[I’m thinking of making this a multi-part series, mainly because I realized that this is going to be a pretty long blog post if I went through all of the points at once. I realized this while I was in the middle of writing this, so yeah… um, so it’s going to be a bit out of order. Sorry about that.
This post will go over point two of the Consumer’s Bill of Rights.]
So today, I had to go on campus to attend an orientation that’s part of the hiring process for a job (I’m crossing my fingers for that one!). While I was there, I picked up a book that I had on reserve — Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.
The copy that I checked out is the 4th Edition, so some of the information in there is outdated. For one thing, the copyright is from 1989, well before the widespread use of the Internet and the blogosphere. For another thing, some of the data in here is a bit old.
Nevertheless, quackery NEVER gets old, and I was curious to see what were the big snake oils at the time.
Old, outdated 4th edition copy of this text. You can get an updated version on Amazon (just search it, it’ll show up). It’s by the leading skeptics of the modern day too, and it should be an interesting read if you’re curious.
(I hope the library won’t get mad at me for accidentally dropping some food on its pages. It fell on the margins and not on the text, and I wiped it off, and there’s barely any marks, but if any librarian knew that I did that, they would totally freak.)
Anyways, the text went over the Consumer Bill of Rights. If you didn’t know, the Consumer Bill of Rights was coined by John F. Kennedy sometime in the 1960s, and it was meant to help consumers make smart decisions and to keep sellers from scamming them. You might have come across them in an economics textbook somewhere.
The Consumer Bill of Rights are as follows:
- The Right to Safety: to be protected against the marketing of goods that are hazardous to health or to life.
- The Right to be Informed: to be protected against fraudulent, deceitful, or grossly misleading information, advertising, labeling, or other practices, and to be given the facts needed to make informed choices.
- The Right to Choose: to be assured, when ever possible, access to a variety of produces and services at competitive prices, and in those industries in which competition is not workable and government regulation is substituted, an assurance of safety quality and service at fair prices.
- The Right to be Heard: to be assured that consumer interests will receive full and sympathetic consideration in the formulation of government policy, and fair and expeditious treatment in its administrative tribunal.
Safety, freedom of information, choice, and to be listened to. Now doesn’t that sound awesome? As a consumer, you want to have choices. You want whatever it is you’re purchasing to be safe (although there’s nothing there about them being effective, sadly enough). You want to know exactly what you’re getting. And you want to be able to have your concerns redressed and listened to by the government.
Now how does this relate to medicine?
The Internet is a wonderful and a terrible thing. It’s awesome, because if you want to check to see if a treatment (or whatever) is safe (or whatever), you can just Google it and there is a large database of information just waiting for you. It’s terrible, because if you want to check to see if a treatment (or whatever) is safe (or whatever), you can just Google it and there is a large database of misinformation just waiting for you.
Freedom of speech unfortunately allows people to spread misinformation on the Internet. That’s why if you, let’s say, decide to vaccine safety, you’re going to get a large amount of misinformation as well as the good stuff.
Can you tell which one is the anti-vac site? Google results accurate as of 23 September 2013, 5:28 AM UST.
And of course, if you Google something like vaccine side effects…
Can you find the anti-vac site? Google results current as of 23 September 2013, 5:32 AM UST.
And this is just for vaccines.
Now, you really do want to be informed about safety, especially in medicine. Obviously, if you take something that has a pretty good risk of killing you (antineoplastons or Vitamin B17 in lieu of conventional treatment for cancer anyone?), well, you’re screwed. You really want to know that it’s going to kill you, before you take it. Your freaking LIFE is on the line people, duh.
But of course the quacks of the world think that BIG PHARMA is going to kill you on purpose and that the science community is hiding important information. It’s a huge conspiracy theory, how the ESTABLISHMENT is conspiring against you, the lowly consumer, and that only those who have taken the RED PILL (or who have a clinic in Mexico or some stupid thing like that) know the truth!
So kind of like the MRAs in a way. Hah.
Anyways, because there are a large amount of people who are willing to lie or mislead people into not vaccinating their children because VACCINES have TOXINS and we need to GREEN OUR VACCINES and whatever, these people have been successful in misleading millions of parents to not vaccinate. This leads to the loss of herd immunity, more epidemics of preventable diseases, and a higher difficulty in eradicating many of these diseases from the wild (e.g. polio).
How can you root out the misinformation from the legit information? As a layperson, your eyes are likely to glaze over when you see a study with lots of scary statistics and data. You don’t have the training needed to evaluate the information, make sense of the data, or judge whether the study is flawed or not.
And even the government sometimes eats up bullshit. See: NCCAM and anything related to conventional and alternative medicine.
So what can you do?
Well, there are a few things you can do. For starters, you can see whether something is too good to be true. If there’s a medicine out there that claims to be a cure-all, it’s most likely bullshit. If any medicinal remedy has the word “quantum” in it, you can discard that, that’s bull. Anything related to Jenny McCarthy or Andrew Wakefield, bull. “Scientific establishment is suppressing this information from the public!” Bull. Testimonials instead of hard data? Bull. Studies with a small sample size (like maybe 12 participants?), terrible controls, terrible placebo, terrible blinding procedure? Most likely bull; it’s at the very least a very shitty study. Too many words that don’t really make any sense? Bull. Lots of scare quotes and ALL CAPS and whatnot? Probably bull, but you might want to check. Something from NaturalNews, InfoWars, Free Republic? Bull, and often times extremely, extremely stupid. And/or funny, if you think about it.
I think you get the idea.
Look for facts, Google whatever you need to know, but beware of misinformation.
And that’s it for part 1! Stay tuned for part 2 (which I’ll post when I have the time).