Thursday, November 06, 2008

Get a second opinion!

A colleague of mine recently had his family away for a few weeks staying with relatives in the Far East and while the family was there they took their year-old son for a medical checkup. The results came back -- the child had high levels of lead and mercury in his system! Needless to say my colleague was quite concerned but couldn't for the life of him figure out how his son could have lead and mercury in his system. The water here is reverse osmosis filtered seawater, which does not contain those chemicals to any degree, and the family normally drank bottled water anyway. They've never fed him fish or other seafood that tends to concentrate heavy metals. I was a little suspicious of the situation as well and was glad when he decided to have his son tested at another clinic. If the results came back positive again he was going to get the whole family tested (and I was going get myself tested too in case it had something to do with the water).

Test results -- nothing found! And doctors at the second clinic were of the opinion that if the baby had heavy metal levels that high the child would also have readily apparent behavioural/development issues.

So what was with the high levels of lead and mercury from the first clinic? My "critical thinking" sense started tingling and I think I knew what was going on. I asked him a simple question:

Did this first clinic seem eager to offer chelation treatment?


Sigh. Sounds to me like this clinic was another one of those places that finds "problems" with someone so they can immediately offer them treatments. Basically a medical scam.

So what is chelation? Before I begin, chelation treatment is not in-and-of itself a scam, it is a viable medical treatment, it is just overpromoted in some "alt-med" clinics. It involves injecting a chemical called EDTA into your system, which is a chemical with an excellent ability to bind to metal ions. Once bound to metal the resultant metal-EDTA composite is then more easily removed by the body. Chelation treatment is actually used in the medical community for metal poisoning for that reason, but like any treatment you do have to be careful. EDTA is not choosy about what metals it binds to so chelation therapy will remove even beneficial metals such as iron from your body. Someone undergoing this treatment would need to make sure that they are taking extra doses of metals important to your health. And EDTA, like all medications, is not 100% safe as some patients can have side-effects or adverse reactions. Unfortunately many dubious clinics like to promote chelation therapy for removing "toxins" and other nonsense, at a nice price as well of course. It is also not uncommon for such clinics to diagnose patients as having high levels of some harmful metal in order to get the now-worried patients paying for expensive chelation treatments. That the clinic would do this to someone is annoying, that they would try to get a baby to go through chelation therapy in the name of making a few bucks is sickening. I hope my colleague reports the first clinic to that country's medical authorities.

So what is the lesson to be learned here?:

1) get a second independent opinion for any serious diagnosis

2) be skeptical whenever a clinic seems eager to promote a certain therapy, perhaps even offering you discounts or special prices for it

3) do some research if the clinic claims to be the only one in the area to offer a certain therapy. There is a chance they are either not the only one to offer it, or that there is a good reason why they are the only ones to offer it (i.e. because the treatment is either ineffective or unproven to work).

4) be wary of any clinic that claims to help you remove "toxins", without telling you what specifically those toxins are.

5) Oh, and be skeptical of any clinic that is critical of conventional medicine and tries to warn you away from regular doctors or hospitals, or tells you to stop taking medications prescribed from a doctor so that you can take their treatment instead.

6) and do your own research on your medical condition before accepting treatments. can be a good starting point.


Global Obel said...

Fellow Blogger Glen,

Finally! Some info about Qatar that I can actually use!!! Thanks for your awesome blog - just found it today. I'll be a regular reader as I'm moving to Qatar (after 7 years in Kuwait) in January. Check out my photo-blog at

I saw from one of your earliest blogs that you "do requests." I'm worried about maniac drivers and high rents. Any comments?!?


Glen McKay said...

Hi Linda, thanks for popping by. Rents here are high, like Dubai-level high. Stupidly high. Wish I could provide you with reassurance but for a decent 1 or 2 bed place you are probably looking at US$2700+ a month. In West Bay US$4000+ would be a minimum, I've heard in some of he fancier buildings more like $5000+
some deals are available in the older neighbourhoods, and a lot of people share apartments.

Drivers here are manic but not as bad as Saudis. A Kuwaiti colleague told me that Kuwait is slightly worse than Qatar but not by much.