Quacking For Jesus

Believe TV is a Christian TV channel broadcasting in the UK on the Sky platform. It advertises itself as “the home of quality Christian Television”. Despite this boast, Believe TV was recently found to be in breach of Ofcom rules 2.1 and 4.6 and fined £25 000. The penalty was a consequence of claims made in programmes that “the healing or treatment of very serious illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, and heart problems could be achieved exclusively through healing provided by being anointed with a product such as olive oil soap, Ribena or oil.” (Ofcom Watch) Ofcom concluded that “there was a material risk that susceptible members of the audience may be exploited by the material broadcast on Believe TV”. (The Independent)

We are familiar with Christian TV channels peddling the anti-science, anti-intellectual nonsense of Young Earth Creationism but every now and then they stray into the realm of medicine and healing with toxic results.

Revelation TV is another Christian channel broadcasting in the UK on the Sky platform which has an interesting history of Ofcom involvement. On a number of occasions the channel was in breach of Ofcom rules with regard to their views on homosexuality, Islam and abortion. In order to escape Ofcom’s ‘censorship’ Revelation TV is now has a Spanish broadcasting licence which seemingly allows it to disseminate its prejudices without the hindrance of being fair and even-handed. Most of Revelation TV’s output is centred around creationism, end times prophecies and readings from the bible and the Daily Mail, but recently they have have been devoting time to the importance of fasting. One of the presenters, Gordon Pettie, is the movimg force behind this shift of emphasis and takes every opportunity to promote fasting (and a book he has written on the subject). He is an enthusiastic advocate of the “Daniel Fast”.

The Daniel Fast is a biblically based partial fast. It is a method of fasting that men, women and young people all over the world are using as they enter into the spiritual discipline of prayer and fasting. (daniel-fast.com)

This fast is based on the supposed diet of the prophet Daniel, though why the eating habits of Bronze Age dwellers with a life expectancy of about thirty years is relevant to modern day life is never made clear. Gordon Pettie generally emphasises the ‘spiritual’ benefits of fasting but recently featured an interview with a guest who was keen to promote the health benefits of fasting.

The guest was introduced as the ‘Rev. Dr. Felicity Corbin Wheeler’. First of all take note of her titles, a reverend and a doctor. Josephine Jones has blogged about the tendency of alternative health practioners to try and enhance their credibility by using the title ‘Dr’. (Josephine Jones Blog) An examination of the reverend doctor’s website doesn’t shed much light on how she earned the right to style herself in such an impressive manner. Her Linkedin profile is more revealing. Under ‘education’ she lists the Hippocrates Health Institute and the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. She is a Doctor of Divinty but the name of the awarding body isn’t mentioned. The red flags are being unfurled! The reverend doctor’s medical credentials seem to be limited to her experience as a Red Cross nurse, her training at the Hippocrates Health Institute ( cell physiology, molecular biology, nutritional biochemistry, clinical ecology and quantum physics), and membership of the Royal Society of Medicine. Anyone who is impressed by someone who is a member of the Royal Society of Medicine should read Andy Lewis’s blog (Quackometer).

Despite the reverend doctor’s scientific shortcomings, she doesn’t hold back from offering medical advice, both on her website and in her interview on Revelation TV. She unashamedly promotes the use of wheatgrass as a source of laetrile (also referred to as vitamin B17) which, she claims, can cure cancer.

Cancer is a nutritional deficiency disease, like scurvy or pellagra.   It is not caused by bacterium, a virus or a mysterious toxin, but by the absence of a substance that we have removed from our diet.   That substance is vitamin B17, derived from the seeds and living enzymes in the fresh raw vegetables, fruit and plants God tells us to eat in Genesis. (My Healing)

The claims made for laetrile have been thoroughly researched and comprehensively dismissed.

The claims that laetrile or amygdalin have beneficial effects for cancer patients are not currently supported by sound clinical data. There is a considerable risk of serious adverse effects from cyanide poisoning after laetrile or amygdalin, especially after oral ingestion. The risk-benefit balance of laetrile or amygdalin as a treatment for cancer is therefore unambiguously negative. (Laetrile treatment for cancer)

Not only is it ineffective, it is dangerous. Gordon Pettie of Revelation TV promised viewers that Felicity Corbin Wheeler would have her own half hour show sometime in the near future. Perhaps Revelation TV need reminding of their responsibilities:

Ofcom Rule 4.6: Religious programmes must not improperly exploit any susceptibilities of the audience.

Perhaps they also need to be aware of the Cancer Act 1939.