AsthmaGate at the Guardian seems to be gathering pace. Regretably Tim Lusher still does not appear to see the problem.
He posted this comment on the Lay Scientist post on the subject:
I’m the deputy editor of G2, the print section in which this piece originally appeared.
I agree that a more helpful piece about asthma would carry comment from a body such as Asthma UK, as @Clairehp5 suggests. Unfortunately, this column (The Inside Track) has a first-person voice so it inevitably only takes one view. This column was cleared billed as about osteopathy, not asthma.
Ben Katz claims osteopathy “can help” asthma – he doesn’t say “treat” or “cure”. Readers would thus be perfectly justified in taking the same view of its merits as @carlalanesbats does at the top of these comments. The Guardian is not suggesting asthma sufferers only consult osteopaths for advice and treatment.
Two weeks ago ago, this column was about how to paddle safely (wear flip-flops to avoid treading on poisonous weever fish). It is not intended to be a complete guide to health issues.
Where to start? Yes a first person voiced article will have only one view but that is not a license to publish dangerous crap. And the online version is clearly billed as being about asthma – plus the content is in fact about asthma so the billing is irrelevent. On this matter he tweeted the following to Ben Goldacre:
@bengoldacre Hi Ben, I’ve posted a comment on Martin’s blogpost. Summary: 1st person col, so not rounded advice. http://bit.ly/mrZiJ9
He is defending the fact that the column is “unbalanced” but tyhe criticism is that the claims are “unevidenced”. Worryingly, he does not appear to see the difference.
Claims to “help” an ailment are common weasel words employed by the alt-med brigade; they usually employ them in adverts because they know that the Advertising Standards Authority would come down on them like a ton of bricks if they made outright claims to cure.
As for his last paragraph, the last person to die from a weever fish sting did so some time before World War II. According to this 5.4 million people in the UK receive treatment for asthma and in 2009 1,131 people were killed by the ailment – a fact trivialised by his silly throw-away comment. He then has the gall to tell one critic to “get perspective” via twitter.
He told another critic that:
timlusher @vertigowooyay And now I must move on and make the next G2. I can’t devote any more time to this
All I can say is, given the amount of fact-checking involved, making the next G2 shouldn’t have taken up too much of his time.