Last week I downloaded a copy of Paul Offit’s new book, Killing Us Softly: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine. It is a fascinating exploration of pseudoscientific beliefs and the terrible consequences that result when they are embraced. It is a well written, well researched book that explores various areas of pseudoscience, some of which I had not come across before (Chronic Lyme disease, Krebiozen and the surprising origins of the Rife machine to name but a few).
Paul Offit is no stranger to pseudoscience. For years he has argued against those who claim vaccines cause autism, a stand which has resulted in threats against his life and his family. As Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia he is well placed to comment on vaccines (and does so in his books, Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases, Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, Vaccines and Your Child: Separating Fact from Fiction, and Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All).
In Killing Us Softly (Also sold under the title Do You Believe in Magic), Dr Offit widens his gaze and critique to a range of “alternative” therapies. Such therapies include a variety of dubious anti-cancer treatments pushed over the past century, the “anti-aging” industry created by Suzanne Somers, coffee enemas, cure all using bleach, and many other outrageous “cures”.
It is a revealing book, and one that has polarised the reviews at Amazon. When I last looked the Killing Me Softly version had received two 5 star reviews and four 1 star reviews with none in between. The Do You Believe in Magic version has nineteen 5 star reviews, sixteen 1 star reviews and a small scattering of 2 and 3 star reviews.
Reading some of the 1 star reviews, several reviewers claim that Dr Offit can’t be trusted because he has made money off of the creation of a rotavirus vaccine. The irony of such claims is palpable if one considers how those in the “alternative” therapy make their money, for example, from the book
“the anti-aging business has profits rivaling those of many pharmaceutical companies, making a fortune for its promoters. Suzanne Somers is an industry. On her website, she promotes only one brand of vitamins, supplements, and minerals: RestoreLife. There’s RestoreLife Formula Essential Mineral Packets, Supplement Starter Kit, Reveratrol, Omega-3, and vitamin D3, as well as RestoreLife Digest Renew, Bone Renew, Calm Renew, Natural Sleep Renew, and Sexy Leg Renew. Somers sells her own brand of foods, cooking utensil, and sweeteners (SomerSweet), as well as skin-care, weightloss, and detoxification products. She sells nanotechnology patches to control appetite. All of these have made Suzanne Somers a multimillionaire.”
I’ve given the book a 5 star review. It is well written and researched, and gives clear examples of the dangers of “alternative” therapies and how they are indeed “killing us softly”.