All posts by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.

Brief Announcement: World Skeptics Congress

The 6th World Skeptics Congress will be held on May 18-20 in Berlin, Germany. Topics will include: Why do people turn to pseudoscience for help? What makes alternative medicine so attractive – and how can we find out what really works? Why is it so difficult for us to deal with risk and uncertainty in a rational way? Can we teach children to...

/ April 2, 2012

CAM as a Dumping Ground

I know a woman who is a survivor of colorectal cancer. At one point, doctors had given up hope and put her in hospice, but she failed to die as predicted and was eventually discharged. She continues to suffer intractable symptoms of pain with alternating diarrhea and constipation. I don’t have access to her medical records, but she tells me her doctors...

/ March 27, 2012

How to Choose a Doctor

From an e-mail I received: As a proponent of SBM, and a someone who places a high value on reason, logic and evidence, I would like to find a physician who shares this mindset. He went on to ask how he could go about finding one. Another correspondent was referred to a surgeon by her primary physician, and the surgeon inspired confidence...

/ March 20, 2012

Brief Update: Protandim

I’ve already devoted more time to Protandim than it deserves. I’ve written about it twice on SBM: here  and here . But I can’t resist covering a new Protandim study that not only serves as a bad example but that made me laugh. Protandim is a mixture of 5 herbal supplements intended to upregulate the body’s own production of antioxidants. Its patent...

/ March 13, 2012

When To See a Doctor

Two weeks ago I wrote about the demise of the traditional annual physical for healthy adults who have no symptoms. The First Step: Identifying a Symptom People who do have symptoms should see a doctor. They should have appropriate evaluations that may or may not include a partial or complete physical exam. One problem is that people may not be able to decide...

/ March 6, 2012

Acupuncture, Infertility, and Horrible Reporting

An article (and associated news video clip) from ClickOn in Detroit is titled “Alternative treatment helps Michigan doctor beat infertility.” This is a misleading title, and the report is an example of poor science reporting. Was she infertile? The patient in question was a 33-year-old family practice doctor who believed she was infertile. By definition, infertility is failure to conceive after a...

/ February 28, 2012

Re-thinking the Annual Physical

Please note: the following refers to routine physicals and screening tests in healthy, asymptomatic adults. It does not apply to people who have been diagnosed with diseases, who have any kind of symptoms or signs, or who are at particularly high risk of certain specific diseases. Throughout most of human history, people have consulted doctors (or shamans or other supposed providers of...

/ February 21, 2012

Killer Tomatoes and Poisonous Potatoes?

Remember the movie “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”?  That was fiction, but some alarmists would have us believe that the tomatoes and potatoes on our plates are really out to get us. I recently got an e-mail inquiry from an MD who said he had read that solanine in tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants could be responsible for essential hypertension and a number...

/ February 14, 2012

Applied Kinesiology by Any Other Name…

Applied kinesiology (AK) was briefly mentioned in Scott Gavura’s article on Food Intolerance Tests last week.  Since AK is arguably the second silliest thing in CAM after homeopathy, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to say a little more about it. A press release on the Wall Street Journal website recently announced that a chiropractor in Illinois was offering “Nutrition Response Testing” …to help...

/ February 7, 2012

Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions

Note: The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is publishing a new series of e-books.  The first two offerings are an excellent new book on critical thinking by Bob Carroll, Unnatural Acts, and the first in a planned series of republications of classic skeptical works, Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions, by Oliver Wendell Holmes. I was asked to write the introduction for the latter,...

/ January 31, 2012