Thursday, July 24, 2008

British woman receives $1,600,000 payout for brain injury caused by fad "detox" diet

People just don't know how dangerous water intoxication can be. People die from it. It is PARTICULARLY dangerous if it is not accompanied by enough salt

A mother of two has won more than $1,600,000 at the High Court after she claimed that a radical detox diet left her brain-damaged and epileptic. Dawn Page, 52, said that she was told to drink four extra pints of water a day and reduce her salt intake to prevent fluid retention and reduce weight. Within days of going on "The Amazing Hydration Diet" she began vomiting and, less than a week after starting the diet, suffered a massive epileptic fit. She was taken to intensive care but doctors were unable to prevent permanent brain injury.

Mrs Page now suffers from epilepsy and a "cognitive deficit" that affects her memory, concentration and her ability to speak normally. She was forced to quit her job as a conference organiser, suffers from frequent mood swings and relies on her husband, Geoff, for help around the house. Mrs Page secured an $1,620,000 payout last week from Barbara Nash, the nutritionist who devised the diet, after more than six years of legal battle. Mrs Nash, who calls herself a "nutritional therapist and life coach", denies any fault and the settlement was concluded without admission of liability. Mrs Nash's insurance company will pay the damages.

In September 2001 Mrs Page paid Mrs Nash $100 for an initial consultation. She said that she was advised to drink four pints of mineral water per day as well as the tea and other fluids that she normally drank. After a few days she started vomiting but was allegedly assured by Mrs Nash that it was "all part of the detoxification process". Mrs Page, who weighed 12 stone (76kg), was even urged to increase her water intake to six pints a day and cut her salt intake further.

Mr Page said yesterday that the settlement reflected the seriousness of his wife's injuries. He said of his wife: "She was not obese or even mildly obese but, like a lot of women, Dawn liked to look after her weight and was not having much success with the normal ways of doing that. "Her life has been seriously affected, perhaps ruined, by this fad-type way of losing weight," he added. Mrs Page relies on written notes to remember basic instructions and finds it hard to recall simple information.

Mr Page, the project manager for a packaging company, covers all the bills as his wife cannot work. He said: "She can't drive and takes medication every day. And she will do so for life." Mr Page, who brought the legal action against Mrs Nash in 2001, said that the fight had been worth it. Mrs Nash, who is based in Wheatley, Oxfordshire, and has a diploma in natural nutrition, was unavailable to comment last night.

Plexus Law, the firm representing Mrs Nash, released a statement that read: "On behalf of our client, we wish to make it clear that all allegations of substandard practice made on behalf of Mrs Page in the litigation have always been, and continue to remain, firmly denied. Equally, the information contained in the medical records suggesting that Mrs Page appeared to have drunk five litres of water on the day that she was admitted to hospital, and therefore disregarded advice given by our client, were also denied by Mrs Page. "In our view, as a recognition of this, the settlement amount agreed to be paid was less than half of the total amount claimed and the compromise that was offered and accepted was on the basis of no admission of liability."


Lessons from Britain's Primary school marking meltdown

Hopelessly inaccurate marking of final grade-school exams has further undermined confidence in a British State school education

And so, a week after finding out that private school fees have rocketed, we continue with the SATs debacle. Is it really any any surprise at all that so many parents would be keen to leave the state sector if only they could afford it? Private schools, after all, can choose not to send their national curriculum tests to be externally marked and have largely escaped the whole depressing experience. The rest of us can only worry that our children are being marked wrongly, and that it will be difficult to properly measure their progression. If we care about the bigger picture (which hopefully many of us do), then our children's schools may also be wrongly penalised in league tables.

Just to add to the whole experience, we're now told that millions of 11-year-olds may end up sitting new tests when they start secondary school. Many headteachers are apparently so unwilling to trust the current system of testing, they think they have to find out for themselves.

Where does this leave us? Firstly - and most straightforwardly - it shows us that ETS (the firm marking the tests) should be removed. Secondly it leaves a huge, huge mess, with so many re-marks inevitably demanded, that an already shaky system can only collapse further. Thirdly, it seems to leave us, after all that stress and pressure, with tests that are of little use. But there are other knock-on effects too, and in some ways they are more serious.

They affect us, the parents and our children. Once in secondary school, children take exam after exam. Surely this fiasco can't have helped their confidence and faith in the examination system? Think about what they've learnt from this unhappy experience - that despite you putting in the work, results don't come when expected, and that when they do, they may be completely wrong.

But above all, I think this leaves parents depressed, disappointed and lacking in confidence. At the end of another school year, it's not just SATs that are at stake - it's the whole state school system.

People talk about going back to basics. Why don't we? Let's work out what tests we need and why. Then perhaps the Government should try to figure out whether the current system is working - if it's helping or hindering teachers and parents in their quest to give millions of children the best education possible. This whole saga is not just about some tests being marked late. It may have seemed that way at the beginning, but now that's definitely not true. State school education should not be seen as second rate, but it's increasingly looking that way. And all this from a government who seemed to genuinely want to make education a real priority.


British welfare reform coming?

Two of the benefit payments that underpin Britain's welfare state are to be abolished as part of a streamlined system that will remove the option of "a life on benefits", the Government said yesterday. People who are out of work for more than two years, and those caught abusing the system, will be forced to work. Incapacity benefit and income support will disappear.

Other moves to tighten the system include people having to work for six months, rather than four weeks, before they can claim benefits, and those unemployed for more than two years having to take part in a full-time activity such as community work. The unemployed will be required to take advice and learn new skills to carry on claiming, and drug users will have to seek treatment or face losing their benefits under the plans announced by James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary.

The extension of the qualifying period from four weeks to six months for those claiming benefits is aimed at those coming into Britain from the EU and Eastern Europe, it emerged. Immigrants will be told that they cannot claim incapacity benefit - which will soon become a new employment and support allowance - until they have worked for six months. Mr Purnell's Green Paper on welfare reform said: "This reform will help to ensure that access to the UK benefits system for workers from other countries, including nationals from other European Economic Area states, is limited to those who have a connection with, and have made a contribution to, the UK." Ministers want to address Britain's reputation as a soft touch for claimants.

The package has provoked a negative response from some Labour MPs, but the Conservatives - who claim that Mr Purnell was taking many of their ideas - promised to support it. Mr Purnell said he wanted to end the idea there was a choice between claiming and working. "Instead, the longer people claim, the more we will expect in return," he said.

Under the proposals, claimants will be required to intensify their search for a job and comply with a back-to-work action plan. After a year, an outside provider, possibly from the private or voluntary sector, will take over and be paid by results. Claimants will be required to work for their benefits for at least four weeks, or longer if the provider requires it.

Incapacity benefits will be scrapped by 2013 and income support will also be dropped to make way for a system based on two working-age benefits - the employment and support allowance (ESA), for those who have a medical condition that prevents them from working, and jobseeker's allowance (JSA) for those who are able to work.

Mr Purnell said the paper proposed a simpler system that rewarded responsibility, encouraged people to do the right thing and stopped people being written-off on benefits for life without any hope of getting the support they needed to get back to work. "We will help people find work, but they will be expected to take a job," he added. Everyone currently on incapacity benefit, and new claimants, will undergo a more rigorous medical assessment than at present. Doctors will be asked to make clear when the individual should be fit for work and people will be reassessed at that point.

People with severe disabilities will get more cash under ESA. Others, who may qualify initially for benefits but whose condition may improve, will be placed in a "work" category. They will then receive personalised back-to-work support. It will be made clear to this group that the ESA is a temporary benefit intended to help them return to work. Ministers also announced that child maintenance payments will not be taken into account when calculating how much out-of-work benefits a parent should get.


No antibiotics for cough, colds and ear infections in Britain

Patients are to be refused antibiotics for coughs, colds and ear infections, under strict new guidance to doctors. This is right in theory but will undoubtedly lead to deaths among patients with meningococcal infections.

The drugs are not necessary in most cases, do not work against many of the infections and contribute to the spread of lethal hospital superbugs like MRSA, experts said. Family doctors routinely prescribe antibiotics for common respiratory infections such as sore throats. But GPs claim they often feel under pressure from patients who are angered if they are refused treatment.

Now the NHS drugs rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), has issued new guidance to doctors telling them not to prescribe antibiotics to patients who are suffering from minor illneses such as an ear infection, sore throat, tonsillitis, a cold, sinus infection, cough or bronchitis. Instead, doctors will advise them to stay at home and rest while taking painkillers. The move comes after Health Secretary Alan Johnson launched a $540 million advertising campaign earlier this year telling patients that the drugs will not help with a cough or cold.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, said inappropriate use of antibiotics was fuelling superbug infections as it encourages infections to become resistant to the drugs. Treatment with antibiotics also leaves people vulnerable to gut infections like Clostridium difficile, which can also be fatal particularly in the elderly. Last year 38 million prescriptions for antibiotics were written by GPs at a cost to the NHS of $350 million. Prescriptions to treat respiratory illnesses currently accounting for almost two thirds of all antibiotic prescribing in GP surgeries

The new guidance - which may dismay those who have grown to expect treatment for routine illnesses - says patients should be reassured that antibiotics are not needed immediately because they will "make little difference to symptoms and may have side-effects". They should be told to return to the doctor if they get worse or it does not clear up on its own. Alternatively doctors could issue a prescription for the patient to cash in at a later date if their symptoms get worse or go on for more than a week. Experts say this 'delayed prescribing' works well and doctors say few of the prescriptions are cashed in showing that patients do follow the instructions.

The guidance was welcomed by Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, who have been campaigning on the issue. He said: "It costs an absolute fortune. I have always said there is no shortage of money in the NHS - we just need to spend the money on things that are useful. "It can be very difficult being a GP having a consultation with a patient who expects antibiotics. It has become ingrained in them but because the infection gets better anyway, people think it was the antibiotics."

The guidance says doctors should consider giving antibiotics to children under the age of two who have an ear infection in both ears, children who have discharge from the ears and patients who have tonsillitis along with other problems. Antibiotics or further testing should be offered immediately to patients who have symptoms that suggest a serious illness or complications such as pneumonia, or if they are at high risk of complications. This would apply to those who already have a serious condition such as cystic fibrosis, severe heart, lung, kidney or liver disease or whose immune system is compromised.

Patients who are aged over 65 and have a cough should immediately be prescribed antibiotics or sent for further testing if they also fulfill two of the following criteria - having been admitted to hospital in the last year, having diabetes, suffering heart failure or using certain medications. Patients over the age of 80 with a cough need only fulfil one of the other criteria.

Dr Gillian Leng, who was in charge of developing the guidelines and is Deputy Chief Executive of NICE, said: "This is the first practical guideline which will help all healthcare professionals to assess adults and children with respiratory tract infections to decide whether their condition will improve by taking antibiotics. The guidance will also ensure that they can be followed up by the right people, at the right time and within the right healthcare setting."

Mike Sharland, a consultant paediatrician who helped develop the guidelines, said: "Every year, over five million antibiotics are prescribed for children in the community - the great majority for upper respiratory tract infections which are nearly always viral. This guideline describes the evidence base for prescribing antibiotics in children with an upper respiratory tract infection and gives clear and concise recommendations for their use."

Anne Joshua, Associate Director of Pharmacy at NHS Direct, who also helped draw up the guidelines, added: "This short clinical guideline brings together everything we know on targeting antibiotics to those who really need them. It sets out very clearly the information that should be provided by healthcare professionals when they are assessing children and adults presenting with respiratory tract infection symptoms in order to reassure them that they are receiving the most effective course of treatment, based on the most up-to-date evidence."


New prostate drug might not leave you prostrate

Looks good so far

Thousands of men with aggressive and incurable prostate cancer could gain years of life with a ground-breaking new drug, British researchers say. Eight out of ten patients with advanced prostate cancer - which kills 10,000 men a year - may see their tumours shrink and be relieved of pain simply by taking a daily pill even if their disease has spread around the body, the study suggests. Some men taking abiraterone have survived for more than twice as long as expected when all other treatments failed, suggesting that the most common cancer in men may in future become a manageable chronic disease. Scientists are also starting trials of the drug for sufferers of breast cancer to see if it has similar benefits.

Survival rates for common cancers such as breast and colon cancer have more than doubled in 60 years, and experts predict that, with this new drug, prostate cancer has the potential to join this list. About 35,000 Britons have prostate cancer diagnosed each year. Many of the cancers do not spread and can be managed by surgery or monitoring. Nearly all fatal cases are aggressive forms that are resistant to current treatments and are fuelled by testoster-one, the "male" sex hormone. After chemotherapy and radiotherapy have failed, the typical survival period is just one year or 18 months.

Johann de Bono, who led the study at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, said that 250 men worldwide with advanced cases had so far taken the new drug - some for as long as 32 months, indicating that it could even tually boost survival by many years. The study, published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found benefits for 21 patients with advanced prostate cancer. Trials are continuing.

Dr de Bono said he hoped that the new drug could be licensed and available for treatment of advanced disease within three years. He suggested that it could eventually make chemotherapy obsolete. "This is potentially a major step forward," he said. "These men have very aggressive prostate cancer, which is exceptionally difficult to treat and almost always fatal. We hope that abiraterone will eventually offer them real hope of an effective way of managing their condition and prolonging their lives."

Karol Sikora, a leading cancer specialist, described the study as a "significant piece of work". He said: "We now can make people live with cancer. It's not curable but we can keep people alive to the extent that they will die of something else. Most people affected by cancer are over 60, so if we can give them an extra 10 to 15 years that is as good as can be. We have to take into account the variability of some forms of hormone-driven cancer - this is not 100 per cent effective - but to be able to treat some of the worst cases, and grant them extra years of life, is a very positive thing."

Advanced prostate cancer is typically treated with a form of chemical or surgical castration to block production of the male hormones. Abiraterone blocks the generation of these hormones in the testes and elsewhere in the body, including the generation of hormones in the cancer itself.

The pill decreased the size of tumours in 70 to 80 per cent of men with advanced prostate cancer, the researchers said. Patients also recorded large falls in prostate specific antigen levels in the blood - a key indicator of prostate cancer.

"Current treatments can be horrible, and carry side-effects such as loss of libido, but in some cases the cancer seems immune to therapy and carries on accelerating," Dr de Bono said. "We believe that the cancer cells can make their own hormone `fuel' to grow and survive. We believe we now have a drug that can block the ability of the cancer to make that fuel."

An international study aims to recruit 1,200 men with advanced prostate cancer. The drug is also being used to treat breast cancer in women through a preliminary trial funded by Cancer Research UK.

Dr de Bono said: "It was able to help patients whose cancer had spread to the bones, liver, even lung. A number of patients were able to stop taking morphine for the relief of bone pain, and they got their quality of life back. In the wider context we eventually aim to make chemotherapy obsolete."

Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research's prostate cancer expert, said that the results were exciting but the studies were small and it was too early to say what role the drug might have in treating those with earlier stages of cancer.



Heh! Scottish blogger Neil Craig sent the following letter to British regulator Ofcom as a comment on their waffling about "balance" in response to the "Swindle" film. I doubt that Neil will get a reply

Dear Sir,

Following your judgement that the Global Warming Swindle failed to adhere to your rules about impartiality & particularly in line with section 5.12 "an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight in each programme or in clearly linked and timely programmes" I wish to follow up my complaint of Sunday, to which astonishingly you have made no response, with the following from the last 17 hours.

Complaint 1 - Channel 4 news 7.30 - Though the programme accused Mugabe's followers of violence & torture & a commentator from the opposing side was interviewed nobody from the government side was.

Complaint 2 - BBC 10 O'CLOCK NEWS - Reporting the Warming Swindle programme the BBC started by mentioning that the programme had not interviewed the IPCC or Sir David King & only near the end mentioned that Ofcom had found the scientific parts of the programme (1-4 of 5) accurate. They interviewed one alarmist spokesman (from the Royal Society) but not anybody on the other side. In particular Professor Singer who was criticised for saying King said something which Hansard also says he said should have been allowed to reply. This is particularly outrageous since this is the very activity that they are reporting that has been censured by you.

Complaint 3 - BBC 10 O'CLOCK NEWS - - Reported on Zimbabwe, accusing Mugabe of murder & interviewing an MDC spokesman but not a ZANU one.

Complaint 4 - SCOTTISH NEWS BBC 1 10.30 - Reporting on a proposed new windfarm they interviewed Alex Salmond who said, untruthfully, that this windfarm "could light up the city of Glasgow". In fact with perfect conditions & 100% capacity, instead of the 27% average capacity it could light up all the houses, so long as none of them had 2 bar electric fires or equivalent which only leaves the 2/3rds of energy used outside the home. No questioning of this claim was allowed. BBC then interviewed an Airtricity spokesman. Again no attempt to produce a "wide range" of views or even 1 sceptic was allowed.

Complaint 4 - NEWSNIGHT BBC 2 10.30 - Reporting on Zimbabwe a US state Dept spokesperson alone was interviewed. The US, of course, voted for sanctions against Zimbabwe on the ground that it was a threat to regional peace. No spokesman from either Russia or China, who voted down that resolution were interviewed. It is difficult to claim that the views of 2 of the 5 Security Council leaders are not "significant".

Complaint 5 - Newsnight BB" 2 10.30 - Reported on the capture of Radovan Karadzic claiming him as responsible for the "7,500 people who died at Srebrenica". This was both unbalanced & a misrepresentation of the facts since the only undisputed massacre there is of at least 3,800 Serb men, women & children (but mainly women & children since the men were in the army) in surrounding villages by Moslem forces.

Complaint 6 - Tuesday 22nd BBC Radio Scotland 7.30 on - Reporting on the capture of Karadzic the BBC put out nearly a dozen soundbites/interviews all with people claiming him guilty of crimes. Obviously if this was ever intended to be a real trial the BBC would not have considered acting in such a prejudicial manner but even though it is merely to be a propaganda show trial they are still in breach of their duty that "wide range of significant views must be included" which obviously included innocence.

Complaint 7 - CLASSIC FM 10 AM - Interviewed Paddy Ashdown, a well known supporter of the openly genocidal Bosnian Moslem leader & former SS auxiliary whose coup prevented Karadzic performing his job as President, under the rotating presidency of Bosnia & Hercegovina. No attempt at balance by interviewing anybody from the other side.

I note that in a 16 hour period, watching/listening to only 1 channel at a time I have found 7 instances which clearly & indubitably breach the guidelines as you have interpreted them. It must be assumed that over a full day & all channels it must be at least double that & over a year you are thus going to have to issue 5,000 critical reports. You have my felicitations in that process since it is clear this will be an arduous task.

Of course if Ofcom's job was not the one it claims but merely to ensure that the broadcast media continue to be a fascist propaganda arm of government willing to tell absolutely any lie & distort any news in a racist &/or unscientific way your job would be much easier.

I look forward to your response & action this day.

Ofcom Decision: A Humiliating Defeat for Bob Ward and the Myles Allen 37

By Steve McIntyre

Ofcom, the U.K. television regulator, has rendered a remarkable decision. People interested in what was actually decided will, unfortunately, have to consult the original judgment at Ofcom, rather than the BBC accounts (here, here) of the judgment. BBC stated:
The Great Global Warming Swindle, a controversial Channel 4 film, broke Ofcom rules, the media regulator says. In a long-awaited judgement, Ofcom says Channel 4 did not fulfil obligations to be impartial and to reflect a range of views on controversial issues. The film also treated interviewees unfairly, but did not mislead audiences "so as to cause harm or offence". Plaintiffs say the Ofcom judgement is "inconsistent" and "lets Channel 4 off the hook on a technicality."

Ofcom rendered 4 decisions in relation to the program itself (page 6) and about alleged unfairness to David King (page 36), IPCC (page 43) and Carl Wunsch (page 70) separately. Today I'll post on the program decision and will discuss the 3 ancillary decisions tomorrow.... Ofcom stated that it had received 265 complaints about the Program, the bulk of them alleging misrepresentations (in breach of section 2.2) or a failure of due impartiality (section 5).


Among the complainants claiming misrepresentations were Bob Ward and the 37 professors (Myles Allen, Phil Jones et al) who alleged a wide variety of error here and David Rado of the 175-page complaint profiled by BBC here. Ofcom did not uphold any of the misrepresentation complaints against Swindle. Not one. Ofcom summarized their judgement as follows:
In summary, in relation to the manner in which facts in the programme were presented, Ofcom is of the view that the audience of this programme was not materially misled in a manner that would have led to actual or potential harm. The audience would have been in no doubt that the programme's focus was on scientific and other arguments which challenged the orthodox theory of man-made global warming. Regardless of whether viewers were in fact persuaded by the arguments contained in the programme, Ofcom does not believe that they could have been materially misled as to the existence and substance of these alternative theories and opinions, or misled as to the weight which is given to these opinions in the scientific

Ofcom considers that, although the programme may have caused viewers to challenge the consensus view that human activity is the main cause of global warming, there is no evidence that the programme in itself did, or would, cause appreciable potential harm to members of the public .

Channel 4, however, had the right to show this programme provided it remained within the Code and - despite certain reservations - Ofcom has determined that it did not breach Rule 2.2. On balance it did not materially mislead the audience so as to cause harm or offence.

Not in breach of Rule 2.2.

That's not to say that Ofcom said that Durkin's point of view had been vindicated, merely that the complainants were seeking comfort in the wrong bed. Even though complainant Rado said that his complaint had been "peer reviewed" by William Connolley, Ofcom resisted the temptation to opine on scientific truth; instead they did the job assigned to them legislation - to determine whether there had been a violation of Rule 2.2, a possibility that none of the complainants seemed to have considered and for which their preparations were abysmal.

In addition to the general finding, Ofcom selected four major alleged misrepresentations (from the dozens of incoherently presented issues in Rado's 175 page "peer reviewed" complaint) for individual consideration. Here's a bit of advice from me to the complainants - you'd have been better off to pick your 4 best issues and stick to them, no matter how interesting the other ones seemed; write a blog on the other ones if you want, but the risk of presenting too many issues to a tribunal is that they'll end up picking 4 issues to consider anyway and, by throwing too many spitballs against the wall, you end up being stuck with the choices that they make. Were I crafting the complaint, I would not have picked the 4 issues that Ofcom focused on as my priority issues. But the complainants failed to prioritize and got stuck with the issues that Ofcom selected.

The first specific issue related to the use of graphics. And indeed, Swindle contained an error in the temperature graphic in the first program, which was said to have been inadvertently introduced in the production of the graphic. Unlike (say) Inconvenient Truth, where errors have remained uncorrected even when one of their Scientific Advisers supposedly brought the error to the attention of the Inconvenient Truth producers, in this case, the producers promptly replaced the graphic, with changes being made even before the second showing. In the hearing, the GGWS producers candidly acknowledged the error and reported the correction. This undoubtedly helped them with the complaint; Ofcom noted the error but found that this error was "not of such significance as to have been materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence in breach of Rule 2.2?.

The second specific allegation considered was the alleged "`distortion' of the science of climate modelling." Ofcom drolly noted:
Ofcom noted that, although the complainants disagreed with the points made by the contributors in the programme, they did not suggest that the overall statements about climate models were factually inaccurate.

Ouch. Ofcom went on to say (again finding for the defendant):
Ofcom notes that the creation of such models necessarily involved assumptions. The disagreement among scientists about the nature of those assumptions (as described by the contributors to the programme) is not an issue on which Ofcom can adjudicate. Overall however Ofcom's view was that the passages complained of were not materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence.

Much more here

British prisons full of drugs: ""An estimated $200m worth of drugs are being traded in prisons each year, an ex-prison service worker has said.Former National Offender Management Service drug treatment head Huseyin Djemil said the Prison Service had no idea of the size of the drugs market. He told BBC Radio 4's The Investigation the service needed to 'get smarter' if it wanted to reduce drugs in prisons. The government said the number of prisoners testing positive for drugs had fallen from 25% to 9% since 1997. Mr Djemil estimated a worst case scenario of 20kg of drugs, mostly heroin, being smuggled into jails each week."

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