Local media is letting us down


Doesn't understandRule number one in The Elements of Journalism is: “journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.” Number three is “Its essence is a discipline of verification.” Keep those two in mind as you read this.

I recognize that local reporting is not always the same calibre as the investigative journalism we expect from national media, but in my view (and experience as a former reporter and editor), blindly accepting claims about health, wellness or science without questioning, let alone confirming them through a credible source, and then repeating those statements in a story is not responsible reporting. It’s just typing.

There’s a recent story on Collingwood Today titled, “Firefighters getting charged up by new wellness device” that strikes me as a good example of poor journalism. The story is about Collingwood’s Fire Department buying a mat,

…called a Seqex, and it uses Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy to help the firefighters detox, relax, and heal when necessary.
The device comes from Health Wellness Industries in Collingwood, where the owner and president Kim Sartor has built a business selling and offering treatments in the Seqex system.

The manufacturer is SISTEMI SRL (Italian Society of Seqex Electro Medical and Innovative Technologies), and they have numerous products all that start with Seqex, such as Seqex Fam and Seqex Radiant Mat. Which particular one this is could have been easily confirmed with a five-second internet search. Or maybe a single question. Several Seqex products were recalled in 2016, by the way, because the company didn’t have a licence to sell them in Canada until late 2017.

You already know from many, many science-based articles debunking it that detox is New Age woo hoo, not a treatment, nor a cure. It is, as Science-Based Medicine calls it, “Ritual purification masquerading as medicine and wellness.” The site also notes, “Detox Scams are Worthless and Potentially Dangerous” and calls it “a marketing strategy… designed to treat a nonexistent condition.” Any detoxification your body does is through your liver, colon and kidneys not through smoothies or electromagnetic stimulation. That too, a reporter could easily establish. And no, you can’t sweat out toxins in a sauna, either because of simple biology: “Humans sweat to cool ourselves, not to excrete waste products or clear toxic substances.”

The “Seqex is a Class 2 medical device, which means it can be used without a doctor administering it – similar to a sleep apnea machine.”

That doesn’t explain what the classification means. All medical devices need to be licensed in Canada.

Class categorization is a risk evaluation, not a determination of efficacy or wellness. In Canada, “Medical devices are classified into one of Classes I to IV by means of the classification rules set out in Schedule 1, where Class I represents the lowest risk and Class IV represents the highest risk.” A licence doesn’t mean it works as advertised; just that it meets labelling and safety standards: see Section 32.2 of the law. Licensing relies on the manufacturer’s attestation that it’s safe and meets these requirements:

-certification that device is manufactured according to international Quality Management System standard.-manufacturer’s attestation that device satisfies the safety, effectiveness in MDR (Medical Device Regulations); labelling reviewed.

Other Class II medical devices include contact lenses, epidural catheters, pregnancy kits and surgical gloves.

There is also a Code of Conduct for Medical Technology Companies in Canada, (MEDEC, the “national association representing Canada’s innovative medical technology industry”) which, although voluntary, is meant to “promote ethical business practices and socially responsible industry conduct to govern their interactions with healthcare professionals.” The code itself says:

To obtain certification, Companies will need to either complete training available through MEDEC or provide evidence of their own equivalent internal compliance training programs. In addition, each Company will need to certify in writing that they agree to follow the Code and have delivered Code compliance training to all of their commercial personnel. This certification must be signed off at the executive level within each Company and reissued on an annual basis to maintain certification. Companies who are “Code Certified” will be allowed to use the MEDEC Code of Conduct logo when responding to customer procurement requests. MEDEC will encourage Group Purchasing Organizations, hospitals and other customers generally to look for the MEDEC certification when reviewing procurement response submissions.

Health Wellness Industries’ website does not indicate it is a member of MEDEC, that any of its staff have gone through the training, or that it conforms to the Code of Conduct. They are not listed on the MEDEC website. 

New Age Woo Hoo

So who is behind this company? The reporter didn’t shed any light on them, but I found a lot online. Sartor does not claim to be a medical doctor, registered nurse or healthcare practitioner, but rather a “medical intuitive.” On Science-Based Medicine, medical intuitive diagnosis is described as, “pure magical thinking… No one who currently claims to be able to detect or manipulate vague human energy fields has been able to demonstrate that they can do so.” The Skeptic’s Dictionary adds, “…they and the people who follow them do not understand how easy it is to deceive ourselves about these things. They do not test their alleged abilities under clear and controlled conditions and their followers don’t require this of them.”

Sartor also promotes herself as a “psychic” who does tarot and aura readings (Her Facebook page says: “Auras are a field of subtle light projecting from people and other living things. Different colours represent character traits, health issues and states of mind.” Her Facebook page promoting that aspect of her past is still alive. In 2010, she was featured in a NatPost article that noted:

Like a ray of sunshine, Kim Sartor, a Collingwood, Ont. psychic, recently gave me a feel-good reading. She held my watch in her hand for a few moments to suss out my energy vibrations — the technique is called psychometry — then she handed me a velvet bag of Tarot blocks to shake in my hands and spill onto the table. It reminded me a little of the Scrabble letters in the soft brown bag that’s stashed in my parents’ board game.

Psychometry is defined in the Skeptic’s Dictionary as, “an alleged psychic power that enables one to divine facts by handling objects… Skeptics explain this “power” as a matter of magical thinking…” James Randi debunks it beautifully in this YouTube video. It’s also debunked in this article from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website. And as for “energy vibrations” – that’s just fuzzy New Age balderdash with no scientific or testable method of proof. PS. All “psychic” powers are alleged, not proven.

Sartor was still doing “tarot block” readings as recently as spring 2018 ($75 for 30 minutes). On that site she is listed along with others who sell services for such New Age claptrap as reiki, “Soul Journey Mentoring,” ethereal clearing and spiritual cleaning, ear candling, CranioSacral Therapy, and osteopathy. Her tarot block reading is also described as:

Kim and Jackie have been doing readings for 30 years and using a technique called Di-Cerot.The reading are done with a black silky bag with tarot cards on blocks which are cast three times in the reading: past, present and future . They also do psychometry which is reading someone’s energy off a personal belonging like a watch , keys or ring.

Sartor claims to have had a “wake up call” in which a bird spoke to her about sharing her ideas:

In her book called, “Wake Up Call,” Kim describes her background and experience as a Psychic. She also explains how she was told by a little bird that people needed to hear what she had been hearing from her clients for years. She covers many areas including love, relationships and money but also educates the reader about Guardian Angels and Auras. Today we’ll explore Di-Cerot Tarot Blocks, and how Kim utilizes them in her readings.

She and her sister ran a tarot/angels workshop in Barrie in 2010, in which:

The first Psychic Angel, Kim Sartor, is a psychic and medical intuitive and has been performing psychic readings for ten years. Kim uses a number of tools for doing her readings including Tarot Blocks, Psychometry and seeing auras.

Di-Cerot is also described elsewhere as:

Once upon a time, ancient magicians of great kings used a magical tool called Di-Cerot. This special tool was a form of fortune telling or Divination, using specially marked stones. The stones would be cast and the future was foretold!

On her own site Sartor’s (auto?)biography notes:

She wants to educate people on the harms of electro smog (sic)*, cell phones, wifi, and how to protect you from these invisible waves. Also educate (sic) on the radiation and electromagnetic field exposure of clock radios, portable phones, cell phones etc. Very recently there have been shows talking about cell phones and wifi on Doctor OZ (sic), Dr (sic) Sanja (sic) Gupta and Dr (sic) Weil.**

She also sells “revolutionary anti-aging facials” (one session: $75) and “acoustic vibration therapy” (one session: $20) from another site. That company site’s “resources” page is mostly a collection of YouTube videos by people like Dr. William Pawluk (a homeopath who appears on the Dr. Oz show – just as a side note: 1,800 studies have shown over and over that homeopathy is considered bullshit by medical doctors), Dr. Oz himself (see footnote about quacks, bottom of post), Dr. Magda Havas (whose work is criticized as “seriously flawed” at Skeptic North and Science-Based Medicine), the acupuncturist Dr. Sircus (see quacks, below), and some links to articles and videos (several by Dr. Oz again) but nothing that seems to be actual peer-reviewed research publications about the equipment or treatments she sells or uses.

None of this was mentioned in the article, however. Nor are we told what Sartor’s qualifications are to speak about health, treatment or wellness at any level. When the public sector is involved, more openness is required.

Shouldn’t a reporter do some background checking on the person they interview and quote? After all, this is public money being spent by an institution funded by taxpayers.  And because our council approves all department budgets, the public has the right to know who council is paying from the money we pay our municipality. 

None of this invalidates the technology (although I do have questions about it that the reporter should have asked), but as I warned in a previous post, my basic rule of thumb is: “don’t take medical, dietary or health advice only from the people who sell or manufacture the products they recommend you need to be healthy. Demand to see the peer-reviewed studies that prove the efficacy of what they promote BEFORE you shell out money for them.” Did the reporter ask if the fire department sought other opinions or advice? We aren’t told.

How does this device work? In the Collingwood Today article Sartor is quoted saying:

…the ion cyclotron resonance frees up cells and optimizes them.

The reporter doesn’t take the time to explain what this means, how it works, or even question whether there’s any evidence for such a claim. So I looked up “ion cyclotron resonance.” It’s a real term, as Wikipedia tells us:

Ion cyclotron resonance is a phenomenon related to the movement of ions in a magnetic field. It is used for accelerating ions in a cyclotron, and for measuring the masses of an ionized analyte in mass spectrometry, particularly with Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometers. It can also be used to follow the kinetics of chemical reactions in a dilute gas mixture, provided these involve charged species.

Unless I misread it, these mats don’t involve a cyclotron. There is some research to indicate there may be some benefit from this process, although the technology to achieve it is neither uniform nor consistent among the various manufacturers.*** However, much of the research I’ve been able to find was done in vitro, using biopsy specimens, not in vivo (and those few seem to be about two specific areas: cell regeneration after a burn, wound or plastic surgery, and bone regeneration after a fracture). If I were a reporter (or a buyer), I’d ask any company to produce their in vivo results to back up any claims.

And there’s not a lot known about how biological and electro-mechanical process work, as this paper explains:

The fundamental question in this biomagnetic technology is related to the biophysical interactions that allow EMF signals to be recognized by cells. The biophysical mechanisms of these interactions and the possibility of the signals to modulate cell and tissue functioning remain to be elucidated. The scientific and medical communities still lack the understanding why the same magnetic fields applied to different tissues can cause different effects… Much work remains to be done in designing both technology and methodology of application of magnetotherapeutic devices.

Ions, you probably know from high school science, are electrically charged atoms or molecules. Because the total number of electrons in the atom is not equal to the total number of protons, an ion has either a positive (fewer electrons) or negative (more electrons) electrical charge. Ions occur naturally and many molecules are created by the joining of negative and positive ions (like sodium and chloride to make salt). However, most of these molecules are stable and cannot be broken down into their component ions easily (certainly not by low-level magnets or electrical fields).

Humans are not flesh bags of positive ions in search of negative “cleansing” ions to detoxify them, as some quacks suggest. Ion foot “cleanses” are a scam. Ion-charged bracelets only relieve the symptoms of having too much money and too little brains (and they also irradiate the wearer). Dr. Oz’s magic ion-emitting pajamas are face-palm risible.

A few decades back, negative ion generators were all the rage to cure everything, but they turned out to be just more woo hoo. Today Himalayan salt lamps are sold as ion generators to the gullible. Numerous studies have shown no significant effect on human wellness from these devices, in great part because off-the-shelf ion generators and salt lamps simply produce far too few ions to make the slightest difference to human health, mental states or behaviour (with the minor benefit that with a sufficiently strong emitter – not a slat lamp – negative ions may slightly help airborne household dust settle faster).

One review of the body of evidence about air ions concluded:

No consistent influence of positive or negative air ionization on anxiety, mood, relaxation, sleep, and personal comfort measures was observed. Negative air ionization was associated with lower depression scores particularly at the highest exposure level.

The highest exposure level mentioned above is several times what any store-bought ionizer can offer and can only be produced in labs. But what ” ion cyclotron resonance” is, what it does with ions, or why it is a health benefit is never explained in the story.

Sartor sells Himalayan salt lamps, by the way, advertising as a benefit, “Less (sic) colds and flu (due to less (sic) airborne viruses)” and “Fewer headaches and migraines.” No reference or links to studies proving these claims are shown on the website.

Sartor also sells colloidal silver (50ml for $60), which the Mayo Clinic warns (emphasis added): ” isn’t considered safe or effective for any of the health claims manufacturers make. Silver has no known purpose in the body. Nor is it an essential mineral, as some sellers of silver products claim.” Quackwatch.org also warns, “Long-term use of silver preparations can lead to argyria, a condition in which silver salts deposit in the skin, eyes, and internal organs, and the skin turns ashen-gray.”

Sartor sells Ondamed therapy devices, although in 2015 the US FDA ordered the company to “stop making claims that Ondamed devices are useful in treating diseases.” She also sells Bioptron Polarized Light Therapy devices which have not been proven to do anything more for your health than your typical desk lamp can do (the company’s claims are also analyzed here).

Plus she sells alkaline water, claiming it, “contains anti-oxidant properties, cleanses the colon, rejuvenates the skin and lubricates muscles and joints. Alkaline water supports the immune system and helps you achieve better overall health.” Again those claims are not backed up by research cited anywhere. The Center for Science in the Public Interest studied the claims for alkaline water and concluded, “Don’t waste your money on alkaline water.” The New York Times reported, “…here’s no evidence that drinking water with a higher pH can change the pH of your body, or even that this outcome would provide benefits.” APS Water Filtration and Lab reports, “You know a medical product is ‘snake oil’ when all the salesperson can do is offer outlandish claims based on testimonials and no peer reviewed studies.” After explaining the science and analyzing the claims, The American Council on Science and Health wrote (emphasis added),

The evidence supports the idea that alkaline water is a sham, on par with the gluten free fad. So where did it come from? For a long time the pseudo-science crowd has been pushing an idea that cancer is a disease of acidic lifestyle. They maintain that low pH foods cause cancer and that by ingesting a high pH diet you can kill the cancer cells with high alkalinity. There is zero scientific evidence that supports this idea. Drinking water will hydrate you but it won’t cure your cancer.

I’ll ask it again: shouldn’t a reporter do some background checking on the person they interview and quote, and the products they’re selling when a public facility or institution using taxpayers’ money is involved? 

The Collingwood Today story’s sub-head says:

Collingwood firefighters have been testing a new device that uses a magnetic field to optimize the cells in their bodies.

Magnetic fields alone have no significant effect on human cells except at the intensity you’d be hard-pressed to find outside a particle collider. Static magnetic fields – the sort you get in fridge magnets (5 milliteslas or less) and those New Age magnetic woo-hoo bracelets and pendants for which gullible people foolishly shelled out good money have zero health benefits.

Research has found, “…the smallest magnetic field that has reliably been shown to trigger a response in humans is around 10,000 to 20,000 microtesla… The 10,000-microtesla threshold is well above the strength of any magnetic field encountered in everyday life… An MRI scanner is essentially a big magnet that produces a powerful magnetic field of around 3 tesla (or 3 million microtesla) — millions of times larger than the fields we’re normally exposed to.”

Earth’s magnetic field ranges from 0.25 to 0.65 microteslas. The strength of the magnets in this mat is not stated in the article, but is likely lower than the amount necessary to trigger a response because otherwise it would affect nearby equipment (anything more than 500 microteslas exceeds the suggested exposure limit for cardiac pacemakers).

The reporter asked how strong is the mat’s magnetic field, and can it penetrate human flesh beyond a few millimetres? Okay, I’m kidding: she didn’t ask anything of the sort – no surprise there. But it’s an important question.

If the field doesn’t extend very far, or isn’t strong enough to penetrate deeply, then it only has at best very limited topical benefits, mostly affecting the parts of the body immediately touching the mat. Magnetic field strength drops off rapidly as the cube of the distance increases: the formula is 1/r 3 where r is the distance. I calculate a strong 3,000-Gauss magnet would have a strength of 0.24 Gauss or 2.4 microteslas at 50 cms (assuming I correctly understand the physics and the math). And if the field is strong enough to reach into and through the whole body, then doesn’t it contribute to the very “electrosmog” Sartor warns people about on her website and book?

A strong field would be considerably stronger than any cell phone or wifi transmitter, too – and such strong magnets could play havoc with other equipment.*

Plus there is evidence that there are potentially harmful side-effects to exposure to some low levels of electromagnetic radiation:

The main acute health effects of 50/60 Hz electromagnetic fields are caused by the induction of voltage gradients which may elicit an action potential and cause excitation of nerve, muscle and cardiac tissue. There is a very wide range in excitability of tissue ranging from alteration of synapse activity in the brain… The clinical effects are similar to an electric shock because the fields induce voltage and currents in the body and hence injury can occur in the same way if this is excessive. Low-frequency (20 Hz) electric and magnetic fields are able to interact with synapses in the retina to cause a flickering light sensation called electrophosphenes or magnetophophenes respectively…

And the dangers may be worse for pregnant women as this study found:

Objective magnetic field measurements and pregnancy outcomes were obtained for 913 pregnant women, all members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Miscarriage occurred in 10.4 percent of the women with the lowest measured exposure level (1st quartile) of magnetic field non-ionizing radiation on a typical day, and in 24.2 percent of the women with the higher measured exposure level (2nd, 3rd and 4th quartiles), a nearly three times higher relative risk. The rate of miscarriage reported in the general population is between 10 and 15 percent, Dr. Li said.

Even WebMD notes side effects can include pain, nausea and dizziness, concluding:

There haven’t been many studies on magnetic field therapy. The ones that have been done don’t have enough data to draw solid conclusions. Though some clinical trials have shown potential for magnetic field therapy as a treatment for back pain, for the most part, there’s no clear proof that it can treat any condition.

(Caveat emptor: WebMD gets a lot of money from the pharmacy and medical industry, so its advice is ALWAYS suspect of conflict of interest.)

And of course the reporter asked about such potential side effects… okay, like so many other things, she didn’t ask. 

Nor did she ask how electromagnetic radiation went from being a cancer-causing threat a few years ago to a panacea. Martin Bier asked that in his blog, and noted the questionable veracity of the research referenced on the Seqex website supposed to prove the technology’s efficacy, all of which are published in the same journal:

These articles are supposed to give scientific validity to the Seqex treatments. Without exception, the articles are from Electromagnetic Medicine and Biology. Apparently, Electromagnetic Medicine and Biology has already been the subject of a conflicts-of-interest discussion before.

Sartor is quoted as saying, “the ion cyclotron resonance frees up cells and optimizes them.” Freeing cells from WHAT? The reporter again failed to ask for clarification, much less actual evidence for such a claim (the reporter apparently didn’t even ask what the heck “ion cyclotron resonance” is supposed to be!).

Cells aren’t prisoners or slaves who need to be broken free from their miserable existence. Every cell in your body already has a role and is already optimized for that role. Skin cells behave as skin cells, liver cells as liver cells, nerve cells as nerve cells and so on. They can’t substitute for one another or take a vacation from their tasks. What happens when you “free up” liver cells? Or brain cells? Or blood cells? Do they stop being liver, brain and blood cells and instead become – what, exactly? Do they lounge around drinking margaritas instead of being a kidney?

What are they being freed up from? The evil overlord Brain? And how are they “optimized” in this process? The reporter never bothered to ask, just published these claims.

Although, I’m neither a doctor nor biologist, I do know how to recognize woo hoo. The reporter should have done some fact-checking before printing this New Age bafflegab:

“What you’re doing is, when you spin the cells, you make them become more permeable, you allow them to become more active and optimized,” she said. “If they’re all stuck together with no movement and no circulation, they don’t do what they’re supposed to do.”

Wait… what? Cells don’t spin like microscopic whirling dervishes. If they did, they’re create enough friction and heat you’d quickly cook from the inside like a microwave dinner. Assuming the spinning cells simply didn’t fly away from one another with all that kinetic energy, that is. I also know enough physiology to realize that most human cells are joined to other human cells – stuck together as Sartor so eloquently describes it – so they CAN’T spin. If they did, there would be no cohesion within your body. Organs would simply fall apart. Blood vessels would rupture. You wouldn’t have a body: you’d have flesh soup. We’d all be amoebas. not people.

And you DON’T want more permeable cells. Cell membranes are already selectively permeable to ensure their survival: “The cell membrane is selectively permeable and able to regulate what enters and exits the cell, thus facilitating the transport of materials needed for survival.” One research paper noted: “A break in the integrity of the plasma membrane immediately compromises this structure’s essential role as a barrier, and this can kill the affected cell.” Cell (aka plasma) membranes protect the cell from viruses, bacteria and toxins. More permeable membranes means more susceptibility to disease and attack.

Cells don’t become more active from spinning, either. They require food: carbohydrates and proteins (the former for energy; the latter to repair and create more cells) to be active. Being active means a cell’s genes create proteins to perform a variety of different tasks: making eye pigments, powering muscles, attacking invading bacteria, making keratin for hair and fingernails, replicating and so on. Some of the processes behind these functions may be elevated by external fields, but electro-magnetic fields have also been implicated in cancers and leukemia. If you really want more active cells, consider eating well, exercising and breathing.

I wonder why the reporter never questioned this? Or any of the other claims and statements? Or the seller’s qualifications? Why didn’t the reporter ask for copies of published, peer-reviewed research to back up the claims? 

I’m not a biologist or a doctor or a technician, so I don’t really understand how or if PEMF technology works, but I allow that it appears to have some benefits. Although Science-Based Medicine calls some sales pitches for it “snake oil” in this article they note “Pulsed magnetic fields induce an electrical field, and have been used to treat fractures that are not healing properly…” at the same time cautioning that, “… the effects are due to the electrical field, not to magnetism.” 

I sincerely hope the fire department did its research before spending taxpayers’ money, but I also hope the mat will do something positive, and prove a good investment for our firefighters.

However, allowing unsubstantiated claims and statements to go unchallenged and unquestioned in the media is a serious problem. Doesn’t matter whether it’s about health and science, or politics and history, whether it’s international or local: reporters have a responsibility to confirm and fact-check before they publish. Otherwise, they’re just acting as shills for the people they quote. The story becomes one more piece of PR, not news. And that contributes to the frightening growth of pseudoscience in the public sector and in healthcare.

As Timothy Caulfield wrote in the Globe & Mail, it is increasingly difficult for people to get accurate, credible and trustworthy information about healthcare and wellness options:

If people want to spend their money on unproven treatments, they should – within reasonable limits – have that right. But one would hope that decisions about these products and procedures are well-informed and based on accurate information. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate the real science from the nonsense… To make matters worse, alternative practitioners are increasingly using scientific terminology to market their products. This is done, one can assume, in order to imbue their services with the pretense of scientific legitimacy.

Our media should help us separate the factual from the woo hoo by doing the job properly. In fact, I believe our media have a RESPONSIBILITY to the public to make sure what they publish is factual and credible. And yes, I know: it’s just local media, but they can’t shirk their responsibility to the public on that basis.

This stuff should have been fact-checked before it was published. This is public money and a public sector institution: the public has the right to know how our government spends our money.
* That “electrosmog” Sartor talks about, and the alleged dangers of wifi are favourite topics on such pseudoscience sites as mercola (described as a “horrible chimera of tabloid journalism, late-night infomercials, and amateur pre-scientific medicine) and other New Age sites. The World Health Organization (WHO) – a more credible source of information “researched electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and their alleged effects on health, concluding that such exposures within recommended limits do not produce any known adverse health effect.”

Electrosmog joins the anti-gluten, anti-GMO and anti-vaccination fads as another New Age scary monster hiding under the intellectual bed. As noted in Wired Magazine’s article on electrosmog:

Claims that low-level electromagnetic fields pose a health risk likely stem from a misunderstanding about how they work. A Wi-Fi signal is 100,000 times weaker than a microwave oven, not to mention far less targeted. It is also the same wavelength as cosmic background radiation.

** Three of the four doctors mentioned here are not credible sources for healthcare. Their advice and the products they sell have been debunked or criticized many times, and often by fellow doctors and medical researchers who know whereof they speak. For example:

More than a thousand American doctors signed a letter calling on Dr. Oz to resign from his position at Columbia University, criticizing “…Oz for his “disdain for science” and his “baseless” opposition to foods made from genetically modified organisms (GMO).” His TV show is described as “…filled with recommendations ranging from the dubious to the downright fraudulent, and Oz has even given time to batshit crazies such as Deepak Chopra and Joseph Mercola…” and ” …promoted faith healing, “energy medicine”, reiki, and appeared on ABC News to give legitimacy to the claims of Brazilian faith healer “John of God,” who uses old carnival tricks to solicit money from the seriously ill.” The USFDA sent him warning letters about his claims. The US Senate chastised him over false weight loss claims.

Dr. Andrew Weil has a prominent place on Quackwatch.org for promoting homeopathy (about which Smithsonian Magazine wrote, “no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is effective in treating health conditions…” See here for more on research disproving homeopathic claims. In the UK, the National Health Service stated there was “no clear or robust evidence to support the use of homeopathy…”). His Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (ACIM) “…works tirelessly to promote and cherry-pick evidence in favor of a large range of unsupportable medical treatments, and seem to have achieved notable success among those who downplay the significance of truth and reality,” according to the Encyclopedia of American Loons.

Dr. Mark Sircus is an acupuncturist, who, according to Science Blogs,  “…fancies himself a cancer expert… Sircus, in a single article, not only shows the arrogance of ignorance, he reveals a quack technique that I’ve noticed before but have never really seen done so blatantly…” Read the article for the fulsome debunking of his ideas.

Dr. Sanjay (not Sanja – and Dr. has a period after it) is the only passably credible one of the four, and even he has been called a “shruggie” (someone who shrugs when presented with what they know is pseudoscience) and for listening “…with rapt attention to delusional people.” He has also been criticized for his “de facto disdain for the basic precepts of evidence based medicine.” He has also been the focus of other controversies and criticisms including his endorsement of Merck’s vaccine, Gardasil, making unsubstantiated claims for its efficacy, and without publicly admitting his relationship with Merck.

*** In the book, The Scientific Basis of Integrative Medicine (2nd edition, by Leonard A. Wisneski and Lucy Anderson, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, USA, 2009), it says the Seqex system as “based on Abraham Liboff’s theory of ion cyclotron resonance.” It also includes a more troubling relationship between debunked pseudoscience and the theory:

Nicola Del Giudice, Emilio’s brother, is a homeopathic physician who has served as president of the Italian Homeopathy Foundation. The Del Giudice brothers have developed their theories of homeopathic medicine based on the quantum coherent water domains (Del Giudice and Del Giudice, 1999). Nicola Del Giudice developed a synergetic relationship between SEQEX therapy and homeopathic medicine.

Which does nothing to credit the device, since homeopathy is not effective for treatment of anything aside from having too much money. The book concludes:

The benefits claimed for this therapy are not yet documented by published clinical trials. Various unpublished clinical reports have circulated among physicians using the SEQEX.

On Dubious Resonance, it further examines and challenges Liboff’s theory (emphasis added):

Liboff, however, suggested that the ion cyclotron resonance would occur inside the calcium channels that are found in a cell’s membrane. Calcium commonly plays the role of a signaling ion: there is almost no freely dissolved calcium inside a living cell, but by letting in a small amount of calcium certain processes can be set in motion. Calcium channels are membrane proteins with pores through which calcium can pass to the inside of a cell. These pores are barely larger than the calcium ions themselves and it is hard to imagine that significant circular motion can occur inside these channels. Also, the ELF signal from outside will be small and inconsequential because of the huge electric field across the membrane and because of the overwhelming internal noise. Liboff and his coworkers did experiments and in fact measured an ELF effect on calcium traffic (Liboff, 1987). However, when other researchers repeated these experiments, the ELF effect could not be reproduced (Parkinson and Hanks, 1989).

The author concludes, “bioresonance treatments are merely a form of electromagnetic homeopathy.” He also links some of the companies and their devices (not Seqex) back to Scientology. As for the conflict of interest, he writes (emphasis added):

Liboff features very prominently on the website of Seqex and there are eight videos where he personally explains the theory and therapy. Liboff also holds a number of patents related to the therapy. The same names that appear and reappear in the Seqex business imperium are also encountered time and again in association with the dubious scientific activities. It is hard to not get the impression that scientific interests and business interests are very interwoven here….
These articles are not intended to move science ahead. It is disguised advertising. Articles are not written to have an impact in the world of science. They are written for the websites of “Big Alto” companies and for the shelves in the waiting rooms of alternative healers. They are intended to give quackery a scientifically legitimate appearance. For the peer review of manuscripts, authors rely on each other and with a collective quid pro quo “confirmation bias” the entire subculture moves to outside the scientific mainstream.

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