Respectful Insolence

OK, I give up.

I hadn’t planned on blogging about this because I thought I had already taken care of this woo before. Well, not exactly this woo, but a related woo of which this new issue is just a warmed over more woo-ified version. Indeed, I had even considered it as a candidate to be the first “victim” of a new, improved, resurrected version of Your Friday Dose of Woo (yes, I still do intend to resurrect it but haven’t managed to find the time to give it the justice it deserves), but decided against using this particular form of woo because, well, it’s quackery that kills. And that’s a buzzkill if anything is.

Still, you, my readers, would not let me easily ignore this particular bit of quackery. Over the last few days, you sent stories about it to me. It is indeed appalling and utterly pseudoscientific. It is indeed full of the most amazing bits of idiocy. It is indeed Biologie Totale.

Except that it’s nothing of the sort. Unfortunately, it’s gaining traction in Quebec:

A new therapy that claims to cure cancer and other diseases but has been blamed for dozens of deaths in Europe is gaining popularity in Canada, according to a Radio-Canada investigation.

“Total biology” is a therapeutic approach that claims illness is caused by psychological conflicts in the brain.

The approach, also known as new medicine or bio-psycho-genealogy, professes to heal all disease, including AIDS and advanced forms of cancer.

The method is gaining traction in Quebec where patients are often told to ignore their cancer, or stop medical treatment altogether, according to an investigation by CBC’s French-language service.

Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s a rehashed version of the German New Medicine by Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer. As you may recall, Dr. Hamer, like so many purveyors of “alternative” medicine, doesn’t think that disease is really disease or that cancer is really cancer. He thinks that cancer is a result of psychic trauma, which causes what he referred to as a “Dirk Hamer Syndrome” (DHS), in what he calls the “Iron Rule of Cancer.” Indeed, Dr. Hamer doesn’t call a disease a “disease.” Rather, he calls it a Significant Biological Special (SBS) program. Or maybe the DHS is the disease, being as it is the reaction to the SBS program. In any case, to boil it all down, according to the German New Medicine the cure for cancer is not all that nasty chemotherapy; it’s doing something to resolve the psychic crisis that supposedly caused the cancer. In other words, make cancer patients think happy thoughts and banish those nasty psychic traumas that caused the cancer in the first place, and the cancer will go away. How convenient, eh? In fact, it’s a lot like The Secret. It’s basically the Law of Attraction in which psychic trauma results in bad things and thinking good thoughts banishes that nasty trauma, along with all those cancer cells.

Too bad real life doesn’t work like that. Or maybe it isn’t. After all, too much woo in essence blames the victim for not wanting to get better badly enough, and if the world really worked like the fantasy world of the German New Medicine, there would actually be justification for doing that.

So what’s Biologie Totale (or, for you English-speaking folks, Total Biology)? It’s nothing more than German New Medicine made even more ridiculous. First off, it always cracks me up to see such a name. Total Biology. Not New Biology (like German New Medicine). Total Biology. This quack, Dr. Claude Sabbah, thinks that he’s understood the complete and total biology of the human organism. It would be nice if he did, but he doesn’t, as is demonstrated here:

The Total Biology of Living Beings is a concept that was developed by Claude Sabbah, the fruit of over 35 years of experience. In addition to his medical training (as a specialist in oncology, emergency medicine, sports and hyperbaric medicine and psychotherapy), Claude Sabbah is a researcher, NLP practitioner and a teacher and speaker of world renown. Total Biology integrates the knowledge drawn from several areas of medical specialization, recognized scientific research and various observations on the plant, animal and human realms. The concept sheds light and understanding on the normal functioning of a living creature, how it becomes ill and how it is possible for it to regain health and well being.

Wow. Are you amazed yet? Then read some more. First Dr. Sabbah cites his inspiration by Dr. Hamer. Then he, like so many woo-meisters, claims to have taken Dr. Hamer’s woo and gone much further:

Claude Sabbah has applied these findings from 1985.  Since then, with his years of medical practice, his own findings, with the cooperation with many other researchers and scientists… Claude Sabbah has set the concept of Total Biology which integrates: Dr Hamer’s New Medicine, Modern Western and Asian Medicine, Observation of the Biological Laws of the Fauna & Flora, Biological Cellular Memorized Cycles, NLP, the concept of the mini-Maxi Schizophrenia, Biogenealogy, personal researches, and many more…

Is there any quackery Dr. Sabbah hasn’t mined for his Biologie Totale? And what does neurolinguistic progamming have to do with it? Patience. More importantly, what, exactly, do Dr. Sabbah and his acolytes spreading like a–if you’ll excuse me–cancer throughout Quebec and Canada tell their patients to do to try to fix the results of these “psychic traumas”? Radio Canada journaists went undercover to find out. It isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s an unholy combination of seemingly faith healing and German New Medicine:

He teaches his approach in six-day seminars offered in France and Canada. He tells students that cancer and other diseases are formed in the brain first, and must be deprogrammed.

During the investigation, Radio-Canada journalists went undercover with hidden cameras seeking medical advice about fictitious diseases.

One of the journalists claimed to have breast cancer. She visited several total biology practitioners who told her that her life was not in danger, and the lump in her breast was the result of a maternal conflict.

She was recommended to stop chemotherapy altogether. During another visit a practitioner told her to drink champagne and relax.

Another undercover journalist who claimed he had prostate cancer was told his ailment was caused by a conflict between his parents at the time of his conception.

He was given orders to recite a prayer 15 times a day.

The story of the woman with breast cancer sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? Do you remember a woman named Michaela Jakubczyk-Eckert? She had breast cancer, and she listened to Dr. Hamer. She ended up dying a horrible, painful death. It’s a good thing it was just reporters pretending to have breast cancer this time, as any real woman with breast cancer who listened to this nonsense risks suffering the same fate.

It’s also pretty amazing that anyone could think a malignant tumor is the result of a “maternal conflict.” But, as mentioned above, it’s not just this life we have to worry about. According to these woo-meisters, a conflict at conception can result in cancer. But it goes even further than that. Indeed, Biologie Totale is a cornucopia of woo that goes into the past before conception. I hadn’t had any idea, but after looking into it I found that it’s somehow become attached to a form of pseudoscience known as Memorized Biological Cellular Cycles and Biodecoding, whatever they are. If you want to get a load of how far this quackery goes by expanding on German New Medicine, read and be amazed at Psycho-biogenealogy & Transgenerational, which gets all lumped together with neurolinguqitic programming in a manner that is hard to believe, at least to anyone with an understanding of evolution:

Through Dr Hamer’s theories, we understand that diseases, emotional impacts associated with them and memories of traumas can be transmitted to future generations via genes. It seems logical that in some cases the primary programming cause of illness can be found on previous generations.

Man, cancer patients just can’t catch a break. If it isn’t their fault for thinking bad thoughts or being unable to overcome psychic trauma, then it’s the fault of hteir family and previous generations! Never mind that there sort of idea is inconsistent with modern biology. In fact, it’s downright Lamarckian! I wonder if Dr. Sabbah is a creationist, too.

So what evidence does Dr. Sabbah and his merry band of “blame-the-victim” quacks have to back up their claims that Biologie Totale can cure cancer and pretty much every other disease? Do you even have to ask? It’s testimonials all the way down, of course:

The approach “can seem crazy,” but it works, claims Olivier Comoy, a Quebec naturopath and total biology practitioner.

Comoy says he’s seen cases where people have completely recovered from their illnesses after undergoing total biology therapy, which helps them understand how life events and emotions leave marks on their bodies and behaviours.

Of course he has. I’m guessing, however, that he didn’t see a single case of cancer or a non-self-limited disease that was cured by his ministrations. Either that, or he treated diseases with a waxing and waning course, saw the patient during the waning phase of his illness, declared a “cure,” and then sent the patient on his way, never to see the waxing phase return. Certainly there’s nothing like any sort of clinical trials, of even crappy quality, to support Olevoy’s observations. Unfortunately, there are more and more like him:

Sabbah is no longer allowed to practice medicine in France, but he’s trained more than 7,000 people, most of them with no formal medical experience.

Many practise the approach in Quebec.

Worse, it’s metastasizing to the United States, as these testimonials demonstrate.

There are few things I detest more than quacks like these believers in German New Medicine and Biologie Totale preying on the desperation of seriously ill patients. Not only can they not cure any patients, but they actively hurt them by telling them that the means to cure themselves is within them, not caring that the flip side of that message is that if they are not healed by tis quackery it must be their fault for not wanting it enough or not being able to work through some psychic trauma. When it comes to sinking to to the feces-encrusted bottom of the sewer and then burrowing even further into the slime, no quack matches Drs. Hamer and Sabbah.

Comments

  1. #1 speedwell
    October 14, 2008

    “German New Medicine?” Is that what they’re calling Scientology these days to get past the German distaste for dangerous cults (Scientology specifically)?

  2. #2 Sodding Wick
    October 14, 2008

    Shoot Hamer in the kneecaps and suggest that he treat his wounds by shooing his psychic traumas out of his mind.

  3. #3 Interrobang
    October 14, 2008

    I heard this on Radio-Canada this morning, at least a short synopsis of it, anyway. I didn’t understand a whole lot of it, because my French isn’t really up to dealing with concepts more advanced than “Les Conservateurs sont pets politiques,” but that’s okay.

    People who’d use this stuff, especially here where going to the doctor is paid for up front by your taxes, puzzles me, except to think that there must be some truth to the ideas that fools and their money are soon parted and that some people have more money than brains. (I also can’t help but wonder whether Quebec tends a little irrational because up to about 60 years ago, Quebec was pretty much a Catholic theocracy, at least as far as day-to-day life was concerned, and the Quebecois seem to have been swapping organised religion for other forms of institutionalised irrationality — like separatism, for instance — ever since.)

  4. #4 Kemist
    October 14, 2008

    Quebecois seem to have been swapping organised religion for other forms of institutionalised irrationality — like separatism, for instance — ever since.)

    Heeheehee… Don’t let a separatist hear you ! :)

    To be fair, there was a time when they had a point. But at that time, it was the catholic clergy which kept them from acting on the sheer injustice of how badly they were treated. A good feeling of how it was at that time can be seen in the movie The Rocket about hockey player Maurice Richard’s career in the NHL.

    Now of course it’s pretty much BS. I’m a francophone from Quebec and if you want to bore me to tears (or anger me) you start talking about we are so very in danger of losing our mother tongue… It’s a sentiment that makes the vast majority of quebecers outside montreal fail to speak english properly even after having studied the stuff for over 10 years of their lives. They stunt and isolate themselves with hatred.

  5. #5 sophia8
    October 14, 2008

    No, Speedwell, this is something that Scientology can’t be blamed for.

  6. #6 Dave S
    October 14, 2008

    Geee,

    I wish I had know that my stage 2 testicular cancer in 1995 was due to “maternal conflict”

    It could have saved me all that time, money and suffering. Damn big pharma for witholding that info from me.

    Silly me….

  7. #7 DLC
    October 14, 2008

    I haven’t got cancer, fortunately. But, if I did have, I would far rather endure science-based treatment than the less intrusive but completely useless quackery-based medicine.

  8. #8 Kemist
    October 14, 2008

    I haven’t got cancer, fortunately. But, if I did have, I would far rather endure science-based treatment than the less intrusive but completely useless quackery-based medicine.

    That’s the thing… Endure. It is so difficult to go through it when it makes you sick (particularly chemo, when your cancer hasn’t started giving you trouble yet… when you’re still curable).

    I also used, like many people, to shrug over quackery… You know, fools and their money and all that… But then my best friend fell sick with cancer, and I could see for myself the lure of denial. She was told by various friends that there wasn’t any tumor left after her surgery (which wasn’t true… her surgeon had specified that she couldn’t remove a layer of cells that was stuck on her liver…). Especially when she had relapse and had to go through chemo again, her various woo friends kept on saying to her not to take the chemo… How I hated them when my friend, with tears in her eyes, asked me : “That’s the only chance I’ve got, to go through this again, isn’t it ? But I don’t feel sick ! I don’t want to go through this again.” I can only guess how difficult it was for her father, who had to encourage her through this on the phone.

    It’s hard enough to accept your diagnosis and go through this stuff without people (well-meaning or not) dangling an easy and deadly “alternative” in front of your desperate self.

  9. #9 Patrick
    October 14, 2008

    What is it with these guys that go Nation hopping when their priviledges are struck off in their home country?

    Here we have dr Truffle shuffling his way from France to Canada, and in US we get the whacky Wakefield follies, relocated from jolly old blighty to Texas. Talk about the real illegals aliens, these folks got Whacked by their home medicine boards and now go out to keep spreading the good deeds? (sarcastometer broke at this point.)

  10. #10 IBY
    October 14, 2008

    More like Scheiβe Totale. That is some big woo to swallow. I guess the pain going through chemo makes those things tempting. Hopefully, it wonn’t become popular in the U.S., hopefully…

  11. #11 eddie
    October 14, 2008

    “…due to a conflict between your parents at the time of your conception”

    I don’t know about yours but I have it on good authority that mine were quite close at the time.

  12. #12 Brian X
    October 15, 2008

    I wonder if this guy Sabbah is a friend of Rael, who is of course another woo-loving Frenchman named Claude who moved to Canada…

  13. #13 Winawer
    October 16, 2008

    Thanks for writing about this; it’s good to see someone smack down these tools…

  14. #14 Pieter B
    October 16, 2008

    I know it’s just a quick substitute for actual fact-checking, but . . .

    In addition to his medical training (as a specialist in oncology, emergency medicine, sports and hyperbaric medicine and psychotherapy), Claude Sabbah is a researcher, NLP practitioner and a teacher and speaker of world renown.

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    There is no page titled “Claude Sabbah”.

    There is a one-sentence mention of him on Hamer’s page, though.

  15. #15 MartinB
    October 17, 2008

    If it is all just psychic, how about cancer in animals? Should I drop cancerous fishes in my aquarium into a glass of champagne?

  16. #16 Alex, FCD
    October 18, 2008

    In addition to his medical training (as a specialist in oncology, emergency medicine, sports and hyperbaric medicine and psychotherapy)

    He did a quadruple specialty? He must have been in med school for decades. Either that or he’s completely full of crap.