Thursday, January 7, 2010

Small victories

Some time ago a late friend of mine was very sick with cancer. He was struggling with treatment and suffering greatly. As is common at that stage in severe illness, one will try anything that offers hope of a positive outcome.

So in the course of his search, he found a product called a Multi-Wave Oscillator that was reputed to "make people better" (I can't do better than that - it really was the cruxof their claim at the time). It cost thousands of dollars. Their website had a whole lot of well-crafted claims that looked suspiciously like well-founded science. Typical pseudoscience. My friend clearly fell for that, and he was not a silly man. Amongst other organisations, the American Cancer Society notes that there is no peer-reviewed support in medical literature for this treatment.

Anyway, my friend bought one at great cost (some, I guess, will say that he had little else to lose). I was horrified that he had been duped of his money by this quackery, but said nothing to him at the time (it seemed it would merely add insult to injury). Instead, I reported the company to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. They cannot guarantee a reply, but over the phone after my email complaint, they assured me they would take this very seriously indeed. They take a dim view of the exploitation of the sick, and this seemed precisely to fit the profile. So I left it at that.

So, trawling through old emails, I came across this episode and decided to have another look at the offending company's website. The old claims are no longer there (and unfortunately I no longer have the originals - and am not net-savvy enough to find them - it was well over a year ago). Replacing the old claims is a lovely big disclaimer, at the bottom of the front page, and scattered throughout the site. It makes the entire product line look strange and quite removes the main selling points. I'm not going to link to their site as I don't want Google or anything else to direct traffic to them, but the web site is

I quote now from the disclaimer:

"i4cmwo products are sold for learning, self-improvement and simple relaxation. No statement contained in this catalogue, and no information provided by any i4cmwo employee, should be construed as a claim or representation that these products are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease or any other medical condition..." [ 7-jan-2010]

Why an AUD$2,600 electricity filled coil will help with your education is beyond me (unless you're in a physics class perhaps). Seeing that bill would hardly be relaxing. Nevertheless, there must be a reason for the sudden appearance of a disclaimer (and it is LONG - have a read!), and I like to think that the ACCC had a part in forcing them to do it.

There may yet be Round-2 though - they seem to be making a new product to go with the MWO and a bunch of supplements - the flash new "Violet Ray Kit". Again I quote from the site:

"Coming soon a frequency mat that connects to the MWO new and old, very good for prostate and back problems" [sic](as at 7-Jan-2010)

Now, tell me, how is that not "intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease or any other medical condition."? What do they intend with this device (other than to make money)? And if you read on in their page on the Violet Ray Kit, you'll find a whole lot of new pseudoscience.

"Violet Ray Kit" - spare me. People like this should be shut-down, fined and publicly shamed. It arguable that they don't do too much emotional damage to people who are very sick anyway, but that doesn't make this any less despicable. They are taking money from people who have been convinced that they will benefit, when there is no scientific evidence for those benefits. Sometimes, "buyer beware" is taken too literally. We are not all equiped with failsafe quackery detection devices; I know I am not. So there have to be standards, laws and above all, ethics. The crowd at i4cau appear to have none.

I think a small victory over pseudoscience can be chalked up now in my friend's name. RIP mate.

1 comment:

  1. Quackery is rife - and not just outside conventional medicine. If there was one word that should be instilled into the daily lexicon of consumers of medical services it would be "evidence". Potential recipients of services should be trained to ask where the evidence is for this or that working. Anecdotal evidence is NEVER enough. As soon as consumers see little quotes and photos of happy customers - their antennae should shoot up.