Rebirthing Therapy

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Pseudoscience is a practice that is presented as scientific, yet does not adhere to a valid scientific method, nor has evidence, plausibility, and testability. It is often characterized by vague, exaggerated claims and an over-reliance on the confirmation bias as opposed to evaluation by other experts. I have always known of pseudoscience, and I have always dismissed it as illogical and harmless. However, after reading about the tragic case of Candace Newmaker, a 10 year old child who received pseudoscientific care for her behavioral problems in Colorado in 2000, I was convinced that pseudoscience can be deadly.

Candace received a treatment called "rebirthing therapy" which was premised on the notion that children's behavioral problems are due to difficulties forming attachments to their parents that stem from birth. During her rebirthing session, which was taped, Candace was wrapped in a multitude of flannel blankets, sat on, and squeezed to simulate birth contractions.

The tape showed Watkins and Ponder instructing Candace to try to come out of her flannel "womb" and then frustrating her efforts to follow their instructions. They blocked her, retied the ends of the sheets, shifted their weight around and ignored her cries for help at least 34 times. Even though Candace complained of nausea, the need to defecate and a lack of air, they continued the session. At one point she could be heard vomiting, and seven times she said she felt like she was dying. Once she was unwrapped, she was discovered to be blue and without a heartbeat.

To think that people could do such a thing to a 10 year old child is absolutely disgusting. At least pseudoscience forces actually scientists to think so critically, as to safeguard against such drastic human errors such as this ridiculous "rebirthing therapy".

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