Monday, June 10, 2024

#2780: Michelle Dossett

Michelle Dossett is a real MD and Massachusetts General Hospital internist. She is also a quack who uses her position of authority to promote pseudoscientific drivel and woo. Dossett “specializes” in quackery falling under the loose category of ‘mind-body medicine’, but seems to be open to virtually any brand of woo that comes her way: In support of the Massachusetts licensing bill for naturopaths in 2017, for instance – where naturopaths successfully achieved a sheen of respectability through legislative alchemy (a common ploy since science, research and evidence won’t provide them with anything) – Dossett said that naturopaths often do a better job than physicians at “using lifestyle-based approaches to prevent and help to manage chronic disease.” That claim is at best disingenuous: what characterizes naturopathic practice – and what the licensing bill explicitly allows naturopaths to do – is, in addition to providing substandard treatment of real diseases, to use pseudoscientific diagnostic tools (or gut feelings) to diagnose people with fake diseases (like Wilson’s temperature syndrome, chronic candidiasis, adrenal fatigue, the pseudoscientific version of hypothyroidism or conditions you don’t have (like diabetes, infertility, allergies, cancer) for which they subsequently prescribe expensive supplements and other nonsense; and of course it is successful: after treatment you won’t have the condition you were diagnosed with anymore since you never had it in the first place. 


Now, Dossett is a true believer in all things woo, and we mean all: including homeopathy. Together with familiar promoters of woo and quackery Roger B. Davis, Ted J. Kaptchuk and Gloria Y. Yeh, Dossett published an article in the American Journal of Public Health titled “Homeopathy Use by US Adults: Results of a National Survey”. Now, given how idiotic and obviously ineffective homeopathy is, it is worthwhile to research how widespread the use of it actually is, but the authors, being what they are, went in with the basic presupposition that homeopathic quackery is effective, and quickly went off the hinges. So when users of homeopathy views homeopathic remedies as ‘effective’ because of confirmation bias, wishful thinking and regression to the mean, Dossett et al. suggests that it might be due to “a more individualized and effective homeopathic prescription by the provider”. Indeed, the article even opens with asserting that “Recent reports suggest potential public health benefits [of using homeopathy] such as reductions in unnecessary antibiotic use [based on a Boiron-funded survey of patient recall of symptom resolution that nowhere suggests that prescribed antibiotics were “unnecessary”], reductions in costs to treat certain respiratory diseases [a reference to a paper in the pseudo-journal Homeopathy; besides, cheaper does not indicate effective], improvements in peri-menopausal depression [a reference to a shit article with no control group], improved health outcomes in chronically ill individuals [reference to another recall survey that explicitly did not to test the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments], and control of a Leptospirosis epidemic in Cuba [a laughable garbage study]”. Nowhere, of course, does Dossett et al.’s article mention any of the overwhelming evidence that homeopathy is bullshit. Heck, the article even describes homeopathy as “a system of complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) with a resurgence of public interest in recent decades”, which is downright false: homeopathy is water claimed to have the memory of having been exposed to duck liver (but not containing any duck liver) marketed to treat influenza based on the false assumptions that “like cures like”, that duck liver resembles flu symptoms (no, really) and that the person preparing the remedy has used the right magic spell.


And Dossett has published studies on homeopathy before. With Kaptchuk and insane dingbat Iris Bell, she also published “Patient-Provider Interactions Affect Symptoms in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, A Pilot Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial,” which studied the homeopathic product Acidil, a product from Boiron, one of the most profitable scam ventures in the US. Since the study itself was decently carried out, it showed that Acidil was no better than placebo – a finding that led the authors to suggest, rather than the obvious and correct conclusion that the product is bullshit, that “the study was not adequately powered to detect an effect” and “did not individualize based on subjects’ symptoms according to standard homeopathic methodology


Diagnosis: Dangerous idiot.


Hat-tip: Jann Bellamy @ sciencebased medicine

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