Windsor Humanist Society

October 13, 2008

Faith-based AA Groups Cheaper & More Effective Than Conventional Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

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Problem drinkers attending the faith-based Alcoholics Anonymous groups are 30% more likely than others to remain sober for at least two years, according to research published this month.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found their treatment also costs 30% less than conventional cognitive behavioural therapy.

According to lead researcher Dr Keith Humphreys, based at Stanford University, this is because it requires fewer hospital visits and admissions.

Up to 80% of alcohol dependent patients start drinking again within six months of a hospital detox.

So why do AA members have a better chance than average?

Dr Humphreys told the BBC’s Health Check programme that many AA members point to the spiritual component of their 12-step programme as crucial in fighting the urge to drink.

Its non-doctrinal approach means people of all faiths – or no faith – can benefit.

Dr Humphreys said: “It used to be accepted dogma that there would never be a 12-step group in an Islamic country.

“But today I would bet that it is Brazil and Iran where 12-step groups are growing the fastest.”

Last year a group of Iraqi clerics visited Britain, where Professor Sadar Sadiq, the country’s National Advisor on Mental Health works as a practicing psychiatrist, to study approaches to alcohol treatment at first hand.

“They attended AA meetings and would like to implement it in Iraq,” said Professor Sadiq.

“But with the conflict and lack of security our progress is very slow.”

Professor Alan Marlatt of the University of Washington’s Addictive Behaviours Centre, in Seattle, said other spiritual approaches must be developed to help alcoholics.

“Many people can’t buy into AA’s basic assumption that you’re powerless and have to turn your individual decision making over to a ‘higher power’.”

An experiment in the benefits of Vipassana – or mindfulness – meditation at the nearby King County North Rehabilitation Facility offered the chance for Professor Marlatt to measure its effects among alcoholics and drug addicts.

The ten day programme required the prisoners to meditate silently for up to eleven hours a day.

He said: “We have a technique called urge surfing – you imagine that when the urge comes it is like an ocean wave.

“Starts small, gets bigger. You feel like you’re going to be wiped out. But you use your breath as a surf board to ride the wave without giving in to it.”

Not only did the meditating prisoners drink and take drugs less after their release, they were also less likely to be depressed or to re-offended than others.

Mindfulness meditation is a spiritual approach that requires no religious faith, said Professor Marlatt.

So is it just as effective a drug as conventional belief?

A painful experiment at Bowling Green State University in Ohio answered that question for psychology professor Kenneth Pargament.

He gave two groups of people two competing sets of mantras, one spiritual (ie: “God is love“) and one secular (“grass is green“) and timed how long each could keep their hands in a bowl of iced water.

His findings were published, in 2005, in The Journal of Behavioural Medicine.

“We found that spiritual meditators were able to tolerate the pain of the iced water for twice as long as the secular meditators. ” he told BBC’s Health Check.

“And we’ve replicated the study among people with migraine headaches, and people chanting the spiritual mantra experienced a much sharper decline in the number and severity of their headaches.”

Similarly, ongoing research at The Oxford Centre for the Science of the Mind suggests religious people suffer less physical pain when focussing on religious images vs non-religious pictures.

So what is stopping clinicians taking note? Partly the unscientific lack of definition of “spirituality“.

A recent of 265 books and papers on the subject showed researchers can mean at least 15 different things by it.

And even if researchers did agree on what spirituality is, they don’t yet know how it mediates its therapeutic effects in the brain.

In the past, the idea of a science of spirituality was a contradiction in terms and few would risk their reputations to study it.

But that is now changing – thanks in part to the example of recovering alcoholics of AA.

At a time of constrained health finances – especially in developing countries where alcoholism is rising fastest – an effective treatment programme that costs 30% less than usual is generating plenty of interest.

Professor Pargament said: “I think there are a number of scientists who have been sceptical but, like good scientists, have been persuaded by the data.

“And the data suggests that there are some really important links between spirituality and health and wellbeing.”
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…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil after an January 29, 2007 article by Tracey Logan over BBC News

2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine to HPV and HIV Experts

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The scientists who discovered HIV will share the Nobel prize for medicine with the expert who linked human papilloma virus (HPV) to cervical cancer.

French team The Nobel Prize were recognised for their groundbreaking work in uncovering the virus responsible for Aids.

Harald zur Hausen, from Germany, received the prize for making the link between HPV and cervical cancer.

More than 25 million people have died of HIV/Aids since 1981.

Globally, more than 33 million people are living with HIV.

Following medical reports of a new immunodeficiency syndrome in 1981, Professor Barre-Sinoussi, of The Institut Pasteur, and Dr Montagnier, director of The World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, were the first to identify HIV as the culprit.

In its citation, The Nobel Assembly said their discovery was vital in enabling scientists to begin to understand the biology of a virus which continued to pose a huge public health threat throughout the globe.

Their work led to the development of methods to diagnose infected patients and to screen blood products, which has limited the spread of the pandemic.

It has also led to new treatments.

Dr Adriano Boasso of The Imperial College said: “The availability of a vaccine against HPV is now a reality thanks to the original discovery of the virus by Harald zur Hausen”.

There is still no cure for HIV. However, for many the disease is no longer an imminent death sentence thanks to the major advances in research and drug development over recent years.

With treatment, people with HIV can live for decades with the condition.

However, HIV medicines are not widely available in many poor countries around the world.

The citation said: “Never before have science and medicine been so quick to discover, identify the origin and provide treatment for a new disease entity.

“Successful anti-retroviral therapy results in life expectancies for persons with HIV infection now reaching levels similar to those of uninfected people.”

Nick Partridge of the HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust said: “Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier are very deserving winners of the Noble Prize for Medicine.

“Their work was hugely significant, leading to enormous progress in the understanding and treatment of HIV.”

Both Dr Montagnier and a US researcher Dr Robert Gallo are co-credited with discovering that HIV causes Aids, although for several years they staked rival claims that led to a legal and even diplomatic dispute between France and America.

The Nobel jury made no mention of Dr Gallo in its citation.

Professor Barré-Sinoussi said the award was “a great honour that I wasn’t expecting.

Professor zur Hausen, of the University of Duesseldorf, was praised by the Nobel committee for going “against current dogma” to discover that HPV infection caused cervical cancer.

HPV can be detected in 99.7% of all women with cervical cancer, and persistent infection with the virus is estimated to be responsible for more than 5% of all cancers worldwide.

Professor zur Hausen’s work helped others to develop vaccines against HPV, which are now routinely given to millions of teenage girls in many countries to prevent cervical cancer.

Dr Adriano Boasso, research fellow at Imperial College and Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow, said: “Isolating the causing agent of an infectious disease is the single most important step toward developing a vaccine.

“The availability of a vaccine against HPV is now a reality thanks to the original discovery of the virus by Harald zur Hausen.

“HIV vaccine research has instead recently suffered the failure of promising clinical trials, but there is no doubt that the discovery of HIV by Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier will be the pillar on which an efficient vaccine will eventually be built.”

Professor zur Hausen, 72, received half of the prize with Professor Barré-Sinoussi, 61, and Dr Montagnier, 76, splitting the other half.
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…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Matt Achine, after an October 6, 2008 article from BBC News

October 11, 2008

Local Catholic & Order of Canada Winner Believes He Knows Better Ways To Choose Winners

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Local Order of Canada member Frank Chauvin has launched a legal challenge against the advisory council that decided to make abortion-rights activist Dr. Henry Morgentaler an Order of Canada member.

The Order of Canada

The Order of Canada

“This is not the way they’re supposed to choose,” Mr. Chauvin, a devout Catholic, said from his Windsor home on Friday.

“It’s quite evident that it’s entered into a political arena…. I don’t think in the history of this medal there’s ever been so much controversy over someone receiving the Order of Canada.”

Earlier in the day, Dr. Morgentaler was recognized as a member of the Order of Canada at a ceremony in Québec City presided over by Gov. Gen.  Michaëlle Jean.

At the gathering, Dr. Morgentaler was praised as “a catalyst for change and important debate.”

He was described as a man who has “heightened awareness of women’s reproductive health issues” and put himself at risk in his efforts to “increase health care options for Canadian women.”

The event was televised live, but Mr. Chauvin didn’t watch. “I’ve got other things to do than sit in front of the TV and watch something that I don’t agree with.”

Nominations for the Order of Canada – the country’s top civilian award – are reviewed by The Advisory Council for the Order of Canada, who then transmit their decisions to the Governor General.

Mr. Chauvin has retained Windsor lawyer Gerard Charette to make a court application that seeks to invalidate the award.

Mr. Charette said the application was filed in late August. “This is a unique council, but it is a government entity. And most government boards and tribunals are subject to being reviewed by courts when they make decisions that are incorrect,” he said.

Asked the legal basis for the application, Mr. Charette said the advisory council made “a whole range of errors” in its decision process regarding Dr. Morgentaler.

Mr. Charette said Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin, who chairs the council, should have removed herself from the process because Dr. Morgentaler is a litigant in a court case against the government of New Brunswick.

But Lucie Carron, a spokeswoman for the office of the Governor General’s secretary, said Chief Justice McLachlin does not vote or take a position on Order of Canada candidates.

Mr. Carron said Chief Justice McLachlin decided at the outset of her position on the council to remain neutral on nominations, and that the chair’s role is to manage meetings and “to ensure there’s discussion.

The Canadian Judicial Council has already dismissed a complaint that alleged Chief Justice McLachlin improperly played a role in Dr. Morgentaler’s nomination to the Order of Canada. In September, the CJC stated that “there is no merit, nor any facts to support” the allegation.

Mr. Chauvin’s court application also seeks greater disclosure and transparency relating to the council’s deliberations. “At this point in time, we’re trying to get the records of the advisory council, and the advisory council has refused so far to release those records,” Mr. Charette said.

Ms. Carron said all deliberations of the advisory council on any Canadian honour are confidential, and the process on Dr. Morgentaler’s appointment to the Order of Canada is no different.

“It’s mostly to protect the people who are being nominated. You know, not every nomination makes it to the committee. Not every nomination is accepted,” Ms. Carron said.

Mr. Charette acknowledged that the court application enters uncharted legal territory, but would not speculate on its chances of failing.

“I don’t want to predict defeat. I’m predicting victory,” Mr. Charette said. “I’ve got some confidence that Frank has some serious questions to ask, and I’ve got confidence in the fairness of the judicial system, so we’re going to proceed.”

However, Mr. Chauvin said he doesn’t realistically expect the advisory council to reverse its decision. Asked why he’s nevertheless embarking on the legal challenge, Mr. Chauvin replied: “It’s something that we have to do. The whole thing is such a mess.”

When Dr. Morgentaler’s appointment was announced in July, Mr. Chauvin said he would return his medal in protest.

Mr. Charette said he has since advised Mr. Chauvin to retain the honour. “So long as he is a member of the order, he has status to bring the application to court.”

But Mr. Chauvin, a retired Windsor police detective, said that whether the court application succeeds or fails, he plans on returning his medal. “It’s going in, one way or another. I have not changed my mind one iota. I made a commitment, and it’s going to be returned.”

“When it’s going to be returned is another thing, but it’s definitely going. I am not keeping the medal.”
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…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Matt Achine, after an October 11, 2008 article by Dalson Chen in The Windsor Star

October 3, 2008

Same-Gender Marriage Prompts St. Aidans on Wyandotte St. To Split From Anglican Diocese of Huron

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The contentious issue of same-sex marriage is at the heart of a move by a Windsor Anglican church to break away from the local diocese and join a more conservative South American wing, the acting bishop of the diocese says.

On Sunday, 109 votes were unanimously cast at St. Aidan’s parish on Wyandotte Street East in favour of ceding from The Huron Diocese of The Anglican Church of Canada and joining the breakaway Anglican Network in Canada (ANIC), which is part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

“They may not say it, but the issue of same-sex marriage is underlying the whole debate,” said the Right Rev. Robert Bennett, the Suffragan Bishop of Huron and Bishop of Norfolk.

He said is was disappointed his two representatives were refused admittance to the meeting. “I do not accept this decision as appropriate and the leadership of this diocese will be meeting to further address this situation,” he said in a news release.

The Anglican Church of Canada has been wrestling with the issue of same-sex marriage since 2002 when a church in New Westminster, B.C., agreed to perform same-sex marriages.

The U.S.-based Episcopalian wing of the church also became the focus of debate a year later with the ordination of an openly gay bishop in Vermont.

More conservative factions of the worldwide church have opposed the moves by the North American wings, and a schism has developed.

The  Anglican Province of the Southern Cone oversees churches in Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Argentina.

St. Aidan’s, established in 1924, is the first church in the diocese of Huron to break away, but is the seventh in Ontario to join ANIC and the 11th nationally.

Charlie Masters, the executive archdeacon of ANIC, didn’t refer specifically to gay marriage as the motivation for the split.

“The big issue (is) around the Bible and the authority of scripture and the gospel,” said Mr. Masters.

In a news release, ANIC said: “Unfortunately, the Anglican Church of Canada continues to abandon mainstream Anglican teaching and doctrine, particularly in relation to the authority of the Bible, breaking with the vast majority of global Anglicans.”

Cathy Knight, a St. Aidan’s congregation member who attended the vote, said the issue is not tied to same-sex marriage or homosexuality, but rather the desire to go back to a “more orthodox’ version of Anglicanism.

“It has never been about lifestyle choices,” she said of the debate.

Rather, the congregation members who voted want to follow Anglican scripture, which among other things teaches that human sexuality is between a man and a woman within marriage.

For example, she said the scripture does not condone a man and woman living together outside of marriage.

“We became more involved with the more orthodox wing of the church about four years ago,” Ms. Knight said.

Robert Bennett said the diocese is investigating the Sunday meeting and the validity of the vote.

“We’re trying to clarify the details,” said Robert Bennett, who used to be the rector at All Saints Anglican Church in Windsor and frequently attended St. Aidan’s.

“There are also serious issues about who owns the building. We’re looking at our options.”

There are ongoing court cases involving other Canadian churches that have voted to split from the main church, over the ownership of their buildings.

Robert Bennett said he also has issues with the fact that only 109 of about 250 parishioners showed up for the vote.

“I know the parish fairly well and I was quite stunned that the most important congregational meeting in their history was so poorly attended,” said Robert Bennett.

“Was everybody contacted? It’s just a concern I have.”

Robert Bennett said he met with two deacons from St. Aidan’s Monday morning and it was very difficult.

“It was a very sad moment when we met this morning, that this is in all of our lives,” said Robert Bennett.

“This is not easy.”

Robert Bennett is one of seven candidates to replace the recently retired Anglican Bishop of Huron Bruce Howe and is functioning as acting bishop in the interim.
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…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a September 29, 2008 article by Chris Thompson in The Windsor Star

The Ontario College of Physicians & Surgeons: MDs’ Religious Views Trump Health Care Measures

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The regulating body for Ontario physicians has backed off a controversial proposal that would have forced doctors to put aside their religious views when dealing with patients.

Protests from The Ontario Medical Association and numerous religious groups appear to have tempered the thinking of The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

The new document, released on Wednesday, has removed provisions that would have potentially seen doctors face more misconduct charges for putting their own conscience before the convenience of patients.

For example, it could have applied to doctors who not only refuse to prescribe birth control pills, or do fertility treatments for same-sex couples, but also to those who refuse to offer referrals to doctors who do those things.

“Referring is just a way of sloughing off your responsibility,” Rabbi Reuven Bulka of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa, said last week. “If you’re opposed to these things, referring is the same as taking part in the evil.”

The College of Physicians and Surgeons released its first draft policy in August. It warned doctors that they could see more charges being filed through The Ontario Human Rights Commission for withholding services. But it also indicated that doctors would face misconduct charges by the college as well, something that happens in no other province.

The new policy, which is scheduled to be voted on today, now serves as more of a warning about what doctors may face from the Human Rights Commission.

“The draft policy was always meant as a basis for discussion,” said Jill Hefley, a spokeswoman for the college.

Last week, The Ontario Medical Association asked the college to abandon the draft policy because it “interfered with physicians’ existing rights and freedoms.” It said the draft failed to note that doctors are also protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, like any other citizen.

“We believe it should never be professional misconduct for an Ontarian physician to act in accordance with his or her religious beliefs.”

Thomas Collins, Archbishop of the Dioceses of Toronto, also told the college that many physicians feared they would be “brought before human rights tribunals for following their consciences.” But he saw no reason why it would then be necessary for the college to add sanctions of its own. “Is that the cost of being true to one’s conscience?” he asked.

Sean Murphy of The Protection of Conscience Project, a group that tries to protect the rights of health workers, said the new document appears to be much improved from the original draft.

“It’s more clear in this document that the bogey man is the Ontario Human Rights Commission,” he said.

But he is concerned that one clause remaining in the policy could hurt doctors who exercise conscience.

It says the “college has its own expectations for physicians who limit their practice, refuse to accept individuals as patients, or end a physician-patient relationship on the basis of moral beliefs.”

He said this provision still needs to be clarified by officials.
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…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a Sept 17, 2008 article by Charles Lewis in The National Post

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