February 15, 2013

Before We Hear Of 'Neuropuncture' In The Commons

Late last month, it was announced that David Tredinnick MP had been appointed to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. The Times rightly described the collective gasp of despair and arms exasperatedly thrown in the air by British scientists in response to this news.

For Tredinnick is known to believe in and advocate for a variety of peculiar beliefs relating to superstition and alternative medicine. Namely, that biological mechanisms behind blood clotting - as well as pregnancy and hangovers - were dependent on the phase of the moon. He is also an avid believer in homeopathy and acupuncture, suggesting that they should be provided by the NHS in spite of extremely little evidence of medical efficacy.

In a recent Q&A he was provided the opportunity to clarify his position on these and other issues, but instead used the occasion to confirm his views defiantly. This part caught my eye; in response to what Tredinnick thinks the STC should look at:

"Looking at healthcare, one of the mysteries of Western medicine is acupuncture. And there’s a lot of criticism of it saying it doesn’t work. But I’ve used Chinese medicine for years, and I cannot work out why this isn’t more widely used in the health service. The same for herbal medicine, we need to get back to some natural remedies that have stood the tests of time."

Although he didn't specificy what for, presumably Tredinnick suggests that acupuncture may have some application for psychotherapeutic strategies and neurological conditions too? In which case, I need only point to James Coyne's two-part sparkling rebuttal to claims that acupuncture may have any special efficacy for mental health conditions such as depression. And as for the neuroscience (the more research-minded can enjoy this 2007 review), I recently acquired an online copy of Val Hopwood & Clare Donnellan's Acupuncture in Neurological Conditions (2010), and it's a very interesting read. Especially this amazingly revealing little tidbit listed as a 'key point' of Chapter 1:

"The concept of ‘neurology’ is a relatively modern one, with no real place in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This is only partly because there is no historical concept of the ‘brain’ in TCM physiology. There have been many schools of Chinese medicine: some included ideas that we would recognize as ‘neurology’, whereas others did not."

Y'know, when something this damning is admitted in the first chapter, it may be time to give up and put the book down and realise that you're not going to get very far with this. And if the House of Commons actually plan to consider these things, it can only be a colossal waste of time, energy and resources. What to speak of the possibility of garnering dubious expenses.


  1. Jay, the reason I de-friended you on FB was because reading your posts was causing just too much pain and angst in my life. It's fine that you don't believe in acupuncture, but on your FB wall you called it Quackery and other disrespectful things. OK, I can live with you not believing it works or is legitimate, for I have plenty of friends and family who don't believe in it, but your constant lecturing, trying to change my mind with facts that back your stance was just was not going to work. I tried to balance the conversation with information that had facts that challenged yours, but I was always wrong, never once did you accept one clinical trial that had positive results for acupuncture, and there are many.

    In the end, you cannot call an occupation Quackery without implying that one who practices it would be a Quack too! My wife is a professional, and just this week one of her infertility patients gave birth to a baby girl, what a joy, one of over 50 so far in her career. This patient and her husband tried everything various infertility clinics had to offer over he years, and finally their last doctor referred them to my wife, and they had success!!!! I know it is only anecdotal evidence to you, but life works in funny ways that cannot always be explained by clinical results and research papers alone.

    I did thank you on those FB posts for your time and effort many times, even suggesting that it was not worth continuing, but you said you liked the challenge. Then you never answered my last post on your wall, instead posting that Orwell quote about people having cognitive dissonance while knowing they are telling untruths, which I could not help take as directed toward myself. So to protect my sense of well being, all those insults accumulated and enough was enough, so my only recourse was to de-friend, the first and hopefully last time I ever have to do that.

    I tried to write back a response to your last FB message to me, but you blocked any possibility of doing that, then shockingly, blocking my ability to PM you on GR, now how petty is that?

    Your treatment of me was very mean spirited, and that is ending whatever friendship we did develop over the years.

    I'm open to fixing that, but things have spiraled way out of control and it all may be hopeless?

    Still wishing you the best in life, sorry if I ever said anything to hurt or disrespect you, for that I am truly sorry.

    Take care,


    1. "Your treatment of me was very mean spirited, and that is ending whatever friendship we did develop over the years. I'm open to fixing that, but things have spiraled way out of control and it all may be hopeless? I'm open to fixing that, but things have spiraled way out of control and it all may be hopeless?"

      Not hopeless and out of control from my side, though I said everything I had to say in that final PM. Agreeing to disagree is fine, but I expect people to have some intellectual integrity in that they take objective evidence on board. This debate (and by extension, this blog) is not about opinions or political views but about medicine, and there are very serious and strict standards where medicine is concerned. No doctor or scientist is going to take opinions seriously without evidence. Casual dismissal of the weight of medical opinion/evidence in response (or accusations of bias, etc.) is not cool, and that is why CAM doesn't receive the respect of mainstream medicine. End of "lecture".

      I understand now that things are differently done in America, which maybe explain why you think the way you do, and that is perhaps due to the peculiar nature of the health system there. However, not here. And unfortunately, Greg, you are not an expert on acupuncture. I have had discussions with several licensed acupuncturists, and those discussions have been fruitful because they know the rules and how to play by them.

      In your above message there is no new information, but plenty of explaining and restating things that I've repeatedly addressed. If you think you know something then that's great, but it's clear that you don't think there is anything more to learn, and that's why I feel I have been talking into thin air. So it is not going anywhere. I don't see how pointing this out can be considered mean-spirited, but I wish you best in life too and also apologise for any hurt feelings.