I can remember when my grandad found out about me being on the news because I had challenged the claims being made by HOTS Bath and the illnesses they claimed. He exclaimed that it was sometimes best just to leave people to it and not get involved (until he saw the news, that is, then he fully agreed with the complaint). I don’t think I’ll ever be the type of person to ‘leave people to it and not get involved’ because of stories like this:
The Zurich newspaper reported Wednesday that the unnamed Swiss woman in her fifties decided to follow the radical fast in 2010 after viewing an Austrian documentary about an Indian guru who claims to have lived this way for 70 years.
Tages-Anzeiger says there have been similar cases of self-starvation in Germany, Britain and Australia.
The prosecutors’ office in the Swiss canton (state) of Aargau confirmed Wednesday that the woman died in January 2011 in the town of Wolfhalden in eastern Switzerland.
This story reminded me of the talk I saw delivered by Sanal Edamaruku at Denkfest in 2011. He spoke about the research carried on Prahlad Jani who claimed to have survided 40 years of eating and drinking nothing. I wasn’t surprised then to find out that the documentary that the unnamed Swiss woman had watched had actually featured Prahlad Jani among others who claim to have survived without food or drink
You can read a piece for The Guardian by Edamaruku in which he discusses Prahlad Jani and his claims by clicking here. In it he mentions some of the loop holes he found in the scientific studies carried out into the claims of Prahlad Jani. It was this we learnt more about at Denkfest, and you can view this for yourself by clicking here – the video isn’t in English but does contain some of the original CCTV footage in which loopholes can be observed as Prahlad Jani is obscured from view. Moments in which it would be possible for him to have eaten food or had a drink.
After reading the tragic story about the death of the Swiss lady it really brought home just how important the work of people like Sanal Edamaraku is. I can remember sitting in the audience at Denkfest and listening to him and others talk about skepticism and skeptical outreach in various countries around the world, and the superstitious nonsense they have to counter every day because people are seriously harmed by it.
It’s the same story here in the UK (though we’re probably not as superstitious here about witches as they are in Romina, say…) and that is why I will always challenge people like HOTS Bath and others who promote nonsense and have the potential to mislead people. A documentry about people who claim to be able to survive on sunshine alone seems to have led to the death of this one woman – I do not think it is outrageous to suggest that the unsubstantiated claims of people on our high streets – homeopaths, herbalists, psychic healers, magnet therapy peddlers and other snake oil salesman have the potential to cause such harm too. It’s scary, it’s relevant, it’s important we don’t forget that.
Carmen summed this up on Facebook. I’ll leave you with her quote:
On the one hand…. Darwin Awards 2012 lol etc. On the other hand, this was a woman who followed misleading information and ended up dead. It’s a pretty extreme example of how abandoning critical thinking isn’t good for you. Ok, perhaps she was an idiot, but there are enough mildly plausible and nice sounding things in the world that even clever people can be lured by. Fad diets, vitamin supplements, basically anything with zero or questionable evidence that it works. She didn’t deserve to die is all.