Deepak Chopra canceled!

Well I’ll be! We haven’t heard from Chopra in a while, but the old quack has finally been recognized for what he is, and by his fellow physicians, of all people. This piece from Medscape (you have to join to read it, but inquiry can yield a pdf) reports that the American College of Emergency Physicians removed Deepak Chopra from its lineup of keynote speakers after the ACEP membership objected.

 

And it was announced on Twitter in a way not likely to please Deepakity, as he’s usually thin skinned and can’t take rejection from those he perceives as his colleagues. In fact, Chopra learned about his cancellation from the tweet below.

An ACEP spokesperson explained the decision to Medscape:

“ACEP is committed to a diversity of voices and messages in our programming,” said ACEP spokesperson Maggie McGillick. “Deepak Chopra was scheduled to speak specifically to the topic of wellness at one of four general sessions.” The spokesperson described the “strong feelings” expressed by many members who were not in favor of Chopra’s appearance. In order to support the “unity of the emergency medicine community,” ACEP decided to remove Chopra from the lineup, she said.

This happened after ACEP announced that Anthony Fauci would also be a keynote speaker, and then, when Chopra’s talk was announced, the organization worried that the two speakers could be considered “equivalent.”

The reaction from the members was largely positive, but not unmixed:

Chopra’s latest book, Total Meditation: Practices in Living the Awakened Life, is set to be published later this month.

“ACEP seemed to be saying, ‘We consider him an expert in wellness.’ When Chopra defines wellness, it is far beyond the way emergency medicine defines wellness,” [ACEP member Dan] Buckland said.

and

“[Chopra] has preached Ayurdeva (an alternative medicine system) and ‘quantum healing’ as cures for everything from aging, to cancer, to AIDS,” said Rupinder Singh Sahsi, MD, an ACEP member in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. “He claims that evolution is not a genetic process but one guided by consciousness.

“It’s simply ridiculous for someone who flies so arrogantly in the face of modern, evidence-based, scientific progress to end up as a keynote speaker at an annual scientificmeeting of a legitimate medical organization,” he said.

Indeed; it was a travesty to invite His Quackness in the first place. But, though I dislike Chopra’s woo-ness as much as anybody, I have to agree with the woman below:

But one person suggested that the damage has already been done with the invitation.

Cathy Richards, a retired population health dietitian, tweeted that although inviting Chopra to speak would have given him the chance to use ACEP as a marketing tool, canceling now gives him the chance to say, ” ‘[Doctors] are so afraid of my teachings they cancelled me’. So ACEP has created a no-good-outcomes scenario for themselves.”

I sure wouldn’t have invited him, but once he was invited, I consider it an abrogation of free speech—and of civility—to cancel him. It doesn’t look good, as Richards notes above, and what are the doctors afraid of? Of course the ACEP doesn’t have to abide by the First Amendment, but once it schedules someone, it should let him talk. Others may differ.

Chopra seems to have largely vanished from the public stage, though I suspect that, like most of his books, the new one will make him a lot of dosh. He’ll cry on his way to the bank. Actually, his response was rather measured and civil—for Chopra:

Chopra told Medscape Medical News that he’s not offended by the withdrawal of the invitation or by the criticism.

“Thirty years ago, I would have been very upset and shocked but today, actually, I find it amusing,” he said.

“I have spoken at Harvard Medical School, I do the yearly update in internal medicine for Beth Israel Hospital,” Chopra noted. “I was actually amused that the American College of Emergency Physicians had not kept up with what’s happening in the world.”

Chopra spokesperson Aaron Marion noted that Chopra’s fee for the ACEP presentation, $5000, is being returned.

Chopra tweeted an apology to ACEP members on Thursday, saying, “Dear ACEP Members, I realize there was a lot of angst about my presentation at your convention. I’m sorry for creating so much turbulence,” adding a link to the presentation he would have given, which he notes cites references from leading, peer-reviewed journals.

His message to his critics: “Please look up the references and decide for yourself if this is science or not.”

If you think it was okay for ACEP to withdraw its invitation to Chopra (or agree with me that they shouldn’t have), weigh in below.

h/t: Detlef

53 Comments

  1. BobTerrace
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I agree that the invitation should be withdrawn. Several members spoke out and exposed some of his nonsense. I feel that getting the word out is better than just ignoring the quack.

  2. GBJames
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Why would an invitation like this be extended in the first place? There’s a person out there who needs different employment.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Why on earth would anyone give him the credibility of a platform at a professional venue?

    • Posted September 12, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      + about a million.

      You’d think, when you decide to invite keynote speakers, you’d do your due diligence.

  3. Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Definitely okay with the withdrawal. It was a mistake to invite him, and mistakes should be corrected.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Cancelling is cancelling. If I oppose it when it comes to people I find repugnant, like Milo and Steve Bannon, it would be indefensibly inconsistent to decline to do so as to someone I find merely ludicrous and insipid like Deep-Pockets.

    As to why in the world they’d want to invite Chopra as a speaker in the first place — well, I wouldn’t deign to venture a guess into the mindset of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

    • Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Milo and Bannon are expressing political opinion. Dangerous as it is, it is opinion. Chopra is expressing medical falsehoods about health options, which are dangerous and can cause people harm. He should be cancelled the same way a pharmaceutical company making false claims about its drug should be cancelled.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        Yeah I tend to agree with this. Science is very clear about what is fact and what is fiction….it isn’t necessarily clear that someone is completely wrong with an opposing political view and their views can be up for discussion and debate. There is no debate or discussion with “quantum healing” or any other woo claimed to heal serious diseases like cancer. And this is an audience of emergency room doctors to boot – they usually do know the difference so their most likely was zero interest in listening to him.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          I’m with you Diana (as usual!)

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

            Despite my homophonophobia. 🙂

        • Posted September 12, 2020 at 8:56 am | Permalink

          I agree with this viewpoint. Political speech is one thing but his crap actually has the capability to do harm.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        Is it established that the topic of Chopra’s speech was to be his crackpot woo opinions?

        If his talk was on an appropriate medical subject, I don’t think it served as appropriate grounds to cancel him merely because he holds crackpot views on subjects he wasn’t scheduled to address, though it certainly would’ve been a valid reason not to invite the fruitcake in the first place.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          I’ve never seen evidence that he has anything but crackpot woo opinions.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

            He has an MD and, if I’m not mistaken, studied medicine in both India and the US.

            (Please, please don’t make me defend the man further. It would be almost as bad as when Donald Trump’s actions forced me say a good word on behalf of Jeff Sessions.) 🙂

            • GBJames
              Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

              I’ll just note that “MD” and “crackpot” are not mutually exclusive.

              • JohnH
                Posted September 11, 2020 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

                Dr. Oz, M.D.?

        • eric
          Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          I kind of agree. The organization might have instead sent a note to keynote speakers asking if they can limit their discussion to a specific set of subjects (with the implication of; if you can’t, you need to decline to speak). Emergency medicine seems a pretty well specified topic area and not one I’ve heard of woo having much play in.

          adding a link to the presentation he would have given

          JAC, if you can find the presentation, I’d love to see it. Unfortunately Medscape is register-to-read and I’m not doing that.

          ***

          On a less serious note, at just about every major meeting I’ve gone to there’s been at least one crappy speaker that gave me an excuse to go grab a beer, go make professional phone calls, whatever. Kind of a shame ACEP is cancelling their “early happy hour” event. 🙂

        • rickflick
          Posted September 11, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

          He’s a fruitcake AND a charlatan. As a practiced con artist he will tailor his topic and treatment to the audience. But, for him the visit with peers does two things. It lets him pretend to himself that he’s still a member in good standing, and it allows him to claim peer recognition to help push his woo on the suckers that are his bread and butter. He shares some of this egotism with a certain politician we all love to hate.

      • Posted September 11, 2020 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for saying that so well, so I don’t need to.

    • Pierre Masson
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      A more efficient way of “cancelling” him would have been for a single person to show up at his presentation…

      • Mike
        Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Or hundreds show up and laugh at his ludicrous ideas.

        • Pierre Masson
          Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

          I digress, but this should be the reaction of journalists “forced” to attend Trump press conferences. 😉

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 11, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

            Like when the world leaders laughed out loud at Trump during his UN speech when he said “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country”

    • savage
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Milo’s events were not cancelled because nobody wanted to hear him, but because there were violent protesters at his events (also think of Charles Murray, who is a scholar). That is unacceptable.

      This here is analogous to a conservative student union rescinding their invitation to Milo after a majority of its members disagreed with it.

      Unlike others, Chopra has not been banned from all relevant social media and payment platforms. Saying he was “cancelled” is a bit exaggerated, in my opinion.

  5. bill
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    questioner: ‘you’ve stated that all belief is a cover-up for insecurity, right?’

    chopra: ‘um-hum’

    questioner: ‘do you believe that?’

    chopra: ‘yes’

    questioner: ‘thank you’

    • Paul S
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      I want to know why his woo can cure cancer but not correct his vision.

  6. DFMGV
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    A wise man once tweeted
    “don’t invite Stormy Daniels to an abstinence conference”….

  7. Roo
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I think there’s a fine line between canceling and spreading misinformation, so it depends. If these presentations were going to end up in a place where they would be consumed by the general public with the assumption that they were more or less endorsed by the sponsoring medical association, then I think that is different than cancelling a speaker due to political views in an arena that is clearly meant for debate, not as a place to present a consensus on views.

    • eric
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      I don’t think keynote speeches at any conference are interpreted as being endorsed by/the party line of the inviting organization. At least, not typically. In my experience, keynote speakers are taken as speaking to the organization, not for it. They are chosen because the organization is interested in hearing what they have to say, not as some representative of the organization itself.

      • Roo
        Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        I’m just picturing someone pulling it up on Youtube and going “Oh look, it’s the keynote speaker from this medical conference! Oh, interesting, so he’s saying evolution is actually not random and doctors are doing something called ‘quantum healing’ now?”.

        To my mind the backdrop there would make it look to the average Jane and Joe as if this is what the medical community is telling people, not a controversial topic to be discussed. Or at least there’s a risk of that.

        • eric
          Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

          That is a risk. However I don’t think professional organizations should necessarily limit their keynotes due to the possibility of Joe Public misinterpreting a YouTube video of it. The goal here is the interest and education of the people attending the meeting; they don’t have either the mission or the obligation to produce keynotes that literally everyone from every walk of life will interpret correctly. But it’s also fair to ask what the heck were they thinking might either educate or interest a bunch of emergency medicine professionals about Deepak Chopra.

  8. rickflick
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I’m pleased with the rejection. I find Chopra to be deeply unfit to speak. The big mistake was inviting a charlatan in the first place. But, I don’t think it’s wrong to dis-invite. If the initial invite was a mistake, a slip-up, then it can be undone.

  9. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    ACEP’s decision seems, without getting personal, pretty straightforward to me.

  10. m
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Science: 1 DeepQuack: 0

  11. Another Tom
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    This reminds me of the Homeopathic Emergency Room sketch from Mitchell and Webb.

    • eric
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      That was excellent. And right on the money. Thanks!

    • rickflick
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      One of their very best!

  12. Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Sure, cancel a speaker, but apologise to the speaker and everyone else for failing to do due diligence.

    Anyone can make a mistake, but they should admit it.

    But of course, it was no mistake to include Chopra. They included him exactly because of his quantum physiology, but didn’t get away with it.

  13. Curtis
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    He never should have been invited but canceling makes me queasy. When you make an idiotic decision (inviting him), sometimes there are no good options.

    I would have allowed him to speak with the explicit statement that his views are unscientific. I would pay Chopra even if he did not show up. Then I would quit for inviting ridicule to my organization.

  14. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    The strangest feature of the invitation was its source: the Emergency Physicians.
    Was Dr. Chopra expected to instruct them in the use of meditation to treat automobile accident victims? Judging by his public TV presentations (which seem to turn up every week), it would have rivaled the very funny sketch poster #11 treats us to. On that basis, I suggest that allowing him to present away to an audience of emergency physicians might have been a treat.

  15. Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I am disturbed that he was invited in the first place, but even more disturbed that after the fact he is disinvited. Better to have allowed himself to make a fool of himself.

  16. Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    It is not nice to cancel someone’s invitation to speak after it has been accepted but the need to keep medical information on the side of science outweighs any etiquette considerations, IMHO. Cancel the quack!

    • GBJames
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      I can only imagine that some well-intentioned but misguided person thought it would be nice to have some sort of “motivational speaker” as part of the speaker’s mix.

  17. Jimbo
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    “Please look up the references and decide for yourself if this is science or not.”

    Heh-heh. Nope, a full paper in the Journal of Woo is not science and is disqualifying. What’s in the experimental section? ‘We placed 6 gurus inside individual sensory deprivation tanks and asked 3 of them to connect their minds with the universal quantum consciousness and the other 3 to think intently about croutons as a negative control…’

  18. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Free speech is useful when discussing free opinion, not so much when having a meeting constrained to science.

    Speaking of wellness snake oil, I read that Goop series isn’t cancelled for 2021.

    Gwyneth Paltrow’s pseudoscience Goop series renewed on Netflix

    [ https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/09/grab-your-coffee-enemas-and-magic-crystals-goop-just-got-renewed-on-netflix/ ]

  19. Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you about cancellation generally but WHAT exhumed fool would invite that rancid showman, that Olympic level charlatan to ANYTHING in the first place? I ask you!

    His woo is so deep, so abiding, his phoniness so spikey and annoying.

    He. Is. The. Worst.
    I’m talking Mariam Williamson Scale 110.

    D.A., J.D.
    -all Chopped out.
    NYC

  20. EB
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really see cancellation of talks by the inviting group as a form of free speech abrogation. It’s mighty rude to the speaker and should be avoided at all times, but I do not think it rises to the level of severely impinging on freedom.

    Of course, one wonders what’s so bad about letting the man speak. If his talk is nonsense, then all that could happen is that the listeners wasted an hour or so of their time. There are ample means available for people to challenge the nonsense afterward.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

      As I’ve already pointed out, D-PAK’s motivation may very well be to enhance his own villainous purposes. He can market that he is accepted by real MDs. One should have no part in furthering the career of a fraud.

    • Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      Yes, there’s a big difference between not letting a person speak at all and telling them that they can’t speak here.

  21. Raymond Cox
    Posted September 12, 2020 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Free speech has nothing to do with presenting nonsense at a scientific meeting. It was a mistake to invite him and correct to rectify the mistake. I suppose a case could be made for paying any honorarium as a compensation for any time spent in preparation.

  22. cnhill53
    Posted September 12, 2020 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I don’t think a few should dictate for the whole. I also think some medical people are stuck in their beliefs and just would not want to have to explore something different that’s been helpful to many.

    I’m glad there is a way to access what his presentation would have been for those that at least have a curious mind.

    Thank you.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 12, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Is that you, Deepak?

    • Posted September 12, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      “… helpful to many.”

      Have you heard about the Placebo Effect? Chopra’s ideas may make some people feel better but harm is done when they take his advice over better, more scientific advice. It is just not good enough that some people like what he has to say and feel better afterwards.


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