Saturday, March 04, 2006

Absurd Cancer Cures

Via Dr R W (The propagation of the absurd in mainstream medicine) comes a link to the Medical Journal of Australia and an article entitled Propagation of the Absurd: demarcation of the Absurd revisited.
when irrational beliefs are shared with a surrounding community of sympathetic thinkers, errors become institutionalised. Thus are generated medical sects and cults that propagate the Absurd.

EoR was also pleased to see the alternatista's second-favourite dead scientist (after Einstein) is, justifiably, turned against them:
Skrabanek recalled Bevan’s warning, also attributed to Galileo: "The aim of science is not to open a door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error".

Following one of the links at that page, EoR discovered Public illness: how the community recommended complementary and alternative medicine for a prominent politician with cancer by Ray M Lowenthal, the Director of Medical Oncology at Royal Hobart Hospital.
In February 2004, The Honourable Jim Bacon, Premier of Tasmania, aged 54, was diagnosed with advanced metastatic non-small cell lung cancer after a short history of dyspnoea and cough. He had been a heavy smoker. He made the diagnosis public, in the hope that by doing so he would contribute to the antismoking cause. Indeed, he famously pronounced on television "I have been an idiot" in not heeding advice to quit. Unfortunately, his disease responded only briefly to chemotherapy and radiotherapy and he died within 4 months of diagnosis. After his public announcement, Bacon and his wife were deluged with letters of good wishes and encouragement. Among the many hundreds of pieces of correspondence were 157 that they identified as being proposals or suggestions for CAM use. Bacon had no interest in this type of treatment, and the material was offered to me for study and analysis.

Of the many suggestions offered, it was clear that the promoters of these "therapies" knew nothing about science:
Among specific comments made, colloidal silver was recommended because "all cancer involves parasites", and the Gerson diet was advocated because it was "based on the original nutrition that God gave Adam and Eve".

and that paranoia (not just about "conventional" medicine) was also a strong motivator:
Fourteen pieces of correspondence referred to private or secret methods, many of which would only be revealed to Bacon if he communicated directly with the correspondent (for example, "Give me a call - I have vital information for you").

Others were much more open about their true agenda:
In some cases, a fee was requested.

One person felt qualified to cure Mr Bacon's cancer since had self-healed his own back pain. Among other suggestions, the usual suspects appeared:
coffee enemas, faith healing, magneto-therapy, shark cartilage, high-dose vitamin C, oxygen and reiki, were among those suggested to Bacon.

A number of suggested treatments were, in fact, harmful, such as laetrile, the Hoxsey method and coffee enemas.

Dr Lowenthal provides a list of all the suggested treatments in his article. Some of EoR's favourite cures for cancer include: laughter, energy cleaning machines, "microbeams", juices, cottage cheese, molasses, "Japanese missing nutrients" and chakra healing.

EoR was saddened to see no one recommended Sir Jason Winters' Magic Cancer Curing Tea.

The article concludes:
This article gives a new insight into the availability and promotion of CAM for cancer and other conditions in Australia. Medical practitioners should be aware that their cancer patients, like Jim Bacon, may be offered one or more such treatments. Aside from issues of cost, some of these treatments may be known to be ineffective, many will be of uncertain efficacy, and a few will be known to interfere with evidence-based cancer treatments. Of gravest concern, if CAM methods are used as alternatives to rather than as complementary to evidence-based medical treatments, patients may deny themselves potential benefits and even cure.

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