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Still shouting loudly

MagazineAugust 1998 (Vol. 9 Issue 5)Still shouting loudly

Welcome to the 100th issue of What Doctors Don't Tell You

Welcome to the 100th issue of What Doctors Don't Tell You. In December 1989, when we finished the first issue of this newsletter in our front bedroom and sent it out to our subscription list, which then numbered about 100 (I even remember licking the stamps myself that first year) we had no idea we'd see the 10th issue of WDDTY, let alone the 100th. All we knew is that we were coming up with a good deal of evidence that medicine wasn't scientific or well proven and the zeal to share this information with a public largely kept in the dark.

For many years, it's felt like we've had a lone voice among the media in decrying medical practice. It's been our aim, over these nine years, as the Observer described us, to raise "alarm bells before they become the stuff of national panic."

Gradually, through the years, the national media has cottoned on to the fact that medicine doesn't simply make miracle breakthroughs but also colossal mistakes. Our first issue of January 1990 uncovered the dangers of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine. Nine years later, the rest of the media has finally got round to discovering the worth of that story.

We've had many other similar firsts. We were one of the first, to my knowledge, to warn of the dangers of mammograms, HRT, IVF cancer risks, cholesterol lowering, keyhole surgery, joint replacement, and angioplasty. We've been one of the most vocerifous of voices against automatic vaccination. We weighed in years before Panorama on the amalgam debate. Time after time, when the media has discovered a "scandal" in medicine, it has been years after we quietly first exposed it.

During those early days, as the newletter received its first publicity, I would be placed on some radio show head to head with some medic or government official, who would invariably rubbish our information and claim we were out to destroy the doctor patient relationship. Eight years later, when I was publicising my book What Doctors Don't Tell You, I found to my astonishment that most doctors brought on the various chat shows supposedly to debate our views were now avidly agreeing with me. That's right, they'd say, mammograms aren't very accurate. Cholesterol lowering wasn't the answer to heart disease. Prostate operations didn't offer survival advantage.

Luckily, a professor at Oxford University called for my book to be burned, or I would have felt as though I were getting too establishment. (And thank goodness for doctors such as our letter writer on page 7, who demonstrates that some doctors can be as closeminded as we remember.)

Nevertheless, it's been gratifying to see this sea change, and I like to think that in our own modest way we've had some influence on a move toward greater honesty and openness in medicine.

However, our work isn't yet done. Even though the media seems to be catching up with us on some issues, they still have a short memory. When Viagra was first launched, the newspapers were awash, as usual, with news of a the new miracle drug for impotence. Only now, when millions have tried it and a number have died, are the papers reporting the dangers. Happily, there is still a role for a sober minded critic of modern medicine who sees through the gee whizz technology and is unashamedly suspicious of miracle breakthroughs from the outset. Nine and a half years and hundreds of pages later, there's still plenty more for us to say on the subject.

Thank you for being such loyal listeners.

!ALynne McTaggart


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