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Hilary's Desk

A wake-up call: Why fighting for your family matters

Hilary Butler - Sunday, August 22, 2010

It never ceases to amaze me, when people who put themselves out as scientists, display woeful researching skills, and appear not to hear what is said on programmes they criticise. Peter Griffin at Sciblogs had this to say about the 60 Minutes documentary “Living Proof”. Amongst his various ramblings, he misses the fact that experts were asked to comment.. but refused. He also asked heaps of redundant questions: 

"Where did the family come across the idea of administering vitamin C intravenously? What does the peer-reviewed literature say about this sort of treatment for pneumonia-like symptoms? Could Smith’s family have actually risked harming him by giving him large doses of vitamin C? None of that is clear from the piece, because 60 Minutes didn’t interview anyone with a medical or scientific background equipped to answer these questions. No one from the two hospitals that treated Smith would comment on how he was treated but it is clear from the case notes flashed across the screen that the doctors treating his (HIM- Hilary) thought intravenous shots of vitamin C was a wacky idea and would do him no good."

Where did the family come across the idea of administering vitamin C?  That was in the documentary. "Refusal to comment" by the medical profession, is the usual strategy employed when faced with something they don’t want to talk about.

Even funnier (except it's not funny) Peter Griffin solicits comment from an "expert" who wasn’t there, didn't watch the programme closely, and missed the stated reasons why the experts refused to give intravenous vitamin C, and instead inserted his own incorrect assumptions!

Had Peter Griffin listened to the programme ,and subsequent Campbell Live interview carefully, he wouldn’t have bothered to quote Professor Fraser, for three reasons. Peter Griffin writes:

Professor John Fraser, Head of School of Medical Sciences, University of Auckland told the SMC:

It is disappointing that the journalist did not attempt to seek expert advice on the reasons why the consultants were unwilling to administer high dose vitamin C. There is certainly no evidence from the medical literature that this treatment works particularly in severe cases of pneumonia. The consultants were quite right to resist the use of an unproven treatment, and to their credit they did acquiesce to accommodate the family’s wishes because they felt it would do no harm. In this remarkable case the patient did survive but there is no evidence that this was due to the vitamin C. This is a wonderful story of personal survival and it is sad that it has been used to discredit those professionals who were just trying to provide their best for a very sick patient. If the vitamin C had killed him, then the story would have been different. That is the risk of using an unproven treatment.

First, Professor Fraser also makes a mistaken assumption that 60 minutes made no attempt to seek "expert advice".  They did. The so-called "experts" in the hospital system, didn't want to comment.

Second, the ICU specialists didn't decide to administer vitamin C because they thought “it would do no harm”.

Third, Allan Smith "was going to die" anyway, so why would a family then say that vitamin C killed him, when as far as ICU experts were concerned, he was as good as dead in their eyes ....

FACT: Mai Chen stated on John Campbell live, that the reasons the ICU experts gave for refusing to administer vitamin C on a dying man, was that they believed that the vitamin C would cause coagulation disturbances and renal failure.

Which are utterly fanciful, and farcical reasonings, which have no backing in any medical literature…

And… um, isn’t death somewhat permanent?

Professor Fraser says there is no evidence Allan Smith's recovery was due to the vitamin C.  Has Professor Fraser not heard of the scientific principle called "challenge - dechallenge - rechallenge"? Vitamin C was given, leading to rapid improvement (challenge)....  vitamin C was stopped cold turkey, with rapid deterioration (dechallenge), then vitamin C was resumed at ridiculously low doses (rechallenge) and very slow laborious progress was seen.

Does Professer Fraser find it interesting that this case was a classic example of a proven scientific principle called:  "challenge, dechallenge, rechallenge."?  I guess this must have escaped Professor Fraser's notice.

In considering Professor Frasers inaccurate claim that no experts were consulted, when I think about that  carefully, how do you define an "expert"? 

Is there anyone in mainstream medicine, who is an "expert" on the science and many varied therapeutic actions of vitamin C? 

Take that a step further.  If there is, why is hospital nutrition so appalling? I've only heard of one medical expert admitting that hospital nutrition was lousy - when it threatened the health of his own daughter.  If doctors can't order meals which heal patients, (a fact which Pubmed repeatedly shows in medical articles), then what guarantees do families have that the "systems" specialists, know anything meaningful about vitamin C?  Why do doctors think that an RDA of 60 mgs has relevance during serious illness?  Have any of these ICU experts actually read; absorbed, and understood, the only detailed three volume medical text on vitamin C in existence - written by Professor Clemetson?  I don't know of one medical library in this country, which even possesses a set. 

Peter Griffin says he could find no medical articles on vitamin C and pneumonia. He specified "peer review" as if that's the ultimate in scientific acclaim.  Has he not heard about the rampaging debate about how unscientific, nepotistic and corrupt the peer review system actually is?

So lets start again, and look at "published medical literature".  Peter Griffin must have missed the three controlled studies showing a decrease of at least 80% in incidence of pneumonia in patients treated with vitamin C.  This isn't counting a 1942 randomised trial which showed that vitamin C prevents pneumonia in people (which has been replicated in various trials, and many times in animal studies).  Did he miss the article about another trial in 1990, reported in 1999 ?  What about the study in 1994 which showed that older patients with bronchopneumonia who were supplemented with vitamin C fared significantly better than those who were not, and the patient with the worst pneumonia, gained most benefit???! 

A question must be asked, which is... "Are any ICU patients with H1N1, tested to see if they are vitamin C deficient?  Come to think of it, would hospitals even know what test to use? Or even think about the issue at all?

Let's look at whether vitamin C might clear up pneumonia.  A mouse study indicates that vitamin C could be the treatment of choice for white-out lung in influenza, which is what Allan had. But mice aren't humans are they?  One study done on humans in 2002, and another in 2010, shows show that a high dose vitamin C protocol is associated with a reduction in respiratory failure and ventilator dependence, which would show that vitamin C exerts a specific therapeutic effect on the lungs.  But these patients were "only" critically injured... they weren't admitted specifically with "pneumonia" after H1N1.  So I guess to some people, they don't count.  Any excuse will do.

Regardless of the results of the various studies mentioned above, have the experiments in humans or mice been repeated in large scale trials in humans?  Of course not.  All calls for more research have been expediently ignored. 

But it is not possible to say that there is no medical literature on the topic, because the articles I've quoted are just a fraction of the ones which have been furiously debated over the last few years.

Allan Smith is one case study - who presented already noted biochemical principles, worthy of further investigation.

Question for Auckland and Waikato intensive care experts:  Given that you sat and watched Allan Smith survive against the odds you stacked for him, did that experience lead you to offer intravenous vitamin C as a last ditch treatment, to the three patients who died in your care, in the last fortnight?

I guess not, and I guess also, that no one is rushing to test the vitamin C status, or offer vitamin C to the other 12 people with H1N1, right now, struggling to live, in intensive care units around the country -  according to today's Sunday Star Times. 

After all.... those relying on Peter Griffin lack of facts, would automatically conclude that the three people who died of H1N1 in the last three weeks wouldn't have responded to vitamin C anyway, would they?

Peter Griffin is also wrong about something else.  The Smith family did not “admit” that their father’s recovery had something to do with proning their father. They were asked the question as to what the experts put their father’s recovery down to, and replied … “coincidentally…. The hospital proned him, and that’s what the experts put his recovery down to.” Obviously they don’t believe a word of that "coincidental" theory.

Which raises a question. "WHY at the last minute, after wanting to pull the plug on Allan, and at the same time as grudgingly giving IV vitamin C, did the hospital prone him?"

Was proning him done, so that just… in… case… the vitamin C did work, the experts would at least have in place a ridiculous decoy excuse - an “alibi”? Were the three people who died of H1N1 in the last two weeks, also proned?

I also find it interesting, that Peter Griffin questions whether or not the hairy cell leukemia was a “misdiagnosis”. So… a misdiagnosis is dismissed as “normal"? Shrug.

Did Peter Griffin notice the letter extract, that basically said that if Allan hadn’t had H1N1 badly, they would have treated the leukemia? 

Perhaps he’s lucky he had H1N1, because if he hadn’t had the flu, he might have died instead from aggressive toxic treatment of hairy cell leukemia, which… maybe… he didn’t have!  

I’m surprised Peter Griffin didn’t go one step further and suggest that Allan Smith might not have had H1N1 either.

Then there is this astonishing comment…

"The 60 Minutes piece suggests you should be willing to defy the advice of medical experts and demand alternative therapies for yourself or loved-ones who are seriously ill. How irresponsible is that?"

Peter Griffin is the one who is irresponsible. If doctors only have DEATH to offer, then demanding an alternative therapy for an otherwise certain-to-die family member is the very LEAST a family can do, and utterly responsible.

After Peter had spouted all his nonsense, then came a ridiculous statement from “Paedsrn” who said:

"Yet these professionals have dedicated their lives to bringing patients back when there seemed to be no hope, and when they do manage it, they’re told that ascorbic acid was responsible despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."

despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary” ???   Where is this overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Yet again, another self defensive reflexive comment from someone who plainly thinks that decisions beyond pulling the ECMO plug, should never rest with family members.

It’s little wonder with myopic analysis, and attitudes like this, that the chasm between family wishes and the medical profession gets wider by the day.

Oh, and by the way.... thinking about cancer and misdiagnoses... Sir William Keys wrote a book called “Flowers in Winter” about how he had cancer which the medical profession gave up on, and left him to die as well. He decided to go to China, where he had Chinese traditional treatment, which cured his cancer. His book is a must read, - not just for his story - but because the comments by Australian oncologists after he got them to check out his cured self, were classic denial.

One of them was rolled out on this occasion by Peter Griffin. “It must have been a misdiagnosis” .

 

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