News report: Universal Medicine in University of Queensland research controversy

Christoph Schnelle Nicola Lessing In your Interest Unimed Living
Unimed Living – UQ PhD student Christoph Schnelle with wife, Unimed Living Pty Ltd company director, Nicola Lessing
Links:

ABC News: University of Queensland launches investigation after researchers promote Universal Medicine ‘cult’

ABC Radio report: University of Queensland academics linked to alleged cult (four minute radio report with Professor Dwyer interview)

Vice: University of Queensland Faculty Members linked to healing cult

Echonet Daily: UQ Medical researchers UM connections

IFL Science: Scientists Accused Of Promoting “Cult” That Touts “Esoteric Breast Massage” After Study Published 

PhD student in the UQ’s school of public health, Christoph Schnelle, and eight other co-authors, including Sydney rheumatologist, Dr Maxine Szramka, and NHS Northern Ireland surgeon, Eunice Minford are under investigation by the university and two medical journals for alleged conflicts of interest in UQ approved research into UM practices.  

What happened?

UM got research approval for two studies through the University of Queensland’s School of Public Health. One paper, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) was an online survey on the health of UM’s women subscribers. The other, published by BioMed Central is about a hospital trial underway in Vietnam into the efficacy of Esoteric Connective Tissue Therapy (ECTT) for lower back pain. ECTT is a modality cooked up by unqualified ‘world renowned philosopher‘ and the ‘Next World Teacher‘, Serge Benhayon with the help of his longtime associate, physiotherapist, Kate Greenaway.

A couple of years ago I blogged about the weird supernatural claims UM made about ECTT to their religious customers. Funny how that material is omitted from their public marketing of the modality and Greenaway’s disclosure to Southern Cross University for the first ‘trial’ in 2006.

Declaring conflicts of interest is mandatory for seeking university ethics committee approval for research, and with the submission of papers for publication by journals.

The researchers declared no conflicts of interest for the study of UM women.

For the ECTT study, they declared:

Competing Interests

CS, SM, MM, MSh, KG-T, MSz and EJM are insiders in that they attend Universal Medicine events. However, none of the researchers has received any funding, reimbursement, instruction or direction of any kind from Universal Medicine or its affiliates. CS received ECTT for back pain in May 2016. No other competing interests exist.  BioMed Central

UM’s researchers

All the researchers, except for one UQ academic named on the papers, are long term subscribers to Universal Medicine’s beliefs and practices. All are public promoters of UM, and all have participated in the public attacks on me and other critics, complainants and journalists. If in doubt, Google any of their names with any of the keywords ‘Universal Medicine’, ‘Benhayon’, or ‘esoteric’.

The lead researcher was UQ PhD student, Christoph Schnelle, who I’ve criticized in the past when he described religion as ‘science’. UM also describes reincarnation and numerology as sciences.

A. Comparative analysis of health of women followers

  1. Christoph Schnelle, MBiostats – financial planner. Testimonial page on his website shows clients are UM staff & followers. Includes a testimonial from Benhayon’s benefactor Judith McIntyre. Wife, Nicola Lessing, is a Unimed Living Pty Ltd company director. Unimed Living is 100% owned by Serge. Both are UM promoters and have been frequent flyers at UM events for at least ten years.
  2. Eunice J Minford, MA, MBChB, FRCSEd – NHS surgeon and promoter of UM’s exorcism services and Esoteric Breast Massage.
  3. Vanessa McHardy, MA – London based psychotherapist. Presenter at UM’s 2013 psychological wellbeing conference.
  4. Jane Keep, PhD – NHS HR manager. Former Esoteric Breast Massage practitioner and former director of Universal Medicine UK Ltd. Current director of UM’s UK charity, ‘Sound Foundation Community Care‘. Promotes UM’s brand by sharing her conversations with her cervix.

B. Esoteric Connective Tissue Therapy trial

  1. Christoph Schnelle, MBiostats
  2. Eunice J Minford, MA, MBChB, FRCSEd
  3. Vanessa McHardy, MA
  4. Steffen Messerschmidt – ‘Naturopathic Doctor’, whatever that means. Practitioner at Unimed Brisbane. I blogged about him plugging esotericism to a hospital in Vietnam in 2013.
  5. Kate Greenaway-Twist BAppSc(PT), Physiotherapist at UM’s clinic headquarters in Goonellabah and Benhayon associate and collaborator since 2002.
  6. Dr Maxine Szramka MBBS (hons1), B Med Sci, FRACP, FAMAC pt1,Rheumatologist – ardent public promoter of UM, who, with UM’s other affiliated doctors, refuse to answer questions about their promotions of commercial occult pseudoscience.
  7. Marianna Masiorski B Psych (Hons) MAPS – Unimed Brisbane psychologist. Was reprimanded and placed on conditional registration by AHPRA in 2015 over her promotions of Benhayon and UM.
  8. Michelle SheldrakeEsoteric practitioner and QUT Research Officer

Conflicts of interest

Publication Ethics and Malpractice

Conflict of Interests section is mandatory for all manuscripts. Conflict of interest exists when an author (or the author’s institution), reviewer, or editor has financial or personal relationships that inappropriately influence (bias) his or her actions (such relationships are also known as dual commitments, competing interests, or competing loyalties). These relationships vary from those with negligible potential to those with great potential to influence judgment, and not all relationships represent true conflict of interest. The potential for conflict of interest can exist whether or not an individual believes that the relationship affects his or her scientific judgment. Financial relationships (such as employment, consultancies, stock ownership, honoraria, paid expert testimony) are the most easily identifiable conflicts of interest and the most likely to undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and of science itself. However, conflicts can occur for other reasons, such as personal relationships, academic competition, and intellectual passion. In JMIR Med Inform, conflicts of interest include (but are not limited to) employment at and/or ownership of stocks or stock options in companies whose products/apps/software were evaluated. If no conflicts exist, please write “Conflict of Interests – None declared” (place after “Acknowledgements”, before the References section).  JMIR

The studies

The study of ECTT is going ahead in two hospitals in Vietnam. It seems Steffen Messerschmidt and Kate Greenaway are performing the therapy.

ECTT uses patterns of very small, circular movements, to the legs, arms, spine, sacrum and head, which anecdotally are effective in pain relief. In an unpublished single-arm phase I/II trial with chronic pain patients, ECTT showed a 56% reduction in pain after five treatments and 45% and 54% improvements at 6 months and 7–9 years of follow-up respectively…

The aim of this randomised controlled trial is to compare ECTT with physiotherapy for reducing pain and improving physical function and physical and mental well-being in patients with chronic low back pain.

The trial will be held at two hospitals in Vietnam. One hundred participants with chronic low back pain greater than or equal to 40/100 on the visual analogue scale will be recruited and randomised to either ECTT or physiotherapy. Four weekly treatments will be provided by two experienced ECTT practitioners (Treatment Group, 40 minutes each) and hospital-employed physiotherapy nurses (Control Group, 50 minutes). BioMed Central

Personally, my money is on the nurses.

A new complementary-to-medicine technique that concentrates on treating the connective tissue was developed by Serge Benhayon in 1999 and currently has about 30 practitioners. This technique is called Esoteric Connective Tissue Therapy (ECTT) and is a gentle, hands-on treatment that claims to work by allowing connective tissue in the body to soften and return to its fluid and flexible state, which in turn decreases the compression effects on the body from tight, hard and scarred areas of injured and diseased connective tissue, thereby possibly enabling the affected body parts to resume normal, pain-free movement…

ECTT and other modalities, such as Esoteric Chakra-puncture, Esoteric Massage, Esoteric Healing and the women-practitioners-only Esoteric Breast Massage, are all derived from the same underlying understanding that energy, a word which here includes consciousness, has a strong influence on humans. This is considered a truism in many alternative treatments [84], but clearly there is no scientific consensus or even much, if any, scientific evidence that there are other influences on well-being in addition to the physical and the psychological.

However, theoretically speaking, if there are such influences, and if providers were to cultivate awareness and understanding of these influences, it should be possible to design treatment modalities that work substantially better than existing modalities by addressing these important and heretofore unexamined influences as a complement to the exemplary work that is done by conventional medicine. BioMed Central

In the real world, that bit of mumbo jumbo translates as: if we believe in a modality enough and we can persuade other people to believe in it (and all sorts of other nonsense) too, then it works. The corporation sets up websites to publish ad hominem defamatory attacks on anyone who challenges their orthodoxy, and tries to have us arrested for ‘harassment’. Never mind that they are researching a product of the company the authors have financial and ideological ties with. A product invented by their spiritual guru whose coming was prophesied by the Lord Maitreya himself.

Comparative Analysis of Women With Notable Subjective Health Indicators Compared With Participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health: Cross-Sectional Survey
ABSTRACT

Background: At least six communities with unusually good health and longevity have been identified, but their lifestyles aren’t adopted widely. Informal evidence suggests that women associated with Universal Medicine (UM), a complementary medicine health care organization in Eastern Australia and the United Kingdom with normal lifestyles, also have several unusual health indicators.

Objective: Our objective was to determine how UM participants compared with women in the Australian population at large on a variety of health indicators.

Methods: In an Internet survey conducted July to September 2015, a total of 449 female UM participants from 15 countries responded to 43 health indicator questions taken from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH).

Results: Survey responses revealed large positive differences in mental and physical health when compared with the ALSWH respondents, except for abnormal Pap test and low iron history. Differences and corresponding effect size estimates (Cohen d; ≥0.8 is a high difference) included body mass index (BMI; 10.8), stress level (0.64), depression (4.4), summary physical (4.6) and mental health (5.1), general mental health (7.6), emotional (4.5) and social functioning (4.9), vitality (11.9), and general health (10.1), as well as lower incidences of diabetes, hypertension, and thrombosis (P<.001 each). Neither education levels nor country of residence had predictive value. Age did not predict BMI.

Conclusions: The women’s responses notably claim substantially lower levels of illness and disease than in the general Australian population.  

JMIR 

Schnelle C, Minford EJ, McHardy V, Keep J
Comparative Analysis of Women With Notable Subjective Health Indicators Compared With Participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health: Cross-Sectional Survey
JMIR Public Health Surveill 2018;4(1):e6
URL: http://publichealth.jmir.org/2018/1/e6
DOI: 10.2196/publichealth.9490
PMID: 29321123
PMCID: 5784184

Unfortunately my Unpacking Universal Medicine video ‘Esoteric Healing Esoteric Health’ has been taken down from YouTube with a bogus copyright infringement complaint. The transcript, however, is at this link, and includes a speech from Maxine Szramka where she tells the UM congregation how healthy they are. It contrasts with footage in the same video of UM’s leader saying something quite different.

In the absence of that particular video, the Introduction and Episode One are a good indicator of the reliability of UM and its ‘research’.

 

In typical UM style, Schnelle and associates are asking fellow UM subscribers to fork out donations to fund the research.

However, we are planning to treat 50 participants in each trial with 6 sessions of physiotherapy (Australian trial) or 6 sessions of massage (UK trial) and the registered physiotherapists and massage therapists need to be paid for their work. That, plus the fees for publishing the results in scientific journals and other costs, will final at 40,000 dollars. Hence we are asking for your help to support this trial!  Research 4 Humanity

Universal Medicine consistently runs into conflict over its consistent failures to disclose basic and critical information. Year after year we’ve seen the organizers of its Girl to Woman Festival omit to inform customers that it’s run by a controversial ‘esoteric healing’ business that pushes occult spirituality, Esoteric Breast Massage and other rubbish. They don’t mention that UM’s proprietors have gotten rich on unpaid labour and donated funds and assets. Similarly, UM ran a men’s health conference, and its promoters and front organizations have infiltrated not for profit community organizations, schools and public libraries without disclosing their backing or their agenda. Unfortunately, UM’s associates are bent on expanding UM as the ‘New World Religion’. And trying to plug their ‘community’ as the model of ‘integrity’ and ‘truth’.

See also:

Universal Medicine’s false and misleading parliamentary inquiry submissions

Universal Medicine slammed by NSW Parliamentary Committee

Questions for UM’s doctors

Dr Samuel Kim reprimanded by NSW Medical Council

An important note about funding my work: I’m defending two defamation claims brought by UM in two states. I am bankrupt, and doing the work of a solicitor’s office on two very large legal actions. The amount of work required makes it impossible for me to earn income. I’m not eligible for benefits because the workload makes it impossible for me to seek full time work. I am now homeless and reliant on friends and family for accommodation. I still need to eat and afford the costs of travel between two states, stationery (masses of printing, folders etc.) and subpoenas. I am no longer crowdfunding. I cannot accept monetary donations or gifts. Any payments marked as gifts or donations will be confiscated by the bankruptcy trustee. You can however support me by paying me for investigating and publishing my long term exposé of Universal Medicine and my work in defending my public interest publications. If you value what I’m doing and want to help me get by and get my defences to trial, you can pay me for my work. Mark your payment as payment or servicesClick here to pay for my work via PayPal  Or direct deposit to BSB 734 063 Acc. 654 143 Contact me if you would like a tax invoice.

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115 thoughts on “News report: Universal Medicine in University of Queensland research controversy

  1. “There will be a man
    dressed in man’s clothing
    who will consume life
    and unfold it back with light.
    He will be one of the Initiates,
    but have a hand on Earth like other men.
    His role is to be the one who enjoins
    by light, by truth and by love.
    All of these will be one in him.

    Those that hear him and follow by life,
    follow not him,
    but the light in him.
    These too will then be
    the light, the truth and the love all in one.
    The world will then know of God.”

    (er, men usually dress in men’s clothing.
    “All of those will be one with him” How biblical
    …”but the light in him”… blah blah blah…”the world will then know of god” How grandiose)

    Bonkers.

  2. I think it would be interesting to view the participants email/messaging services prior to the survey.

    Then again the answers may be natural (brain washed) to them

    I really don’t know if UMers are stupid, think everyone else is stupid…….or a bit of both.

    • Dunning-Kruger effect
      In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability have illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude; without the self-awareness of metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence.

      • Mix with that a giant dose of narcissism and escalating worsening graduating practice and you end up with a dangerous individual who wants to control the world one way or another, one person at a time, by posing as the next coming of a God.
        You wouldn’t think that by simply announcing, devoid of any concrete evidence, that that is what you are, there would be instant followers willing to jump into the congo line and disregard their lives, relationships, professional status, reputations, health and common sense thinking to follow and defend such an individual.
        It starts as a search, then an obsession, and once every angle of your life is replaced or controlled then fear of rejection and reprisal keeps you imprisoned.

        • I walk among them………….& it is not a fast walk.

          Boring as a bowl full of kale soup.

      • Lets just hope that there is a revolution of the conscience of these followers.
        They are generally good people and mentally battling the discrepancies presented to them.
        Yes their consciences have been dulled down by diet, sleep deprivation and constant indoctrination but they still exist and provide the escape route.
        Only a psychopath has no conscience, feels no guilt and will never apologise. They feed off the power and control over others.

    • Because the Northern Star news Paper does not adhere to the Journalists Code Of Ethics, only the editor can explain why. He makes the decisions, he knows where the truth lies.

  3. Quoting SB

    “What I can say is this – notwithstanding the ethics process, it is interesting that in recent media coverage the actual evidence of the research in question has been completely ignored in favour of sensationalist and emotive claims. Evidence which has never been in dispute, and actually points to the emergence of a world leading health and wellbeing organisation in Goonellabah – a regional centre which is making significant strides in this area”

    Hang on a minute.

    So we have UM associated researchers & UM followers involved in an online (not face to face with independent researchers) health survey.

    The fact that we have UM researchers & followers involved in the same survey, questions the evidence supposedly supported by the research.

    I feel the evidence is worthy of dispute due to the conflict of interest between UM researchers & UM subjects.

    Calling UM a “world leading health & wellbeing organisation is a really big stretch of the imagination, especially when the claimant
    has a questionable scientific/medical background.

  4. A friend sent me the following this morning….it made me laugh!

    SCIENCE V PSEUDO SCIENCE*

    If I say “there’s beer in the fridge!” and then I go and open the fridge to check, that’s science.**

    If however I say “there’s beer in the fridge!” but I don’t go and check because I totally believe there’s beer in the fridge and I can’t open the fridge door anyway, that’s religion.

    I say “there’s beer in the fridge!” and then I go and check but there isn’t any beer in the fridge. I close the fridge door and tell everyone that there’s beer in the fridge. Everyone opens the fridge and checks but they can’t see any beer, because there is none. I insist that there’s beer in the fridge and everyone else will see the truth eventually, that’s esoteric.

    And if there’s no beer in the fridge so I grab a carton of milk instead and say “this milk is beer, because there once stood a bottle of beer next to it!” that’s homeopathy.

    *those of us in the know are of course aware that the scientific method is actually to postulate a (null) hypothesis which then stands until disproven (as no hypothesis can ever be “proven”). The prerequisites for any hypothesis to be valid are that a) it must be plausible and b) it must be possible to test it experimentally. Some scientific hypotheses – evolution being a prime example – are not disproven for so long that they become widely accepted in the science community and therefore become scientific theory.

    **to be more accurate, science would be to say “I postulate the hypothesis that there’s beer in the fridge!” then I go and check. There’s indeed beer in the fridge. My hypothesis stands. Subsequently, hundreds of other people open the fridge door and check as well. As long as there’s beer in the fridge every time the door is opened, my hypothesis stands. As soon as someone checks and there is no beer, the hypothesis is refuted.

  5. https://tomedicinewithlove.com/articles/evidence-based-medicine-what-is-the-evidence/

    “………..we have a huge responsibility as observers to free ourselves of bias, investment, attachment, or any particular desired outcome, as much as is humanly possible, and to be aware of the fact that bias is inherent in the scientific process, no matter how much we would like to think otherwise”.
    Have ‘The Researchers’ read this article written by one of their community? Just asking.

  6. And this Dr claimed no conflict of interest with UM in UQ research paper. Poor dear suffering from memory loss.

  7. The Union nationale des associations de défense des familles et de l’individu (UNADFI) is a French anti-cult association founded in 1974, recognized as a public utility association by a decree of 30 April 1996, and directly subsidized by the French State. They have republished the story.

    http://www.unadfi.org/domaines-infiltration/sante-bien-etre/pratiques-non-conventionnelles/des-chercheurs-universitaires

    Translation:

    “University researchers compromise with the College of Universal Medicine

    An ABC News survey reveals that three members of the Faculty of Medicine at the famed University of Queensland (UQ) have promoted the controversial Universal Medicine in scholarly publications. Created by Serge Benhayon, this method offers “esoteric” care and massage of breasts and ovaries.

    Serge Benhayon, a former tennis coach with no medical qualifications, claims to be the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci. Its College of Universal Medicine (MU) would cost several million dollars and have 700 members, mostly women, in 15 countries. Its followers must follow a very strict lifestyle governing diet, sleep or sex, a lifestyle advocated by the religion founded by Serge Benhayon.

    For Professor of Medicine John Dwyer, University of New South Wales, Universal Medicine Benhayon is dangerous and sectarian: “to put in the hands of this sectarian group, it is really take risks for his health.” This eminent scholar deplores the number of people attracted by this practice and bitterly notes that health professionals are not spared even though they have taken the oath to practice evidence-based medicine. “These people can give undeserved credibility to the absurdities of universal medicine,” he says.

    The ABC News survey reveals a video in which four UQ researchers publicly advocate MU practices. Two are doctors, the other two naturopath and psychologist. The four work for Benhayon. They have appealed for the grant to fund the lawsuits against the MU in Australia and the United Kingdom. They also plan to conduct trials in two hospitals in Vietnam.
    In the United Kingdom, BioMed Central (scientific publisher) is also examining an article that some authors-researchers confirm to be “initiates participating in events of universal medicine” but assure that they have received “no compensation from universal medicine or of its subsidiaries “.

    The Canadian Journal of Medical Research on the Internet (JMIR) is ready to remove articles related to UM. The editorial director told the Queensland University Ethics Office that there was undoubtedly a conflict of interest that should have been denounced by the University. JMIR would like to be able to challenge the researchers’ statements, with the support of the university. Professor Mark Blows, vice-president of research at UQ, confirmed that the university was investigating “undeclared conflicts of interest by some researchers”.

    (Source : ABC News, 16.04.2018)

    Posté le 17 Mai 2018″

    • Well done, UNADFI and thank you for traslating this. Associations in The Netherlands and Germany take their time. As always. Too busy, as a football world cup is coming up in enemy territory. Irony off.

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