BBC accused of medical quackery
The BBC has been accused of medical quackery by scientists for series focusing on alternative medicine, The Sunday Times reports in Science accuses BBC of medical quackery, from which the following excerpts are taken:
SOME of Britain’s leading scientists have accused the BBC of “quackery” by misleading viewers in an attempt to exaggerate the power of alternative medicine.
The most serious accusation concerns the BBC’s presentation of the anaesthetic powers of acupuncture. A heart patient underwent surgery in a Chinese hospital with a number of acupuncture needles stuck into her body.
Critics say that the needles could be credited with little real effect because the patient was also receiving three powerful conventional sedatives — midazolam, droperidol and fentanyl — along with large volumes of local anaesthetic injected into her chest.
The series was viewed by 3.8m people and presented by Kathy Sykes, professor of public understanding of science at Bristol University. During the acupuncture episode, Sykes said: “We’ve got to be scientific and rigorous and plan it really carefully,” adding later: “The bit of the brain that helps us decide whether something is painful, we think perhaps is being affected by acupuncture.”
Lewith, an expert on the effects of acupuncture, said in an interview yesterday: “The experiment was not groundbreaking; its results were sensationalised. It was oversold and over-interpreted. Proper scientific qualifications that might suggest alternative interpretations of the data appear to have been edited out of the programme.”
He said he felt “abused” by the programme makers: “It was as if they had instructions from higher up that this had to be a happy story about complementary medicine without any complexity, and they used me to give a veneer of respectability.”
Ernst also said: “The BBC decided to do disturbingly simple story lines with disturbingly happy endings.”
Two other programmes in the series — discussing faith healing and herbalism — were also criticised.
“It was the programme on herbal medicines which really got me going most,” said Colquhoun. “It is as if evidence-based medicine and reason started to go out of fashion in the 1970s and 1980s and mysticism came in. We have to bring reason back.”“It was the programme on herbal medicines which really got me going most,” said Colquhoun. “It is as if evidence-based medicine and reason started to go out of fashion in the 1970s and 1980s and mysticism came in. We have to bring reason back.”
Despite the criticisms, the BBC is understood to be in the process of commissioning a further series.