I was quite saddened to hear of the recent death of Dr. Harriet Hall.
I’ve referenced her excellent work on debunking pseudoscience and quackery frequently on the skeptical cardiologist.
Her website, SkepDoc, is one of only four that I have taken the time to recommend on my website.
She trained in family medicine and was a flight surgeon for the US Air Force.
Her website bio notes:
Tenaciously breaking down barriers has been a common theme in her life. That tenacity has continued over the past several years as she has taken on what she believes is a barrier to human health: the pseudoscience and, often, quackery behind complementary alternative medicine (CAM).
Kendrick Frazier (of Skeptical Inquirer magazine) aptly characterized her writing saying “She has a gentle and congenial but clear and firm way of writing on the subject that appeals to all fair-minded readers. For the scientific viewpoint on all manner of iffy medical claims, I recommend Harriet as your source.“
I looked forward to receiving her monthly newsletter summarizing her most recent articles and was in awe of her perseverance in researching and writing on all the quackery that is out there.
The Quack Hall of Shame
Early in the skeptical cardiologist trajectory, I spent a fair amount of time trying to identify, characterize, and debunk quacks. I described the #1 Red Flag of Quackery in a post that discussed Dr. Steven Gundry, the Quack Hall of Shame, and the sale of useless supplements.
I subsequently received a cease and desist letter from a lawyer from Dr. Gundry’s empire and, after consulting with lawyers and more experienced quack-busters ended up removing some sentences from the post that stated directly that Gundry was a quack.
These words, all in caps, were in the lawyer’s letter
YOU ARE HEREBY IMMEDIATELY ORDERED TO CEASE AND DESIST YOUR DEFAMATION AND DISPARAGEMENT OF AGOURA HEALTH PRODUCTS, LLC, D/B/A GUNDRYMD™’S PRODUCTS AND SPOKESMAN, DR. STEVEN GUNDRY.
As I am highly averse to dealing with lawyers or the court system, this experience tempered my enthusiasm for writing more about the Quack Hall of Shame.
However, I did write in detail about Gundry’s “The Plant Paradox” in 2018. It has turned out to be one of my most popular posts with over 40,000 views per year since then.
Gundry came across my radar screen due to the popularity of his useless supplements and the complete lack of science behind his pseudoscientific justifications He is widely described as a cardiologist but he is not.
He is a cardiothoracic surgeon (as is Dr. Oz.)
Indeed up until 2004 Gundry was a well-respected cardiac surgeon but since then he has been selling diet books and supplements on his website, gundrymd.com.
Gundry is also a Goop doctor.
I received another cease and desist letter from a Gundry lawyer for the Plant Paradox post who claimed I was defaming Gundry by saying he was not a cardiologist. You can read my response and learn what a cardiologist is and what some people consider a quack in my post on “What is a Cardiologist? I ended up modifying that article minimally.
In any event, I determined that there were so many snake oil salesmen, charlatans, and useless supplements out there that my time was best spent elsewhere.
I also knew that Harriet Hall and a few other dedicated doctors and journalists were out there tirelessly exposing many of the most egregious pseudoscientific practitioners which has been immensely reassuring.
Thank you, Harriet, for all you have done in this field! You will be greatly missed.
N.B. Interestingly, Harriet just recently wrote her review of Gundry’s “The Plant Paradox
2 thoughts on “In Memory of Harriet Hall, SkepDoc Extraordinaire”
I am not familiar with Harriet Hall but look forward to reading her old posts. Too bad she has passed on as it seems she was an exceptional person. I just came upon your blog. You mention that her website was only one of four you have recommended. Would you mind sharing what the other three are? Thanks.
I have followed Harriet for years, and I agree that she is a pioneer. Like Harriet, I consider myself to be both a seasoned Family Physician and a scientist, yet I am willing to introduce controversial ideas to the medical profession as long as those ideas line up with solid empirical observations and evidence-based evidence when it’s available. Harriet, you will be missed. Rest in peace.