Respectful Insolence

I really have to turn off my Google Alerts for this topic. I’m going to pull out my hair if I don’t.

As you may recall, I’ve been posting about two young victims of the siren call of quackery who will most likely pay with their lives for their trust in quacks. The first, Katie Wernecke, rejected conventional medicine in Texas several months ago and is now at an undisclosed location receiving “secret” treatments, her father claiming that he can’t reveal what treatment she is receiving or the doctors will stop treating her. The second, Abraham Cherrix, has gotten permission to leave Virginia to go to a clinic in Tijuana to receive the dubious, unproven, and almost certainly useless Hoxsey treatment. Since then, I’ve been subscribing to Google Alerts about them, the better to keep you, my readers informed.

Sadly, those notifications made me aware of a horribly argued “defense” of Abraham Cherrix and his parents written by a columnist named Bronwyn Lance Chester. While there are certainly reasonable arguments one can make against the state intervening to take custody away from the Cherrixes, Bronwyn Lance Chester somehow manages not to use a single one of them, opting instead for hysterical emotionalism in lieu of reason.

The article starts off badly, right from the title (Quit torturing young cancer patient’s family) and launches right off from there:

Starchild Abraham Cherrix said no. No stabbing. No poisoning. No burning. Enough.

Oooh, boy. Whenever you see conventional cancer therapy referred contemptuously to as “stabbing,” “poisoning,” or “burning,” you know you have a true believer on your hands. And Chester doesn’t disappoint in ratcheting up the altie rhetoric even more:

But for refusing what amounts to Geneva Convention-levels of torture, Abraham, a 15-year-old with Hodgkin’s disease who lives on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, may be yanked from his parents.

Given the rhetoric in that sentence, I was half expecting a mention of Hitler or the Nazis to follow. I was relieved that it did not, although the Hitler Zombie probably wasn’t. He has been rather hungry lately, and it’s been a long time since he’s feasted. I guess he’ll just have to wait longer. In the meantime, we get more hysterical hyperbole from Chester:

They’ve been accused of neglect for allowing him to pursue alternative cancer treatments at a Mexican clinic instead of returning to the hell that is chemotherapy.

For backing their son’s refusal to submit to high doses of chemo and radiation, Jay and Rose Cherrix have paid a steep price: the temporary loss of full custody of their son, which they’re now forced to share with the local Department of Social Services. That joint custody may become no custody.

No, because there is no evidence that the “alternative treatment” that Abraham and his parents are opting for has any efficacy whatsoever in Hodgkin’s disease, and lots of evidence that that evil chemotherapy and radiation have a high chance of curing Abraham of his disease. Choosing an ineffective therapy over a therapy with a pretty high possibility of success, thus condemning Abraham to a most unpleasant death, is a form of child abuse. It’s that simple. Would Chester say the same thing about Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to let their child be transfused as he is bleeding to death? Or what if the Cherrix family were Christian Scientists and decided to try to cure Abraham with prayer, rather than even alternative medicine?

She then sets up a straw man:

First, it’s strange indeed when the Cherrixes, who run Wildlife Expeditions, a small-but-bustling paddling business on Chincoteague Island, are put in the same league as parental deadbeats. They shut down their company in August, their busiest month, so that Jay could be at Abraham’s side in Norfolk, Va. — a two-hour drive from their home — during his surgery and on his chemo days for 12 weeks. Not exactly uninvolved slackers.

No, no one that I’m aware of has accused the Cherrixes of being “uninvolved slackers.” No one has questioned their devotion to Abraham, just as no one has questioned the devotion of Katie Wernecke’s parents to her. Abraham and his parents (and Katie Wernecke’s parents) are just wrong about what treatment is best for Abraham and Katie and are making a choice that will directly lead to their deaths of these children from their cancers. It is quite possible to make very wrong decisions with the best of intentions and the maximum of love. You can try to make the argument that Abraham is old enough to make the decision for himself (although I still think that 15 is too young and that it’s impossible to know how much he has been influenced by his parents), but there is no scientifically valid argument that this choice will do anything other than condemn him to die of his disease.

Of course, Chester isn’t finished with the straw men arguments:

Second, the cynics out there will probably take a gander at Abraham’s name and think his pursuit of alternative cancer treatment is New Age-y nonsense.

But alternative medicine isn’t so alternative anymore. A government-funded study in 2004 found that 36 percent of Americans had used some form of alternative healing. Some surely did so because they want the life they have left — even if it’s just days and weeks — to be quality time.

More logical fallacies abound, a straw man followed by argumentum ad populum. No one that I am aware of is making fun of the parents as New Age types, even though they gave Abraham the middle name of “Starchild.” Even if they were New Age types (something that Chester seems to imply but doesn’t know), that would not constitute evidence supporting the contention that the state is overreaching in trying to make sure that Abraham receives appropriate cancer treatment. Second, just because alternative medicine is popular does not constitute evidence that this particular alternative treatment (the Hoxsey treatment) is effective. Heck, it doesn’t even constitute evidence that any alternative treatment is effective! I could point out that astrology is very popular too, but that doesn’t make it valid. Ditto belief in ghosts and the paranormal.

And, what defense of such irrationality would be complete without anecdotes? Chester states:

Back in 2001, when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and given four to six months to live, she was a docile patient, doing everything the oncologists ordered. But she realized something was wrong when she was so sick from the “cure,” or at least the treatment, that she wanted to die anyway.

After the first chemo round, she stopped. My imminently practical and decidedly traditional mother began acupuncture and saw a Chinese medicine practitioner. For a dying woman, she enjoyed — in all sense of the word — an extra year of life. Whether because of the treatment or because the prognosis was wrong — and there goes the myth of medical omniscience — we’ll never know.

Chester has my sympathy for what her mother went through. However, estimates of life expectancy in terminal cancer are just that–estimates. They are fraught with uncertainty, which is why oncologists tend to couch things with relatively vague language with large error ranges. Just because her mother lived several months longer than predicted does not mean that her rejection of chemotherapy and embrace of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine prolonged her life. There are also a couple of other important differences here. First, her mother was undeniably an adult, with full autonomy to reject therapy if she so chose. Second, unlike Abraham, she had a terminal cancer. Unlike Abraham, she had no hope of cure or long term survival. Rejecting further therapy other than palliative therapy under such circumstances is a much different decision than a 15-year-old with a curable cancer being allowed to die.

Chester then finishes with a truly breathtaking flourish of bad analogies:

The Cherrixes’ decision is a far cry from the parents who refuse to vaccinate their children — cancer isn’t contagious, after all — or choose to pray over a rupturing appendix rather than having it removed.

The cure for appendicitis is taking the appendix out. But no one knows if Abraham’s chemo and radiation will be a cure or merely a treatment. Or if he’ll even survive. Meanwhile, he’ll endure months of debilitating illness waiting to find out.

My jaw dropped when I read this. Where to begin? In fact, these two paragraphs were what cinched it that I had to fisk Chester’s article. First, I would argue that the Cherrixes’ decision is not a far cry from parents who choose to pray over a ruptured appendix rather than allowing a surgeon (like me) to take it out. There is only infitessimally more evidence that the Hoxsey treatment can cure Hodgkins Disease than there is that prayer can cure appendicitis–and maybe not even that. No, contrary to Chester’s assertion, the two examples (praying to cure appendicitis and using the Hoxsey treatment to treat Hodgkins disease) are not very far removed at all.

As for the last part of her “argument,” well, Ms. Chester, I have to admit, you got me there. I can’t argue with that. I have to concede that “no one knows” for sure whether chemotherapy and radiation will cure Abraham. We do know, however, that there is probably as much as a 70% chance that they can cure him. Those are pretty good odds in my book, and using the 30% possibility that conventional treatment will fail to save Abraham’s life is, in essence, a deceptive appeal to uncertainty. Nothing in medicine is 100% certain; taking a page from Chester’s own argument, patients sometimes still die after having their appendix removed for appendicitis. When we take a patient to the operating room for appendicitis, we don’t know with 100% certainty that we will cure the patient and save his life, although we do know with a high degree of confidence that we probably will. I would counter Chester’s appeal to uncertainty with this: Here’s one thing we do know: The Hoxsey treatment will not cure Abraham. His odds of dying if he pursues only the Hoxsey treatment will approach 100%. If Abraham pursues the Hoxsey treatment in preference to conventional therapy, the only way he’s going to survive is if he happens to be one of the rare lucky patients who undergo spontaneous remission. Even if his chances of survival with chemotherapy and radiation were only 50% (or even 30%, which is possible if his disease has bad prognostic factors that the news accounts didn’t make me aware of), scientific evidence shows that that would still be far superior to anything alternative medicine can offer. Even if Abraham’s disease progressed to the point that he required a bone marrow transplant, those odds (a 35-65% chance of long term survival) would still be better than he has now with the Hoxsey treatment.

In fact, I would further point out again that Abraham and his parents are making this momentous decision based on very incorrect information. As I pointed out before, the proprietors of the clinic to which Abraham wants to go claim that the Hoxsey treatment has an 80% success rate. If you believe the quacks when they claim that they can cure you 80% of the time with no toxicity, it becomes perfectly reasonable to forego chemotherapy with all its attendant complications and choose the less toxic therapy with what you falsely believe to have a better chance of curing you. Chester should reserve her ire for the quacks who are deceiving the Cherrixes with wildly optimistic claims for their ability to cure him based on no good scientific evidence, not for the state agencies that are trying to save his life.

Chester concludes with an emotional appeal that amounts to, essentially, “enough is enough”:

Abraham has already tried it the doctors’ and the social workers’ way. He’s already endured the two-hour drives to the hospital for chemo, the trips to local doctors for shots to counter the drug-induced fever, the trips back to the doctor for another if they didn’t. The return journeys to Norfolk for more chemo. And so on.

Just because the first rounds of chemotherapy failed to completely eliminate the cancer is not an argument in favor of letting the boy and his parents choose a therapy that can’t cure the cancer. Patients with favorable disease at diagnosis (which Abraham appears to have had) not eradicated but confined to an area of initial involvement after chemotherapy and no radiation, can usually be salvaged with further chemotherapy and low-dose involved-field radiation therapy, possibly with a stem cell transplant. Finally, there also seems to me to be a glaring disconnect that Chester bemoans how horrible it is for Abraham to have to be driven a couple of hours to receive his chemotherapy (while being able to stay for the most part in the comfort of his own home during treatment) but apparently thinks nothing of Abraham’s traveling over 2,500 miles to a foreign country to receive an unproven treatment.

As I said before, there are reasonable arguments you can make in support of Abraham’s and his parents’ decision. None of them happen to be scientific arguments demonstrating that their choice of therapy has any chance of saving him comparable to that offered by conventional medicine, but there are arguments. Generally, they would involve asserting patient autonomy, arguing that Abraham is old enough to make up his own mind, and arguments based on freedom, specifically that the state, as a matter of principle in a free society shouldn’t be able to interfere this much with parental prerogatives in deciding what is best for their children. Too bad Chester managed to avoid using every single one of those arguments dispassionately, preferring instead naked emotionalism over rational discussion.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark Paris
    June 7, 2006

    When people read this stuff, they will see cancer treatment characterized as torture. That’s certainly going to put them in the right frame of mind if they ever have to face cancer treatment. What a service Chester has performed for medicine and cancer sufferers everywhere. People like her turn my stomach.

  2. #2 TheProbe
    June 7, 2006

    “We do know, however, that there is probably a 70%% chance that they can cure him. Those are pretty good odds in my book, and using the 30% possibility that conventional treatment will fail to save Abraham’s life is, in essence, a deceptive appeal to uncertainty.”

    We pay baseball players millions of dollars to NOT get a hit 70%-80% of the time. With odds like that, and reasoning like Chester’s, we should have them pay us to go to the games.

    Everytime I read about parents like these, I begin to feel that there should be written and psychological testing of people who want to become parents before a license is issued.

  3. #3 epador
    June 7, 2006

    I believe at least a plurality of the population (except in perhaps on Chincoteague Island) are intelligent enough to recognize the absurd quality of this column from the Pilot Post. Which might even make it a service to society, for it might lead folks to be more critical and observant when reading an opinion article of any nature wherever it is posted.

    There I go again being unguardedly optimistic.

  4. #4 Jess
    June 7, 2006

    This reminds me of an anti-condom argument that my friend just blogged about. This one goes, “if condoms may not protect against HPV [which they do, but at the time they were thought not to], then condoms are ineffective.” Completely ignoring the fact that not using a condom also don’t protect against HIV… and doesn’t protect against a hell of a lot of other stuff, either. Okay, so chemo may not cure Cherrix’s cancer (especially if the case drags out much longer). But no chemo definitely won’t cure it.

    You might as well say “you can brush your teeth every day and still get a cavity, so I won’t brush my teeth.” Of course, stats do have to be taken into account — one could say “I might not win money if I play the lotter, but I definitely won’t win if I don’t play,” and the chances on that are so monumentally small that it’s not a useful argument (though it’s technically valid). But for the most part, I don’t understand how people can miss the enormity of the argument.

    Reminds me a little of the misapplication of “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” that you were discussing, too.

  5. #5 anjou
    June 7, 2006

    Agree that this article is awful.

    Just want to perhaps correct a point. This kid failed the initial chemo for hodgkins and the recommended transplant is salvage treatment. I believe the odds are lower for this than treatment for de-novo hodgkins? But..perhaps Im wrong, Im not a doctor.

    I follow several lymphoma boards closely, as a survivor, and have seen quite a few in long remissions following transplants for hodgkins– but…no survivors who’ve opted for treatment via Hoxsey or other alt stuff. Its a shame that the parents have convinced the kid that this is a viable option rather than a certain death sentence.

  6. #6 Corkscrew
    June 7, 2006

    Out of sick curiosity, what’s a rough estimate of Abraham’s survival chances if he doesn’t get proper treatment? I imagine there’s some small probability of a spontaneous remission or whatever – could someone throw me a ballpark figure?

  7. #7 Dave S.
    June 7, 2006

    Corkscrew –

    To put it in perspective, THIS 2005 paper describes the first ever such case in Korea. They say in the full paper that there has been a total of 15 cases of spontaneous Hodgkin’s remission reported in the literature. Compared to everyone who has had the disease…you do the math.

  8. #8 Orac
    June 7, 2006

    This kid failed the initial chemo for hodgkins and the recommended transplant is salvage treatment. I believe the odds are lower for this than treatment for de-novo hodgkins?

    In the case of localized disease, odds of disease-free survival after progression/relapse after primary chemotherapy without radiation therapy are, according to the NCI website, around 35-65%, depending on the series and prognostic factors, Still way better than the Hoxsey treatment or any alternative treatment.

    I based my 70% on the more optimistic case (which, from the news reports, seems to be correct) that Abraham had only localized disease above the diaphragm, that his disease had not been eradicated after chemotherapy alone (no radiation), and that he does not have any disease outside of his lymph nodes. If he has more disease than the newspapers are telling or extranodal disease, then his odds would be much less.

    It’s not clear to me that Abraham represents a “relapse” per se, but rather a failure of first line chemotherapy to completely eradicate his disease. He can be salvaged by second line chemotherapy and low dose radiation therapy to the involved lymph node beds, but you are probably correct that he could ultimately need a stem cell transplant to have a chance at a true “cure.”

    None of this would invalidate my point that his odds are much better with conventional medicine than with the Hoxsey treatment.

  9. #9 anjou
    June 7, 2006

    Thanks Orac– even 35% beats the zero of Hoxsey

    I was assuming the were recommending transplant from this line from the news story I read
    “According to his parents doctors at CHKD want Abraham to undergo high doses of chemotherapy.”

    Tough to figure out whats going on from the newspapers.

    anjou

  10. #10 anjou
    June 7, 2006

    While this doesnt change the arguement that Hoxey’s a nutty choice…or that the news article above is horrible and the sort of stuff that fuels the alties and pushes them away from treatments that might save them.

    this is bigger chunk of news article I read…dont know who the Stark guy is– doesnt appear to be a treating onc, so who knows how he came up with his figure

    “According to his parents doctors at CHKD want Abraham to undergo high doses of chemotherapy.

    But he’s had chemo before – it made him extremely sick and his cancer came back.

    So why try chemo again?

    CHKD says “we are unable to comment due to federal privacy laws”

    Suffolk Oncoloist James Stark says the the treatment plan we described sounds like a reasonable next step.

    But says even with that treatment, the odds aren’t good.

    “I would estimate probably about 25 percent so this is not a good situation” says Stark.”

  11. #11 Orac
    June 7, 2006

    It depends if Abraham has more extensive disease than I’m interpreting. Figures from the NCI website are:

    In the German Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Group (GPOH) and the former Children’s Cancer Group (CCG) Hodgkin’s lymphoma trials, most relapses occurred in patients who received chemotherapy alone as primary treatment, and most of the relapses were limited to sites of initial involvement.[2,3] Patients with favorable disease at diagnosis (i.e., stage IA or stage IIA; no bulk; no B symptoms), with relapse confined to an area of initial involvement after chemotherapy and no radiation, can generally be salvaged with further chemotherapy and low-dose involved-field radiation therapy (LD-IFRT). For some postpubertal patients, standard-dose radiation may be an option.[4] For all other patients, treatment of relapse/progression includes induction chemotherapy,[5-9] and high-dose chemotherapy with hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT).[10-12] Overall outcome is better following the use of autologous versus allogeneic stem cells because of the increased mortality associated with allogeneic transplant.[13] Following autologous HSCT, the projected survival rate is 45% to 70% and progression-free survival is 30% to 65%.[14,15] Adverse prognostic features for outcome after autologous HSCT include extranodal disease at relapse, mediastinal mass at time of transplant, advanced stage at relapse, and primary refractory disease.[14]

    Based on news reports, I interpreted Abraham as having favorable disease at the time of diagnosis because he supposedly had disease, as he was reported as having tumor in his neck and chest (tumor in two or more sites on the same side of the diaphragm with no reported systemic symptoms, making me guess him to be stage IIA). It’s possible that, rather than low risk disease, he had intermediate risk disease (stage II with B symptoms–night sweats, weight loss, fever–or with bulky disease, where bulky disease is defined as a tumor greater than 5 cm in diameter). I also wasn’t sure from the news reports whether he completed the full course of his recommended therapy, but looking at other sources suggests to me that he did.

    *Also:

    In one large series of patients, however, salvage after primary refractory Hodgkin’s lymphoma was attained with aggressive second-line therapy (high-dose chemoradiotherapy) and autologous stem cell transplantation. At a median of 10 years of follow-up, event-free, progression-free, and overall survival rates were 45%, 49%, and 48%, respectively. Chemosensitivity to standard dose second-line chemotherapy predicted for a better survival (66% overall survival) and those who remained refractory did poorly (17% overall survival).[23] Salvage rates for patients who relapse after chemotherapy and LD-IFRT are approximately 30% to 50%. The salvage rate will probably be higher for patients who relapse after chemotherapy alone, particularly if the relapse is confined to a site of initial disease involvement.

    Remember, Abraham did not have LD-IFRT

    I think now that Abraham probably had more extensive disease than I initially interpreted news reports as stating and that my initial estimates of his chances were too optimistic, based perhaps on my faulty memory for primary nonresponsive Hodgkins. (On the other hand, I have no idea where that Dr. Stark gets his information fromm which, based on the literature I looked at, seems unduly pessimistic.) Nonetheless, assuming the very worst case, from what I can glean, with conventional medicine Abraham probably still has roughly a 50-50 chance of beating his tumor with conventional medicine, maybe slightly less. Still way better odds than with the Hoxsey treatment.

    None of this changes the overall point about my the articles that I wrote, however. Indeed, to me it makes the quacks look worse, as they promise the sky (80% cure rate for basically any cancer) with no toxicity. If you had the choice between a toxic and difficult therapy that only offered you, say, a 50% chance of living to a ripe old age versus promises by the quacks of a therapy that has an 80% chance of curing you with no toxicity, well, if you believe the claims of the quacks you’re probably going to opt for them, aren’t you? Only if you understand that the offer of an 80% chance of survival is a false will you reject it.

  12. #12 Ahistoricality
    June 7, 2006

    Orac, I’m with you 99%. The other 1% is that, having seen the effects of chemo and radiation, I can’t dismiss the descriptions of cancer treatment as tortuous out of hand. Yes, they are as effective as we can possibly make them. Yes, alternative therapies are likely to be useless.

    However, I have very high hopes that in ten, twenty, fifty years we will look back on chemo/radiation as we look back on pre-anesthetic surgery. The essential theory behind chemotherapy is to poison the patient “just enough”; it’s effective, but it’s also the reason why we talk about “fighting” cancer, “battles”, “bravery” “survivors” when cancer is involved. Even the best outcomes are achieved through massive physical trauma.

  13. #13 Bronze Dog
    June 7, 2006

    We can only hope that someday we’ll have McCoys incessantly comparing today’s techniques to leeches, and cancer will be curable with a wave of a tricorder.

    Of course, today’s techniques work better than leeches, which are pretty much what the woos want us to go back to.

  14. #14 impatientpatient
    June 7, 2006

    This is why I have such trouble with “alternative practiotioners”- they characterize medicine as slash torture burn, and malign oncologists and doctors who ARE trying their best in the face of often dismal odds. Screw that. It makes me angry. It makes me angry that people prefer to pray or do magic, rather than go thru short term pain for possible long term gain. No-one says chem is easy or fun. No-one wants anyone they know to have to go thru the treatments.

    This wholistic, nature is good, medicine/science is bad worldview is invading medical institutions, insurance companies and the regular persons psyche. The view that we CAUSE our illness by our thoughts is also prevalent in this frame that sickness is viewed in. This is absolute drivel, and needs to be attacked. These people, well meaning or not, are charlatans that deserve to be treated by their own medicine if their turn to get some disease happens.

    How come “natural” heart disease treatments are not touted as much as cancer “cures” ? Theres a question I would like answered. Is it because cancer is so many faceted? Is it because people have accepted the science behind heart drugs? What is the difference?

    I dunno———- this stuff upsets me.

  15. #15 anjou
    June 7, 2006

    Hi Orac–
    Thanks for clarifying this– the discrepancies with possible survival stats were confusing to me.. and Im sure the newspaper is way less clear than an actual chart!

    As you say this wasnt central to the main points of your post, and in no way was I taking issue with those! Ive been challenging altie stuff for years on the lymphoma support lists… every week it seems its something else, the hoxsey clinic, Gerson diet on and on and on…..

  16. #16 theRidger
    June 7, 2006

    I had six courses of chemo for my ovarian cancer back in 2001. Cancer free to date, and my oncologist is ready to stop seeing me except for an annual checkup. But what I wanted to say was – he prescribed a couple of drugs for me (one anti-nausea and one for the neuropathy) and I can honestly say that the chemo was easy – a helluva lot easy than recovering from the surgery. I was not sick once. My oncologist told me that it made him angry that so many people – including so many doctors – didn’t know what drugs were out there and thought that nausea was a necessary component of chemo. (I can’t remember the names of the drugs and my medical records aren’t here – I do remember the anti-nausea drug was so brand-new my insurance wouldn’t pay for it, but he substituted another that worked as I said; he liked the first one because it was one pill a day instead of two.)

    At any rate, I hope the children are at least comfortable as they die. I don’t know enough about it to know whether they’ve thrown away a really good chance to live, or just a shot at it.

  17. #17 Ruth
    June 7, 2006

    My last job was doing the documentation for patients on cancer clinical trials. Many patients can work and function fairly well with antinausea drugs and drugs like Procrit. Some advanced cancers did require intense chemo, which produced side effects which sometimes couldn’t be eliminated with antinausea drugs. I have seen people so afraid of cancer treatment that they delay seeing a doctor until it has advanced to stage 3 or 4, which requires more intense treatment.

  18. #18 firefalluk
    June 8, 2006

    I could point out that astrology is very popular too, but that doesn’t make it valid. Ditto belief in ghosts and the paranormal. And doubtless this dingbat would affirm her belief in those, too.

    and, medical omniscience? WTF? Aside of one or two really annoying doctors, I’ve never seen or heard of anyone claiming omniscience or anything close to it – quite the reverse, doctors usually seem to carefully choose to talk in vague proportions, or at best statistical percentages (thank god).

    Mind you, there was that one GP that recommended sacrificing a surgeon at midnight under the new moon to cure my psoriasis …

  19. #19 Chincoteague
    June 22, 2006

    A Chincoteague Island resident responding to epador’s comment.
    Epador wrote:
    “I believe at least a plurality of the population (except in perhaps on Chincoteague Island) are intelligent enough to recognize the absurd quality of this column from the Pilot Post.”

    Chincoteauge Island residents are intelligent enough to see the absurdity of the Virginia Pilot article. It is well known on the island that Abraham’s family “march to the beat of a different drummer.” For the record Abraham’s given name is Starchild Abraham Cherrix. We all wish the best for him.

  20. #20 John
    July 12, 2006

    Do you know anything of the history of Howard Hoxsey and his cancer traetment successes? Obviously not. Do your research first! This is about basic human rights and allowing people to use whatever method of treatment they believe in not just what the FDA and drug companies want to peddle. They tried chemo already and obviously it did not work and nearly killed the kid in the process, if they want to try an “alternative” treatment it is their right. Other countries are so far ahead of the U.S. in regards to cancer treatments and at a much lesser cost too.

  21. #21 Bryan W
    July 12, 2006

    You morons who oppose alternative treatment have no idea what you’re talking about. Cure rate in medical terms is measured in 5 year increments. If you don’t have “cancer” 5 years after treatment, they consider you cured, even if you die of cancer in year 5.1.

    My sister died at age 20 after multiple conventional “treatments” of lymphatic cancer over 7 years. NEVER would I subject my worst enemy to this torture.

    What’s never compared is survival rates for non-treatment & quality of life vs. treatment. Even if these kids die, their quality of life remaining will be much higher than if they had treatment. Would you rather have 2 or 3 normal years, or 6 normal months, and 4.5 years of crap with surgeries, hair falling out, nausea, etc?

    Some day we will realize that these “alternative” treatments are more effective for treating cancer, and they don’t have the awful side effects. People die EVERY day from cancer – conventional treatment or not.

    It should speak volumes that both these kids have been leading relatively normal lives for well over a year during their alternative treatments. One doctor said the boy only has a 25% chance of “sruvival” (read 5 years) with conventional treatment.

    Open your mind, look at the entire set of facts, before being jedgemental on decisions people make about their own lives.

  22. #22 HCN
    July 12, 2006

    Bryan W said “Open your mind, look at the entire set of facts, before being jedgemental on decisions people make about their own lives”

    How about providing some of those facts for us.

    There is lots of data on conventional treatments for cancer (see http://www.cancer.gov/statistics ). If there is something equilivent for Hoxsey or other alternative methods, please point out where they are.

  23. #23 janersma
    July 13, 2006

    I want to second what theRidger wrote regarding appropriate palliative medications during cancer treatment. My daughter was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma at a very prominent hospital in Washington DC. The chemotherapy made her deathly ill and she had a greenish-yellow tint to her skin. After two rounds of chemo, I transferred her care to a cancer center in New York City and her quality of life improved dramatically! Although she went through 3 additional rounds of high dose chemo, surgery, stem cell transplant, radiation and antibody therapy she was happy, playful, and gained weight! By chance we ran into one of her homecare nurses from the DC area at a diner in NYC and she could not believe the difference in my daughter.

    So many oncologists seem to have the attitude that cancer treatment is horrible, painful and debilitating and that’s just the way it goes. That is attitude is SO wrong. For example, when this teenager Abraham talks about not wanting his veins burned with chemo I want to shake his docs and ask why he doesn’t have a mediport? Why should anyone, adult or child, suffer through GCSF injections without an insulflon? Once my daughter began receiving an effective dose of anti-emetics, nausea was not a big problem. Cancer treatment is tough, but patients and their loved ones could be spared a lot of needless trauma if more attention was given to comfort measures.

    I suspect some of these issues have to do with insurance companies and what they are willing to pay for, and the burdens placed on doctors to just keep up with the insane volume of patients they must see to make a living. What I would love more than anything is to see the practice of medicine returned to DOCTORS, rather than bean counters at insurance companies!

    Although I totally disagree with their decisions, I still wish the Cherrix family the best. I hope that when all is said and done they will be able to look themselves in the mirror each morning. My family has been extremely blessed with great medical care. We will mark the third anniversary of my daughter reaching NED (no evidence of disease) on July 18.

  24. #24 anjou
    July 13, 2006

    Janersma’s comment is right on target. When I heard I had to have chemotherapy…I thought of “chemotherapy as portrayed in the movies,” ie I’d be puking my guts out etc…..The image portrayed in the movies terrified me…I was suprised to find out, that altho it certainly wasnt a picnic…I never vomitted, the nausea was well controlled, could work etc…. Transplants can be far rougher than what I went through, but, know many lymphoma patients who have been through them, and are alive years later as a result. For them, a few months of misery have given them years of life.

  25. #25 Steven Avery
    July 13, 2006

    Hi Folks,

    Thanks John and Bryan for bringing a bit of balance to a somewhat indoctrinated crew here. What Bryan says about the strange rigged definition of ‘cure’ is of course one of the basic deceptions. Also they can play all sorts of tricks in drug-land. A young person dies of a heart attack or some other ailment in a study, pretty obviously connected to all the medications and other ‘treatments’, and that does not have to be counted as a cancer death, and can be taken out of the statistics.

    Ironically, one newspaper that exposes more of the medical industry chicanery is the Wall Street Journal (eg. much more than the NY Times). My 90+ year-old pop subscribes and almost every week they are writing about a scandal in the orthodox medical studies and journals and drug-pushing.

    The funniest thing is the folks who, while supporting the fascist medical cabal who have driven many natural treatments underground (with kudos for those who fly under the radar) and out of this country to marginal subsistence operations in other countries, then turn around and insist on all sorts of technical detailed studies. (These same folks will show disinterest when quoting industry studies, not referencing all the documented chicanery in the drug-industry endorsed and backed studies).

    The mild word for the two-faced stand (I’ll drive you underground, and try to throw you in jail, take away kids from parents if you don’t enter our mills — and then be *shocked* that a struggling marginal operation overseas didn’t spend 100 G’s or whatever to do our type of study, preferably double-blind) is hypocrisy.

    Personally, I search out folks who are healthy and strong and ask them what treatments they found efficacious. Again and again I see disasters through the conventional medicine, and when I find folks doing well it is often essiac, hoxsey, Gerson, Reams, Issels or various other treatments that have come to the fore. (to be balanced, I have seen some surgical removals that were proper and helpful).

    And the issues are not just cancer, yes there are similar problems in heart disease, Grave’s disease, MS, etc. For the person above, the heart ‘medicine’ industry is simply a disaster, (most all of you probably know folks pulling out 5-10 pills each day, as each one is for the effects of another) and in fact many folks do go a natural route on issues like arterial blockage, cholestoral, etc.

    Anyway, the real issue is not whether Abraham should be allowed to go to Mexico … of course, and the state should get out of the way, whether his parents are new-agers, Christians, home-schoolers or whatever .. they did the research, they met the folks, they evaluate, they make their informed choice. Abraham and his folks know what they want to do .. there should be no issue on that whatsoever, even if you are brainwashed by the orthodox medical establishment, like so many on this forum.

    The real issue is why anybody doing such natural treatments as Hoxsey or Gerson in ‘the land of the free’ has to be quasi-underground, or compromise their treatment, in order to function in the USA. Or go overseas to get a full-orbed inpatient experience (with the only exceptions some low-key under-the-radar who have a Bible or religious covering).

    That is the real disaster here.

    The fascist-corptocracy drug-industry, med-schools, AMA, JAMA-Journals-media insurance-industry cabal (flying under the ‘science’ banner) that makes it necessary for folks to leave the country to use sensible therapies of choice.

    Shalom,
    Steven Avery
    schmuel@nyc.rr.com
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic

  26. #26 HCN
    July 13, 2006

    So, Mr. Avery, do YOU have verifiable data on how effective Hoxsey and Gerson treatments are?

  27. #27 Kurt Emmert
    July 21, 2006

    Abraham and his parents (and Katie Wernecke’s parents) are just wrong about what treatment is best for Abraham and Katie and are making a choice that will directly lead to their deaths of these children from their cancers. It is quite possible to make very wrong decisions with the best of intentions and the maximum of love. You can try to make the argument that Abraham is old enough to make the decision for himself (although I still think that 15 is too young and that it’s impossible to know how much he has been influenced by his parents), but there is no scientifically valid argument that this choice will do anything other than condemn him to die of his disease.

    Is there any evidence for this? How do we know it won’t work? I read an article that said he went to kemo and the cancer came back. Looks like that choice will condem him to die of his disease. Let them make their choice and deal with the consequences. Science does not know all the answers. If it did we would not still be asking the same questions.

  28. #28 Orac
    July 22, 2006

    Comments on this post are now closed. If you wish to comment further on the Cherrix case, check out my latest post on the issue, where I anticipate that the discussion will continue as freely as it has here.