The persecution of Dr. Tim Noakes drew worldwide attention, as it should have. I’m not sure quite as many people followed the similar persecution of Dr. Gary Fettke in Australia. Dr. Fettke is an orthopaedic surgeon who began recommending a low-carb diet because he was appalled by the number of amputations he had to perform on diabetics. I’ve written about his case before, but let’s quickly recap with some quotes from an article published by ABC Australia nearly two years ago:
Doctor Fettke started pushing for changes to the food in the Launceston General Hospital where he worked and then criticised the hospital for a lack of action.
If you’ve seen what dietitian-approved menus look like in hospitals, you know why Dr. Fettke was pushing for changes. As I demonstrated in a post, the “heart-healthy” menus and even the menus for diabetics include awesomely healthy foods like pancakes with syrup (but no butter!), bagels, Honey-Nut Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Captain Crunch and Frosted Mini-Wheats. Your highly trained, professional dietitians at work, ladies and gentlemen. Anyway …
According to Dr Fettke, an anonymous complaint from a dietician at the hospital sparked an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Of course the complaint came from a dietitian.
Two and a half years later the watchdog found he was working outside his scope of practise and was not qualified to give specific nutritional advice, and he was ordered to stop speaking about the low carbohydrate, high fat diet.
“The committee does not accept that your medicine studies of themselves provide sufficient education or training to justify you providing specific advice or recommendations to patients or the public about nutrition and diet, such as the LCHF lifestyle concept,” it read.
So that’s where we were two years ago. The news this week was better. Here are some quotes from an article in The Examiner:
Launceston orthopedic surgeon Gary Fettke’s name has been cleared, two years after Australia’s medical watchdog cautioned him against providing nutritional information to patients.
On Friday, Dr Fettke announced that the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency had dropped all charges and formally apologised for errors made in dealing with claims against him.
An advocate for a low carbohydrate diet, Dr Fettke was officially cautioned by the AHPRA in 2016 after an anonymous notifier reported him for recommending patients to reduce their sugar intake.
I’m happy for Dr. Fettke, who never should have been put through this nonsense. And yet, as I read the article, I was troubled by the realization that I ought to be happier. I should be delighted, in fact.
Dude, what’s wrong with you? I asked myself. Besides referring to yourself as ‘Dude,’ I mean.
I re-read the article and found the source of my hesitation to be totally happy. It’s this quote from Dr. Fettke:
Dr Fettke said the “common sense” outcome from AHPRA was what he had always hoped for.
There it is. The AHPRA finally exhibited common sense. When Tim Noakes was exonerated, the HPCSA in South Africa finally exhibited common sense. That’s great …seriously … uh … yeah, I mean it, it’s great.
But what if this is just the beginning? What if common sense starts breaking out all over the place? What will I do with myself?
That’s the thought preventing me from totally enjoying the moment.
For those of you who have never heard me tell the story, Fat Head didn’t start out as a documentary. I’d been doing standup comedy for years and loved being on stage. But when my girls came along, I knew it was time to say goodbye to a career that required so much travel. Being gone for weeks at a time wasn’t good for them or me. I had to put my creative energy into a project that would allow me to stay home.
After kicking around some ideas, I decided I’d like to pitch a series titled In Defense of Common Sense. Regular guy with a sense of humor looks at issues of the day and applies some common sense. You may recall that common sense is a frequently heard term in Fat Head, which began as what I thought would be a demo episode. Then the thing grew into a documentary as I kept researching diets and health and realized much of what we’ve been told is a load of baloney.
So I never developed or pitched the series. But I still like writing humor, and I depend on people who have no common sense to provide material. I especially depend on academic types and officials in governments and regulatory agencies. Granted, they’re not the only people who lack common sense. But as Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Thomas Sowell have both pointed out, people with meaningful jobs who show a lack of common sense tend to get fired. Among university intellectuals and government regulators, a lack of common sense is often interpreted as “is full of bold new ideas.”
But now it appears that common sense may be spreading among the academic/regulatory class. Sure, we’re talking about a mere two examples so far, but I’m seeing a trend. As a humorist, I’m a bit worried. I’m imagining decisions that would normally lead to great comedic material taking a turn for the worse:
“Moving on, this part of the pamphlet describes the diet we recommend for diabetics. Any comments from the committee?”
“Excuse me, Dr. Higginbotham, but you’re saying our dietary guidelines recommend six to ten servings of starch per day?”
“Well, Doctor, remember that section earlier in the pamphlet where we explain that carbohydrates raise blood sugar, and the more carbohydrates you consume, the higher your blood sugar will be?”
“So we tell diabetics that carbohydrates will raise their blood sugar. Then we tell them to get most of their calories from carbohydrates. That makes no freakin’ sense.”
“Well, uh … goodness, now that you mention it… Hello, Jenkins? Higginbotham here. Call the printer and halt production on that pamphlet.”
Or imagine this conversation at the USDA:
“Wait … we’re telling people to avoid which foods, exactly?”
“Red meat, butter and eggs.”
“And we’re telling them to eat what instead?”
“Soy protein, margarine and cholesterol-free egg substitutes.”
“We want them to avoid heart disease, cancer and diabetes.”
“In other words, we’re telling them that ancient foods cause the diseases of modern civilization, while foods that only exist because of industrial processing are the cure.”
“Correct. Oh … well, when you put it that way …”
Yup, an outbreak of common sense would make it tougher to keep the blog going. But I’ll deal with it if I must.