Sins of omission in 60 Minutes ‘miracle’ story

If you watched the 60 Minutes item Living Proof on Wednesday night, you’ll no doubt agree that King Country farmer Alan Smith is lucky to be alive.

60 minutesAcutely affected by the H1N1 virus, Smith lay in intensive care close to death, an ECMO machine battling to keep his fluid-filled lungs functioning.  As Mike McRoberts says in the introduction to the 60 Minutes piece by veteran reporter Melanie Reid, Smith came back from the dead.

But what saved his life?

Well, if the 60 Minutes piece is to be believed, large doses of vitamin C administered to Smith intravenously at the behest of his desperate family pulled him back from the brink of death. The family had to battle doctors to allow the treatment to proceed and even had to enlist top-flight constitutional lawyer Mai Chen to apply the legal blowtorch to the hospital treating Smith to allow the treatment to continue.

Smith’s lungs began to clear as the vitamin C was administered though his family admits this may have had something to do with the fact that at the same time, Smith was put in the prone position – that is, he was rolled onto his stomach in the hope that this would help clear his lungs.

Where did the family come across the idea of administering vitamin C intravenously? What does the peer-reviewed literature say about this sort of treatment for pneumonia-like symptoms? Could Smith’s family have actually risked harming him by giving him large doses of vitamin C? None of that is clear from the piece, because 60 Minutes didn’t  interview anyone with a medical or scientific background equipped to answer these questions. No one from the two hospitals that treated Smith would comment on how he was treated but it is clear from the case notes flashed across the screen that the doctors treating his thought intravenous shots of vitamin C was a wacky idea and would do him no good.

The upshot is that we have an apparent “miracle”  on our hands – that’s definitely  how 60 Minutes promoted the piece:

So was it a one-off miracle? Or has the family stumbled on a miracle cure?

Or how about option three – no one knows what led to Smith’s recovery and there’s certainly no evidence it was vitamin C. Not that you’d get that sort of equivocation from 60 Minutes, who obviously didn’t want to let pesky experts get in the way of a powerful story about a good kiwi family standing up to a cold medical bureaucracy. At the Science Media Centre, we asked experts to watch the piece and provide feedback on it.

Professor John Fraser, Head of School of Medical Sciences, University of Auckland told the SMC:

It is disappointing that the journalist did not attempt to seek expert advice on the reasons why the consultants were unwilling to administer high dose vitamin C. There is certainly no evidence from the medical literature that this treatment works particularly in severe cases of pneumonia. The consultants were quite right to resist the use of an unproven treatment, and to their credit they did acquiesce to accommodate the family’s wishes because they felt it would do no harm. In this remarkable case the patient did survive but there is no evidence that this was due to the vitamin C. This is a wonderful story of personal survival and it is sad that it has been used to discredit those professionals who were just trying to provide their best for a very sick patient. If the vitamin C had killed him, then the story would have been different. That is the risk of using an unproven treatment.

None of this point of view was reflected in the 60 Minutes piece, though any number of independent experts like Professor Fraser would have happily provided it if asked.

The evidence on intravenous vitamin C

At the very least, 60 Minutes could have added a bit of background about intravenous vitamin C treatments and the lack of empirical research suggesting such treatment is effective. I haven’t been able to find a single study looking at intravenous use of vitamin C to treat people in Smith’s condition. There are instead assorted case studies of patients treated in this way – but almost always for types of cancer and there have been some studies looking at vitamin C administered to mice and rats. This paper published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine ten years ago suggests: “Some cancer patients have had complete remissions after highdose intravenous vitamin C infusions”.

A study by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2008  showed “high-dose injections of vitamin C reduced tumour weight and growth rate by about 50 percent in mouse models of brain, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers”. The paper caused some heated debate among scientists as this letter from molecular biologist Professor Piet Borst to PNAS illustrates:

It is possible that ’the promise of ascorbic acid in the treatment of advanced cancer may lie in combination with cytotoxic agents’. As long as this has not been tested, we should try to avoid a new hype of vitamin C as cancer treatment by pointing out, especially in PNAS, the limitations of the available data.

There simply isn’t enough peer-reviewed literature to see this treatment endorsed by the medical profession other than those offering alternative therapies yet isolated cases of cancer sufferers going into remission following treatment with intravenous vitamin C keep the media spotlight on this supposed miracle cure. Check out another such story that screened in the US on ABC:

The reality is that Smith’s being placed in the prone position is just as likely to have been responsible for his recovery than the administering of large doses of vitamin C or anything else for that matter. We simply don’t know and the 60 Minutes piece suggests you should be willing to defy the advice of medical experts and demand alternative therapies for yourself or loved-ones who are seriously ill. How irresponsible is that?

Campbell Live does no better

Campbell Live followed up the 60 Minutes piece this evening, not with a medical expert adding clarity and context, but with Mai Chen, the lawyer who came to Smith’s rescue. Chen had no qualms about veering well out of her area of expertise telling John Campbell:

The intravenous vitamin C is a well-researched treatment. At the point we intervened John, his family had been advised three times to turn off the machine… intravenous vitamin C has actually been administered by doctors for ten years, low-level doses not intravenous for 25 years. Its a well-researched medication form of treatment.

Then she says…

Its so difficult to get doctors to administer treatments that they don’t consider to be conventional or not research-based.

Note the “not research-based” bit. She then goes on to contradict herself, expressing her concern that “New Zealanders all could potentially face this issue” but admitting that medical specialists using “professional judgement and the Hippocratic oath” ultimately decided what was best for their patients.

TV’s Aversion to experts

Here then are another couple of examples of TV current affairs shows avoiding watering down a sensationalist story by actually interviewing people who know what they are talking about.

We know that the TV networks have been advised that experts are a turn-off to audiences, that people relate to human stories, the victim, the patient, the family, not the academic giving a dispassionate view.

In this case the sins of omission are potentially dangerous by sending a message that it is acceptable to take treatment into your own hands when you or a member of your family has “nothing left to lose” defying experts and evidence in favour of treatments that haven’t been proven effective. Nice one TV3…


  1. Ron Swenson

    All these years later, my acquaintance with the Vitamin C research of Dr Anitra Carr (Univ of Otago) motivated me to check out videos about Allan Smith’s miracle recovery. Earlier today I had described the various forms of scientific investigation to a friend, namely anecdotal, observational, and double-blind testing. As journalist Melanie Reid interviewed hospital officials and doctors, I had a realization. The difference between a scientist and a bureaucrat is _curiosity_. If I were a hospital administrator and had an unusual incident such as Allan Smith’s happen on my watch, I wouldn’t scoff at a dubious treatment; I would get very curious. I wouldn’t bifurcate the world into novice advocates vs experts. I would stir up trouble till I had a budget to find out what had happened. Out of this puzzle, I realized that science first and foremost is about curiosity. Scientific medicine is the consequence of curiosity, not of censorship.

  2. Ronald

    Just in case mythbuster is still watching I’ll repeat (and slightly alter) the sentence he thinks typifies anti-vaccine proponents, so it, in my opinion, typifies vaccine proponents:

    “He will believe anything and everything, no matter who says it, and regardless of whether there is proof, as long as it fits his opinion that vaccines are safe, effective and necessary.”


  3. Ronald

    And how do you live with yourself, pushing any medical intervention onto anyone – all the worse without informed consent, meaning without pointing out all the toxic stuff that’s in these vaccines, the almost 4 billion dollars payed out to families who got injured/killed by these ‘safe’ vaccines, etc. The majority of people never bother to question the vaccination practice (one reason being they feel they can’t afford to stay home to take care of their kids when they get the measles, chicken pox, etc., thereby denying them the chance to develop strong, natural immune systems in stead of the artificial, weakened/damaged ones caused by the toxins in the vaccines that trick the immune system into attacking EVERYTHING in them – not just the weakened antigens, which in and by themselves would hardly trigger any immune respons! Hence the scary raise in auto-immune and neurological disorders, allergies, skin disease, astma, etc, we’re witnessing especially in the youth of the countries with the heaviest vaccination schedules (just look at the American youth and you’ll know what I mean). Most uneducated people, under which many doctors, still believe vaccines just contain ‘some kind of weakened virus/bacteria’ floating around in some kind of saline solution… Wouldn’t informed consent at least mean giving/showing the ‘patients’ (or the parents, because the patients are mostly babies or little kids) the vaccine inserts? Instead we see concerned parents getting bullied and frightened by doctors and (other) ignorant members of their community. The link between vaccination and ‘mega doses vitamin C for ‘swine flu’ and other viral infectious diseases is obvious: vitamin C (and vitamin A, etc.) prevents complications of all kinds of diseases. Just do your own research, don’t wait for money based medicine to do it for you (there’s no money in mega-dose vitamin therapy, especially not compared with the profits the pharmaceutical industry makes from their chemical drugs and allowing people to naturally build strong immune systems/health would be disastrous for the medical/pharmaceutical establishment). Time to wake up people…

  4. Ronald

    Diaz, it’s really touching how the doctors worried so strongly about harming a patient by giving him vitamin C AFTER they’ve already told the family their husband/father was dying and there was nothing they, the doctors, could do about it (which is why they strongly ‘advised’ to let them, the doctors, turn off life support and let the patient die). How (dangerously) arrogant can you get?!

  5. m canny

    correct me if I’m not wrong but wasn’t he diagnosed with cancer too!! also completely gone?? I’m sure that wasn’t cured from lying on his stomach! why is that not mentioned in this article? I know why because this article doesn’t want anyone to believe that it could have been the vitamin c. well its obvious no matter how u spin it. nothing they had tried worked at all and he was dying, they gave it to him and he improved enough in two/three days to be removed from life support. Then it was stopped and he got worse, and after the family demanding/ begging it was started again and he got better again? common sense people we need More Common Sense!!! and does anyone wonder why when there are stories like this around the world there are still no studies on vitamin c and doctors say it does nothing? strange very strange

  6. Peter

    What people/ MDs forget is the fact that high dose Vit C is using the word “Vit” this is NOT MEDICALLY correct.
    Its ascorbic acid…which in HIGH doses ( supported by an Adelaide Prof) releases HYDROGEN PEROXIDE ( O3)which is an “OXIDATIVE agent”…that your own body produces…to fight Viruses…inc your mouths/ guts ..
    the medico like to mislead the public that its simply a Vit…..the O3 is supported by science…

  7. Joopsnoop

    The history of treatment is that very often treatment success with a wide range of micro-nutrients and natural support precedes scientific evidence. To this day there is little scientific evidence supporting many treatments which have been in use for a long time before the whole notion of peer-reviewed scientific literature was even considered. Those in the scientific, evidence-based mind-set (the right one I might add) suffer from incredible myopia sometimes. Just because there is no peer reviewed evidence doesn’t mean a single thing. Peer-reviewed evidence showing it DOESN’T work or that it is dangerous is important, but as long as that is not present then there is zero reason to not use something. There is no such evidence for Vit C. The notion that this 60 minutes story is irresponsible is such a ferfy. If anything the medical profession should be thinking that maybe there IS something in Vit C and we know it is non-toxic and anecdotal experience is widespread, so maybe we can try it before we switch off life support next time. Before we state confidently that there is nothing else in the whole world of treatment that can save this person. Turning someone prone I am sure is a more intuitive thing without large volumes of peer-reviewed data yet they do it.

    Klenner treated over 600 polio patients with 100% success using IV Vit C. There hasn’t been a single case of anyone ever suffering toxicity from high levels of Vit C. The point to this story is that the doctors stated that in their 100+ years of experience there was absolutely nothing more that could be done so switch off everything and just let him die. And that includes turning the patient to prone, which they did after their statement of finality.

  8. Paul Dickey

    I’m really surprised the pharmaceutical giants allowed 60 minutes to present that story, I’m sure some heads rolled after that story aired. Hard to put the lid back on that.
    It’s my belief that if there were a million studies proving the efficacy of vitamin c as a healing agent, the pharmaceutical nazis would do there best to squash it..

  9. Rex

    This website is full of quackery and false posters.smiths multiple problems were the result of acute say there is no evidence for vit c in flu treatment is gross ignorance or culpable lying.Since a doctor said this his license ahiuld be suspended until he studies the 1100 medical references and the 300 double blind controlled studies on vit he appears to be a quack like the doctors who almost killed mr smith with their acute stupidity.this website is crap crap crap.

  10. mrwonderful

    So, in your opinion, the family should have let the hospital unplug the man so he could die in peace.
    As I understand it, that was the next step suggested by the doctors — not turning him over…

    Where are the peer-reviewed studies? Where are the double-blind trials?

    There is PLENTY of anecdotal evidence that vitamin C MAY have beneficial effects in MANY different scenarios. Why do people, who claim to understand the scientific method, continue to dismiss the possibility that vitamin C may hold value when, by their own admission, the requisite STUDIES HAVE NOT BEEN DONE?


  11. Grant Jacobs

    Correction: that should be “… specifically what Wilsher is referring to when she says…” Excuse the typos.

    FWIW, Alber’s comment above is another cut’n’paste from his Facebook page. A pity he doesn’t direct people to read the responses here in some ways.

  12. Grant Jacobs

    Firstly that’s rather old news (it’s dated 18th Sep 2010), why is this being brought up now?

    Secondly, you need to know specifically Wilsher is referring to we she says the high-does treatment is neither safe or effective. The article doesn’t make this clear. As possum points out it’s likely a straight-forward switching of of targets and as a result a straight-forward misrepresentation of what Wilsher was saying. (Note I’m not saying the misrepresentation was intentional)

    As possum was writing, the vitamin treatment was approved for vitamin C deficiency in otherwise normal individuals.

    Alber – while I’m writing: You have written a number of straight-forward factual errors on your Facebook page. Not misplaced opinions, note, non-factual statements. in order to comment on your Facebook page (e.g. to correct your errors), do people have to “join” via asking to be accepted as a “friend” (a form of moderation I guess) or is it open to pubic comment? (I’d only comment if it’s open to public comment.)

  13. possum

    Erwin – the article by Keith Stewart is a massive misrepresenttation, based on a selective quote that ignored the overall context of the statement by the Chied Medical Officer. Intravenous vitamin C is approved for, and usually effective for, treating low levels of vitamin C in a patient. That’s the only thing.

  14. Michael Edmonds


    What makes you assume that everyone here supports hormone replacement therapy? I thought we were discussing Intravenous vitamin C and (thanks to your changing the subject) vaccines? I’m starting to observe a pattern here. When people counter your arguments with sensible arguments you respond by:
    1) Personal attacks on other posters
    2) Generic attacks on groups of people/conspiracy theories
    3) Abruptly changing the subject

    You last message manages to do all three!

  15. possum

    >possum, the point is that the stuff in vaccines, while not exactly of the same, but a similar composition as antifreeze, is more toxic than antifreeze

    Erwin, the point is that you don’t understand what “toxic” means. LD50 is the dosage that will kill, on average, half the animals exposed to that dose. It does NOT mean that half the LD50 dose will kill 25% of the animals. The alcohol example shows that small doses of poison have no adverse impact at all, even though large doses can kill. What may be toxic in large doses may even be therapeutic in smal doses, such as Vitamin A. Any doscussion of toxicity must include reference ot the amount of substance involved. Almost anything is toxic in large enough quanties, including oxygen and water.

  16. erwinalber

    “I’ll have to have a dig through the journals tomorrow”

    Gosh, you gave me the impression that there wasn’t anything you don’t already know, Alison!

  17. erwinalber

    Just shows you what a criminal outfit the FDA which is supposed to protect us from the food and the drug mafia is.

    Did you know that there is enough ratpoison in the average tube of fluoridated toothpaste to kill two small children if they were to ingest its contents? And the FDA lets us and our children brush our teeth with this neurotoxic and carcinogenic poison! 😦

    FDA = Federal Death Agency .

  18. Alison Campbell

    the stuff in vaccines, while not exactly of the same, but a similar composition as antifreeze, is more toxic than antifreeze – in which case, you’ll be giving up toothpaste? There’s likely to be more polyethylene glycol in a squeeze of toothpaste than there is in a vaccine!

  19. Alison Campbell

    Possum – thanks for that. I might look a bit more deeply into that one. The reason I commented on the ovaries is that there’s generally not a lot of direct correspondence between larval & adult tissues in insects that undergo complete metamorphosis, like butterflies & moths & beetles. TIssues of the pupa & adult form from imaginal cells. This has really piqued my curiosity & I’ll have to have a dig through the journals tomorrow once I’m back on my own computer & have full library access 🙂

  20. Grant Jacobs


    I have (had) a reply, but Alison’s reply has overtaken mine, and now your’s and possum’s!

    Suffice to say, these claims are easy to clarify, which illustrates how dubious they are. (The sources of his extended cut’n’paste are pretty dubious too.)

    I suspect his interests lie with justifying for himself his religious/ideological basis for opposing vaccines. (He elaborated on earlier on this site.) It’s a bit like a debating a creationist opposing evolution who offers “proofs” evolution is “wrong”: you can’t really convince them of anything, because in the end their ideas are founded on beliefs not evidence. Having said that, there is an argument that those that are listening in (aka ‘lurkers’) might learn a few things, but I suspect this thread has gone on too long for any to still be left! (?)

  21. erwinalber

    possum, the point is that the stuff in vaccines, while not exactly of the same, but a similar composition as antifreeze, is more toxic than antifreeze.

  22. erwinalber

    Alison says:

    “vaccines are injected intramuscularly & not into the bloodstream. The miniscule – & we are talking miniscule here – quantity of Al in a vaccine is probably less likely to make it to the brain than that consumed with food, which will make it into the bloodstream reasonably quickly & thence to various other places round the body (including the brain if it can pass the blood-brain barrier). Thus if the minute amount from a vaccine should make it to the brain, it’s hardly going to make a difference.”

    Ever heard of blood capillaries Alison, or the fact that babies’ blood-brain barrier is wide open?

    My friend Dr med Gerhard Buchwald’s son suffered severe brain damage as a result of a smallpox vaccination he was given at 18 months. The smallpox vaccine was scratched into his arm, yet his brain was partly destroyed. How come? .

    Countless children have suffered severe brain damage as a result of DPT vaccination alone, which is why the US government (under pressure from vaccine manufacturers who didn’t like compensation claims) established the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Since 1988, up to 2008, nearly $2 billion dollars have been paid out to parents of vacicine injured children, so something that is not good and that medical science doesn’t seem to understand is obviously happening inside chlldren after they have been injected. But, never mind, it’s just anecdotal evidence, so let’s keep injecting babies and children regardless!

    “cell lines that have been grown in culture for multiple generations are not cells ‘from’ dog kidneys, foetuses or anything else. They are derived from those sources.”

    If this is true, why are cells derived from the cervical cancer of a woman called Henrietta Lacks called He-la cells? It’s because if one were to examine the DNA, one would find that the DNA is that of an African American woman called Henrietta Lacks.

    If one were to examine the DNA of cells derived from dog or monkey kidneys, one would be able to determine that they are dog or monkey kidney cells. In other words, they are “chips from the old block, so your argument obviously doesn’t hold water.

    If you want to inject dog kidney and hamster and caterpillar ovary material into your anatomy, go right ahead. As far as I am concerned, it’s a case of over – or rather into – my dead body!

  23. possum

    Alison, while I think you are doing a great job, there is evidence that caterpillar ovary cells, hard to find as they may be, are used in the parmaceutical industry:

    ” Protein Sciences extracts genes from the dead flu virus and inserts it in a virus that feeds on a tropical caterpillar known as an armyworm. The virus is then exposed to ovary cells harvested from a single caterpillar and reproduced in large quantities. Ovary cells are used because they remain stable as they are cultured in a laboratory. ” source

    Frankly, what if these therapeutic organic chemicals are being growth in such cells. What’s wrong with that? Diabetics used to be kept alive with insulin harvested from dead animals, before the wonders of genetic engineering came along.

    Erwin, with respect to your LD50 figures for ethylene glycol, so what? Have you drunk any Italian wine recently? You’re still alive aren’t you? LD50 is only a part of the story – you have to look at the dose and at how the body deals with the chemical in question. For example, the LD50 for rats of pure ethanol (drinking alcohol) is about 7000 mg per kg of body weight. For a 60-70kg teenager that LD50 level equates to about one 750ml bottle of 80 proof (40% pure) alcohol – such as gin or bourbon or vodka. Drink it in a short period of time and you will be very sick and may not wake up. Drink the same amount of alcohol with a mixer at the rate of a glass an evening and it will do you no harm at all because the human body is well able to break down alcohol in small doses. The LD50 is not very relevant – what is relevant is the actual amount of the dose, as Alison notes above, and how the body deals with the chemical in question.

  24. mythbuster

    Alison, I really don’t think Erwin is the slightest bit interested in hearing a fact/science-based rebuttal of his bizarre and florid claims. While I don’t think he should be censored, because his posts encapsulate the lunacy of anti-vaccine activism very well and are useful in that regard, I also think we should all refrain from engaging with him. Any sane person reading his posts will be well able to discover the truth – if indeed, they don’t know it already!

  25. Alison Campbell

    On eating vs injecting: vaccines are injected intramuscularly & not into the bloodstream. The miniscule – & we are talking miniscule here – quantity of Al in a vaccine is probably less likely to make it to the brain than that consumed with food, which will make it into the bloodstream reasonably quickly & thence to various other places round the body (including the brain if it can pass the blood-brain barrier). Thus if the minute amount from a vaccine should make it to the brain, it’s hardly going to make a difference.

    Existing stocks however continued to be used, so your 2002 date is likely to be misleading.
    Wrong – as has been previously pointed out to you. The expiry date on those stocks was only a year or so after the last production date.

    Is there antifreeze in vaccines or not?
    No. Antifreeze is ethylene glycol. Some vaccines contain traces of polyethylene glycol. This is not antifreeze. It is, however, commonly found in items such as toothpaste.

    Even if your claim was true, do remember that dose is important. the lethal oral dose to kill 50% of rats is 1260 mg/kg. Do you realise that for a 10kg child to ingest a lethal dose they’d be consuming 12600mg, or 12.6g of the stuff? Where polyethylene glycol is found in a vaccine, we’re talking micrograms… So your talk of LD50s is simply scare tactics.

    And cell lines that have been grown in culture for multiple generations are not cells ‘from’ dog kidneys, foetuses or anything else. They are derived from those sources.

    BTW, on caterpillar ovaries – since caterpillars are larvae & hence sexually immature, they may not even have ovaries. TIssues that will become ovaries during the major systemic reshuffle that takes place during metamorphosis, yes, but not actual functioning ovaries. So yes, they would be rather hard to find 🙂

  26. erwinalber

    This one is for you drmike, to help you get up with the play:

    Novartis ‘Cells’ Its Flu Vaccine Technology

    Published: Tuesday, 24 Nov 2009 | 12:52 PM ET

    By: Mike Huckman

    CNBC Correspondent

    Novartis will use cells taken from a dog’s kidney decades ago. The company says the World Health Organization uses the same cells and for whatever reason the vaccine grows well in the canine kidney cell. Other companies use the same basic technology, but different cells ranging from human retinal to Chinese hampster ovaries (again, not a typo) to caterpillar ovaries (and again, not a typo.)

    Can you imagine dissecting a caterpillar to harvest cells from its ovaries? I had a hard enough time cutting open a frog in high school biology.

  27. erwinalber

    “it is …simply untrue to imply as you do that dogs, monkeys & foetuses are regularly harvested for the purposes of making vaccines.”

    I never said they were. I said that babies and chidren are injected with cell particles of dog and monkey kidneys, chick embryo, aborted human foetus and Chinese hamster ovaries and caterpillar ovaries, which is an accurate statements. The cells used to propagate vaccine viruses were taken from these sources and used to create cell lines. This means that a cell line like WI-38 is derived from an aborted foetus. The resulting cell cultures are still cells from an aborted foetus, not cabbage or frog cells, just as a yoghurt culture when proagated is still yoghurt, not soy milk.

    Even though vaccines are obviously filtered and the particles in them minute, the are detectable.

    What I wonder about is that if aborted human foetal particles are injected into girls (via MMR), isn’t it reasonable to assume that the body will create antibodies against the foetal particles from the vaccine, and that when vaccinated girls grow up and become pregnant, they may experience miscarriages because these antibodies then reject the growing foetus?

  28. erwinalber

    Is there antifreeze in vaccines or not?

    It is a situation where both sides are bending and polarizing the truth to suit their own agendas, while parents looking for honest, straightforward, objective information are screwed. Is antifreeze in vaccines? Not exactly–not the kind we put in our cars. Aha, then antifreeze is NOT in vaccines? Not exactly–a type of ethylene glycol that is known to have similar (actually higher) levels of toxicity to car antifreeze is found in very small amounts in a number of childhood vaccines.

    The MSDS on car antifreeze, the regular ethylene glycol, says that the lethal oral dose to kill 50% of rats is 4700 mg/kg. The MSDS on 2-Phenoxyethanol, the vaccine ethylene glycol, says the lethal oral dose to kill 50% of rats is 1260 mg/kg. Comparing apples to apples, the vaccine ethylene glycol is a lot more toxic than car antifreeze–to rats anyway.

  29. erwinalber

    “Not mercury – thimerosal hasn’t been in pediatric vaccines since 2002; while it is used in flu vaccines you can ask for one without.”

    Existing stocks however continued to be used, so your 2002 date is likely to be misleading.

    Also, how many women are told that the flu shot recommended for pregnant women and for children contains mercury, or that there is a choice?

    So much for informed consent.

    Some vaccines still contain mercury, and others contain traces.

    Thimerosal Content in Some US Licensed Vaccines

    Thimerosal in Vaccines

  30. erwinalber

    Alison: I don’t know why I even bother entering into a discussion with someone who cant’t figure out that eating something is very different from injecting it. Surely you wouldn’t inject chicken broth or ice cream into anyone? .

    In his article ‘THE TRUTH BEHIND THE VACCINE COVER-UP’, US neurosurgeon Dr Russell Blaylock MD says;

    “We should also appreciate that the government sponsored two conferences on the possible role of metals, aluminum and mercury, being use in vaccines without any change in vaccine policy occurring after the meetings. These meetings were held a year before this meeting and before any examination of the data which was being held tightly by the CDC, (which was denied to other independent, highly qualified researchers). I will talk more about what was discussed in the aluminum conference later. It is very important and is only briefly referred to in this conference for a very good reason. If the public knew what was discussed at the aluminum meeting no one would ever get a vaccination using the presently manufactured types of vaccines again.

    The neurotoxicity of aluminium

    Despite what was discussed in the aluminum meeting and the scientific literature on the neurotoxicity of aluminum, Dr. Johnson makes the following remark; “Aluminum salts have a very wide margin of safety. Aluminum and mercury are often simultaneously administered to infants, both at the same site and at different sites.” Also on page 20, he states, “However, we also learned that there is absolutely no data, including animal data, about the potential for synergy, additively or antagonism, all of which can occur in binary metal mixtures…”

    It is important her to appreciate a frequently used deception by those who are trying to defend an indefensible practice. They use the very same language just quoted, that is, that there is no data to show, etc, etc. They intend it to convey the idea that the issue has been looked at and studied thoroughly and no toxicity was found. In truth, it means that no one has looked at this possibility and there have been no studies that would give us an answer one way or the other.

    In fact, we know that aluminum is a significant neurotoxin and that it shares many common mechanisms with mercury as a neurotoxin. For example, they are both toxic to neuronal neurotubules, interfere with antioxidant enzymes, poison DNA repair enzymes, interfere with mitochondrial energy production, block the glutamate reuptake proteins (GLT-1 and GLAST), bind to DNA, and interfere with neuronal membrane function. Toxins that share toxic mechanisms are almost always additive and frequently synergistic in their toxicity. So, Dr. Johnson’s statement is sheer nonsense.

    A significant number of studies have shown that both of these metals play a significant role in all of the neurodegenerative disorders. It is also important to remember, both of these metals accumulate in the brain and spinal cord. This makes them accumulative toxins and therefore much more dangerous than rapidly excreted toxins.

    To jump ahead, on page 23 Dr, Tom Sinks, Associate Director for Science at the National Center for Environmental Health at the CDC and the Acting Division Director for Division of Birth Defects, Developmental Disabilities and Health, ask, “I wonder is there a particular health outcome that is related to aluminum salts that may have anything that we are looking at today?” Dr. Martin Meyers, Acting Director of the National Vaccine Program Office, answers, “No, I don’t believe there are any particular health concerns that was raised.” This is after an aluminum conference held the previous year that did indeed find significant health concerns and an extensive scientific literature showing aluminum to be of great concern.

    On page 24 Dr. William Weil, a pediatrician representing the Committee on Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics, brings some sense to the discussion by reminding them that, “there are just a host of neurodevelopmental data that would suggest that we’ve got a serious problem. The earlier we go, the more serious the problem.” Here he means that the further back you go during the child’s brain development, the more likely the damage to the infant. I must give him credit; at least he briefly recognized that a significant amount of brain development does take place later. He also reminds his collogues that aluminum produced severe dementia and death in dialysis cases. He concludes by saying, “To think there isn’t some possible problem here is unreal.” (page 25)

    Not to let it end there, Dr. Meyers adds, “We held the aluminum meeting in conjunction with the metal ions in biology and medicine meeting, we were quick to point out that in the absence of data we didn’t know about additive or inhibitory activities.” Once again we see the “no data” ploy. There is abundant data on the deleterious effects of aluminum on the brain, a significant portion of which came out in that very meeting.”

  31. Alison Campbell

    they have no hesitation when it comes to injecting a baby with mercury, aluminium, MSG, antifreeze, and cell particles from dog and monkey kidneys, aborted human foetus, Chinese hamster ovaries and caterpillar ovaries!

    Oh for FSM’s sake, Erwin, this is ridiculous. I know for a fact that we’ve pointed out more than once (elsewhere on SciBlogs) that this is just untrue.

    Not mercury – thimerosal hasn’t been in pediatric vaccines since 2002; while it is used in flu vaccines you can ask for one without.

    Yes, aluminium – in tiny amounts that are orders of magnitude less than you take in via your daily diet. Remember? 3rd most common element on earth? No way of avoiding ingesting it.

    Antifreeze – NO. The adjuvant in vaccines is not antifreeze; to claim otherwise shows a considerable lack of understanding of fairly basic chemistry.

    Dog & monkey kidneys, aborted human foetuses – NO, NO, NO. The cell lines on which vaccines are grown originated from these sources but it is – again – simply untrue to imply as you do that dogs, monkeys & foetuses are regularly harvested for the purposes of making vaccines.

    CHO cells – used in the production of recombinant vaccines – which are then harvested from the cells, so what you are getting is protein & not cells. In this case & that of caterpillar ovaries – which are being examined as a future method of obtaining large amounts of recombinant vaccines – the technique allows the production of large amounts of large proteins that can’t be produced by the usual, bacterial, production methods.

  32. erwinalber

    drmike, the ‘first do no harm’ principle hardly applies when someone is at death’s door and the specialists in charge recommend that life support be turned off, does it.

    Also, as long as the next of kin sign a document to say that they absolve the hospital from any responsibility, why not allow treatment?

    I suspect that the medical establishment is reluctant to use IVC no matter how many lives could be saved because Vitamin C has long been associated with unorthodox branches of the healing profession, such as chelation therapy and orthomolecular medicine.

    Orthodox medical people could therefore interpret it as a loss of face if such treatment was proven to be effective, as the skeptics among them would have been proven wrong. In other words, professional pride and reputations are at stake here; science doesn’t even come into it.

    Finally, bringing up medicine’s supposedly guiding principle of ‘first do no harm’ is IMO rather ludicrous, as the medical profession has abandoned this a long time ago. It is after all ditched every time an abortion is performed, or every time a potentially crippling or potentially fatal neurotoxic vaccine is injected into a child.

    In their infinite wisdom, medical experts hesitate to give a dying patient an IVC drip because Vitamin C may be hard on the person’s kidneys, but they have no hesitation when it comes to injecting a baby with mercury, aluminium, MSG, antifreeze, and cell particles from dog and monkey kidneys, aborted human foetus, Chinese hamster ovaries and caterpillar ovaries!

    As far as I am concerned, the medical profession is not only devoid of ethics, but stark raving mad and should be kept away from as much as possible, to keep oneself and one’s loved ones safe.

  33. erwinalber

    One can argue forever while people are needlessly dying from infections such as H1N1 which may well have been prevented if the AHB had acted on the families’ request to administer Vitamin C.

    This is reminiscent of the era when it was known that citrus fruit and green vegetables prevent and cure scurvy, yet sailors unnecessarily continued to die by their hundreds, I suspect because it may have been more convenient to replace the sailors than provide them with citrus fruit or greens.

    Similarly, countless women continued to unnecessarily die from “child bed fever” because rather than washing their hands, doctors ridiculed Dr Semmelweis’ suggestion that washing their hands after dissecting corpses before going on to deliver babies may be a good idea. His colleagues chose to vilify and hound Semmelweis to the point where he had a nervous breakdown. He was admitted to a mental hospital where he died.

    This was 145 years ago (in 1865), but to judge by the AHB’s attitude, medical ignorance and arrogance seems as prevalent as ever.

  34. Grant Jacobs

    Vitamin C has been tested for the past 70 years

    For what? And how? If these studies aren’t relevant to Smith’s condition, it’s not meaningful to point to them with respect to Smith’s condition.

    lists 1200 references

    I wrote to you yesterday:

    “What is relevant is the particular treatment in question. (By way of example using ‘intravenous vitamin C pneumonia’ as a search string, PubMed reports only 7 matches.)”

    I agree that the Auckland Hospital Board should conduct studies to satisfy its members that Vitamin C is indeed safe and efective as Dr Levy claims.

    Research is done & applied internationally. This suggestion by Levy is trying to create a straw-man victim (the AHDB).

    Dr Levy says that the New Zealand farmer’s seemingly miraculous recovery is not miraculous as far as he is concerned, but that in his experience it was something to be expected.

    Opinions and anecdotes have limited value. (For the umpteenth time in this thread.)

    The fact that this treatment is being withheld even when demanded by patients’ next of kin is IMO criminal from both a humanitarian as well as a legal viewpoint, as it appears to be in breach of the Patient Code.

    See the link Peter provided earlier to Prof. Gillett’s article (see my own article for that matter, I’ve also linked to Prof. GIllett’s article in the last comment at this time of writing).

  35. drmike

    erwinalber, just because vitamin C has been the subject of a number of studies over 70 years that does not automatically mean it has been effective in all treatments or that it is safe. Most of the studies I have found have been fairly short in duration and used moderate or low doses, not high dose intravenous. I do not believe there have been over 1000 studies using high dose vitamin C so to assume that it is safe or effective based on a majority of fairly low dose studies is a flawed argument.
    One could also beg the question, if vitamin C has been studied for 70 years and been convincingly shown to be safe and effective in small studies then where are the follow up large scale studies? Perhaps they all failed for one reason or another? If such a miraculous treatment as vitamin C did exist it would have been taken up long ago. There is no way such a treatment could be effectively suppressed. You may of course claim conspiracy but I find this highly unlikely as most of the medical scientists and doctors I know are intelligent, highly patient focused and honest.
    The reason doctors have resisted using vitamin C even in the face of demands from the patients next of kin most likely focuses on the “first do no harm” approach. Even proponents of high dose vitamin C therapy have stated that it causes diarrhea, hardly a condition one would want to purposely induce in someone who is critically ill. Also, the body will try and clear such a high dose from it’s systems typically through the kidneys, which may put a strain on their function. As I said before, with most of the studies based on short term and/or relatively low dose vitamin C with small sample sizes this cannot be taken to show that high dose vitamin C is safe.

  36. erwinalber

    dr mike, unlike many commonly used pharmaceutical drugs, Vitamin C has been tested for the past 70 years. Dr Levy says that his soon-to-be published book ‘Curing the Incurable’ lists 1200 references in the medical literature concerning Vitamin C, which show that Vitamin C is enormously effective in dealing with infections and toxins in the body. I suggest you get a copy of the book when it comes out.

    I agree that the Auckland Hospital Board should conduct studies to satisfy its members that Vitamin C is indeed safe and efective as Dr Levy claims. Such studies would however have to be independently monitored, because the AHB obviously has a negative bias which could be reflected in the results.

    I found it interesting to note that Dr Levy says that the New Zealand farmer’s seemingly miraculous recovery is not miraculous as far as he is concerned, but that in his experience it was something to be expected.

    If true, this means that that H1N1 patients who recently died didn’t die due to the swine flu, but due to bureaucratic red tape and medical ignorance and arrogance. As far as I am concerned, the whole board should be sacked and replaced, as it is hindering progress in the form of a seemingly safe, effective and relatively inexpensive treatment.

    The fact that this treatment is being withheld even when demanded by patients’ next of kin is IMO criminal from both a humanitarian as well as a legal viewpoint, as it appears to be in breach of the Patient Code.

  37. Grant Jacobs


    Still cut’n’pasting from your site?!

    Auckland Health Board lies over Vitamin C

    To my reading, the key quote is presented out of context. The original context was for the treatment of (serious) influenza cases and other critical illnesses. The context it is presented in the article you link (and others I’ve seen) has been broadened, making the statement to say things it didn’t.

    I doubt they “lied”. That would be when you knew one answer and present another. The original statement says clearly they were passing on the results of the AHDB CPC’s review of the treatment.

    See for example:

    Tongue-in-cheek, this would have your source lying accusing another of lying 😉

    I may write about the recent television presentations later, esp. Campbells’. John Campbell’s questions & approach seemed fine to me. (If anything, I thought he was too soft on Levy.) I think some (most) of Levy’s answers to his questions, however, were not. The discussion afterwards wasn’t meaningful, and could never be given none of them had medical backgrounds, but it did illustrate a few problems with some of the public’s approach to these things.

    (I have been meaning to tackle this most of the weekend, but as the weather improved I attacked the garden… I still might not find time either. The topic is getting weary to me, especially some of the sillier claims being made by those promoting the treatment. In particular too many people are mixing unrelated things.)

  38. erwinalber

    Thanks for your reply drmike.

    In your judgment concerning the whaleto site, you are however throwing out the baby with the bathwater, so-to-speak.

    As it is, it seems to me that you are letting your bias prevent you from reading this very interesting interview of an internationally known medical doctor who was a friend of Linus Pauling.

    But, I guess that you would probably say that this twice Nobel Prize winner also didn’t know what he was talking about.

    Still, your loss, not mine!

  39. drmike

    In retrospect my previous comment about “making hyped up statements regarding its (vitamin C) efficacy is dishonest” was unfair. I don’t think erwinalber is dishonest.
    I suspect part of my disagreement with erwinalber about the efficacy of vitamin C comes from my view that if something is going to be used as a drug it should demonstrate it’s efficacy under controlled conditions, with a series of trials, in the same way all drugs are tested.
    There are a few papers on vitamin C that show potentially positive results in small trials, trials on specific populations (e.g. malnourished patients), or in treatments that combine vitamin C with other vitamins and supplements making it impossible to identify which is/are having a therapeutic effect. This isn’t enough for me to consider vitamin C to be an effective or safe treatment under all such circumstances. Others such as erwinalber and Dr Levy may disagree.
    I don’t believe that vitamin C should be given an easier burden of proof than other drugs just because it is deemed to be “natural”. Particularly when some are claiming that it is effective in treating cancers because in high doses it is toxic to cancers cells. How it could possibly be toxic to cancer cells and leave healthy cells alone makes no sense, particularly when it has been observed that high doses of vitamin C cause diarrhea.
    Something we hopefully both agree on is that more thorough testing of vitamin C would be a good thing.

  40. mythbuster

    Thomas Levy is a paid consultant to Livon Labs who produce the grandly named Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C. It’s hard to know how he can be objective really, yet according to Vit C fanatics his conflict of interest is somehow different from doctors who accept drug company pens and notepads!

  41. drmike

    erwinalber, thanks for the Dr Levy link, most interesting. I thought John Campbell’s interview style was fine, though would have to agree the “panel discussion” at the end was a bit amateurish.
    Don’t bother listing links though. I’ve learnt through previous links that whaleto is the domain of those who don’t understand science and/or who have a preponderance for conspiracy theories.
    As usual you insult the integrity of medical scientists and physicians by blithely implying conspiracy. Perhaps the Auckland Hospital Board have understated the potential value of vitamin C but this comes nowhere close to the level of overstatement that Dr Levy has made in implying it is a virtual cure all.
    There certainly may have over a thousand different studies looking at vitamin C as a treatment for disease but that does not mean all of them showed positive results. Indeed, all of the ones I have managed to locate so far show negative or inconclusive results.
    By all means let doctors start to introduce vitamin C therapies and test them scientifically and ethically but making hyped up statements regarding its efficacy is dishonest.
    I’ve noted on several comment boards that people seem quite in awe of Dr Levy having both medical and legal qualifications. Neither in themselves provide someone with scientific skills. Most medical researchers pursue a PhD as well as their MD in order to fully understand research. While I have met quite a few doctors who have a firm grasp of the scientific method, I have also met some who do not – typically those who embrace “alternative” therapies. Often very well meaning folk, but with a limited understanding of science.

  42. erwinalber

    drmike, I suggest you watch this interview with Dr Levy:

    John Campbell’s interviewing skills are unfortunately of a poor professional standard in this interview and the ensuing discussion at the end is outright embarrassing. The only person who emerges with his credibility intact is Dr Levy. He points out that IVC is a registered medical drug in New Zealand and internationally a well-proven treatment with an excellent track record.

    The problem is that such facts and all the evidence to support them are being completely ignored by the members of the Auckland Hospital Board.

    There is also an interesting interview of Dr A Kalokerinos MD in which he describes how a considerable number of malnourished Aboriginal children in Australia’s Northern Territory died as a result of being vaccinated. He eventually figured out that he was able to prevent such deaths with high doses of Vitamin C.

    Let’s hope that one of these days the medical establishment will emerge from the Dark Ages and from the stranglehold of the pharmaceutical industry and that the era of routine IVC treatment (and vaccine-free childhoods!) may begin! 🙂

  43. Peter Griffin

    Erwin, feel free to re-submit your latest comment without the inappropriate opening sentence which I’m not willing to run and have therefore moderated. Keep it clean please.

  44. drmike

    Having re-watched the American media clip above it is interesting to note that there are several scientific studies being carried out in the USA looking at the possible efficacy of vitamin C.

    It is interesting that the two reporters assume that if it is being studied then it must have some value. They obviously have no idea how science works.

  45. drmike

    erwinalber, your “source” of information, the radio live piece, is a rather biased and emotive piece, not to mention the typos.
    Your pasting of links with only the smallest addition of your own information seems to be a very poor way to attempt to make an argument.
    In this article the author assumes that the CMO of the Auckland Health Board was aware of the approval of Astor L 500. It is quite possible that she was not. Not every Dr will be aware of every newly approved treatment.
    Personally I’m happy to accept SCIENTIFIC evidence that shows that vitamin C has some potential medical benefits and it is unfortunate that the medical professionals you quote didn’t include this caveat.
    However, what concerns me more are the unsubstantiated claims, by the people you claim are experts, that Vitamin C is a cure for everything from AIDS to environment toxins. Despite the claim that “thousands of articles” support these wide ranging claims, I have never come across any in the scientific literature that support these claims. So either these “thousands of articles” come from non-scientific sources or they result from misinterpretation of scientific articles something you have done yourself many times in your arguments against vaccines.

  46. erwinalber

    Opps – sorry, got a bit ahead of myself there – got my dates mixed up! The smallpox and diphtheria vaccination I was given at 18 months must have caused long-term damage which is only just becoming apparent! 😦

    Reminds me of the time the Invercargill newspaper in New Zealand received news of John F Kennedy’s assassination including Harvey Lee Oswald’s profile from the USA at the same time Kennedy was being murdered. 🙂

  47. mythbuster

    Well now I’ve seen it all. Evidently high use of Vitamin C has turned Erwin into a time traveller. Unless I’m very much mistaken, at the time of this post (7.10pm), Mr Levy is yet to start speaking!

  48. erwinalber

    Kiwis May Die Through Medical Ignorance

    Voxy, New Zealand

    In response to the Auckland DHB 14th September press release, visiting Vitamin C expert, Dr Thomas Levy said today, “to assert that there is ‘no evidence’ that high-dose vitamin C is either safe or effective is to ignore the results of thousands of such IV administrations by doctors around the world, as well as to ignore tens of thousands of articles in the medical literature, in the most esteemed medical institutions in the world, that have been published over the last 70 years.” The DHB decision was made in the wake of mounting demand for high-dose vitamin C after news broke out of Waikato Dairy farmer Alan Smith’s complete recovery from what the hospital classed as a terminal case of Swine flu. Mr Smith is the hospital’s only Swine Flu patient on life support to have survived. He is also the only one to have received the high-dose intravenous vitamin C, which was administered at the family’s request after being advise that life support, and therefore his life, were about to be terminated.

    Introduced by Alan Smith himself, Dr Levy, cardiologist, associate professor, lawyer and author, spoke about Vitamin C, use, myths, safety and efficacy on Friday 17th September, at Auckland Girls Grammar School, New Zealand.

  49. drmike

    Hi Harri

    Thank you for a very intelligent and informative response. You again raise some very interesting points – the representation of science in the media is always a fascinating, sometime frustrating area with many interesting views.
    Apologies again for my poor response to your first posting. My partner has recently pointed out to me that since the recent quakes I have been grumpy and distracted, which in retrospect, is hardly the best state of mind to be in to fairly consider the points you made. My comments were not well researched or well thought out.
    I look forward to reading your comments more thoroughly, once I eventually get a decent nights sleep!

  50. Harri Hemila

    My original comment was focused on Peter Griffin’s text and I did not present opinions on the TV program.
    drmike asks my opinion on the “60 minutes story”; whether I agree that it was not scientific.

    I do agree that the 60 minutes story was not scientific. However, we must ask whether that kind of program can be, and should be scientific. I don’t think there are simple answers to such questions.

    The media world is very far from the scientific world, and the media world has rules of life that are very different compared with those in the scientific world. If we require that all reporting should be checked by scientists (in many cases they disagree quite strongly in their interpretations…), we would not have such free media as we nowadays have in the democratic countries…
    These kinds of topics can be discussed with a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer, but I do not believe in simple and universal answers…

    I do understand why Griffin became irritated by the 60 minutes story, because it gives quite a simplistic view on a complex and controversial topic. Still, I don’t believe that it is possible to make a report which gives a truly balanced discussion of all issues that are relevant to that kind of topic.

    One important goal in free media is to generate discussion and the 60 minutes story was a good success in that respect.

  51. drmike

    Comment to Harri,

    Apologies, I read your posting too fast and misunderstood some of your points (I’m going to blame the Christchurch aftershocks for my lack of focus). You make some very good points, and as I said previously, I think we both agree that more scientific research on vitamin C treatments needs to be done to fully understand the benefits (and limitations) of vitamin C.
    The studies you cite show some good preliminary possibilities for the benefits of vitamin C under certain conditions, but would you not agree, as a scientist, that the original 60 minutes story described above – an anecdotal treatment of a single patient under conditions where parameters were not controlled – is not scientific?

  52. Harri Hemila

    Comment to drmike:

    Peter Griffin claimed that he had searched “What does the peer-reviewed literature say about this sort of treatment for pneumonia-like symptoms?”

    I pointed out that Griffin did not search the peer-reviewed literature on “pneumonia-like symptoms” but instead he discussed, for example, a paper which showed that “high-dose injections of vitamin C reduced tumour weight and growth rate by about 50 percent in mouse models of brain, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers”. Such an animal study on cancer is irrelevant if we want to understand the possible role of vitamin C on pneumonia in humans.

    All of the 5 controlled trials that I mention are relevant to the question whether vitamin C might have an effect on pneumonia in humans.

    Reference 2 found that 200 mg/day was beneficial for patients with pneumonia or chronic bronchitis. I did not claim that the study teaches us about the optimal way of administering vitamin C (dose, po or iv, etc). Nevertheless, reference 2 is much more relevant when considering pneumonia-like symptoms in humans, compared with the mouse model on cancer that Griffin discussed.

    drmike claims that reference 5 is “Hardly supportive of your position.” My position is that reference 5 is important in “…pointing out the safety of high doses for ordinary people [5].” drmikes’ extract from reference 5 is irrelevant to my position on safety.

    drmike asks whether reference 6 is my own paper (“Your own reference I presume?”). Yes, reference 6 is mine as the author name indicates.
    Then drmike discusses the Fig. 1 of reference 6 and he asks “how you decided upon the 6 g of vitamin C as the appropriate dose”
    Had drmike read reference 6, he would have seen that the figure is based on a study by Hume and Weyers: “Hume and Weyers (1973) reported that vitamin C level in leukocytes was reduced to half when their subjects contracted a cold, but the level returned to the original level in about a week after the episode. Vitamin C supplementation (6 g/day) essentially abolished the fall in leukocyte vitamin C level caused by colds (Fig. 1).”
    Why didnt drmike read reference 6. He would have seen easily that the figure is not based on my study (“how you decided…”).

    Finally, drmike takes an extract from reference 7 out of context: “Trials of high doses of vitamin C administered therapeutically, starting after the onset of symptoms, showed no consistent effect on either duration or severity of common cold symptoms”

    In reference 7 we write:
    “A U T H O R S ’ C O N C L U S I O N S:
    Implications for practice:
    … So far, therapeutic supplementation has not been shown to be effective. Nevertheless, given the consistent effect of vitamin C on duration and severity in the regular supplementation studies, and the low cost and safety, it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial for them.”

    Thus, drmike accuses me that I am not properly reading the references that I discuss (false), whereas he does not himself read the references he comments on and takes extracts out of context, as shown above.

  53. drmike

    Harri Hemila, did you read the references you posted? I just had a quick look at some of them and none of them (apart from your own reference) are relevant to the question of whether high intravenous doses of vitamin C are beneficial. If you are going to post references you could at least read and understand them first. Some examples.
    reference 1 states:
    “However, these trials were carried out in such extraordinary conditions that the results may not apply to the general population. Therefore, more research is needed.”

    So results are inconclusive. I agree with the author that more research would be a good idea – if vitamin C has beneficial effects they need to be determined using careful medical investigations, not on the basis of a small number of anecdotal observations.

    reference 2
    “assessed clinically and biochemically on admission and again at 2 and 4 weeks after admission having received either 200 mg vitamin C per day, or placebo”

    200 mg of vitamin C is not a high dose. This is an oral dosage equivalent to a single low dose vitamin C tablet. This reference does not support high dose, intravenous treatments.

    reference 5
    “Only intravenous administration of vitamin C produces high plasma and urine concentrations that might have antitumor activity. Because efficacy of vitamin C treatment cannot be judged from clinical trials that use only oral dosing, the role of vitamin C in cancer treatment should be reevaluated.”

    Efficacy cannot be judged? Hardly supportive of your position.

    reference 6
    Your own reference I presume? A very interesting paper which if I interpret it correctly suggests that during various infections the levels of vitamin C diminish in the body. I’d be interested in knowing how you decided upon the 6 g of vitamin C as the appropriate dose. Was it achieved orally with 12 high potency tablets, and was this achieved by dosing at regular intervals? If so, do lower doses work?

    reference 7
    “Trials of high doses of vitamin C administered therapeutically, starting after the onset of symptoms, showed no consistent effect on either duration or severity of common cold symptoms”

    Again, no support for the case in point.

    If you are going to list references the least you could do would be to state the key findings of the references that support your arguments.
    The only relevant information seems to be in your own research – are you carrying out more research to confirm that vitamin C, perhaps with a large group of subjects than 10? Has your work been published, as it seems to be the only reference you supplied with any relevance to the suggestion that high dosage vitamin C might be beneficial?

    Let us not discard out of hand the idea that vitamin C might be beneficial in large doses, but lets use the existing literature honestly so that it might inform us as to the type of future research that may tell us exactly what the benefits and limitations of vitamin C might be.

  54. Peter Griffin

    The drain metaphor is fairly appropriate Ian, I feel like I’ve just climbed out of one after visiting TBR…

    1. You know why we muted you at the climate science briefing last year – you were hogging the questions and we had a room full of journalists wanting to ask theirs and you were cherry picking 50 year old journal papers that none of the panellists had heard of so wasting everyone’s time. Anyone is free to listen to the audio of the SMC website.

    2. You had your butt handed to you on a plate on your own site Ian by David Winter and showed the world what you really think about science in your anecdote about your daughter. Now that WAS staggering.

    3. Harri makes some interesting points duly noted but sort of undermines his own argument when he says “It is clear that the effects of vitamin C are not restricted to preventing scurvy, although the significance of the non-scurvy effects is unsettled.” Which is sort of the whole point and the reason why the doctors tending to Alan Smith felt a tad uncomfortable about being bullied into administering large doses of vitamin C ie: efficacy unproven.

    Clown, chump, hack, call me what you like Ian. But anyone who isn’t familiar with Ian’s attitudes to science should read this very revealing article about him All of those comments put his views on everything from vaccination and contraception to climate change and evolution very much in perspective.

  55. ianwishart

    Laughed like a drain. Pete gets his butt kicked on global warming so has to turn off the microphone to stop the inconvenient questions, then he gets whacked over at TBR for interviewing his typewriter in the post above, and then Harri comes along for the Hat Trick and slaps young Pete with the Cochrane Collaboration.

    And we taxpayers fork out $10K a week for the clowns at the Science Media Centre?

    Staggering stuff.

  56. Harri Hemila

    Serious omissions in the “Sins of omission”

    Peter Griffin asked “what does the peer-reviewed literature say about this sort of [vitamin C] treatment for pneumonia-like symptoms?”

    Proponents of evidence-based medicine (EBM) emphasize that conclusions about medical interventions should be based on controlled trials with clinically relevant outcomes. Why then did Griffin discuss mouse models of cancer, instead of controlled trials on pneumonia?

    The most important EBM data base is the Cochrane Library. Had Griffin searched the Cochrane Library, he would have identified our systematic review on vitamin C and pneumonia. We found three prophylactic trials in which vitamin C prevented pneumonia and two trials in which vitamin C treatment was beneficial for pneumonia patients [1].

    One of the two therapeutic trials was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with elderly patients with pneumonia or chronic bronchitis in the UK. In this trial, there were 5 deaths in the placebo group, but only 1 death in the vitamin C group. The abstract of the trial is available at MEDLINE [2] and I scanned the whole paper so that it is freely available at my home pages [3]. This and the the four other trials are discussed in our systematic review [1].

    Thus, the peer-reviewed literature says that there is justification to test the effect of vitamin C on pneumonia patients. Although there is no basis to state that vitamin C has been proven to be effective against pneumonia, testing of vitamin C is justified because of its safety and low price, and the findings of the published controlled trials.

    Griffin is concerned about the safety of intravenous vitamin C. Numerous urban legends about the potential harm of vitamin C have been circulating, but they have been shown to be unfounded [4]. For example, a recent pharmacokinetic study administered up to 100 g of vitamin C within a few hours without adverse effects, pointing out the safety of high doses for ordinary people [5].

    I do not think there is evidence that an ordinary healthy person would benefit from taking more than some 0.2 grams per day of vitamin C. However, the situation for people who have infections can be quite different. The level of vitamin C in plasma decreases during various viral and bacterial infections, which gives a rationale for testing the therapeutic effects of vitamin C for patients with infections [6]. Controlled trials have found benefit of vitamin C against pneumonia [1] and the common cold [7]. It is clear that the effects of vitamin C are not restricted to preventing scurvy, although the significance of the non-scurvy effects is unsettled.

    Prejudice against vitamin C is common and not limited to the urban legends about toxicity. I have shown that the most influential reviews on vitamin C and the common cold are severely biased so that there are errors in the extraction of data from the original study reports, errors in calculations, and inconsistent selection of trials for inclusion; see a summary and links to further documents at my home page [8].

    I consider that Peter Griffin is irresponsible. He pretends to be familiar with the “peer-reviewed literature” on vitamin C and pneumonia-like symptoms. However, either he did not search the medical literature at all, or if he did, he intentionally omitted the controlled trials on vitamin C and pneumonia from his discussion.

    [1] Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia (Cochrane Review)
    [2] The abstract of Hunt et al. (1994)
    [3] Hunt et al. (1994)
    [4] Safety of Vitamin C: Urban Legends
    [5] Padayatty et al (2004)
    [6] Vitamin C metabolism during infections
    [7] Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (Cochrane Review)
    [8] Meta-analyses on vitamin C and the common cold

  57. diaz


    So why is he still alive then? The Vit C was given at the same time as the extensive medical treatment he was getting. Maybe what they should have done is yank out all the tubes and stop all medications and then give Vit C and then see how long he lasted……

    Where are the clinical studies on Vit C to show both safety and efficacy for any condition? Oh, wait there aren’t any. Just a mass of anecdotes dating back decades. The onus is to produce the proof for Vit C, not for medicine to try and prove an negative as they’ve already got the evidence for the treatments it uses.

  58. oilygeorge

    Lost in this discussion, besides the fact that IV C cured the worst of the worst cases of Polio within 72 hours in 1949,(see Klenner/Polio) is that the treatment the patient was receiving before the IV C was started – WAS KILLING HIM.

    What was the treatment? What was the anti-viral regimen that failed so miserably and does this “drug” have clinical studies to show both safety and efficacy?…of course the drugs weren’t killing him, I know that…it was the flu.


  59. diaz

    “Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn’t it.”

    How about nope? Throwing around huge figures that imply that something approaching 50% of deaths in the US are Iatrogenics is just scare mongering. It’s just distorting everything to have something presented that way because medicine is open to examining and addressing it’s limitations. Those figures require careful interpretation, those people were being treated for serious health conditions and side-effects and adverse events may happen while they are undergoing care. In many cases it’s not preventable, but where it is, you want to understand what’s going on and how many people it might affect so you can change things for the better (contrast this with the so-called alternative stuff where they simply pretend it’s natural, safe and has no side-effects and then blame the patient when it goes wrong). In this case, it’s really playing fast and loose with the figures to add together all the numbers at the top of the estimated range to come to what seems to be an astounding figure. The reality is, even one or two deaths in those studies, some of which go back many years when medical practice was considerably different could affect the estimates markedly.

    ….”Recently, Lazarou, Pomeranz, and Corey attempted to synthesize available data on fatalities from adverse drug events (excluding cases of medication error). To derive their estimate of 106,000 fatal adverse drug reactions in the United States in 1994, they drew on data from 16 studies of adverse drug reactions published between 1964 and 1995. The studies cumulatively looked at 78 deaths, but only two of the studies had more than 10 deaths. Moreover, the 4 studies published after 1976 included a total of 5 deaths, compared with 73 in the 12 earlier studies. Consequently, the projection of fatal adverse drug reactions in 1994 is based predominately on data from 20 years earlier, when the use of pharmaceuticals was quite different. In addition, deaths were too few to arrive at a stable mortality estimate — as even a small change in the number of deaths reported in the studies would lead to substantial changes in the number of deaths extrapolated to the national population.”

  60. diaz

    Regarding those graphs, they only show decline in mortality – not incidence or morbidity. This is misleading, it only shows one factor and one that is highly modifiable with good medical care. Regarding those graphs, they only show decline in mortality – not incidence or morbidity. One example is measles – in the US during 1958-1962, an average of 503,282 measles cases and 432 measles-associated deaths were reported each year, in 1998 there was a provisional record low number of 89 cases with no measles-associated deaths. All cases in 1998 were either documented to be associated with international importations. ( I’d check into graphs showing incidence, not mortality for the real picture. Dr Mike also has some good points about the source of the statistics and how they were measured, that counts considerably as well.

    Of course there is improvement in mortality, this was over the time where people were gaining a much better understanding of the cause and spread of disease and medicine had improved greatly. The problem is that with diseases for which there are no or limited vaccine availability (such as chicken pox or even slapped cheek) incidence continues to be high, yet with vaccine preventable illnesses, incidence is low and smallpox has ceased to exist. There are no regular measles epidemics in New Zealand, only sporadic outbreaks usually imported from overseas. Actually, better to look at the big picture, life expectancies continue to rise as a result of reductions in child mortality and secondarily mortality in the middle aged group. This supposedly happened all of a sudden, despite century after century of people with access to only all-organic food and none of the things claimed to ail us today dying like flies and having life expectancies around the age of forty at the most.

  61. mythbuster

    Just in case Erwin is still watching I’ll repeat the sentence he only quoted half of in a post earlier this morning!

    “He will believe anything and everything – no matter who says it, and regardless of whether there’s proof – as long as it fits his opinion that vaccines are harmful.”

  62. drmike

    erwin, thanks for the link on Iatrogenic deaths. A pity there is no easy way to check the authors interpretation of the statistics. A pity that your link is not to a legitimate peer reviewed and published journal. A pity it does not consider the millions of lifes that medicine saves each year or the lives it prolongs and makes more comfortable. A pity you do not mention the lives that are lost through the replacement of legitimate therapies with pseudoscience. A pity that at least one associated author is an AIDS denialist and conspiracy theorist. A pity that some of the links in my opinion are homophobic, inaccurate, Christianocentric, excessively nationalistic, peddle pseudoscience and are misrepresentative of science.
    Then again, if you believe that Whale to is the fount of all knowledge you indeed are drinking from a poisoned chalice.

  63. erwinalber

    I am going to be off-line for a few days.

    I have posted the following link before, but I’m posting it again, in case some of you may want to look at this rather impressive information while I am away.

    Table Of Iatrogenic Deaths In The United States
    (Deaths induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures)

    Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn’t it.

  64. erwinalber

    So, Alison doesn’t like I’m not surprised, on two counts:

    1. The side is a website with one of the most
    comprehensive collections of information showing that
    vaccination is and has always been a failure and a disaster.

    2. As someone once pointed out, “Truth is to to some people
    what garlic is to a vampire.

    Thanks for the information about the immune system. Our immune systems are the superb end result of natural selection of the smartest, the fittest and I guess the luckiest. Each and every one who is here today, is the last link of an unbroken chain of ancestors who survived wars, famines and epidemics for thousands, if not millions of years – without the supposed benefits of the inoculation and injection of toxic vaccines into the human organism; this is only a fairly recent phenomenon.

    Predictably, this measure meant to “improve” the immune system by tricking it into producing antibodies against a fake antigen which is supposed to provide immunity to the real version when it coms alon, has been a resounding failure,

    In spite of this, propaganda churned out to have as believe that this over 200-year-old superstition and hare-brained idea is a triumph of medical science has ensured the success and the survival of this profitable and destructive racket.

    Vaccinations are in fact an unprecedented threat to our immune systems, which humans have never encountered before during their millenia of evolution, until clueless idiots in white coats started to promote, inflict and impose this vile intervention on us, polluting our blood streams and blood lines in the process.

    My friend Dr. med Gerhard Buchwald, Germany, lost his only son to a smallpox vaccination. It seems ironic that a medical intervention meant to save lives caused Dr Buchwald’s unbroken chain of ancestors to come to a halt.

    If the wide-spread ill-health, disorders and disabilities caused by vaccines are anything to go by, vaccination, which supposedly saves lives, may yet be humanity’s undoing, which according to some researchers is what vaccination is deliberately used for.

    As I have pointed out previously, Edward Jenner himself is supposed to have said:

    “I don’t know if I don’t have made a terrible mistake, after all, and created something monstrous.”

    This indeed seems to be have been the case, as this free e-book also shows: .

    Horrors of Vaccination Exposed 1920 by Chaz M Higgins – Scribd

    According to Dr Buchwald, there was a sudden, “inexplicable” drop in the number of brain damaged children admitted to institutions for the mentally handicapped when smallpox vaccination was finally abolished in Germany in 1983.

    The horror unfortunately didn’t stop then – if anything, things have become worse, with the number of neurological disorders including “autism” and other health problems such as asthma, allergies, ear infections, diabetes and cancers etc increasing in direct proportion with the increasingly insane number of vaccines injected into our children.

  65. Alison Campbell

    Alas, the graphs you refer to don’t actually show what you’d like them to. As has been pointed out elsewhere ( they’ve been manipulated in a rather intellectually dishonest way to show things that the originals don’t.
    To quote further from Orac: Another rebuttal to the idea that vaccines didn’t reduce the incidence of the diseases against which they were designed comes from the simple observation that, as vaccine uptake falls, the disease vaccinated against returns. Always. This is described by the CDC quite well:

    Finally, we can look at the experiences of several developed countries after they let their immunization levels drop. Three countries – Great Britain, Sweden, and Japan – cut back the use of pertussis vaccine because of fear about the vaccine. The effect was dramatic and immediate. In Great Britain, a drop in pertussis vaccination in 1974 was followed by an epidemic of more than 100,000 cases of pertussis and 36 deaths by 1978. In Japan, around the same time, a drop in vaccination rates from 70% to 20%-40% led to a jump in pertussis from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 cases and 41 deaths in 1979. In Sweden, the annual incidence rate of pertussis per 100,000 children 0-6 years of age increased from 700 cases in 1981 to 3,200 in 1985. It seems clear from these experiences that not only would diseases not be disappearing without vaccines, but if we were to stop vaccinating, they would come back.
    The United Kingdom is an excellent illustration of this trend. Back in the mid-1990s, it declared measles as under control, thanks to the vaccine. Then came Andrew Wakefield and a credulous, sensationalistic British press to spread his message that the MMR vaccine causes autism. The result was that measles came roaring back in the U.K. to the point that two years ago measles was declared endemic again there.

  66. drmike


    There is not enough information accompanying that graph to either verify it’s authenticity or to show that the data has been gathered and interpreted correctly.
    In science we need to consider the parameters and any assumptions that have been made with the data presented in any graph. For example, when were the vaccinated people vaccinated? Shortly before infection or decades before the epidemic? Either situation will have an effect on the results. What was the ratio of vaccinated to unvaccinated people in this population. If 90% were vaccinated and 10 % unvaccinated then the survivability of those who were vaccinated is much greater.
    Also how carefully was the cause of death assessed? We see this in moden assessments of vaccines where if someone who has been given a vaccine later dies in a car accident some unscrupulous antivaxxers include her or him as an adverse reaction.
    It is all very well to put up a graph but if it isn’t accompanied by a thorough explanation of how it was produced it is meaningless.

  67. erwinalber

    drmike, you say “Regarding the high dosage vitamin C, I would be interested in seeing what would happen if it was employed as a treatment in hospitals under controlled conditions so it’s efficacy could be determined. However, as medicine should first do no harm, consideration would have to be given to any potential detrimental effects, for example how much strain would it put on the kidneys.”

    Good grief! The New Zealand farmer was given high doses for some time, then lowered doses, after which this previously dying man walked out of hospital!

    You are worried about kidney damage from high doses of Vit C, yet you and others here appear unconcerned about injecting babies and children with neurotoxic, allergenic and carcinogenic vaccines which sicken cripple and kill countless children. Talk about double standards, if not outright insane.

    I suggest you check out these two links:

  68. erwinalber

    mythbuster said:

    “He (Erwin) will believe anything and everything.”

    You’ve shot yourself in one foot and put your other foot in your mouth right there and then, mythbuster. Comfortable?

    The fact that I don’t believe in nonsense like vaccination clearly shows your statement to be false.

    Also, I’m still waiting for a response to the infectious disease mortality graphs which clearly show that vaccines have never prevented any diseases (click on each ‘Read more..’ to view graphs):

    Any takers?

  69. drmike


    I’m simultaneously surprised and intrigued by your last post which contains quite a mix of conspiracy theories. I’m curious as to where you draw the line between what you consider to be real conspiracies and ones that you consider to be fanciful.
    For example, do you believe that man has gone to the moon and/or that extraterrestrials have visited Earth?

  70. Alison Campbell

    There really is no arguing with someone who is shouting ‘la la la la I can’t hear you’ with fingers stuffed firmly in ears (& who recommends, for goodness sake!).

    For those still open to reason: your body recognises ‘foreign’ materials – including pathogenic bacteria & viruses – by virtue of the ‘antigens’ on their surfaces. (An antigen may be a protein, a polysaccharide, a glycoprotein….) Immune-system cells called B cells produce antibodies (another class of protein) which circulate in the blood. If an antibody has the right configuration to bind to an antigen it will do so, effectively making the antigen (& the pathogen it’s attached to) more visible to the rest of your immune system. Other immune cells (T-helper cells) that detect this antibody-antibody complex trigger a series of responses that including inducing the B cell that produced the original anitbody to rapidly divide, so that there’s a clonal population of B cells all pumping out the original antibody. More & more of the antigen-bearing cells are flagged by antibody & cleaned up by other immune cells. Some of the B cells become ‘memory’ cells, so that the next time your body encounters that particular antigen, the immune response will be much faster as it doesn’t have to be primed.

    That’s the basis of an immune response. It takes a while & while your antibody titres are being built up in the face of a novel infection, you may become extremely ill. Or die. For many pathogens these are relatively rare events, but they do happen & with diseases like the 1918 ‘spanish’ flu, smallpox, polio (& yes, ‘even’ measles) morbidity & mortality can be quite high.
    Which is where vaccines come in. They elicit the same immune response as exposure to the pathogen – but because your body is dealing with an isolated antigen & not the whole, live, regular-strength pathogen, your antibodies & memory cells build up without causing more than passing discomfort for most people. (Yes, there are risks associated with vaccination, & science has documented them; they are orders of magnitude lower than the risks of infection with the disease itself.) This means that if/when you are subsequently exposed to the disease-causing organism, your immune response is faster, targeted, & generally able to destroy the pathogen before it takes hold.

  71. drmike

    Re my last comment to erwinalber

    Apologies for “shouting” at you erwin by using capitals. I think Alison’s point about smallpox is a good one, and it is one that you have not responded to but that is no reason for me to “shout” at you.
    Regarding the high dosage vitamin C, I would be interested in seeing what would happen if it was employed as a treatment in hospitals under controlled conditions so it’s efficacy could be determined. However, as medicine should first do no harm, consideration would have to be given to any potential detrimental effects, for example how much strain would it put on the kidneys.
    It is interesting that many advocates of such treatments will claim it is effective based on one off occurrences such as the article that this post was about but will reject conventional treatments that have shown efficacy in thousands of subjects and for which the side effects have been carefully noted.
    I also stand by my observation that many of the people who use fear to discourage people from medicine seem to benefit financially or in some other way from alternative therapies.
    They also seem quite happy to ignore medicines, for which the modes of action are often well understood, for therapies for which the only proof is either anecdotal and the mechanism is unknown. Take for example the admission by New Zealand homeopaths that they have no idea how it “works”, You would have thought after 200 years they might have some clue, and more than just anecdotal evidence and poorly written papers demonstrating nothing more than a placebo effect.
    This perhaps is the biggest gap between those who support medicine and those who support “alternative” therapies. We want evidence that is consistent and verifiable. Those who tout alternative therapies belief that belief and selective anecdotes are enough.
    I will note here that a minority of conventional treatments have been determined to have no more than a placebo effect but will point out that this was 1) discovered by scientists and 2) a significant number of medications have efficacies of 70 to 100% which far outperforms the the placebo effect which often hovers below the 5% mark

  72. mythbuster

    We’re dealing with such an extremist here in Erwin, that any debate is essentially pointless. He will believe anything and everything – no matter who says it, and regardless of whether there’s proof – as long as it fits his opinion that vaccines are harmful. And thank you Grant, it’s the link you provided above that puts this into sharp relief. When I think of the wasted potential in Liam Williams Holloway plus the other little boy in Ponsonby who died about the same time, and whose case sounds similar to the girl in Fiji, I can only feel sadness that someone like Erwin might think letting them die is OK. The majority of people on this forum will find that position hard to imagine and frankly, I think we need to stop giving him the oxygen of publicity and let him go back to running his ghastly scaremongering website.

  73. erwinalber

    Peter, the point YOU seem to be unable to grasp is that vaccines DO NOT prevent diseases.

    1. Here is the evidence (click on each ‘Read more..’ to view graphs):
    Alison, the story that Jenner’s filthy cowpox vaccine prevented smallpox is a myth put out by the medical-pharmaceutical mafia that also portrays Louis Pasteur as a hero, when in fact smallpox vaccination was a complete failure and Pasteur guilty of scientific fraud. You have to realise that there is an official version of everything for the brainless masses to believe in, and then there’s what really happened; they are very different things.

    The official version of JFK’s murder is e.g. that a lone gunman killed him, but this was quite obviously part of a cover-up. Likewise, the official version that Arab terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into the WTC towers which caused their collapse, is clearly a wild conspiracy theory promoted by the authorities via the mainstream media to hide the fact that it was an inside job.

    If you REALLY want to know the truth about smallpox vaccination, google ‘smallpox vaccination whale’. I however suspect that you prefer to live in your fake reality in which vaccines prevent diseases, the world’s biggest terrorist organisation is Al Quaeda, not the US government, in which Louis Pasteur saved Joseph Meister from rabies and Edward Jenner’s filthy potion humanity from smallpox.

    drmike, the amount alternative health practitioners make is minuscule compared to the multi-billion dollar rip-offs by vaccine manufacturers, as recently via the sale of useless and dangerous vaccines to fight a staged “pandemic”. The World Hell Organisation’s head witch Margaret Chan even had to change the definition of the word to get this whole swindle under way. Luckily people figured out that the whole thing was a dangerous scam, which is why in the USA alone, 40 million doses were recently incinerated because most people wisely refused to take the shot. This is of course a terrible waste of public money – money which is now in vaccine manufacturers’ bank accounts – but I figure it’s still better incinerated than injected!

    Rather hilariously, Grant says: “Much of that evidence for vaccines being effective does not come from within the pharmaceutical industry, but from universities and the like. The people running those studies are not paid by the industry and don’t earn that much, as any academic will tell you. They don’t have the money motivation Erwin refers to. Their main motivation is trying to help provide better health care.”

    Well, Grant, I have news for you – I suggest you get ready for a serious reality adjustment! I knew things were bad, but this article virtually made my hair stand on end!

    Harvard Medical School in Ethics Quandary
    Published: March 2, 2009

    Regarding micro-chips: I suggest you don’t concern your pretty little head about it, Grant. It would be a waste of time, as it appears that like Alison and some others, you are already remote-controlled. 

  74. Grant Jacobs

    Curse. We don’t have comment previews here, nor the ability to edit comments to correct them as some other sites do. Peter, if you have time, could you edit my comment to fix the incorrect close italic tag after ‘referring to’?! Luckily I’ve used quotations marks so it still makes some sense.

  75. Grant Jacobs

    While Erwin is busy slating the evidence, let me put a few things right for the sake of other readers who might think his comments credible. (I can’t imagine there are many here, this being more of a science site; I imagine this is preaching to the choir.)

    Much of that evidence for vaccines being effective does not come from within the pharmaceutical industry, but from universities and the like. The people running those studies are not paid by the industry and don’t earn that much, as any academic will tell you. They don’t have the money motivation Erwin refers to. Their main motivation is trying to help provide better health care.

    I ought to know. I’ve only spend 20+ years working with people like that.

    (In the case of smallpox, once the virus was eradicated there is no need for the vaccine, so there are no further sales.)

    Regards Alber, let me share with you a thread on his Facebook site that convinced me to stop conversing with him on an earlier vaccine thread on sciblogs. I would express my personal opinions, but I feel as if I’d be damned for it even though it’s a sincerely held concern. Instead I’ll present this as neutrally as I can and let you form your own ideas. (You can see the full thread referred to in the link I’ve supplied.)

    In this thread, a commenter posted onto Alber’s Facebook site a rambling “fear of god” sermon the commenter found elsewhere on the ‘net, which runs along the lines of:

    “Here, God spoke to me saying ‘my son, every person will be asked to compulsorily take immunization against the swine flu in the next few days. This is a disguise. They will in the process be infected with demons from the abyss […]”

    This “pastor” (assuming he exists and is real – this is the internet) links biblical references to “swine” with swine flu, and recounts (paraphrasing) ‘receiving a vision’ that makes out those giving vaccines as “the enemy”, and works it’s way to end-times religious ideas.

    Alber replies, broadly agreeing, and writes “It seesm fairly clear what the vision is referring to”, pointing his readers an internet bullet-list flyer, which he has placed on his Facebook pages, drawing his readers attention to an — in Alber’s words — “key point”:

    “Liquid crystals and nano-sized microchips may have been included into the vaccines to facilitate mind control at a distance.”

    then adds himself “I understand that that the chips can also be used to induce illness or death.”

  76. Alison Campbell

    Dr Mike, one could also note that the same ‘big pharma’ companies that make various drugs & vaccines are often also the companies that make the various vitamin pills & other ‘dietary supplements’ beloved by some CAM practitioners. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?
    (I know, mythbuster, I know – but I did use the word ‘vitamin’!!)

  77. drmike

    erwin alber, in case you missed Alison’s point – smallpox, smallpox, SMALLPOX!
    You talk about the “multi-billion” dollar vaccine industry, but what about the fact that many of those pushing the anti-vaccine agenda are making money by peddling useless alternative theories such as homeopathy – i.e. making people pay large amounts for magic water? At least pharmaceuticals contain active ingredients and work beyond the placebo effect.

  78. erwinalber

    I forgot to say that while your comment may have been meant to be sarcastic, it nevertheless addresses a vitally important point: whose life is it, and who’s in charge?

    The crucial part is the concept of the patient’s right to informed consent, or in the case of someone who is incapacitated, the right of informed consent by his or her next of kin.

    I agree that this opens up a can of worms:

    – should children whose parents decide against conventional cancer treatment be forced to have it?

    – should children whose parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses be forced to have a potentially life-saving blood transfusion?

    – should children whose parents refuse an organ transplant be forced to have one?


    I remember a case where British parents residing in New Zealand, whose young child had a liver transplant, were forced by court order to return to Britain to have their child undergo a second transplant when the first one was rejected and the parents decided against a second transplant.

    The parents took the case to the Supreme Court, which decided that as their child’s natural custodians, the parents were entitled to make informed decisions on behalf of their child and annulled the application to enforce the operation.

    I came across a case in Fiji where a 15-year-old Fijian girl developed a tumour on her leg which kept increasing in size. The hospital staff said that the surgical removal of the tumour, which was by now about 6 inches in diameter, was too risky and that the only way to save the girl’s life was to amputate her leg,

    Believing that their daughter’s life was in God’s hands, the parents refused surgery. They took the girl home where she died about a month later. Very sad really, but I suspect that they also figured that one-legged, their daughter’s prospects of marriage would be minimal and her quality of life affected accordingly, because as an amputee and being single, she might not even be able to support herself. This kind of reality may be difficult to accept for us, but in such places, this is the way things are.

    The point is that informed choices can have happy or unhappy outcomes. In the case of the New Zealand farmer, there is no doubt in my mind that if it wasn’t for the fact that in New Zealand, doctors have to respect patients or their family’s wishes, the Waikato farmer might well be dead now, instead of enjoying life.

  79. mythbuster

    Things got more than ‘out of hand’ Erwin. The way Meryl behaved was unforgivable but I guess it’s just the way you people do things! Now, back to the Vitamin C everybody!

  80. Alison Campbell

    vaccination is a multi-billion industry built on myth and hearsay, without any proof of safety or efficacy (apart from pseudo-scientific drivel)
    As I said on another thread: smallpox.

  81. erwinalber

    mythbuster – vaccination is a multi-billion industry built on myth and hearsay, without any proof of safety or efficacy (apart from pseudo-scientific drivel) – yet you berate ME for relying on anecdotes??!!

    Mind you, iI DO believe in the “anecdotal evidence” in the form of vaccine-related injuries and deaths rather than the Mickey Mouse science used to prop up the fraudulent vaccine industry.

    I don’t particularly want to get involved in an argument about the Meryl Dorey/AVN and Dana McCaffrey brawl, except that tempers got inflamed on both sides, on the anti-vaxer side because they were (IMO) wrongly referred to as baby-killers and targeted with abuse by pro-vax fanatics. Things may have got a bit out of hand after that. Dana’s death was obviously a tragedy, but the belief that vaccination would have is IMO quite ludicrous.

  82. mythbuster

    Erwin – it was a sarcastic comment. Why do you rely only on anecdote and require no proof of efficacy and safety as long a product or treatment is promoted by conspiracy theory websites, snake oil salesmen and psuedo-science?

    As regards the last comment in your post above this Peter, I’ve just been reading the McCaffrey family’s reply to the truly vile and evil treatment they endured from Meryl Dorey and I think they’ve shown great dignity and restraint. In baby Dana’s case the permanent damage was death.

  83. Peter Griffin

    Erwin, it wasn’t obvious at all what saved him, that’s the point which you seem unable to grasp.

    Anyway, the reason you popped on over to Sciblogs was because I mentioned your anti-vaccine network on Facebook where parents proudly proclaim their children are and will remain unvaccinated. There are some 8000 people on the network which likely equates to hundreds of unvaccinated children.

    Have you reconciled yourself to the fact that some of those kids may contract a disease and pass on a disease to other children that results in permanent damage? Does promoting this type of thing ever give you pause for thought? In other words I guess, how do you live with yourself?

  84. erwinalber

    mythbuster said:

    “I truly believe that if seriously ill people want the vitamin C whose miraculous capabilities have been so cleverly concealed for so long – they should have it – and have as much as they want. But they’d need to sign an informed consent form.”

    Thanks for this very sensible comment!

    If a patient (or his or her next of kin) sign a consent form for whatever treatment they have decided on, after consultation with the medical staff, the outcome is then THEIR responsibility and not that of strangers who have little or no emotional investment in the outcome.

    It would also prevent abuse of their position of power by those in authority, who due to their ignorance and arrogance may be tempted to play God, as appears to have been the case with the New Zealand farmer whose life was obviously saved by his determined relatives and their lawyer, Vitamin C and the health professionals in the background who recommended its use. .

  85. mythbuster

    I truly believe that if seriously ill people want the vitamin C whose miraculous capabilities have been so cleverly concealed for so long – they should have it – and have as much as they want. But they’d need to sign an informed consent form. And guess what? Some would still die and some would still survive and I doubt very much there’d be any discernable difference in the numbers!

  86. Grant Jacobs


    I agree; good comment.

    A earlier draft of my own post on this (finally out last night) had words to similar effect. I dropped this and other stuff as I thought it was getting too long; perhaps I should have left all the extra stuff in?!!

    Encouraging people to demand that specialists to do something the specialists consider unprofessional is asking for trouble, as you say (which I did write about!) You’d think this applies to any profession, really.

  87. Peter Griffin

    exactly Diaz, it could be anything wing of bat, eye of newt, a beer transfusion even – that’s certainly what my brother would be pushing to give me – Epic Pale AIe hopefully!

  88. diaz

    “If you were a doctor responsible for choosing the course of treatment to be applied to this patient, and the family asked for the Vit C, would you have declined?”

    Thinking like a doctor, what I would want is to do give treatment to the patient that I know will help them and not cause further harm or distress because what I would be doing is by necessity, invasive. While the documentary is poor, it’s quite clear that the doctors considered this and didn’t discard out of hand but felt it wasn’t a viable option because of lack of evidence, lack of plausibility and the potential for harm given this patient was critically ill. I would most likely make the decision to decline, after considering the hard facts.

    Good medical care shouldn’t be about throwing anything and everything at the patient and then performing the Texas sharp shooter fallacy to declare a hit. The family could have equally pushed for acupuncture, prayer or wing of bat and eye of newt in this case, there are thousands of “options” out there. In effect they forced the medical staff into experimenting on the patient with their stab in the dark with an untested treatment. It’s only after the fact that it’s been touted as the “cure” and no one knows that, they certainly didn’t cease conventional care and only gave Vit C to really test it out. Good medical care should be giving treatments that have a reasonable evidence base for actually helping. That things were desperate doesn’t change that, in fact it makes it even more critical that decisions are made carefully because if things go wrong, it wouldn’t be the family that was accountable but the doctors for their decisions.

  89. rainman

    @diaz, and the others who think the family are in the wrong here, a straightforward question (requiring something close to a straightforward answer):

    If you were a doctor responsible for choosing the course of treatment to be applied to this patient, and the family asked for the Vit C, would you have declined?

  90. erwinalber

    The point is surely that the “experts” were going to turn of this man’s life support and that he would now be dead if it hadn’t been for the suggestions of health professionals not directly involved in the case, the intervention of his family and their lawyer. Medical ignoarnce and arrogance never ceases to amaze me.

  91. vincristine

    It was a completely woeful peice of reporting.

    When Mei Chen spurted her bit about “well researched treatment” I nearly choked. For pneumonia?

    It was not considered anywhere in either of these pieces that maybe modern medicine, antibiotics, ventilation a nd the best of nursing care had something to do with this man’s recovery?

    Naah must have been the woo. If all of that had stopped he would have got better with just the Vit C. Why didn’t Mei Chen argue for just Vitamin C?

    Because it wouldnt have worked of course…

  92. mythbuster

    Someone has just made this interesting observation on another forum:

    “Just a couple of points which may have been mentioned already. I also note patient was diagnosed as having Hairy cell leukaemia, which disappeared after recovery. I suspect this was also an incorrect diagnosis no doubt from a blood film that was actually ‘viral’ but resembled something more sinister. (Vit C would not have cured that so he likely did not have it in the first place.)”

    Sadly apart from that your story is providing huge amusement to the followers of pseudo-science. Yes, this is strange but true. The last paragraph which I’ve just read again and makes perfect sense to me – is described as being so hilarious it apparently brought one poster and her husband ‘to hysterics’

  93. diaz

    If it wasn’t for the extraordinary efforts of the medical staff this gentleman would have died within days. The decision making about the cessation of ECMO were not taken lightly, the piece made it obvious that the medical staff concerned had consulted with overseas specialists for their opinion as well, it’s a shame that no expert opinion was consulted for the piece that would illuminate what the process was. As everyone points out it’s post hoc reasoning – there is no evidence that the Vit C worked and it could be any other of a number of things that lead to his recovery. This happens quite a bit then we hear of patients unexpectedly making a recovery when doctors were very pessimistic.

    What scares me about this, is it leaves the door wide open for patients and their families to force doctors to give unproven and even potentially dangerous “alternative” treatments despite the medical staff having valid clinical concerns about it. All they have to do now is threaten to get a lawyer in and the hospital and doctors will probably have to cave in against and give what they found on the internet.

  94. Peter Griffin

    Oh yes! Talk about sins of omission, I didn’t even get to the leukaemia which disappeared. Was it misdiagnosed? Who knows, 60 Minutes doesn’t go there.

    Paedsrn, thanks for the background on ECMO and proning.

  95. mythbuster

    And what about his leukaemia? Has that miraculously disappeared too? I can already see the snake-oil salespeople gearing up to fleece gullible people. After all, who needs science-based evidence when you have a sensationalist TV show to cite as proof of Vit C’s ‘miracle’ powers!

  96. paedsrn

    Among the many gaping holes in 60 minutes’ sophomoric coverage was the lack of any consideration as to why the clinicians involved only tried use of prone position as a last resort, as rainman alludes to in his comment. I wasn’t there at the time, but I can give you a pretty good idea. The lack of understanding comes from a failure to appreciate just how complex a process Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is.

    Take a patient who is in multi-organ failure. Total respiratory failure, probably liver and kidneys shutting down, gut not working, heart failing. It’s a cascade of problems all too familiar to ICU doctors and nurses. One of the last-ditch attempts to save such a patient is to put them on ECMO.

    Why last-ditch? Well, ECMO is a big deal. Any time you pump blood out of someone’s body, manipulate oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in it, treat it with heparin to stop it clotting, and pump it back inside so the oxygen can reach the patient’s brain and vital organs, you’ve got to figure these are fairly drastic measures. The risks are high, and they climb the longer patients are left on the ECMO ‘circuit’. It’s taken so seriously that a separate staff member (usually a specially trained and experienced registered nurse) is assigned just to look after the circuit and nothing else.

    The link to Wikipedia above gives some idea of the technology, but I’m afraid the article is of fairly low quality. It doesn’t mention, for example, that moving a patient on ECMO is not done lightly. The nurses in charge of these patients will reposition them with the utmost care, and only after considering the consequences if their stability is at issue. If the patient is extremely unwell, the natural tendency is to leave them as still as possible.

    So you can probably imagine that completely inverting the patient is something that’s only undertaken after discussion with the whole team. It can be very dangerous, and I’m pretty sure that would have been explained to the family at the time. The risks include the cannulae dislodging, fatal haemorrhage, obstructed blood flows, circuit disconnection, clots embolising to the brain or lungs. Accepting these kinds of risks early in the course of treatment is generally unreasonable, although ICUs around the world are making progress in making ECMO and other invasive treatments as safe as possible.

    It’s easy to demonise people when all you’ve got is an emotive twenty minutes of television (complete with soundtrack lilting softly in the background) to go on. Yet these professionals have dedicated their lives to bringing patients back when there seemed to be no hope, and when they do manage it, they’re told that ascorbic acid was responsible despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    And you know what? Even while they’re being criticised, those same doctors, nurses, perfusionists and surgeons are glad for the patient and for the family. However, I doubt they share the same warm feelings for TV3 producers right about now.

  97. ross

    “Its so difficult to get doctors to administer treatments that they don’t consider to be conventional or not research-based.”


    “Certainly I would recommend using a parachute when jumping out at 20,000 ft. What? You want to jump without one? I don’t recommend it. But, you say that the two who have survived in the last (mumble) years show it works? Hmmm…thinks….No, I still won’t let you get into the plane. What? Lawyer? If the Judge says so, then he can let you on the plane.”

  98. drmike

    Two questions:

    1) If after the intravenous vitamin C Mr Smith had died, would we have heard about it?
    2) How many people have had such treatments and they haven’t worked?

    When homeopaths, alternative therapy proponents come across a rare case where their therapy appears to work it is news. When they don’t work, it is ignored.

    Contrast this with medicine, where the regular successes are ignored, while the rare side effect or poor outcome is the only thing that tends to feature in the media

    Hardly what I would call balanced reporting.

  99. Grant Jacobs



    I have something in a draft form, but if it appears at all it will have to wait until the weekend: just popping up here to offer my support for the general points made. I’m curious as to how much effort was made to source independent medical advice to ensure an understanding of the medical consultants’ actions and that the basic science presented was sound. As Prof. Fraser said, it wouldn’t have gone amiss.

  100. Peter Griffin

    Sciblogs readers might be interested in this paper on vitamin C written by local GPs and alternative medicine practitioners who administer intravenous vitamin C doses at a clinic in Auckland.

    Click to access Ge_October_08.pdf

    I understand this was the group the family of Alan Smith consulted ahead of pushing for him to receive the treatment, though none of that was mentioned in the 60 Minutes piece.

  101. Peter Griffin

    the main point Richard is that none of this is put in context in either the 60 Minutes piece or the Campbell Live follow-up, where a lawyer was asked to back up the veracity of claims for the efficacy of intravenous vitamin C. Why is it appropriate to have the family and lawyers talking about medical treatments? Sure, the doctors involved couldn’t talk probably for legal reasons, but how about some analysis from an independent expert. A 30 second clip to that effect could have given the piece what it needed to be credible but for some reason they decided not to bother.


  102. rwoodnz

    I’d have to agree with rainman in questioning what is wrong with the “message that it is acceptable to take treatment into your own hands when you or a member of your family has “nothing left to lose” defying experts and evidence in favour of treatments that haven’t been proven effective.”
    This may even be a case of credit to the doctors for agreeing to try something when nothing in their own toolkit was working. If only it was clear that was the case.
    I take it your main point is that a medical expert would have helped provide balance to the story and avoided the mistaken impression about vitamin C’s properties that has been given.

  103. Peter Griffin

    Lots of questions there rainman which could have been answered in the 60 Minutes piece and follow-up story on Campbell Live had the producers bothered to include a medical expert. That’s the whole point.

    I have no problem with the premise of the story, but the lasting impression from the pieces is that a miracle vitamin C treatment was responsible for Alan Smith’s recovery. That may or may not be the case. If scientists want to explore that further, they should set up a proper trial with proper ethics approval and test it scientifically, as others have done with intravenous vitamin C doses for cancer patients.

    The blog post is titled Sins of Omission because none of this was explored in either piece on TV3, it would seem because it was inconvenient to the angle of the story.

  104. rainman

    Ahem. Speaking of “sins of omission”… Did you forget to note that, had the family not legally badgered the doctors concerned, Mr Smith would have had his ECMO turned off and he would almost certainly have died? Or perhaps to ask why he was not proned before they were talking about turning off the machine and letting him die?

    Actually, that would be an interesting aspect to look at in more detail: the doctors were opposing the Vit C treatment as it had inadequate evidentiary basis, what were their documented views on the proning, I wonder? Because if it was the case that the proning (an “acceptable” treatment, I assume?) was the fix, wouldn’t the doc’s have told the family that the Vit C wasn’t required, they had another solution lined up? Or did they just get lucky?

    If they the proning wasn’t the intentional solution, and they were all out of bullets otherwise, then what is the moral justification for stopping further treatment, whether it was Vit C or something else unproven?

    Results count. Surely science is all about “now why did that happen?”, which kinda implies you have to do, or at least see, some wacky things from time to time. (And what better time than when you are out of saner options?) I sometimes wonder whether that has been forgotten on a few of the blogs around here. We don’t (nearly) have all the answers yet.

    I think it is entirely “acceptable to take treatment into your own hands when you or a member of your family has “nothing left to lose” defying experts and evidence in favour of treatments that haven’t been proven effective”. Why is saying this a sin? Are you really asserting that trying the Vit C was dangerous, therefore they should have left him untreated and unsupported – which is surely a far greater danger?

    *Note to those prone to misunderstanding: this is not an anti-science beat-up. Au contraire, without the science-y bit up front (all those tubes and things, for one thing) he would almost certainly be dead.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s