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Category Archives: Healthcare

ET EXTRA: Cancer Chemotherapy Causes Cancer

Here’s a summary of a recent study that helps explain why chemotherapy for cancer makes things worse: “Chemotherapy can backfire and boost cancer growth: study-AFP

This is nothing really new. Independent researchers have known for decades that chemotherapy doesn’t work. Many doctors know this and refuse to subject themselves to chemotherapy if they have cancer. Why does this treatment persist, despite decades of failure? Sadly, the reason appears to be because it makes a lot of money for the clinics that provide the treatment. For the same reason, if you’re receiving chemo don’t expect this study to trigger a phone call from your doctor with an apology, a refund, and a change in your regimen.

Also see: “Cancer: How Bad Science Is Killing Us” and “Advice From Professionals: Who Do You Trust? (Part 2)

 

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Healthcare: Ask The Wrong Question, Get The Wrong Answer

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
-P. T. Barnum

Engineering Thinking teaches us to challenge our assumptions, because if they are wrong, then our subsequent analysis and decisions will be wrong.

The healthcare challenge — it is commonly assumed — is this: how can the government best ensure that the weakest members of society receive adequate health care?

This is the wrong question. The reason it is wrong is that it is based on the flawed assumption that the government should be making our health care decisions. As discussed previously (see “Feedback, Prices, And Sullen Spouses“), the government is inherently inefficient, and is therefore the last organization that one should ever select to provide a service.

But what is the alternative?

First, remove health care from the tasks assigned to governments at all levels: federal, state, and local. This will substantially eliminate the tremendous waste of dollars caused by having inefficient bureaucrats positioned between patients and their doctors, and — just as importantly, if not more so — eliminate the moral hazard created by providing “free” services to those who may not deserve them, at the expense of diligent and hard-working taxpayers.

So who takes care of the poor, the unlucky, the out of work?

We do. But we do it through our local communities, through our churches and charities and civic associations. This was done before the advent of Big Government and worked well (see “What Would Happen If The Government Didn’t Take Care Of Us?“), and it can work well again. Local communities will be able to evaluate best who deserves help and how much and on what terms, eliminating the moral hazard. The rest of us will continue to pay for our own medical coverage. Government’s function will be reduced to its proper function, that of ensuring that insurance companies operate transparently and honestly in a competitive environment.

Does this sound simple? It is simple. Politicians and their special-interest allies (whose prestige and livelihoods depend on fooling you into providing your tax dollars for their grand and impractical ideas) would prefer that you think that all of this is too complex for you to understand, and that fairness can only be assured by putting your faith in the government.

Are you not yet convinced of my analysis? If so, I doubt I can change your mind, and respect your right to your opinion. But I would ask you one question:

Have you ever been asked by a relative or a friend for a favor, such as loaning them some money? If so, I’m sure that you based your decision on your personal knowledge of that friend or family member. But what if someone on the other side of the country that you don’t even know asked you for a loan? Would you give it to them? No? Then why on earth are you so willing to give your tax dollars to anonymous bureaucrats to give to anonymous people who may or may not deserve those hard-earned dollars?

-Ed Walker

 

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Cancer: How Bad Science Is Killing Us

“The failure to win “the war on cancer” has been blamed on many factors, from the use of mouse models that are irrelevant to human cancers to risk-averse funding agencies. But recently a new culprit has emerged: too many basic scientific discoveries, done in animals or cells growing in lab dishes and meant to show the way to a new drug, are wrong.”
-from “In cancer science, many ‘discoveries’ don’t hold up” by Sharon Begley, 28 Mar 2012 Reuters

 

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Are Vitamins Useless?; Is US Health Care The Best?; Is The US Becoming A Police State?; Should Our Fellow Citizens Be Our Slaves?

ET’s END OF YEAR BITS and PIECES

Study Stating Vitamins Are Useless An Example Of Junk Science

Reports on the Iowa Women’s Health Study (e.g., “Multivitamins no fountain of youth for women,” 10 Oct 2011, Reuters) hit the major media outlets recently, trumpeting the study’s claim that vitamin supplements are useless, or even harmful. Based on the numerous problems with the study (e.g., “Findings from Flawed Study Used To Discredit Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements,” Life Extension), it should be ignored.

US Health Care The Best In The World? Hardly

As mentioned often in ET, proper economic evaluations require the use of ratios; i.e. what you get for each dollar you spend. To evaluate health care, for example, one metric would be: how long do you live for each dollar spent for health care services? In the US, the answer is not good. “The U.S. healthcare system is more effective at delivering high costs than quality care than other developed nations.” (Ref. “What’s killing America? U.S. ranks 28th in life expectancy (lower than Chile and Greece) while it pays the MOST for health care,” 24 Nov 2011, Daily Mail Online.)

Is The US Becoming A Totalitarian State? The Signs Are Ominous

See “Government Forces Private Citizens to Pour Bleach on Home-Grown Organic Food.”

Atlas Shrugs: The Consequence Of Trying To Make “The Rich” Our Slaves

Engineers spend a lot of effort in designing reliable control systems for autos, aircraft, telecommunication centers, etc. One of the hallmarks of a good design is that it can’t “leak”; i.e. there are no sneak paths which can prevent the control from achieving the desired system response.

When humans try to control the behavior of their fellow humans, however, they often forget that–unlike machines–humans object to being controlled, and will find a way to “leak” around the controllers.

For example, there’s a lot of talk these days about “the rich” paying their “fair share” of taxes to support government services (also see “More Thoughts On Forcing The Rich To Pay ‘Their Fair Share’“). Regardless of your personal beliefs in whether or not those sneaky rich folks are pulling a fast one on the rest of us, it would appear that our government can force them to pay up (by threats of fines or imprisonment), except for one thing: they can leave.

And they are, in droves. But they’re not just the bling-laden cigar-smoking jet setters and corporate titans that you or I typically think of as rich. No, this little-reported but major exodus is composed of a lot of middle-class folks like you and me, who are simply fed up. As stated by a reader in Sovereign Digest #44 (a newsletter of The Sovereign Society):

“My wife and I have already voted with our feet. We moved to South America in May. We do not like the way our country is headed at all by the politicians — Since I have it so good here in a beautiful country filled with kind loving people, and I live for 65% less than in the States — why would I want to go back? Also, as one over the age of 65 I am treated with great respect and dignity here … PLUS, they reimburse me for the 12% national tax every month since I am a senior citizen — Also, my medical care here is just as good, if not better, than in the States for up to 80% less – and I can be seen almost immediately.

“Why would I even consider going back? I’ve been screwed enough by my government, and I was smart enough to get out!!! I worked hard for my money, put my kids through college, played by all the rules, saved my money – and now they want to take that away and give it to people who just expect to live off me and others. No way!!”

The Big Gorilla is the fact, like it or not, that people want to decide for themselves how best to spend their own money. They may be compassionate and caring people, or they may be self-centered and selfish. It doesn’t matter. If we try to make them our slaves they can simply leave, taking their talent, money, investments, and jobs with them.

Corollary:

A Society That Forces Some Of Its Citizens To Support The Rest Of Its Citizens Will Eventually Result In Either (a) A Totalitarian Society, or (b) A Poor Society

-Ed Walker

 

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ET EXTRA: Why Medical Care Is So Hazardous

“…as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed.”
From “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science,” by David H. Freedman, 23 Aug 2011, The Atlantic

ET Corollary: Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor probing questions, to challenge his/her assumptions, and to do your own research.

 

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ET Extra: Does Diet Soda Cause Cancer?

Click here to view an interesting study on the results of consuming aspartame, the “sugar free” ingredient in many diet sodas.

I have not seen independent confirmation of the results, but assuming that it’s not a hoax, it’s an impressive example of a good science investigation; i.e. a control population was established to minimize the effects of genetic variances, and all environmental variables were eliminated except for the consumption of aspartame.

ET applauds private citizens who take the time to apply good science to help answer important questions. (For another example, please see “McYukky Burgers“.)

-Ed Walker

 

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ET Extra: Vaccines And Autism And Fraud

Engineering Thinking Extra Is A Short Review Of A Current Hot Topic

A Major Study Purporting To Show That The MMR Vaccine Causes Autism Has Been Shown To Be A Fraud: What Can We Learn?

A 1998 Lancet paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield et al concluded that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. As a result, many parents refused to have their children vaccinated. On January 5 of this year the British Medical Journal (BMJ) declared that the Wakefield paper was a fraud.

Scientific corruption is, in my view, a most foul betrayal of the public trust. Hopefully Dr. Wakefield and his cohorts will receive appropriate punishment. Moving on, however, what can we learn from this revelation of fraud? There are two basic cautions provided by Engineering Thinking:

1. Wakefield’s Fraud Does Not Prove That Vaccines Are Safe

Since the Wakefield paper was a fraud, does this mean vaccines do not cause autism? No, drawing that conclusion would be a logical fallacy. This may seem counter-intuitive, but here’s an example to help clarify: Assume that I published a paper purporting to show that 2 + 2 = 4. In my proof I used erroneous math and logical fallacies. Therefore my paper did not prove that 2 + 2 = 4. However, that does not alter the fact that 2 + 2 = 4.

In other words, there is nothing in the Wakefield saga that allows one to eliminate the possibility that vaccines may contribute to autism.

2. The Link To Autism May Be Multi-Variable

Humans tend to look for a smoking gun — a single cause — to explain a fearful event. If we eliminate the smoking gun, then all is okay. However, some medical doctors have expressed concern about vaccinations based on mercury content, mixing of multiple vaccines, and other issues. The hypothesis is that it is a combination of variables, related to the production and/or application of vaccines, that may overwhelm the embryonic neurological system, causing damage that manifests as autism.

There are independent studies that strongly suggest that MMR vaccines are safe, but those do not necessarily constitute a proof. Unfortunately, many studies are flawed or even completely invalid because of the improper application of statistical methods. Failure to account for significant variables as mentioned above can also contribute to poor or invalid results.

Therefore what can we conclude?

Showing the Wakefield paper to be a fraud, as explosive and damaging as it may be, does not move the science forward with regard to the key question: do vaccines, under certain conditions, contribute to autism?

If anyone has some links to studies that are scientifically sound (that use appropriate statistics and that properly account for all variables), and which demonstrate that vaccines are indeed unambiguously not a factor in autism, please forward them to me for posting here.

In the meantime, the old cliché “better safe than sorry” is best applied. Some suggestions for consideration can be found in an earlier blog: “Off Topic: The Autism Epidemic“.

-Ed Walker

 

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