Dear Editor: Was that an Ad or an Article?

The Nation is one of Krungthep’s two English-language papers.  A year ago, the paper refashioned itself as a primarily business focused paper, separating the arts, lifestyle, entertainment and sports sections into a separate free paper called the Daily Xpress.  The Daily Xpress is included in my subscription copy of The Nation and is also distributed free throughout the city.

Ever since that reorganization, I’ve been pretty disappointed by the lack of depth in The Nation’s reporting.  It has gone from my favorite Krungthep newspaper to my least-favorite (out of two!) as “News McNuggets”, advertorials and cut-and-paste news lifted verbatim from press releases replaces investigative journalism and objectivity.

Each Thursday in Daily Xpress a page is dedicated to health news.  One of the columns “Ask the Pros”, written by Khun Sirinya, purports to answer readers’ questions about health, tapping the expertise of professionals in fields related to the questions.

From the January 15th column:

Does a colon flush really work?

[“Letter” from unnamed reader]

I’ve been hearing about detoxification a lot lately.  One method is colonic irrigation, also known as colon hydrotherapy, and I wonder what it really is.  Why do people go for colon hydrotherapy?

[Answer from “pro” Dr. Pakpilai Thavisin, MD, the president and founder of S Medical Spa.]

Colonic irrigation is an efficient and safe way to remove toxic debris from the digestive system, thus restoring its normal functions and regularity.  It’s a treatment that’s been around for more than 3,000 years, beginning with the sue of a saline solution to rid the large intestine of bacteria.

People these days ingest more toxins because of the kinds of foods we eat, from smoked and grilled meats to dairy products, sugar and alcohol.

The accumulation of toxic debris along the walls of the intestines weakens the digestive system.  It can’t absorb nutrients as well, and the resulting imbalance stymies the immune system.

Eating too many dairy products and too much sugar encourages the growth of yeast, which can cause problems such as dandruff and acne.

Colon hydrotherapy helps clean up acne, since the yeast overgrowth in the intestinal walls is removed.  The complexion improves overall, and allergies can be cured.

Colon hyrdotherapy is also one of the safest and most effective ways to lose weight.  It’s best to undergo the therapy under the supervision of a doctor and registered nurse.

 

Reading this, I was a bit concerned about the impartiality of Dr. Pakpilai’s opinion.  I don’t doubt her medical expertise, but given that her claims about the efficacy of colon hydrotherapy are widely debated and that she is the founder and president of a “medical spa” that provides colon hydrotherapy as one of its primary services, it seemed to me that she was in a pretty biased position to offer unbiased opinion.

Nation OpEd 1

So I wrote a letter to Khun Sirinya and The Nation’s editor.  An email exchange ensued and when I opened the January 29th edition of Daily Xpress, I saw the following:

From the January 29th column – portions in brackets are part of my original letter that they edited out of the column:

Clonic sceptic flushed out

Dear Editor,

Regarding the “Ask the Pros” column published on Thursday, January 15 in Daily Express, how can Dr. Pakpilai Thavisin, president and founder of S Medical Spa, be considered an unbiased professional to answer the question of the safety and efficacy of colon hydrotherapy?

Her spa specifically provides that service, so her opinions on the subject are heavily biased because she and her company stand to profit from a positive answer.

The claims she makes[, including that colon hydrotherapy is one of the safest and most effective ways to lose weight,] are greatly disputed within the medical and scientific communities.  [Most importantly, though, is that even if her claims were not in dispute, she is still not an unbiased professional.

This is an unacceptable practice which I’ve observed The Nation engages in all too often: passing off advertorials as legitimate, unbiased journalism.  As a reader and as a subscriber, I expect higher levels of journalistic integrity from my news sources.]

Chris Schultz

Bangkok

[Dr. Pakpilai Thavisin, MD, the president and founder of S Medical Spa, provided the following response.]

Dear Chris,

I write from my own experiences using colon hydrotherapy and am sorry to hear you think my opinion biased.

I would point out the S Medical Spa is not the only company offering colon hydrotherapy in Thailand and we don’t profit from recommending the treatment if a consumer decided to go elsewhere.

Colon irrigation is, in my experience, an effective way of treating skin conditions like eczema.  Along with adjustments to the patient’s diet, it can cut the accumulation of toxins in the bowel that seem to be a factor in eczema attacks.

Best regards,

Dr. Pakpilai Thavisin

 

So, dear readers, let me ask you: Were my original concerns of bias justified?  Did Dr. Pakpilai’s response satisfy those concerns?

 

22 thoughts on “Dear Editor: Was that an Ad or an Article?

  1. hahaha – I was actually eating dinner when I first read your entry. This is a classic case of responding to the question but not answering it. You just have to cite a couple of facts / truths and hope that will distract the average user.If there is a debate on this treatment, she should have acknowledge it and offer both schools of thought. She should have been transparent and also state somewhere that she owns a spa. She should have also addressed your concerns about your qualifications.

  2. Sounds like some form of (scare tactic) propaganda. Nevertheless, I remember reading “The Nation” everyday (yes, very limited choice of English language newspapers) during my numerous visits to BKK, not really impressed with the contents of this newspaper, since there are so few pages to read. Generally, I prefer the Asian WSJ. LOL.

  3. Your concern is legitimate. The crux of the problem is lousy journalism. Independent reporting and advertisement should be strictly separated. Switch to another newspaper that is more independent. If there is none available, better not to read than to read something wrong.

  4. I think it would have been more responsible for her to present both sides of the issue since colon cleansing really is a contentious issue. To only represent one side is irresponsible journalism. I definitely agree with your concern!

  5. I am a skeptic of any treatment or therapy that advocates “removal of bacteria from the colon” to cure acne, eczema, allergies, and to loose weight. Too bad she couldn’t have thrown in the all powerful “removes warts” and reverses the signs of aging. I have had my colon “cleansed” for procedures – it is not something to be undertaken lightly (even with go-lytely). If there was a way to remove the “bad” bacteria and leave the natural intestinal flora she might have a point. But we need the bacteria and not all bacteria is bad! The paper is not paying her to write the article – she is paying them!
    p.s. How is it that intestinal bacteria causes acne? I missed that bit of information… 

  6. Ditto murisposis. It almost sounded like an infomercial, does she know Billy Mays? If she was truly impartial, wouldn’t she have also included the cons to regular colon hydrotherapy? Like flushing out the bacteria that we actually need? I’d also like to know how intestinal bacteria is at all related to your skin. And how eating too much dairy & sugar causes dandruff!!!

  7. It’s also important to note that you did write a letter to the editor regarding this article. Regardless of the fact that they didn’t publish your comments about the reporting, they did read them. We all need to take a more active role in responding in this way.

  8. My brother suggested I may like this blog.
    He was totally right. This submit actually made my day.
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  9. I’ve noticed that I have to pay attention when reading articles (especially on the web) to make certain that they are not advertising. Like your example, they look for all the world like a legitimate discussion–until I notice the tiny word “advertisement” at the bottom of the page!
    I especially dislike quack medicine which is only about separating people from their money.

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