European Manifesto Against Pseudo-Therapies

A new organization in Spain is trying to protect patients from becoming victims of pseudoscience. They have prepared a manifesto

Spain is standing up for science

A manifesto has been organized by the Spanish organization APETP, which translates as the Association to Protect the Sick from Pseudoscientific Therapies. The organization has three main goals: to make sure no sick person is dissuaded from curative treatments based on science; to discover the difference between science and pseudoscience and make clear the true meanings of words like treatment, therapy, and medicine and prevent their misuse in pseudoscientific propaganda; and to make it a crime to claim that a treatment is effective or curative if it has not been scientifically studied. As an analogy, it is illegal for used car salesmen to tell lies about their cars. Surely, health is at least as important as cars. Where laws exist, they can be enforced, and where they don’t exist, legislation can be enacted.

They stress that their aim is to protect patients. They are not against those who use pseudotherapies, but against those who claim a treatment is curative when it is not, who make false claims about treatments whose efficacy has not been tested in scientific studies, or treatments that have been studied and shown not to work. They would like hospitals to identify patients who have put their lives in danger by refusing treatment, and to investigate whatever alternative treatment they have chosen instead. They would like hospitals to inform the authorities and the patient when there is evidence of fraud. They want to promote public understanding of prevention, of science, and of the importance of critical thinking, skeptical thinking, and objectivity when making decisions about health.

APETP is a new, small organization based in Valencia, Spain. It plans to further its agenda through a variety of activities, including publications, conferences, prizes, radio shows, theater productions, educational projects, and working groups, one of which will compile a database of medical malpractice and fraud cases. It has prepared an open letter to the minister of health recommending legal and legislative remedies. It provides information on how to report cases. It has an extensive list of pseudoscientific therapies, from the A’s of acupuncture, angel therapy, apitherapy, aromatherapy, and Ayurveda right down the alphabet through crystal therapy, cupping, facilitated communication, homeopathy, iridology, MMS, naturopathy, reflexology, Reiki, EFT, Gerson therapy, the alkaline diet, therapeutic touch, and much, much more. It lists many of the pseudotherapies previously identified on SBM and Quackwatch, plus a few treatments I’d never heard of.

The members include victims, scientists, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, lawyers, and many others. They are supported by a number of skeptical organizations. They are already ruffling some feathers. A media campaign has been organized against them, and the entire board has received a criminal court summons.

Science-based medicine is under attack, and sometimes seems to be losing the battle, with quackery and misinformation all over the Internet, celebrity endorsements, politicians spouting nonsense, and quackademic medicine infiltrating our hospitals, medical schools, and other institutions. Even the military is involved, offering untested remedies for PTSD and teaching battlefield acupuncture to its doctors. It’s good to see that not everyone has succumbed. It’s encouraging to see grass-roots efforts like this one rising up in protest.

Their project is a worthy one and they need all the help they can get. You can support them by joining as a member, by contributing through their GoFundMe campaign, and/or by signing the Manifesto at https://pseudoscience-manifesto.apetp.com.

Note: many thanks to Loretta Marron of the Friends of Science in Medicine in Australia for bringing this to my attention.

This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine blog.

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.