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?