I had the privilege of interviewing him on the topic of ACUPUNCTURE, as part of my documentary series on scientific skepticism in healthcare called Les Aventures du Pharmachien on Radio-Canada(the show’s in French, hence the subtitles).
Here’s the interview in English (note : you can press the “CC” button to get English subtitles for my short intro) :
Obviously I can’t post the full episode, but here’s the trailer (note : you can press the “CC” button to get English subtitles) :
The John Maddox Prize is a joint initiative of the British charity Sense about Science and the scientific journal Nature, and “recognises the work of individuals who promote science and evidence, advancing the public discussion around difficult topics despite challenges or hostility“.
Two prized were awarded this year; I was awarded the one for an early career scientist. Some of my professional role models have won it in the past, so I am deeply honored and moved. I pledge to humbly use this award as an opportunity to encourage more people and scientists to defend science publicly.
Nominations for the prize have to be submitted by individuals within the general public. In my case, it came from Marilou Gougeon, a citizen with an incurable type of cancer, who is committed to the defense of patients’ rights for science-based treatments. I was skeptical (😏) when she told me about it, but I was also touched (even though I never thought I would win!). The fact that one of my readers did all of this for me has a special place in my heart.
Here’s a brief reminder of the events:
In 2018-2019, a petition seeking the approval and reimbursement of Vitamin C injections for cancer patients collected more than 120,000 signatures. After having published an article on the topic, and after having questioned a related political move, I had been the target of a cyberbullying campaign that lasted for months, until I spoke out publicly in February 2019. The petition was ultimately rejected by the National Assembly of Quebec and government working groups were created to prevent such incidents in the future. So, in the end, there were more positive than negative outcomes!
I want to emphasize that I always respect individual choices. What motivated me to get involved to this extent is the fact that the petition was becoming a political and social issue, whereas these types of questions should be assessed on the basis of scientific evidence.
Marilou, I’m immensely grateful to you, and I hope people will have the privilege to hear not only your personal story, but also your thoughts on the importance of developing one’s critical thinking to make better health decisions!
The judging panel, Sense about Science and Nature, for accepting my nomination and for considering that I deserved the award.
My wife India, who also suffered through this ordeal, even tough she had nothing to do with it… you were amazing and your support was invaluable ❤️
And above all, YOU! All those who have offered me their support, and who sent me beautiful messages for months. I would NEVER have gone through all this without your support … And thanks to you, I feel reenergized and more motivated than ever to keep on going! 🙂
Here is the acceptance speech I gave at Wellcome Collection on Nov. 12th 2019:
Here are a few press articles or interviews I gave about the prize:
Have you heard about the petition in Quebec that gained nearly 120,000 signatures, asking the government to “approve and reimburse”vitamin C injections for people with cancer?
And about how it almost succeeded through political lobbying?
I spent several months working on this case, trying at first to help people understand the issues and pitfalls with this petition, and then addressing politicians directly, and trying to rally scientific associations. I did this becausethe petition was moving forward rapidly and very few people were raising doubts about it.
As a result, a group of vitamin C supporters tried to make me lose my job. I was doxed. A smear campaign was organized against me. My family was harassed and threatened.
Eventually, after months of cyberbullying, I came forward publicly with what was going on behind the scenes. The result was a massive outcry from the scientific community, which could not be ignored by the government this time.
Ultimately, the petition did not go forward into parliamentary proceedings.
But more importantly, these events had positive consequences for the future: a government task force was created in order to protect scientists who speak publicly about sensitive topics (I am fortunate enough to be involved in it). Also, an inter-professional advisory committee was created to help healthcare professionals, such as myself, speak publicly without fear of disciplinary action.
This case received little attention in the English-Canadian press, so here are translations of a few articles on what happened.
(Please note that these were translated automatically by the Google Translate URL tool with no revision, so some of the text is weird and possibly funny-sounding)
A summary of the events in March 2019 by Radio-Canada (CBC) :
Another one, focusing on the challenges and personal risks of doing science communication:
For the occasion, I’ve created a comic that will be distributed to pharmacies throughout Quebec and provided to clients who come in for a new prescription.
is to explain what happens while one waits for their medication, which is a
total mystery for most people! Ultimately, the goal is to demystify the work of
pharmacists, and to show what we do – and can do – for the public.
I like the idea of learning without realizing it, hence the absurd visual metaphors. I hope people will receive the comic in the waiting room and be like “What is that?!“. This sounds like a good starting point 🙂