Dr. Cyriac Abby Philips: "I Noticed Lots Of Patients With Jaundice Without An Identifiable Medical Cause"

Dr. Cyriac Abby Philips: "I Noticed Lots Of Patients With Jaundice Without An Identifiable Medical Cause"

The storm around him continues to grow. Dr Cyriac Abby Philips took questions on attempts to silence him

Yogesh PawarUpdated: Saturday, October 28, 2023, 10:53 PM IST
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The storm around him continues to grow. Dr Cyriac Abby Philips took questions on attempts to silence him, his criticism of alternative medicine and the massive outpouring of support.

Aren’t you daunted? Your Twitter/X account’s was recently suspended.

It’s another attempt to muzzle speech on rational, logical, and reasonable healthcare and evidence-based medicine.  For long I’ve attracted hate from the alternative medicine industry in the form of legal notices, harassments, abusive trolling, physical threats, and racial/religious slurs. Their swindling might continue, but they’ll have to face questions.

But seeking truth and placing caution higher than faith is now seen as blasphemy…

It might be so for those who don’t see science as closest to the truth. Their confirmation biases cancel out critical thinking. Such people develop a cultish mentality reinforcing beliefs, traditions, and faith over science, logic, and reasoning.

Is the socio-political climate making things worse?

Indeed. My online trolls have quite a few commonalities. Many are from Gujarat. They post, comment or like ultra-right exclusionary and hyper-nationalist Hindutva content, showcase deities as display pictures and support the ruling regime and its subsidiaries. These abusive trolls call me “Leftist”/“Christian Missionary,” when I’m neither.

Are you anti-Ayurveda/Homeopathy?

If it means being pro-public, pro-life, pro-science, pro-rationality, pro-logic and pro-critical thinking, then yes.

Traditional medicine often conflates time-testedness with efficacy…

The argument that a centuries-old practice is valuable is inherently wrong. Such an ‘appeal to tradition/antiquity,’ means efficacy of a practice is supported only since its long been held true/superior. The opposite - ‘appeal to novelty,’ which claims a new practice is true/superior - is also wrong. Antiquity can’t cover for non-existent evidence.

How did researching health risks of herbal medicines pique your interest?

When I began as a hepatologist in Kochi, I noticed lots of patients with jaundice/hepatitis without an identifiable medical cause. Their liver biopsies revealed damage. I investigated their medical records. The patients were all using herbal products for weight loss/gain, diabetes control, high BP, indigestion, etc. Consumption of these products had onset liver injury.

Assuming these products were natural and hence safe, they didn’t disclose this to their doctors. I got these products tested in an approved independent lab.

And you published the findings…

Yes. I shared my discoveries about herbal drugs and liver damage in the peer-reviewed Indian Journal of Gastroenterology (2018). This won the best paper award. Here was proof everything ‘herbal,’ is not necessarily natural and hence safe. This further piqued my interest. Thereafter, we’ve published a series. Two recent ones — on Ashwagandha-related and homeopathic-remedy related liver injury — are the largest such series in medical literature. This gave me evidences to simplify potential risks of alternative medicine, through my, now suspended, Twitter/X account.

Who should create an ecosystem for healthy scientific debate?

Doctors, and clinical/scientific societies. Healthy and educational scientific debates simplified for the non-medical public, and suppression of unscientific practices must be part of clinical medicine. Healthcare practitioners must rally against dogma that rots critical thinking. When scientific illiteracy, clubbed with a lack of scientific temperament seeps into the doctor community, it destroys trust in science-based medicine and creates gaps in healthcare. These are then filled by pseudoscience and self-proclaimed healers endangering public health.

Organisations like IMA haven’t supported you.

Solidarity for a cause that strengthens public health, improves scientific temperament, and promotes scientific and critical thinking comes from self-realisation. This must be free from political, religious, cultural, and traditional dogmas, ideologies, and biases.

Meanwhile the system keeps you entangled in legal processes…

Yes. The system tries to frustrate by making the legal process burdensome, exhausting and financially straining. But it also miscalculates. I’m not doing this for myself but for patients and their families. This’ll help them make realistic, rational decisions on health and disease. It’s not my fight, but ours… I’ll wield the shield (at great personal cost) till others get enlightened and join in.

Does the massive support on social media bring hope?

I was truly overwhelmed by the support when my account was suspended by Twitter/X. The strongest support came from non-medicos. Many say they miss my “valuable posts.” With this, years of battling health misinformation comes to fruition. Nothing is ever in vain… not the great struggles before… not this struggle… and also not the ones to come. Because people understand. They know. And they’ll change others with that knowledge. That is all that matters. That, is both the moment and the movement.

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