Boardman: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and that’s good enough
Observations from the center stripe: Pick a winner edition
WITH FOUR people competing for two seats on the Grass Valley City Council, an endorsement from outgoing Mayor Dan Miller could sway enough votes to separate the winners from the losers. I can think of two candidates who probably won’t get his support … IF NEVADA CITY decides to acquire a drug dog, I hope it isn’t a German shepherd, Doberman, or some other threatening breed. The sheriff’s MRAP armored car is enough police militarization for us … NEVADA OFFICIALS are trying to justify the $1.2 billion taxpayer giveaway to Tesla by citing all of the $25 an hour jobs the “gigafactory” will create. Really? $1,000 a week jobs in Nevada? Dream on … TESLA SAYS the factory will produce advanced batteries that will let you drive its expensive cars 200 miles without a charge, a breakthrough in battery technology. That’s almost a round trip between Lake of the Pines and Reno … IMAGE THAT: “Minecraft,” a popular computer game that doesn’t kill people or destroy things, is worth more than $2 billion to Microsoft … DON’T BE surprised by the early football season “upsets.” The so-called experts are just guessing until a team plays two or three games.
Celebrity attorney Mark Geragos is scheduled to appear in our creaking old courthouse today on behalf of holistic physician Harvey Bigelsen, accused by the state of practicing medicine without a license in Nevada City.
Geragos, who has represented the likes of Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder and other high-profile clients in the past, said he decided to take the case “because we felt strongly that Bigelsen is being prosecuted for not hewing to the medical establishment.”
Big-time lawyer, small country courthouse, cutting-edge societal issue? This has all the makings of our own little Scopes monkey trial, except the accused is defending his right to practice alternative medicine instead of teaching evolution theory. (If that’s the way it plays out, I want to be H.L. Mencken.)
Bigelsen was charged with nine counts of practicing medicine without a license and related matters after agents of the California Medical Board shut down his Biological Health Institute in March. The Nevada County DA’s office is prosecuting the case.
Bigelsen surrendered his medical license several years ago as part of a plea bargain in a federal case alleging Medicare fraud, and says he no longer practices medicine.
Instead, he offers seminars and professional services as a “hemobiographic consultant” to other physicians. His Web site states: “From a drop of blood, I can analyze the status of the patient’s body and the reason why it has arrived at this stage of life.”
The medical establishment views this with a great deal of skepticism. Here’s Dr. Stephen Barrett, writing on Quackwatch.com: “There is no medical school in the United States that teaches a physician to look at living blood.”
“This is not just about me,” Bigelsen said at a recent fundraiser to cover his legal fees. “It’s about all out-of-the-box practitioners … It’s about your privacy, your rights, your freedom of choice.
Bigelsen has received significant support in our community, one of the leaders in refusing to vaccinate its children. About 200 people showed up for the fundraiser, and almost 900 people have “liked” the Facebook page “I Stand Behind Dr. B.”
Many of his supporters see this case as a freedom-of-choice issue. As a recent letter to The Union put it: “It is a critical case, because it will impact the practice of all holistic practitioners. The issues involved will affect all of us who choose alternative health options.”
I’m in no position to judge Bigelsen’s work and the legal system will decide if he guilty of anything, but I do know that a lot of people are willing to believe almost anything when it comes to curing what ails the human body.
In an era when people feel free to decide what facts they are going to accept and distrust anything that smacks of the “establishment,” many reject modern medical science — the result of centuries of research, scientific discovery, and trial-and-error — for voodoo medicine that didn’t work a millennium ago and still doesn’t work.
The Internet may be the cutting edge of communications, but it is full of ads for copper bracelets that will cure your arthritis and secret foods that will eliminate your high blood pressure.
Hair analysis? Megavitamins? Stress formulas? Cholesterol-lowering teas? How about magnets and products that “cleanse your system”? The snake oil salesman may be dead, but his progeny are alive and well.
Modern medicine is hardly blameless in all this. Despite what people have been led to believe, Dr. Kildare can’t cure everything that ails us. Sometimes treatments fail and outcomes are not pleasant. Sometimes people die despite heroic efforts to save them.
Given the economics of modern medicine, doctors have little time to spend with their patients and even less time to empathize with them. Some substitute pills for the skills they learned in medical school, and the government’s push for digital medical records means your doctor will probably spend more time looking at his computer than looking at you.
But if there’s one thing medical quacks have learned, it’s a good bedside manner. They will get up-close and personal, look you in the eye, sympathize with you. Then they will take your money for treatments that won’t cure you and may kill you.
Even the smartest among us can get caught up in this wishful thinking. Many are familiar with the story of Steve Jobs, the brilliant co-founder of Apple Computer who opted for a special diet instead of surgery when told he had pancreatic cancer. When the diet didn’t work and he decided to have the operation nine months later, it was too late.
Otherwise intelligent people routinely opt for alternative medical treatments that have no basis in science. I’m curious to know what science those people think is valid.
It is said that you can fool some of the people all of the time. For the practitioners of quack medicine, that’s good enough.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays in The Union.
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