Many of you will have no doubt seen the furore about WDDTY (What Doctors Don’t Tell You) last week in the media. I didn’t see the Times article, but I do watch Wright Stuff most mornings (or tape and scroll during my lunch actually!) so I did see the debate on there, which was fascinating.
Essentially, the problem seems to be with WDDTY’s relatively new consumer magazine which is on sale – horror of horrors – in WHSmith and other mainstream retailers. I have to say I was quite surprised when they launched it and was counting the days until someone somewhere questioned it so I am not surprised at all it has now happened.
The case against it mainly seems to be that poor unsuspecting readers could be duped into believing every dangerous word printed and eschew mainstream medicine choices which could do them harm.
Now, you can tell which side of the fence I am on here already. I have subscribed to WDDTY for about 20 years I think and, frankly, I don’t like people assuming I am too thick to take it for what it is: an alternative viewpoint to be considered, a reporting of studies, opinions, comment etc related to an alternative way of thinking. They don’t pretend to be anything else. Let’s face it: that’s what I do on here. That’s what everyone does in any media. Everything is biased. Read it or don’t. But don’t censor it because you don’t trust people to be able to make ‘sensible’ decisions. That smacks of the arrogance of, er, mainstream medicine!
In my line of work, I have seen thousands of situations where mainstream medicine just hasn’t worked or been enough for a person’s issues, including my own. I would not be in the very food sensitive state I am if mainstream medicine had tested me for coeliac disease when they should have done instead of putting it down to stress and ‘IBS’, that catch-all term which means nothing. Neither would it have taken me until my mid-20s to get diagnosed with PCOS when I kept saying there was something majorly wrong with my hormones from about 14 onward.
And don’t even get me started on the side effects of some meds and procedures I’ve seen or the simple fact that some people can’t tolerate the meds and need to seek out alternatives. Millions of people turn to ‘alternative’ medicine every single day across the world. And there has to be a reason. If people need alternatives, surely you need some help in evaluating what might work and what won’t? I’d say censoring information when people clearly need some is plain daft and ignores a very real need. WDDTY is by far not the only source of such info. I rate lots of different sources, mainstream and alternative; the issue just seems to be because it is in (gasp) a real shop!
I’m not saying that mainstream medicine is wrong. Far from it. I believe in integrated medicine and having a choice. Sometimes, you’re going to need drugs, surgery, mainstream care. Of course you are. As it happens, today I am on antibiotics for a severe gum infection that all the teatree, probiotics, garlic etc in the natural medicine pharmacy refuses to touch. I need a stronger approach, so I’m using it.
I object to people suggesting information I could evaluate to help me make my choices should be somehow ‘hidden’ from me. All the info in the WDDTY magazine is on the t’interweb anyway, and given the pedigree of the two journalists behind WDDTY and the fact that they are reporting findings from others the vast majority of the time, albeit I admit with their own biased comment on it, which I happen to take notice of, I would rather trust their stuff.
Anyway, for me, this is about choice plain and simple. We live in a country with freedom of speech, thank goodness, and I want to read and consider comment from lots of different places. This morning, for example, I have already been on the BMJ site, MedLine, WDDTY and a lab site gathering information. It’s part of a mix.
If WDDTY were really peddling dangerous information as the Times article – and incidentally the people behind it – would have us believe, that would be terrible. But, are they? Really? I don’t think so. If you actually read the articles, they are people’s opinions based on findings from studies. People might have issues with how those studies were done, the opinions drawn from them etc etc but WDDTY magazine is reporting them. Much like every other newspaper does. Have you read the Daily Mail Health section recently??
What makes me laugh is that the Times used to pay Lynne McTaggart, one of the WDDTY’s editors to write a column for them! Harper Collins, a publisher I think I read somewhere that was or is linked to the Times, has published her (very successful) books. The headline I’ve used above – A Voice in the Silence – I actually took from a testimonial given by the Times on WDDTY’s website!
When I was watching the Wright Stuff about it, actually, I noted that the panellists variously said they either bought and liked it or had done so for the show and thought that it was much more balanced than the screaming headlines had led them to believe. Moral of the story is: read the thing and, if you don’t like it or agree with it, don’t buy it. Choice.
Still, good articles are what sells papers – and magazines like WDDTY – and it has certainly worked here, hasn’t it? Here we are talking about them. Good publicity I would say for both the Times and WDDTY!
Anyway, a few of you have asked me about this so I thought I would put my opinion forward. Here is WDDTY’s official response for you too – I was quite appalled that they say that not one of the media outlets that covered the story contacted them for their point of view. Hardly unbiased reporting themselves then:
How the London Times tried to stop you from reading this
On Tuesday October 1, the London Times ran an article about a supposed ‘call to ban’ our journal What Doctors Don’t Tell You over ‘health scares’. (‘Call to ban journal over health scares,’ p 22).
The article alleged that a group of ‘experts’, including ‘scientists, doctors and patients’ were ‘condemning’ shops for carrying our magazine, which they claimed was ‘dangerous.’
The article also said that we’d claimed that vitamin C ‘cures’ HIV, that homeopathy could treat cancer, that we’d implied the cervical cancer vaccines has killed ‘hundreds’ of girls and that we’d told parents in our latest (October 2013) issues not to immunize their children with the MMR.
The Wright Stuff, a panel show on Britain’s Channel 5 TV, quickly followed suit with a television debate, flashing up a picture of Lynne McTaggart, editorial director of WDDTY, Five Live followed up with a television debate about the magazine, and another on-line publication published ‘warnings’ that claims in our advice could even ‘prove fatal’.
In all the furore, not one of the newspapers, radio shows or television stations once bothered to contact our magazine, even to solicit a comment.
In fact, from the content quoted, it appears that not one journalist or broadcaster has read anything that we have written. When we contacted one editor, he said he’d just reported what the Times reported. This is most apparent on the homeopathy story, and for very good reason: the article and the magazine containing it in fact have not yet been published.
In our magazine, we made no claims of cures: we simply reported on a doctor who’d investigated MMR, the US government’s tally of deaths from the HPV vaccine and a study showing that vitamin C ‘slowed, stopped or even reversed for several years’ depletion of immune system cells in HIV positive patients’.
The Times story – and all the stories that follow – are the latest in a protracted skirmish that’s been going on between the magazine and Simon Singh and a pharmaceutically-backed ‘lobby’ organization Sense About Science, ever since we launched our magazine in September 2013.
Last September, Singh contacted our distributor, and then all our newsagents and supermarket chains and tried to persuade them to stop carrying us (they refused after receiving thousands of letters of support for WDDTY).
For months, Singh, whose Sense About Science group has the sponsorship of the British Pharmaceutical Association, among other industry organizations, has relentlessly pestered the Advertising Standards Association with complaints about our advertisers, to try to prevent them from advertising.
All of the ‘experts’ quoted in the Times article are associated with Singh and his campaign.
This entire episode has far larger implications for all of us than simply the future of WDDTY. Are we to allow censorship of information that criticizes drug-based medicine and offers evidence of alternative systems of health care, particularly when this censorship is encouraged by the establishment press itself – the British newspaper of record?
The Times seems to be suggesting that their role is to ‘protect’ the public by censoring information that departs from standard medical line.
But as we see it, our job as journalists is simply to inform – to report the facts, even when they are inconvenient truths, as they are so often in medicine, particularly with such things as vaccines or alternative cancer therapy.
If you believe in free choice as medical consumers and wish to protect WDDTY and the right to choose our own system of health care, here’s what to do:
1.Write an email of support to the British stores who carry What Doctors Don’t Tell You:
0845 611 6111
2.Buy a copy of What Doctors Don’t Tell You. It’s available in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, WH Smiths, and over 8000 independent retail outlets. You can also subscribe through www.wddtysubscribe.com
3.Write to the Times and voice your complaint that such a biased and poorly researched article like this was published: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a video of the full story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfVT5_5s9no