Tag Archives: alt-med

Alternative medicine

A letter to WHSmith

Dear WHSmith

I must express in the strongest terms my objections to your decision to continue to sell the magazine “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” (WDDTY). It appears from their responses that your company representatives have not understood the nature of the complaints made against this magazine.

To put it plainly, the advice given in the magazine is dangerous and, if followed by the magazine’s readers, your customers, it could result in serious harm. WHSmith has the opportunity to show itself to be a responsible retailer by removing this magazine from sale. To fail to do so shows a callous disregard for public health.

I have noted your previous responses to other complainants, in which you dismiss this issue as merely one of consumer choice. To Andy Lewis, your Customer Services Coordinator David Trollope wrote:

Our customers often have widely differing opinions about the products we sell, so we aim to strike the right balance to meet the needs of all our customers.

This is a grave mistake. I acknowledge that you must cater to customers’ various beliefs and political opinions. I am sure there are many animal rights supporters who would rather you did not stock The Field, or eco-warriors opposed to the sale of Fast Car. But this is not an matter of personal opinion. WDDTY contains factually incorrect articles that promote distrust of medical science.

One example: In covering the HPV vaccine that is to be provided by the NHS to teenage girls, with a view to saving 400 lives a year (NHS source), WDDTY says :

the UK has accepted a vaccine that has been rejected by India after an early trial, funded by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, led to the deaths of seven young girls and another 120 suffered debilitating side effects.

This is simply untrue. As Andy Lewis points out,

That trial in India did indeed report deaths after the vaccine was given, but What Doctors Don’t Tell You Don’t Tell You was that these deaths included a drowning, a snake bite and the effects of malaria.” (source)

In its “Corporate Responsibility” policy for business conduct, part 3iv, WHSmith promises to “provide products that are safe, fit for purpose, meet legal standards and are never described in a misleading manner.” If there is any doubt about the misleading claims in WDDTY, Ron Lewis has written a through analysis. (link)

David Trollope also wrote,

We work closely with the magazine publishers to ensure that their products meet the expectations of our customers

The results of this close collaboration with the publishers of WDDTY has fallen far below the expectations of this customer.

I would not expect, nor want, WHSmith to vet and censor every publication prior to sale. But when a threat to public health is brought to WHSmith’s attention then the company will be judged on its response.


Mike Agg

Update, 13/10:

I’ve been manically busy this past week but now I can finally post the woefully underwhelming response from Juliette Cavilla at WHSmith.

Thank you for contacting us regarding the magazine “What the doctors don’t tell you”.

As the UK’s leading retailer of stationery, books, magazines and newspapers, we aim to offer our customers a wide choice of products, whilst also respecting customer views. Our customers often have widely differing opinions about the products we sell, so we aim to strike the right balance to meet the needs of all our customers.

We work closely with the magazine publishers to ensure that their products meet the expectations of our customers. Where we receive customer complaints about a certain publication, WHSmith commits to raise these concerns directly with the publisher.

Customer feedback is extremely important to us and I’d like to thank you for taking the time to share your concerns.

Kind Regards

For fuck’s sake. They reply with the very same stock response that I wrote to them about!

So there you have it. WHSmith don’t even bother to read their customer’s complaints before responding.

This utter failure to listen to customer’s concerns, more than their decision to stock WDDTY, is indicative to me of a company with no sense of responsibility.


Native Nutrition Nonsense

everything on the Earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.

If I’d been born a hundred years ago I’d probably have thought this ‘Red Indian’ an inferior, less evolved, human being than white Europeans (and especially British) like me. I would also have regarded working class people as inferior, and upper class people as superior to middle-class me.

Growing up in the late 20th century I came across reverse snobbery: the idea that working class people are more authentically human than us effete middle classes. And these days there’s a vein of inverse racism that credits Native Americans like Ms Quintasket – and others of what my grandparents would have regarded as Inferior Races – with Superior Wisdom to ours.

And it’s just as much bollocks as straightforward racism and class prejudice.

There is, no doubt, a lot that Christal knew about the world she lived in that I don’t, and wouldn’t have if I were alive when she was. But there is a lot that she – and my compatriots 100 years ago – didn’t know, that we do now.

Thanks in no small measure to Richard Dawkin’s “The Selfish Gene” far more of us now know what Darwin, Wallace and others were realising a few decades before Christal Quintasket was born: that the purpose of every living thing on the earth is to reproduce offspring bearing its genes as widely and vigorously as possible. For most plants an important part of staying alive and reproducing is not to get eaten by animals, and one way to do this is to poison those that try. To this end plants have evolved a variety of toxins which target the animals that would have them for lunch, according to their predators’ particular biochemistries.

Animals differ biologically and a substance toxic to one particular predator may have no effect on others; it may even be beneficial to some, but as long as it doesn’t turn the beneficiary into a predator there’s no reason for the plant to have evolved out such side-effects. So we find there are plants that produce substances we have found to be medicinal (not to mention recreational!) to us. Nowadays we understand that this is just a quirk of nature but people would once have assumed that such benefits must be the result of divine intention. In our own culture the Bible has God telling His people that He has given them “every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit“. Native Americans of Ms Quintasket’s time probably had no more clue that plants’ medicinal benefits were simply a happy accident of nature than most of their European contemporaries and would have put them down to similar deist or theist benevolence. Ascribing Superior Wisdom to her words because she was a Native American is as racist as ascribing inferior intelligence to her for the same reason. She was just a human being, genetically practically indistinguishable from you and me. She was part of a culture different from ours and lived at a time when we didn’t know much about how life on our planet came about and evolves. And her utterances on medicine and healing are as valid today as my grandmother’s were.

Jeffrey Rowland's 'Overcompensating'