hope this is just parliamentary custom, but she begins “I congratulate David Tredinnick on securing this debate on the important matter of complementary and alternative medicine” Yes, medical astrology is the most important thing that is missing from our health service.

Tredinnick continued his advancement of nonsense by pressing the minister to comment on

“healers who can do remote healing, it is no good people saying that just because we cannot prove something, it does not work. The anecdotal evidence that it does is enormous. I know that the Minister is a forward thinker, and I believe that the Department needs to be very open to the idea of energy transfers and the people who work in that sphere.”

He also presses on,

problems of negative information, particularly in the context of the Royal London homeopathic hospital and homeopathy generally, and of what is effectively an attack on a statutorily regulated body dealing with chiropractic. Will the Minister offer to look into the position, and perhaps write to me about both the state of the Royal London and the disinformation that has been issued and the chiropractic regulatory council?

The Minister’s response shows how far the government is from understanding the issues raised by protecting the public from the false claims of alternative medicine.

Merron says “that the Government’s position on complementary and alternative medicines, which I shall refer to as CAM, is the same as our position on mainstream medicines. “

This is a major mistake. To treat the claims of pseudo-medical cults in the same way as you treat the claims of scientific medical research is an absurdity. The result is a complete failure to understand how best to protect the public from harm.

Real medicine, whilst obtaining genuine and life saving results,  has serious risks. It requires practitioners to be fully trained in the techniques and be able to assess evidence and understand the risk and benefits of these treatments. It needs practitioners to be insured for the inevitable mistakes and to undergo continuing professional development. It requires bodies to prevent the incompetent from practicing of they are found to be incapable of maintaining agreed standards of care.

None of this applies to pseudo-medicine. Firstly, these treatments, such as homeopathy and most applications of chiropractic, have been shown to be ineffective, The practitioners, in maintaining their claims, are systematically incompetent. Incompetence is the common standard not an exception to be guarded against. Their training merely serves to reinforce delusions and bad practices. That is why so many homeopaths and chiropractors are almost universally against vaccination and the use of real medical treatments. Their training reinforces harmful and absurd ideas.

The governments stance is to validate and rubber stamp this training in delusion. Merron says,

Other schemes that the Department supports include the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s new traditional herbal medicines registration scheme, which will make it easier for consumers to identify regulated products. We will also continue to support the work of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, and we have funded its start-up costs. The CNHC is a voluntary registration body that is open to massage, nutritional, aromatherapy and reflexology therapists. It will open to more therapies in due course. Registration means that the practitioner has met certain entry standards, including accredited qualification, and subscribes to a set of professional standards. The Department meets the CNHC regularly to discuss progress.

She is of course referring to Ofquack here, the derided and incompetent new regulator which will run out of cash very soon due to its failure to sign up quacks to the register. Such bodies do not protect customers; they merely rubber stamp dangerous incompetence.

Merron says,

Let me recap briefly: we provide information on safety, clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and the availability of suitably qualified or regulated practitioners, and I think that that puts us in about the right place. As I was saying, the hon. Gentleman is a great ambassador and is very knowledgeable about this subject.

Regulation needs to move away from this naive view of alternative medicine. It is not medicine and it is not an alternative. It is a set of pseudo-medical beliefs held by cult like bodies and deluded individuals. Protecting the public needs to take this into account.

Tredinnick is hopefully a minority of one in parliament. His views are extreme and obviously idiotic, but government appears to wish to pander to these delusions. A complete rethink is required on the gopvernments stance to quackery. A start would be to throw out the Pittilo report which is currently being consulted on. Its adoption would be a major threat to the public and a step closer to us having state appointed medical astrologers. An absurd but not too absurd thought.

23 comments for “MP David Tredinnick calls for more Government Funding of Medical Astrology and Remote Energetic Healing

  1. Dr Aust
    October 15, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Goodness me. Is Tredinnick's constituency party aware of all this? They must be cringing.

    Of course, with Tredinnick as its MP, I'm beginning to wonder if Bosworth actually exists on this Astral Plane.

    Perhaps in his case MP actually stands for "Magus Planetarum".

  2. Warhelmet
    October 15, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Maybe Merron was just being nice? I suspect that Tredinnick might have lost if someone directly opposed what he said.

    Is Tredinnick safe as Tory candidate in the next election?

  3. teekblog
    October 16, 2009 at 7:25 am

    @ Warhelmet – "Is Tredinnick safe as Tory candidate in the next election?"

    According to theyworkforyou, his majority is 5,319 votes. — 447th out of 643 MPs.

    So whilst he won't be looking over his shoulder immediately, a well-run campaign could easily unseat him.

  4. CGR
    October 16, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Merron says:
    "As I was saying, the hon. Gentleman is a great ambassador and is very knowledgeable about this subject."

    I can only hope that she is a master of the weasel words and intended this as an implicit put-down. Translation:

    "Here is a big pile of BS: you seem to know a lot about it and you make a lot of noise about it".

    If not, I despair. Again.

  5. Skepticat
    October 16, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Excellent piece even though it made me feel like jumping off a cliff.

  6. Nick
    October 16, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I think the Minister was taking the piss in her reply. Saying that a debate is on an "important" matter is simply formulaic. And the section about Govt policy on CAM being the same as their policy on real medicine is clearly carefully worded: code for "we'll fund research, but if you want CAM to be funded, show us real evidence".

    That's backed up by her final paragraph, "It is also right that we choose and fund those treatments that are effective, cost-effective and safe. That decision must be based on robust clinical standards, backed up by rigorous and evidence-based scientific assessment."

    And her response to the astrology is equally clear "with this as with any other CAM, any proposals for research would be considered on their merits."

    She's not as impressed as you think she is.

  7. Le Canard Noir
    October 16, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Nick – that may well be correct.

    However, it is still a line that is open to abuse. The 'calls for more research' will always be there in CAM and it is time to draw a line in the sand and say no more.

  8. Stewart McOwan
    October 16, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    There was an interesting piece in the British Medical Journal in 2000. 'Do animals bite more during a Full Moon'. Conclusion was "The Full Moon is associated with a significant increase in animal bites to humans".
    The study was carried out at Bradford Royal Infirmary.
    I would post a link to the paper but it isn't possible.
    I am quite aware that there is a simple and obvious variable when the Moon is full and that is that there is more light and people are more likely to wander about in strange places however the BMJ thought it worth publishing and it wasn't April.

  9. draust
    October 16, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Hmmm. The BMJ's equivalent of 1st April is actually the last issue of each calendar year – usually a double issue.

    I see on hunting down the animal bite ref that this appeared on – guess when – Dec 23rd 2000 (last issue of the year).

    Not that that means it is untrue, merely that it should be viewed as slightly tongue-in-cheek.

    Full contents list of the 2000 end of year issue here.

  10. Dr Aust
    October 16, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    I tried posting a comment about the article Stewart McOwan noted, but it seems to have spam-filter-jammed (too many links? – thought it was only a couple).

    Anyway, the BMJ's version of "April 1st" is the year-end double issue. The article in question actually appeared on Dec 23rd 2000. So the paper is, er, tongue in cheek.

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/321/7276/1559

  11. Mojo
    October 16, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Perhaps someone should send Tredinnick a ticket for The Men Who Stare At Goats, in the hope that he'll start badgering the MoD instead of the NHS.

  12. David Amies
    October 18, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Ministers of the Crown should not employ subtlety and grace when replying to lunatics and madmen. Better that they state that the Hon. Member is talking hogwash. Medical astrology, indeed! What next?

    There are many cranks who seek to promote daft notions such as homeopathy. These people should be told that such practices have no scientific foundation and that they work, if at all, as placebos.

    David Amies

    • Antares
      March 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      Whole-heartedly agreed. Where is the petition I can sign?

  13. Angie G
    November 24, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Just wondering about the choice of the word 'lunatics' – which of course comes from 'luna' (moon)!!!
    If it wasn't for the knowledgeable people actually paying to be cured by homeopaths the NHS would be in an even worse state – it's already overburdened with all the patients it fails to cure and therefore has to keep medicating long term, thereby creating a need for even more drugs to deal with the side-effects of the first prescription, and so on….
    Stranglehold of pharmaceutical companies + government revenues from said companies = understandable need to quash homeopathy because it would reduce the need for conventional drugs!!
    Heaven forbid that the government/NHS would actually want patients to get better! How would that help the economy??!
    And incidentally, try telling a newborn baby that the milk sugar pill is only working because of placebo effect…
    Don't dismiss if you haven't tried.
    You won't get stomach ulcers (or any other side effects) from a homeopathic remedy for arthritis….but just try dealing with your arthritis via the conventional route and see what else you get into the 'bargain'

    • Antares
      March 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm

      Angie G: “…the word ‘lunatics’ – which of course comes from ‘luna’ (moon)!!!”

      Perfect – the article about animal bites mentioned above starts its Introduction with nearly the same words:

      “The word ‘lunacy’ is derived from Luna, the Roman goddess of the moon, and from the belief that the power of the moon can cause disorders of the mind.(1)”

      So much anecdotal evidence already!

      1. Raison CL, Klin HM, Steckler M. The moon and madness reconsidered. J Affect Disord 1999; 53: 99-106

  14. Le Canard Noir
    November 24, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Thank you Angie G for writing down the sort of gross stupidity that appears to be so common amongst homeopaths.

    So, the government wants to suppress homeopathy? The cost of drugs on the NHS is a fraction of the total expenditure. Most money goes on wages (well over half). If the NHS could have a cheap cure that removed people from hospitals it would save a fortune – it would return people to the workforce and massively increase tax revenues. There is no incentive for the government to keep people sick. You are bonkers to think so. Produce the analysis to show you are right. Do the research. OF course you have not. You are just repeating the idiocies of the homeopathic propaganda machine.

    And, good grief – babies cannot benefit from the placebo effect argument. How many times has this been explained to you? How many times do you refuse to listen? Look up 'regression to the mean'.

    Yes, and homeopathic pills do not have side effects. That is because they are just sugar pills. They have no effects too.

  15. Elena B
    December 28, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I don't usually post comments on sites like this, however, I am amazed at the amount of idiotic, negative and uneducatated comments about CAM.

    Holistic therapy does not claim to 'cure' but to assist the body to heal itself. If it works, what is it to you or I if it is the placebo effect? If I needed relief from a disease or illness and orthodox medicine had failed me (side-effects, too expensive etc.), I would not turn down the chance that CAM may work. I would not care if it was the therapy or the placebo effect that helped. If it works, it works. It's up to the individual to decide whether to use it or not. In many cases CAM can be integrated into orthodox healthcare and is.

    I agree that CAM needs to be better regulated, so that practising therapists are fully qualified and held accountable for their work. The government is working towards this.

    Holistic therapy goes back further than the Egyptians and no amount of ridiculous comments from you will be able to quash it's progression into mainstream healthcare.

    As for Medical Astrology, I don't know much about this. However, I worked in a psychiatric hospital for 5 years and I can tell you that whenever we had a sudden increase in admissions and disruptive behaviour it was nearly always a full moon.

    • Antares
      March 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm

      “I agree that CAM needs to be better regulated…” – yeah, right, quacks certifying quack to perform proven quackery and then calling it “alternative medicine”.

      “Holistic therapy goes back further than the Egyptians…” – and the belief that the earth is flat is even older. Age doesn’t turn wrong into right.

      CAM has been extensively researched and shown to fail rigorous testing. Case closed. One should think.

      If one would.
      Daniel

  16. Le Canard Noir
    December 28, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Elena – your lack of self awareness is truly inspiring.

  17. December 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    That’s backed up by her final paragraph, “It is also right that we choose and fund those treatments that are effective, cost-effective and safe. That decision must be based on robust clinical standards, backed up by rigorous and evidence-based scientific assessment.”

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