Doctor's visit raises quackery questions

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You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. This little jingle came to my mind as I thought about Dr. Joel Wallach’s visit to Walla Walla scheduled for earlier this week.

I first heard of Wallach some 20 years ago while living in Farmington, N.M. I had learned about his book “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie” and because I was intrigued by the title I bought a copy. After perusing the book it was my opinion that he was either ignorant of current scientific evidence or he was deliberately ignoring it .

By the time you read this, the meeting already will have taken place, but I want to take the opportunity to write for two reasons.

One is that some people may have left his meeting convinced that they needed to buy the product or products he promotes. The second reason is to alert folks to the existence of the website Quackwatch. which is devoted to debunking false medical claims.

One of Wallach’s claims is that the average age at death of doctors is 58. I knew that was not true from reading the obituary column in the Journal of the American Medical Association for a number of years. Not only that but I knew from my own medical school class that a significant number of my medical school classmates are still alive and we all are above the age of 80.

In a presentation by Wallach I accessed while preparing this column I heard him say that he had done 3,000 autopsies on humans. He is a veterinary doctor and a naturopath. I know of no hospital nor mortuary in this country that would allow either veterinarians or naturopaths to do autopsies on humans.

In the same presentation, he quoted from the U.S. Senate Document 264, which would have been entered during the 74th Congress, second session, in 1936.

Following are portions of that document: the alarming fact is that food now being raised on millions of acres of land that can no longer contain enough of certain minerals are now starving us — no matter how much we eat. No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system with the minerals he requires for perfect health because his stomach isn’t big enough to hold them…Laboratory tests prove that fruit, vegetables, grains, eggs, and even the milk and meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago … it is bad news to learn from our leading authorities that 99 percent of the American people are deficient in these minerals.

What Wallach failed to mention — could that have been deliberate? — was that although this was in the Congressional record the information did not come from any governmental research.

It was originally printed in a 1936 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine and was inserted in the Congressional record by a Florida senator.

It is my understanding that members of Congress are free to have things they are interested in inserted in the Congressional minutes. It needs to be emphasized that just because something has been entered in the Congressional minutes does not mean that if is official, that it represents government approval, or that it represents good scientific studies.

The Quackwatch article on Wallach mentions a number of other statements he has made, such as that he has cured cases of Alzheimer’s disease in pigs. Or that 50 percent of Americans 70 years old have Alzheimer’s disease. The true figure is much lower in that age group. Or that facial wrinkles and grey hair are caused by copper deficiency.

From my knowledge of Wallach it appears he did not come to Walla Walla for his health but because he has products to sell. One of the things he sells is colloidal mineral waters. Someone needs to ask him to provide the references from respected scientific journals that show the benefits of colloidal mineral waters.

A number of other companies are peddling these waters. Most of them come from shale deposits in Utah. One of those companies is reportedly grossing $3 million per month. This makes it sound like plenty of people are buying in to the propaganda these companies publish. There have been reported adverse effects from using those waters.

As a final note a question has been raised about ethics. It seems quite appropriate to me for someone to ask Wallach how ethical it is for him to promote products that have not been scientifically proven.

Dr. Don Casebolt of College Place is a retired physician who is passionate about preventive medicine. He spent four years as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy, the last 2 1/2 years as a flight surgeon. He also worked on the Navajo Reservation for 22 years.

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