Back in 2012 the Herald ran a series on alternative ‘therapies’ that included a somewhat uncritical piece on the use of leeches – the practitioner concerned claimed, for example, that they could be used to ‘treat’ diabetes. I blogged on this back then, as did fellow Sciblogger Siouxsie Wiles, & the criticisms we made then still stand.
However – colour me gobsmacked – it seems that this practice continues, with the same practitioner now adding the claim that this is a valid therapy for Parkinson’s disease and for cancer. According to the Stuff article I’ve linked to above, he appears to be also advising those seeking his help that they eschew “medical interventions such as chemotherapy or medication”, because otherwise his ‘treatments’ won’t work.
On that basis alone I really really hope that Medsafe takes things further. Alarmingly, at least one commenter on the article suggested that there should be a clinical trial to compare leech ‘therapy’ to the outcomes of chemo and other medications. As another person said, in response (my emphasis):
I wouldn’t want to tell a patient that they’re not getting their effective treatment because some crackpot said that leeches work and we need to test the theory. Ethically it would be a disaster.
What’s more – leeches used in mainstream medical procedures are bred under carefully controlled, clean conditions. The company producing them refused to sell them to our alt.med practitioner. But the Stuff article makes it clear (including a photo) that, to continue offering leech ‘therapy’,
he collected his own leech supply that is kept in a pond to use on his clients…
A pond. Outside. No control of water quality or diet. What could possibly go wrong?
Featured image: Wikimedia / GlebK