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Quack Radio - Your inside track to medical quackery on the airwaves

Christine McPhee and The Touch of Health Show

The Touch for Health Radio Show

WARNING - the Orthomolecular treatment of schizophrenia is medical quackery

Subject: Christine McPhee

Date: Sun, 27 Jun 1999 

From: Terry Polevoy 

To: Is anyone out there?
This is a complaint concerning the WIC radio network's national broadcast of Christine McPhee's Touch of Health show on Saturday, June 26, 1999. The show aired from 2-4:00 Eastern Time. It originated from AM640 in Toronto: This Christine McPhee show reached a new low in the realm of broadcast journalism.

Today, she spent an hour on the orthomolecular treatment of schizophrenia. Some of that hour was with William Walsh, a leader in the movement to convince people that they can throw away their psychiatric medication and just swallow a few vitamins and minerals.

There was so much misinformation on the broadcast and at Walsh's web site that I don't know where to begin. Did Christine read that web page? Did she search anywhere else for information on orthomolecular psychiatry? If she did, did she ignore basic scientific facts and common sense?

Part of the discussion was about the work of Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, a colleague of Dr. Walsh. She could have researched him at this Health Care Reality Check site:

In addition, Quackwatch.com has the following to say about many quack treatments: 

This is Dr. Stephen Barrett's opinion on orthomolecular therapy

Here is just one opinion from Dr. Stephen Barrett and Dr. William Jarvis:

     Quacks don't always limit themselves to phony treatment.

     Sometimes they offer legitimate treatment as well -- the

     quackery is promoted as something extra. One example is the

     "orthomolecular" treatment of mental disorders with high

     dosages of vitamins in addition to orthodox forms of

     treatment. Patients who receive the "extra" treatment often

     become convinced that they need to take vitamins for the rest

     of their life. Such an outcome is inconsistent with the goal

     of good medical care which should be to discourage unnecessary

     treatment. Another clever trick is to include their product or

     procedure in a list of otherwise commonly-accepted practices

     in order to promote it by association. They may say, for

     example that their method works best when combined with

     lifestyle changes (which, quite often, will produce tangible

Should Christine McPhee have called Dr. Barrett up for a second opinion? It was clearly not in her interest to do so. Why is that?

First of all, as always, Christine demonstrated that she has little or no knowledge of even the basics of medical problems. She can't pronounce simple medical terms when reading from a newspaper, or even her own notes. She probable couldn't discuss anything medical with a real doctor, so why bother learning how to pronounce them?

Her introduction and continued discussion of the orthomolecular treatment of schizophrenia was beyond belief. As a physician who hosts four Canadian health care sites and knows a quack when I see one, her knowledge of schizophrenia, and the factual information provided by her guest was about equal. The fact that the information was broadcast all over Canada now, is very disturbing. This is especially disturbing to the families of schizophrenics.

I have complained to WIC before, particularly after the Total Health Expo. As I recall WIC co-sponsored the event with the sleezy people down at American Biologics in Tijuana, and Christine did many of her interviews at that wonderful example of quackery at the CNE in Toronto.

Because of my grave concerns over the show on Saturday, I am sending a tape of the show to Health Canada, the Competition Bureau, and to the Advertising Standards Council for their opinion.

Of course I will be sending a written complaint to the CRTC: at complaints@cbsc.ca

Perhaps the responsible broadcasters at WIC affiliates, like Roy Green, who I consider to be one of the top people in North America in the media, need to hear what their sister stations are promoting. He will be asked to do a show on medical quackery again, and again until WIC agrees to air one. I am still holding my breath.

In addition, I am sending a copy to Allan Rock, and Elizabeth Witmer who are concerned with the growth of misinformation in the media.

What Christine McPhee does on her shows is dangerous to the public's health. She continuosly tears down the confidence that people should have in the doctors of this country. If she arranges interviews, sometimes with guests who actually may pay the station to be on the show, there are no disclaimers heard. If she hawks a book or a 1-800 number for a product, the audience doesn't know that the industry generally benefits in some way in that promotion.

Today I heard her say that she would arrange appointments or referrals for people with schizophrenia. She actually gave out her personal number for people to reach her for consultations with those on her exclusive list of practitioners. We will make her number available for anyone who wants to call her to complain.

Did it ever occur to anyone who manages the station, or at WIC that if Christine refers her listeners to any quacks that there might be serious problems?

It is clear that WIC may be held responsible if any patients are injured or abused because she has made a referral to one of her specialists. She is not the Mental Health Association, or the Medical Society. Christine McPhee is a broadcaster on a radio station. She is now heard all over Canada on WIC stations.

Can you imagine if Dr. Laura, or Dean Edell, or anyone else did this?

Where are the Canadian Broadcast Standards when you need them? Here is the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada Code of Ethics:

Here are some highlights of that code:
   * The main purpose of broadcast journalism is to inform the public in

     an accurate, comprehensive and balanced manner about events of


   * News and public affairs broadcasts will put events into perspective

     by presenting relevant background information.

   * Broadcast journalists will not sensationalize news items and will

     resist pressures, whether from inside or outside the

     broadcasting industry, to do so. They will in no way distort the


   * Broadcast journalists will govern themselves on and off the job in

     such a way as to avoid conflict of interest, real or apparent.
Here are some questions I would like Christine McPhee and/or station management to answer:
  • Did Christine McPhee bend the facts on her show in any way? 
  • Has she ever interviewed anyone while doing her show, who had a critical word about any of her guests or topics? 
  • Did she interview people with the intent of selling their books, or vitamins or tapes as part of an infomercial type of show? 
  • If her show is not news or information, what is it?
  • When Christine McPhee puts on her broacaster's hat, what is she? 
  • What are her qualifications as the host of a health show?
Her schizophrenia show was very disturbing because it imparted so little factual information to the public.

It's one thing for her to recommend a particular health food store, homeopathic, or herbal remedy, but to make referrals for schizophrenic patients is patently absurd.

Christine McPhee should not be allowed to make referrals to anyone. She should be disciplined for this by the station. Not only that, but she should apologize to the public for this outrageous ploy to build herself into some kind of medical specialist.

As a further aside, but one with perhaps a graver implication for WIC specifically was her lead story about the bizarre happenings in the "Coke contamination" from Belgium. Not only did she carefully edit out any stories about the so-called "contamination" that would cast any doubts as to the validity of the story, but I don't believe I heard her say that she spoke to anyone from Coca Cola to explain the real situation. That is terrible journalism. I wonder how Coca Cola's head office in Canada would view her uninformed comments?

When is WIC going to do something about setting basic minimal standards for its coverage of health issues? We have been waiting for years, and it seems to be getting worse, not better.

I am certain now that Christine's show is syndicated all over the wonderful world of WIC, there will be many more orthomolecular pseudopsychiatrists shingles hanging in the back rooms of health food stores, naturopaths, and clairvoyent's offices just to accomodate the rush.

We are asking again, for a written response from your management team at AM640 and from the WIC network.

Failure to respond is yet another indication that you really don't care about anything except your bottom line. The Canadian public deserves valid and honest health reporting. They aren't getting it from Christine McPhee or WIC. We want to know when things will change? The Canadian government and regulators are taking a look, too.


Terry Polevoy


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