Questions for Life’s 4 Living

We have posted several times on our concerns about the charity Life’s 4 Living (see here, here and here).  We have been disappointed that Life’s 4 Living have failed to address most of our concerns, despite commenting on this blog at great length.  To help clarify matters, then, we will summarise our questions for Life’s 4 Living below.  We would be grateful if Life’s 4 Living – and other commenters – tried to keep discussion focused on these issues.

We have the following questions for Life’s 4 Living:

Does Life’s 4 Living have a policy for the protection of vulnerable clients?  If so, is this policy made public?

The Life’s 4 Living website mentions that the Barefoot Doctor is working with Life’s 4 Living clients. Is this true?

Does Life’s 4 Living have good quality evidence that their treatment approach works?
By ‘good quality evidence’, we do not mean anecdotes.  Instead, we would like to see both basic research – in controlled conditions – to demonstrate the ‘qi’ exists and can be perceived by those trained in this skill (or by particular instruments).  We would also like to see high quality clinical trials showing the efficacy – or otherwise – of your approach for specific conditions.

Does Life’s 4 Living give patients an accurate appraisal of the evidence base for their treatment protocol, so that patients can give (or refuse) informed consent?

Does Life’s 4 Living encourage patients to abandon evidence-based treatments for their conditions?  If so, how do you deal with the ethical implications of this (especially in the case of children)

What links does Life’s 4 Living have to The Energy Clinic, The Energy Bank, Aiping Wang, the European Centre for the Blind, and the World Foundation for the Education of the Disabled?  Does Life’s 4 Living fund clients to attend/be treated by – or refer clients to – these organisations and individual.  Do you see the activities of these organisations and this individual as problematic, and how do you see them relating to Life 4 Living’s work?

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Questions for Life’s 4 Living

  1. Bill Preston

    “…to demonstrate the ‘qi’ exists and can be perceived by those trained in this skill”.

    That’s quite interesting – what sort of test would a qi-perciever have to pass to convince a sceptic of qi-perception?

  2. superburger

    fairly easy,

    find a suitably large sample ‘qi perceivers’ and ask them to make some diagnosis / observation about an individual. compare their observations. Do they correlate in a meaningful way? Yes? Qi may exists. No? Qi probably doesn’t exist.

    Can also repeat expt with 50 ‘non qi perceivers’
    and see if they get similar results to the other group (although it may be that non-perceivers just don’t know they are perceiving qi, so slifgtly more difficult)

    that took about 5 seconds to think of. Sure a better experimental design is possible.

  3. Holfordwatch & Life’s 4 Living

    Third Response

    This is my penultimate posting. Since my last post, which dealt with the Holfordwatch document of February 22nd, there have been a number of replies. My final post will deal with some of the more interesting responses received so far. For the moment, I’d just like to say something to those of you who have suggested that my postings are too long, that I display a lack of brevity. Well, have you got short attention spans? Is it all too much for you? To you I say, if I had been brief, I’m sure you would have complained that I failed to answer the points Holfordwatch has raised. Now I’ve responded point by point I’m told it’s too long. Sometimes, you just can’t win.
    The second point I want to make is to inform you that you have claimed your victim. Stephen Russell, who, as I have said previously, has only done good things for the charity, has resigned as Life’s 4 Living’s patron, citing his wish that the connection between him and the charity should not damage Life’s 4 Living Trust further. Reluctantly, the charity has accepted his resignation and his messages and image will be removed from the website in due course. Does that make you all feel better? After all, you’ve got the scalp you wanted.
    Speaking of the Barefoot Doctor I think I can finally clear up some confusion that has been created regarding his role at Life’s 4 Living Trust. The pdf often quoted by Holfordwatch did not square away with the version I have been reading on the website. So I made enquiries. What seems to have happened is this. Over many months discussions took place and documents were worked up and updated until by December 2007 the final version was ready to post on the website. Unfortunately, the wrong document was posted. It was not the final version as approved by the directors and trustees of Life’s 4 Living Trust but a much earlier draft. This early draft was posted in error.

    As soon as this mistake was discovered, early in 2008, the posting was removed from the website and replaced by the correct version. However, until the last few days it appears that the old posting was still available, if only on the server. I’m sure that most of you out there understand the technology better than I so I hope you understand what I’m saying more than I do. The process perhaps explains why, when I refer to the Barefoot Doctor having no direct role with Life’s 4 Living Trust patients, Holfordwatch has difficulty in accepting the fact. I now realise that Holfordwatch was being informed by the wrong pdf, one full of erroneous information which should not have been there as it did not represent the true position. So can I state once and for all that Stephen Russell had no contact with any vulnerable people helped by Life’s 4 Living and any impression that he did is due to the wrong posting referred to above. Life’s 4 Living Trust apologises for the mistake but it raises another important matter to which I would like to refer. One of my complaints in my first posting was that Holfordwatch had failed to put any of its allegations to Life’s 4 Living Trust. Had they asked the charity the matter would have been cleared up there and then. By not doing so, a serious misunderstanding occurred, even though, by the time the first of the three documents was posted, the wrong pdf had long been removed.

    Now I can address the central point of this posting. A further set of accusations levelled at Life’s 4 Living by Holfordwatch. The allegations in the document entitled: ‘Life’s 4 Living: bizarre energy-medicine ‘cure’ for MS’, posted on February 25th 2008, are as follows.

    1) That Life’s 4 Living presents a “highly stereotyped attitude to Chinese people.”

    2) That the charity displays an “unfounded denigration of evidence-based medicine.”

    3) That there are “unjustified claims to cure MS”.

    4) That demands were made “for young people and their families to commit a lot of time and money.”

    5) That Life’s 4 Living chose MS to treat because the condition naturally goes into remission.

    6) That the people the charity wanted to treat were not ill enough.

    7) That Life’s 4 Living is “not an appropriate organisation to be treating vulnerable young people.”

    The first three points relate to the supposed attitudes and behaviour on the part of Life’s 4 Living Trust. Thus the use of hyperbolic adjectives such as ‘stereotyped’, ‘unfounded’ and ‘unjustified’. The remaining four points deal with the activities of Life’s 4 Living Trust in relation to the MS programme.

    1. Stereotyped attitudes.

    If anyone displayed the attitude described in the February 25th document they could indeed be labelled as people who stereotype. To describe Life’s 4 Living Trust thus is a caricature. Nobody at Life’s 4 Living Trust so much as entertains the beliefs as allocated via Holfordwatch’s unique interpretation of the facts. To describe a short overview as being a belief that all Chinese subscribe to the same world-view or belief-system is an absurd extension of what is actually expressed by Life’s 4 Living Trust. Moreover, try this thought. If someone said that Fung Shui is an ancient Chinese practice which is still utilised by the Chinese to this day, they do not mean to imply that ALL Chinese embrace Fung Shui. They would merely be pointing up the main connections.

    But wait a minute. The very people at Holfordwatch who accuse Life’s 4 Living Trust of stereotyping had this to say in their document called: Barefoot, Sex, Sleaze and Life’s 4 Living. Having advised families of people visiting China for treatment to, take “cattle-prods” with them, they go on to state that “….China is one of the few countries where the liberal therapeutic application of electricity is not frowned upon as much as it might be elsewhere.”

    I’m content to let the reader decide who is stereotyping here.

    2. Evidence-based medicine.

    This is a euphemism. I urge everyone to read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science column in The Guardian of March 8 2005 to see exactly how evidence is manipulated in the health industry (notwithstanding the views expressed by Reality Check). Holfordwatch’s embrace of this term shows an alarming penchant for dissembling, of which I accused them in my First Response of March 1st, 2008.

    Life’s 4 Living Trust doesn’t denigrate western medicine, rather it believes that it is a valuable contribution to the world. It’s just that Life’s 4 Living Trust doesn’t think that is the end of the story. There are other traditions which can contribute as much to people’s well-being as western medicine. But to call western medicine ‘evidence-based’ is nonsense. It is as much assertion-based as any other system. It is merely dressed-up as evidence-based. The new label is like the Emperor’s new clothes.

    This is the system that brought us more than a few catastrophes: thalidomide, EST and lobotomy to name but three. To be fair, it has also brought us heart-bypass operations, MRI scans and insulin. But that just goes to show that it doesn’t work in all cases. There is far more to it than this interpretation allows for and pretending it is all based on the evidence is to wilfully mislead. More and more people are coming to this view.

    The biggest problem with western medicine is not its capabilities but its arrogance. And the fact that the medical profession has long waged a campaign to divorce us from our bodies, to suppress any instinctive or learned ability to gain some knowledge of our own individual physiology, so that only the doctor can diagnose and dispense, is evidence enough of its real dynamic. That is not a careful evaluation of the evidence but an inexorable drive towards monopoly.

    Here’s another example. The drug giant Pfizer presumably releases new drugs onto the market based on evidence of benefit, including prolonged trials. The New York based company is currently being sued for damages allegedly caused by the drugs Celebrex and Bextra. Both belong to the same class of inhibitors as Vioxx, which itself was withdrawn in September 2004 because of fears it had caused thousands of heart attacks and strokes. Not long afterwards, Bextra was also withdrawn from sale. Once again I ask: why does Holfordwatch fail to show the same attitude towards organisations like Pfizer that it does to charities like Life’s 4 Living?

    A statement in the document of February 25th reads: Most GPs should now be aware of the role of stress etc. in causing headaches….“it is unlikely that seeing a GP with a headache would lead to one being given prescription painkillers rather than advice to use OTC painkillers amongst other recommendations.”

    Oh really! Well, at least Holfordwatch uses the conditional “should” rather than the more definite “are”.

    3. Unjustified Claims

    Holfordwatch states: “I’m not sure why Traditional Chinese Medicine should be viewed as natural”. Let me tell them. Natural is used to describe non-invasive and non- toxic or drug-based treatment. I hope that’s clear.

    The February 25th document goes on to say: “However, L4L conspicuously fail to mention any research showing that their approach to treatment is useful.” The pdf I presume Holfordwatch is using here is not a document whose purpose is to present research. In any case, Holfordwatch doesn’t really mean ‘research’, it means only that sort of research which it suits western medicine to include. Neither was it the intention of the document to attempt to ‘prove’ the existence of Qi. It was there to talk about a Life’s 4 Living Trust programme, viz, the treatment of MS sufferers in China over a one to three month period.

    The document goes on to berate Life’s 4 Living for making a “completely unjustified and irresponsible promise to the young people….” Life’s 4 Living Trust does not “promise” to do anything other than devise the programme and provide the funds. For an answer to the so-called “get-out clause” see my discussion of proactivity in my last posting, A Second Response. Moreover, the February 25th document makes a virtue of the fact that MS is incurable by western medicine. According to Holfordwatch, this closes down any possible alternative to western medicine being offered up, even though, being unable to provide a cure itself, western medicine should surely encourage the participation of differing approaches.

    Another, related charge that falls into the ‘unjustified claims’ category, is described by Holfordwatch as “false hope”. It is equally wide of the mark. If positive results occur then the hope cannot have been false. If they don’t, then hope need not disappear. This holds true for all types of treatment. Furthermore, a good percentage of terminally ill patients are still told by conventional medicine that they will get better and go home.” Perhaps not as much as in the past, but a significant proportion nevertheless.

    But Holfordwatch seems now to be subscribing to the idea that “hope can be worse than hopelessness”. It quotes “emergent research” to support this contention. ‘Emergent’ here actually means ‘not very much’. The study referred to concerned the wearers of colostomy bags. It purports to demonstrate that those who accept that they will never again be free from the bag were more satisfied with their lives than those who had hope that they would get better.

    There is so much wrong with the way Holfordwatch has interpreted this I really don’t know where to begin. First, the study was an extremely small one and has not, so far as I am aware, been replicated. Second, any measure of ‘life satisfaction’ depends on the completion of questionnaires by the patients and as such has more in common with the advertising industry or focus groups than science. ‘Life satisfaction’ is something that cannot be clinically observed or measured. Third, you really cannot compare a tiny study of one condition and speculate that it applies to some other condition, less still all conditions, which is what Holfordwatch seeks to do in citing this research. Fourth…..oh never mind.

    4. Demands for Time and Money

    It is worth quoting the Life’s 4 Living pdf in full on these points. In the section ‘About Finances’, it says:

    “Each individual will be expected to stay in China until they receive significant improvement in their life-quality. It is an estimated time of 1-3 months.
    Life’s 4 Living Trust Ltd. is willing to cover the vast majority of these costs. However we do ask that each participant makes a small financial contribution – i.e. flights or a % of accommodation. This can be negotiated on an individual basis. If the participant is unable to do this, we are willing to look at other options, including repayment over a period of time, or a work for the charity upon their return. The reason we ask for this commitment, is to filter out applicants who are simply looking for a ‘free holiday’. It is very important for us, that all participants fully partake in and respect the programme of treatments that we have arranged for them.”

    I think that speaks for itself.

    5. Choice of MS

    Holfordwatch berates Life’s 4 Living Trust for what it isn’t doing in its China programme. According to the February 25th document it should have picked another condition. The answer to that is that Life’s 4 Living operates programmes covering a variety of conditions. But in any event, Holfordwatch could use the same argument to criticise anyone who chooses to treat MS patients, including doctors. Without any evidence, the February 25th document goes on to say that the only reason MS was chosen was because it goes naturally into remission. In its silliest sentence yet, Holfordwatch urges Life’s 4 Living, instead of seeking to devise and implement a serious programme of treatment, should try “causing amputated limbs to regrow,” which “would be much more compelling evidence than MS symptoms going into remission.”

    At the heart of this is the assumption that any improvement in the condition of MS sufferers must be due to remission. Well, let’s see. If the China programme achieves better results than the usual incidence of remission then we could say there is something going on beyond remission. And since conventional medicine has such little ability to control or cure the condition, should not the possibilities offered by Life’s 4 Living Trust be embraced and encouraged, not attacked?

    6. Participants not Ill Enough

    According to the February 25th document, Life’s 4 Living Trust “will only take those who are at the less ill end of the spectrum.” This is a total misreading of the true position, born, I believe, of Holfordwatch’s prejudice rather than an objective reading of the facts. Life’s 4 Living simply did not want anybody who was on medication or had recently undergone a surgical procedure to participate in the programme. The reason for this is obvious if you are not biased. Asking people to suspend medication or taking those who are recovering from an invasive procedure to China would be irresponsible and would really be the wrong thing to do to vulnerable people. It is as simple as that.

    7. Is Life’s 4 Living Trust an Appropriate Organisation?

    The whole tenor of the three documents, but especially the one dealt with here is to cast doubts on the appropriateness of Life’s 4 Living Trust to be the lead organisation in seeking to help people with alternative methods. Hopefully, the openness displayed by the charity in answering the baseless charges outlined by Holfordwatch and the testimonies of those already helped will give the lie to that.

    Simply using a distorted version of the truth, failing to put any allegations direct to the charity, putting forward a biased version of television programmes (themselves hardly a reliable guide), indulging in reckless speculation and using guilt by association do not make for proper allegations.

    In conclusion, I hope I have shown that not only is Life’s 4 Living Trust an appropriate organisation to run the China programme but that it is one of a very few organisations who could do it, with no public money and little or nothing paid by the participants. As such, the charity should be supported in its efforts, not denigrated.

    I intend to make one further posting. In it I shall address some of the replies that have been posted following my responses and deal with another series of questions posted by Jonhw.

    Lynton Guest: March 2008

  4. Bill Preston

    Rather selfishly, I’m not going to address the generously sized Life4Living post and thank Superburger for his/her contribution.

    However, the obvious five-seconds-to-think-of test isn’t really going to convince any sceptics of anything, is it? There would be any number of ways of explaining away a positive correllation, even if you try to refine the experiment. How do you demonstrate a link involving a mystery concept that nobody wants to define?

    Don’t get me wrong – I’ve not got an axe to grind (much), I’m just interested. For most sceptics, the fact that there’s never been a functioning qi-o-meter has been enough to dismiss it as a useless concept. HolfordWatch seem to be being quite generous, but I wonder whether they had anything specific in mind or whether it’s more a case of “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. Obviously, if anyone says they can absolutely perceive something, the burden of proof is on them.

    Anyhow, all this has nothing to do with Holford, so please accept apologies on that account.

  5. Bill Preston

    Sorry, what I meant was “…not going to address the generously sized Life4Living post, but INSTEAD thank Superburger”.

    …but I do wonder why Life4Living have to take people all the way to China to do all their healing stuff. Are they not very good at it themselves?

  6. Bill – interesting question. Some kind of blinding would be needed, though the type of test to show that qi can be perceived would depend on the claims made.

    One way of testing claims to perceive qi might be a version of Emily Rosa’s trial of therapeutic touch – as described here. Of course, the exact methodology would depend on the claims made – but something should be achievable.

    I’ll respond to Life’s 4 Living points later.

  7. Bill, I think that Qi test would be the sort of thing that could impress me – as long as it was suitably blinded. The fact that no one has been able to show any objective test the reality of Qi speak for itself. It is just a quasi-religious concept that has no place in science. I would love it if someone could prove me wrong.

    And what a post from the rocker! It is going to take a while to disentangle that lot. ‘The wrong document on the web site’! Next we shall see ‘my dog ate it’ and ‘I left the real one on the bus’.

  8. mugsandmoney

    I think qi perception would probably for the JREF million dollar challnege, wouldn’t it?
    http://randi.org/research/index.html

  9. johny

    to all of you who would like to know more about qi.

    Qi is definitely known to western science and they did lots of tests which proved existence of this natural power.
    To start with I would definetly reccomend a book from Lynn McTaggart called The Field. Its fully packed with scientific tests. One of most impressive discovers were that 1 cubic cm of space have such a quantity of energy that it could boil all the oceans on the planet. The problem is that human still didn’t find the way how to extract that energy.

    For two other sources I would reccomend 2 movies which are made in last few years. What TheBlleep Do We Know and The Secret.
    These movies are also packed with well known scientist, just as you like it.
    All these highly educated people agreed that there is out there certain invisible power with unlimited capacity and they also confirmed that its completely matching with Chinese description of Qi.

    I would highly reccomend that all people from HW do some homework and checkout these sources.
    Rent that DVD, buy some popcorns and just enjoy in these tremendously inspiring documentaries.
    Here are the links:
    http://www.whatthebleep.com
    http://www.thesecret.tv

    If after that you would ask for more proof than I would really give up from you guys.

  10. Lynton from Life’s4Living:

    “One of my complaints in my first posting was that Holfordwatch had failed to put any of its allegations to Life’s 4 Living Trust. Had they asked the charity the matter would have been cleared up there and then.”

    I was surprised to read this as I myself have tried this approach but I note you have still not replied to my email or answered my question. If there is anything I can do to help you in answering do please let me know.

  11. pv

    It’s interesting how Lynton appears to not know the difference between a question and an accusation.
    Personally I think he does know the difference but has decided rather arrogantly that other (inferior) people don’t know, so he can continue with the “victim” charade. I mention this because it’s a form of misrepresentation commonly employed by quacks right across the woo spectrum – rather than deal honestly with an enquiry that might expose them to criticism, they misrepresent it as an attack on their integrity.

  12. Essy

    Lynton Guest writes:
    “”Speaking of the Barefoot Doctor I think I can finally clear up some confusion that has been created regarding his role at Life’s 4 Living Trust. The pdf often quoted by Holfordwatch did not square away with the version I have been reading on the website. So I made enquiries. What seems to have happened is this. Over many months discussions took place and documents were worked up and updated until by December 2007 the final version was ready to post on the website. Unfortunately, the wrong document was posted. It was not the final version as approved by the directors and trustees of Life’s 4 Living Trust but a much earlier draft. This early draft was posted in error.”

    So does this mean that someone just cobbled up a lot of misinformation and hoped it would pass as being accurate? I don’t understand how whoever wrote it didn’t know Barefoot wasn’t working with people. Why would they say he was if he wasn’t.?Was the writer of the document someone perhaps, like Lynton Guest, who writes for the Charity without being directly involved with them? Also what is his involvement with them, and why is he their spokesperson, can’t they respond to the issues HolfordWatch are writing. then he says:

    “One of my complaints in my first posting was that Holfordwatch had failed to put any of its allegations to Life’s 4 Living Trust. Had they asked the charity the matter would have been cleared up there and then. By not doing so, a serious misunderstanding occurred, even though, by the time the first of the three documents was posted, the wrong pdf had long been removed.”

    This doesn’t make any sense at all. You can hardly blame HWatch for L4L’s posting a lot of misinformation on the net, in the form of an erroneous document. . How can it be Holfordwatch’s fault that the Charity didn’t respond here, instead of roping in Lynton?
    Isn’t it a tenent of complimentary medicine to take responsibility for your self? It sounds to me like L4L doesn’t know what it’s doing or with whom it’s doing it.

  13. Essy

    Oh and Ben Goldacre, if you’re reading, would you ask your employers at the Guardian why long after the Observer had written off Barefoot Doctor and exposed his exploitative practices, they then chose to have him write an article on Richard Dawkins?
    Really.

  14. Pingback: Life’s 4 Living fail to respond to our concerns, for the third time « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  15. Pingback: Life’s 4 Living and Barefoot Doctor: inconsistencies in their account of events « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

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