This paper first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the 'Skeptical Adversaria' (the Newsletter of ASKE, the Association for Skeptical Enquiry), pp. 5-6.
As I have mentioned in previous issues of the Intelligencer, I still receive the local paper (the Rossendale Free Press) from the area I grew up in, these days mainly to read the obituaries. Over the years I have noticed that the newspaper has a habit of providing its readers with uncritical accounts of local quack practitioners and how marvellous they are (note 1). A few years ago the newspaper carried a story about the miraculous healing of a woman who refused conventional cancer treatment in favour of expensive alternative medicines and restricted diet. Sadly she died on the same day the newspaper was informing its readers about her apparent recovery. I wrote a short piece in the Intelligencer about this (note 2). The newspaper also has form when it comes to carrying stories about local campaigns to raise tens of thousands of pounds to send sick children for 'pioneering treatment' (i.e. treatment unsupported by any convincing scientific evidence) in clinics in the USA and Germany.
In their issue of 27.12.19, the paper featured something called 'a bioresonance clinic' that had been running locally for about a year. It was reported that the clinic had proved so popular that a second treatment room had been established on the premises, which were over a food shop in Rawtenstall. The article describes bioresonance as 'a scientific way of treating ailments by retuning the body' and refers to a child treated for sleep apnoea and who is photographed wearing a magnetic bracelet. It is reported that doctors who later examined her pronounced her condition to be 'improved'. The article is in fact a space-filler; it originally appeared exactly one month previously on a website for local businesses titled 'Valley at Work' (note 3).
The website 'Biores' (note 4) states, 'Bioresonance is a gentle, non invasive therapy that involves the positioning of non resonance holding metal plates/ bars close to or on the skin, thus enabling the diagnosis and treatment of numerous ailments caused by fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasites.' These devices appear to be no more than skin conductance meters.
I sent the following email to the Editor of the newspaper, copying in the reporter responsible (Jon Macpherson).
'I am a lifelong reader of the Rossendale Free Press and I hope you will include this letter in your correspondence column as I think it is something readers should be aware of.'
Your December 27th issue included a feature on an alternative medical procedure called "bioresonance" and a facility situated above a food shop in Rawtenstall where this is offered to people with medical problems. In the article, bioresonance is described as "the scientific approach to treating ailments by retuning the body". In fact bioresonance is based on beliefs that are not supported by science, and the idea of "retuning the body" makes no sense from an informed medical perspective. There is no convincing evidence that bio-resonance is a reliable diagnostic tool. In fact, since 2015 the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld three complaints from the public concerning false diagnostic and therapeutic claims made by practitioners of "bioresonance therapy" (https://www.asa.org.uk/advice-online/bioresonance-therapy.html. The feature also refers to treatment for sleep apnoea and snoring that involves wearing a magnetic bracelet. "Magnetic therapy" is big business, as an internet search will reveal, but there is no scientific evidence to indicate that it has any beneficial effect on a medical condition beyond placebo.
'In our National Health Service the principle of informed choice is now paramount. This should also be the case in the commercial medical sector. But the information provided should be complete and accurate.'
I received no acknowledgement and my letter was not published. I expected this since the same happened a while back when I wrote to point out that the newspaper had incorrectly confused the Big Bang Theory with evolution and, on another occasion, that their nature columnist was in error by referring to spiders as insects.
Shortly after sending my letter my attention was drawn to a very recent ruling by the ASA on 'The DRT Clinics' (note 5). According to this:
'The DRT Clinics website contains several claims about the effectiveness of bioresonance devices and methods to diagnose and treat allergies and intolerances, including hay fever, sinusitis and asthma. Examples include:'Bioresonance can "seek out and treat fundamental energetic disorders such as chronic food allergies, chronic toxic contamination and therapy blocks"
'The bioresonance method "has become well-known for its ability to treat allergies swiftly and effectively"....
'The CAP Compliance team instructed DRT Clinics Ltd to amend their website to remove the problem health claims. DRT Clinics made some amendments but the claims regarding allergies and intolerances continued to appear. As a result the CAP Compliance team took the decision on 23 January 2020 to place their company details on this section of the ASA website. These details will remain in place until such a time as DRT Ltd has amended the claims on drtclinics.co.uk to comply with the CAP Code.'
- I don't know how representative of local newspapers this is. Regarding the national press, I have the strong impression that reporters are much more skeptical and critical about quack medicine than they were, say, in the 80s and 90s.
- Formerly at http://tinyurl.com/t6fwehd, the page has now beenremoved.