What’s the Harm?
As I have pointed out countless times (ok, 4), we are a story telling species, one good anecdote is worth more to most people than a mountain of rigorous evidence and for good evolutionary reasons. This is just a fact of our psychology, it is not just difficult for us to weigh things rationally it is actually going against our basic nature. In recognition of this fact a website has been created to collect stories from around the world that show the real life harm that pseudo-science and other irrational claims can have on individuals. This website is the answer to the oft posed rhetorical question “What’s the harm?”.
One of the more extreme cases on the site details the story of Sandra Nette, a Canadian woman whose regular visits to a chiropractor resulted in her becoming permanently paralysed. Sandra had been visiting her chiropractor for years to get “maintenance” adjustments that were to keep her healthy, after one such adjustment she began to feel dizzy and unwell. The Chiropractor suggested massage therapy offered at his office and allowed her to leave, she didn’t make it home. After pulling her car over and calling her husband she was taken to the hospital where it was determined that she had tears in both vertebral arteries in her neck which caused a stroke. One of the tears was 3 inches long. According to Sandra’s husband the first words out of the attending physician after reviewing the test results were “chiropractor, right?”.
Now this story in isolation proves nothing about the efficacy or lack thereof of chiropractic, nor does it prove relative safety or harmfulness. However, this is not the point. The point is that other venues have provided evidence of the implausibility and ineffectiveness of this practice and this story is meant to provide a human face to the issue and help people understand, in a way that is real to them and not abstract like a medical study, the possible harm that can be caused. When there is no benefit to a procedure any risk is too much.