Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Electrifying confounding factors Batman!

Last night's Skeptics in the Pub was great! It was a talk by Andy Lewis of Quackometer fame (this blog reassuringly scored 0 Canards).

His talk "The Persistence of Delusion" was very interesting, and looked at a lot of quack medicine.

He also had actual old school quackery, namely an Improved Magneto Electric Machine for Nervous Diseases:
Close up of the instructions for treating various ailments:

Andy asked for a volunteer. We all know what came next:

The machine is essentially a dynamo, with you making up the rest of the circuit. It was an interesting experience, I felt it all the way up to my shoulders, with my forearms and biceps twitching like mad. Some said that this could invalidate my homeopathy overdose. At the time I thought "I'm not going to let that get in the way of me getting some good old fashioned quack medicine from an Magneto Electro Machine". Thinking about it though, I don't think that it does.

Firstly, we must remember that I am a healthy individual that is taking a homeopathic remedy, so, I should experience the symptoms which the pills should treat, namely insomnia. Now, this device, I'm sure, isn't injurious to my health, as Andy Lewis seems like too much of a sensible person to risk getting sued. I could be wrong, but I'm still feeling fine now, and slept rather well (though I did dream about the death of a family member).

Secondly, and more importantly, if having an electric current passed through you in some way messes with the homeopathic treatment, then one would hope that it would say so on the packet. My pills make no mention to avoid this. In fact, I couldn't see any mention about it at all. Granted, most people won't encounter a Magneto Electric Device, but, under similar principles, they might go for a TENS machine; they might also try and get their body fat measured, which again works by having an electric current passed through you, and the resulting resistance being measured to work out what percentage of you is fat (as muscle and fat have differing resistance you see); or they could go for one of those arcade games which gives you an electric shock until you let go. There are, surprisingly, many options available to you, should you wish to get (safely) electrocuted.

We are left with two possibilities:

This will have had no bearing on my overdose.


This will have had an effect, and could invalidate me from getting any symptoms from these products (though none have presented in over three months now). Howevber, if this is the case, homeopaths are again being rather cavalier with other people's health by not warning them of these effects, and thus preventing them from getting the treatment they need.

This whole overdose started when Martin Robbins challenged homeopaths to better label their products so one could see what to do if one overdoses. Upon reading that, and being part of the group C, my overdose naturally followed. So, if it is the later, I wouldn't be surprised, as, it seems, no action has been taken by the homeopaths in response to Martin, and the homeopaths I've communicated with don't actually seem to care about my health.

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