Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmx DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Live blood analysis - it's just "let's pretend" science

Update 20 March 2014: Today a UK live blood analyst was fined £9,000 for nine counts of the Cancer Act of 1939 at Westminster Magistrates Court and handed a total bill (including costs) of over £19,000. He did not attend this final court hearing and did not represent himself.

This morning I read a tweet from Sense About Science.

It refers to an article in yesterday's Evening Standard called "True blood: get a live analysis of your body". Having written about live blood analysis a couple of times before myself, not to mention the series of posts that Josephine Jones has written about the topic (see adjudications list below), it seems that the evidence has already been asked for and found wanting.

I suppose the next stage is to ask the Evening Standard why on earth it published this article. Here's the comment I posted on Josephine's blog just now, typically it was meant to be briefer but ended up being the blog post I'd meant to write later anyway ;)

The BBC Radio 4 programme You & Yours also investigated the scam fairly recently
Radio 4 You & Yours investigate unregulated ‘live’ blood tests (17 March 2012) - Josephine Jones' blog

Edit 14 Jan 2013: Following my complaint last year to the ASA Katrin Hempel aka London Natural Therapies has now been added to their list of non-compliant advertisers.



I find it very interesting what counts as an advert and what counts as news. Presumably as it's not been paid for it doesn't count as an advert but if that's the only distinction (is it?) then I'm not sure it's much help.

From the author's tweets the intention seems to have been to present this to the Evening Standards' readers as a new treatment that might be of interest to them, eg see https://twitter.com/#!/JasGardner/status/197996339114676224 "A) It wasn't an ad, it was highlighting a new treatment available, which we do a lot on our pages."

Well that's fine but as you've pointed out here this seems to have been readily accepted without much effort to check if it's a real 'treatment' or a made up one. I'd argue that it's more of a diagnostic tool than a treatment but I'd also argue that it isn't actually one of those either, since it's useless.

Nor is it new - I put in my first complaint about misleading claims in early 2010. At that time I wasn't aware though that you can just hire rooms by the hour to get a temporary Harley Street address either (although that may not be the case here of course).

That's not to say there's no information to be gained from looking at blood under a microscope and when I blogged about this two years ago I had a very helpful response from @MedTek who highlighted what real blood analysis could tell you about someone's health. Her final comment about this sort of live blood analysis was that "This is nothing more than a parlour trick designed to cure overly worried people of their heavy wallets."

No wonder the people on the (completely unrelated) MoreNiche forum are so keen to get newspaper PR. Not only can the author's piece be tweaked and re-used (swap a few words or phrases around, most of the work's been done for you), or referenced as 'evidence' but it completely bypasses the Advertising Standards Authority. Not to mention it's free and has a permanence online (easily findable when Googling) that adverts don't.

It's not really a failure of spotting the nonsense in the first place but of not checking before printing.

Jo



Advertising Standards Authority adjudications
These are the results of four complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, all upheld as adjudications against the adverts. Despite slightly different names I think all four refer to the same person (Errol Denton trading as Fitalifestyle Ltd) who sells live blood analysis and dietary supplements via two websites, LiveBloodTest.com and SeeMyCells.co.uk). There's plenty of information in both adjudication and blog post about the lack of evidence.

Further reading

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