John Maddox Prize 2019

 

It is with great surprise, gratitude and emotion that I have received last week, in London, the John Maddox Prize for my work on the topic of Vitamin C injections in Quebec.

The John Maddox Prize

 

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.

 

Acknowledgments:

 

  • 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!
  • Rémi Quirion, the Chief Scientist of Quebec, who acted as a supporting referee. He had also taken a stance on Vitamin C injections in 2018.
  • 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:

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/11/12/quebec-pharmacist-known-as-the-pharmafist-wins-international-award-for-defending-science.html

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03547-8

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03491-7 (interview with Nature podcasts)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/12/scientist-who-takes-on-firms-causing-wildfires-wins-john-maddox-prize

https://www.bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l6488

https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-15-daybreak-montreal/clip/15747032-montreal-pharmacist-wins-prestigious-john-maddox-prize (interview with CBC)

An interview with Olivier Bernard

 

 

And here are a few clearly-not-HD pictures from the event:

 

 

(with the winner of the senior award, Bambang Hero Saharjo)

(with Dr David Colquhoun, legendary pharmacologist and champion of scientific skepticism… it was unreal to meet him!)

 

(with Marilou Gougeon, who nominated me for the award, and our spouses)

5 responses to “John Maddox Prize 2019

  1. Oliver, THAT is awesome !!! Keep up the good work.
    Congrats

  2. Hi Oliver,

    Congrats on your award. I love your website. I always point out to inoculation skeptics that a hundred years ago an outbreak of diphtheria could kill almost all the children in a town.

    A buddy of mine recommended the movie Game Changers on Netflix.. It’s thesis is that eating meat is bad for you. We should all be Vegans. I’d love to know your opinion. Incidentally, both my kids are vegetarian and my daughter-in-law is Vegan.

    I’m a 75 year old living in Ottawa taking pills for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I don’t eat much meat but I do eat a fair amount of cheese. Do you think it would help if I stuck to veggies, fruit, nuts and beans?

    • Hi Bill!

      Thanks so much for the nice words and for your message! What you are asking about here is actually one of my favorite topics, and I’ve worked on it quite a bit in the last 2 years.

      Yes, I’ve heard about “Game Changers”. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve seen most of the other major vegan documentaries, like “Forks over Knives”, “What the Health” and such. Now here’s the thing: I’m vegetarian myself, mostly for reasons related to animal ethics, but also for environmental issues. And yet, I would never recommend any of those documentaries, because health-wise they’re not reliable. And they’re making extravagant claims that are not backed by science.

      Some people within the vegan community, unfortunately, like to pretend that animal products are “bad for you”, as you say, or even “toxic”. That’s not quite right. What we know for sure, scientifically, is that the type nutrition associated with the best health outcomes is plant-rich, or plant-based, which means that most of what we eat should be plants: fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, soy, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, etc. This is supported by a fairly strong scientific consensus. However, there is no reason to believe that a healthy diet may include a low to moderate intake of meat and dairy.

      So in a nutshell, the dietary advice we can provide right now on a scientific point of view is pretty simple:
      1. Eat tons of / a variety of whole foods that are plants.
      2. Avoid ultra-processed (i.e. junk) foods as much as possible.
      3. Cook you own food at home whenever you can.

      All that being said, I think there are justifiable reasons to stop eating meat products altogether, especially animal ethics. And on an environmental point of view, beef is the main offender. But health-wise, I believe that reducing meat & dairy intake is the goal we should collectively strive for. And interestingly, “meat reducers” (flexitarians) are the fastest growing segment of the population in Western countries right now; not vegetarians or vegans. In other words, we need to be realistic in our approach: not everyone is willing to stop eating animal products, but anyone can eat less of them and introduce other types of proteins in their diet (beans & tofu in particular, which are amazing).

      Lastly, I recommend consulting a registered dietitian before making significant changes in one’s diet, or simply to have an idea of the quality of one’s diet. I’ve seen many people around me becoming vegetarian or vegan, and they started eating mostly plant-based junk food… this is worst for your health than being an omnivore with a good diet!

      Take care 😀

      Olivier

  3. Pingback: Vitamin C injections and cancer: perceptions vs reality - The PharmafistThe Pharmafist

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