Respectful Insolence

The Beautiful Truth

The things I do for my readers.

I’m referring to a movie entitled The Beautiful Truth, links to whose website and trailers several of you have e-mailed to me over the last couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because the movie is only showing in New York and Los Angeles and hasn’t made it out of the media enclaves of those cities out to the rest of us in flyover country, or maybe its release is so limited that I just hadn’t heard of it. Certainly that appears to be the case, as the schedule shown at the website lists it as beginning an engagement in New York tomorrow and running through November 20 at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street and in Los Angeles in from November 26 to December 4. What this movie reminds me of, more than anything else, is Ben Stein’s pseudoscience- and lie-filled bit of “intelligent design” creationism propaganda, Expelled!

It does have a rather slick website, however, not to mention a lot of trailers and clips from the movie.

These trailers and clips make it quite obvious that The Beautiful Truth is nothing less than a paean to cancer quackery in much the same way that Expelled! was a paean to “intelligent design” creationism. Specifically, it’s a paean to the quackery known as the Gerson therapy, mixed in with a veritable cornucopia of woo. If the dozen or so clips on the website and YouTube are any indication, this movie is nothing less than a tour into the dark heart of American quackery led by a credulous guide who has drunk deeply from the Kool Aid on sites like Whale.to, NaturalNews.com, and Mercola.com. Just as Expelled! claims that academics are “suppressing” any criticism of “Darwinism” or research into “intelligent design,” The Beautiful Truth postulates a grand suppression of this “alternative” cure for cancer that “they” don’t want you to know about. The movie is described thusly:

Garrett is a 15-year old boy living in the Alaskan wilderness with a menagerie of orphaned animals. Growing up close with nature has given him a deep understanding of nutritional needs required by diet sensitive animals on the reserve. Unfortunately, the untimely and tragic death of his mother propelled him into a downward spiral and he risked flunking out of school. This led to his father’s decision to home-school Garrett. His first assignment was to study a controversial book written by Dr. Max Gerson.

Geez, doesn’t this sound like a Jack Chick tract? You know, the kind where after a tragedy a troubled youth rejects Jesus and falls into a pit of despair, complete with substance abuse, bad grades, and falling in with the “wrong” crowd. Then, usually, someone shows the troubled youth the Bible and tells him all about Jesus again, and he is saved. This movie sounds exactly like this, except with “alternative” medicine being the savior and Max Gerson providing the “miracles.” This is not surprising, because so much of “alternative” medicine is more like religion than anything else–and a cult religion at that. No amount of evidence or science deters its adherents. But, if you really, believe, the Messiah Max Gerson will cure you–yes, you!–of your cancer, no matter how advanced:

Written over 50 years ago, Dr. Gerson found that diet could, and did, cure cancer. Controversial at the time (and even today), Garrett took on the challenge of researching this amazing therapy, which drew the interest of his neighbors in the small Alaskan community. With the help of Dr. Gerson’s daughter, Charlotte Gerson, and grandson, Howard Strauss, they gave him the ammunition needed to go in search for the truth – a truth that would affect not only him, but his entire Alaskan village – all of whom wanted to know if these claims were true. After a number of cancer patients, who were diagnosed as terminal, shared their stories and their medical records with Garrett, it became abundantly clear that, contrary to the disinformation campaign spear-headed by the multi-billion dollar medical and pharmaceutical industry, a cure for virtually all cancers and chronic diseases does exist – and has existed for over 80 years!

Of course it has. It always has. At least if you listen to people like Mike Adams. I wonder if he had a hand in this movie. According to the press kit, at least, he didn’t. Of course, if you believe purveyors of many, many forms of quackery, there is always a cure for cancer out there that big pharma and the government have been “suppressing” because–well, it’s never entirely clear exactly why they would do this. These cancer “cures” end up being either the world’s most well-kept conspiracy (after all, I’m cancer research and I’ve never heard of such an amazing cure) or the worst kept (after all, filmmakers like Steve Kroschel, writer, producer, and director of The Beautiful Truth, seem to have no problem finding out about it).

None of these claims makes much sense on a strictly logical basis, either. Think about it this way: So many people die of cancer every year that virtually every person in developed countries, doctors and cancer researchers–and, yes, even big pharma executives–included, have known, know, or will know someone with cancer, and many have seen or will see someone they love die of cancer. Certainly I have. In fact, our family is dealing right now with cancer. Indeed, because cancer kills so many people, many of these very same doctors and researchers will end up battling the disease at some point in their lives, and many of them will end up dying of it themselves. I might even end up dying of cancer someday. Does it make any sort of sense logically that every single one of them would dismiss or conspire to suppress (or participate in a conspiracy or even “business as usual” to suppress) such an amazingly effective cure, if it really existed? No, it does not. Someone would talk, probably a lot of people. Again, I happen to have a close family member with cancer right now, and, I assure you, if such a cure existed, I would make damned sure that family member got it, no matter what it was, and if it truly worked as advertised I would make sure everyone else knew about it too.

Garrett’s mission now is to tell the world.

Of course it is. It always is. Because he’s been converted and is now an evangelist.

Let’s review a bit about just what the Gerson therapy is. It’s a so-called “nutritional” therapy for cancer that involves large quantities of fruit and vegetable juices, raw liver, and “detoxification” with frequent coffee enemas. Indeed, the Gerson protocol was a precursor to the more commonly discussed and now more famous Gonzalez protocol (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Grafted onto the therapy by his daughter Charlotte since Max Gerson’s death are other forms of woo, such as liver extract injections, ozone enemas, “live cell therapy,” thyroid tablets, castor oil enemas, clay packs, laetrile, and “vaccines” made from influenza virus and killed Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Gerson’s “evidence” in the form of his case series was examined by the National Cancer Institute back in the 1950s, and this is what was found:

In 1947, the NCI reviewed ten cases selected by Dr. Gerson and found his report unconvincing. That same year, a committee appointed by the New York County Medical Society reviewed records of 86 patients, examined ten patients, and found no evidence that the Gerson method had value in treating cancer. An NCI analysis of Dr. Gerson’s book A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases concluded in 1959 that most of the cases failed to meet the criteria (such as histologic verification of cancer) for proper evaluation of a cancer case [16]. A recent review of the Gerson treatment rationale concluded: (a) the “poisons” Gerson claimed to be present in processed foods have never been identified, (b) frequent coffee enemas have never been shown to mobilize and remove poisons from the liver and intestines of cancer patients, (c) there is no evidence that any such poisons are related to the onset of cancer, (d) there is no evidence that a “healing” inflammatory reaction exists that can seek out and kill cancer cells [17].

And:

Charlotte Gerson claims that treatment at the clinic has produced high cure rates for many cancers. In 1986, however, investigators learned that patients were not monitored after they left the facility [19]. Although clinic personnel later said they would follow their patients systematically, there is no published evidence that they have done so. A naturopath who visited the Gerson Clinic in 1983 was able to track 21 patients over a 5-year period (or until death) through annual letters or phone calls. At the 5-year mark, only one was still alive (but not cancer-free); the rest had succumbed to their cancer [20].

Which is exactly as would be expected if one followed 21 patients with advanced cancer who were getting zero effective treatment.

Of course, this is where this movie starts out with its conspiracy-mongering. Indeed, here’s its account of what happened to a reporter in the 1940s after reporting on Gerson’s claims:

And an interview with Gerson from 1957 in which he claims so many patients that “you” (meaning doctors) had “sent home to die” whom he “cured”:

Get a load of this trailer as well. It’s got it all, including a question along the lines of, “If your doctor knew of a cure for cancer that didn’t require expensive drugs, he would tell you, wouldn’t he?” In the typical “science has been wrong before” combined with “doctors will say anything if they’re paid enough” gambit, there are also the obligatory excerpts from cigarette ads from the 1940s and 1950s asking “What cigarette do you smoke, doctor?” Then there’s a woman who I assume is Charlotte Gerson ranting about how doctors can’t afford to let patients see “alternative” doctors because they cure people and about how people have been “so brainwashed for so long.” In other words, it’s the same, tired old propaganda that so many quacks have been claiming for so long, propaganda that the esteemed director of this film seems perfectly predisposed to believe, as he appears not to have an ounce of skepticism in him, at least if his Director’s Statement is any indication:

I have worked with injured and orphaned wild animals and have been moved by the rcovery of wildlife from illness and disease by the nutritional therapies that I used. So when I was introduced to the work of Dr. Max Gerson on human nutrition by an associate, I wanted to investigate these amazing claims. I was startled by these discovereds, and, frankly, it has changed my life–especially when I was able to meet the people who should have been dead due to terminal cancer.

Since I am a filmmaker, I wanted to meet Dr. Gerson’s family and do a short film for charity. The fallout from that earlier work was so controversial, far-reaching, yet uplifting; I decided to make a feature length film.

I’ve spoken with hundreds of people about Gerson’s therapy and many people related their recovers, their skepticism and bias–most of which came from the medical community. But what I quickly found out that those who dismissed the therapy did not have conclusive evidence that it didn’t work. In doing more investigation, it quickly became evident that an almost criminal set of priorities has been in play when it comes to treating human disease.

In other words, Steve Kroschel is a credulous woo who hasn’t the slightest clue how to evaluate scientific evidence relating to the efficacy of a cancer therapy (or any therapy, for that matter) and how scientists and doctors determine whether any given therapy has any activity against cancer. He’s a clueless wonder. In fact, he’s so credulous and woo-loving that the Gerson therapy and cancer aren’t enough for him. And, holy guacamole, he descends to the same level as Ben Stein did in Expelled! in an anti-fluoridation segment that’s complete with images of Hitler and his concentration camps, along with claims that Hitler wanted to use sodium fluoride to sterilize people:

Calling Mr. Godwin! Your presence is requested in the movie theater immediately!

Kroschel also delves into full-on dental amalgam quackery. The deconstruction of this particular form of “alt-med” is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say that there is a widespread and paranoid belief that somehow the mercury in dental amalgams is causing all sorts of horrific health problems, much the same way that the mercury militia thinks that mercury in vaccines causes autism:

Oh. My. God.

There’s a segment of the dreaded “smoking tooth” video, which in reality caught nothing more than water vapor. It’s one of the most hilariously, mind-numbingly stupid bits of extravagant quackery that I’ve ever seen and always good for a hearty belly laugh whenever I watch it, but Kroschel actually seems to think that it’s evidence of something more than the video maker’s utter credulity. Truly, the stupid does burn hot enough to vaporize not just amalgam (which it wouldn’t be all that hot to do) but to vaporize whatever wisp of intelligence the viewer might wish to hold onto–the Stupid-O-Meter cranked up to 11 and beyond!

As hilarious as the dreaded “smoking tooth” clip is, my favorite segment is this next clip. Really, if you can, you just have to watch this one. You won’t regret it:

I couldn’t stop laughing after I watched this clip. If the amalgam clip represented the Stupid-O-Meter cranked up to 11, the clip above about how cooked food is “dead” had to have cranked it up to at least 20 or 30. Seriously, look at it. Two pictures are shown, one of cooked and another of uncooked baby carrot. As the narrator says, “The uncooked carrot has a startling line of strong energy” that–surprise, surprise!–the cooked carrot lacks. The conclusion? Pasteurized food is “dead,” apparently just like the parrot in a certain famous Monty Python sketch and Steve Kroschel’s brain. Now, whatever negative nutritional changes that may come about in food from cooking, which may break down some nutrients, this sort of nonsense is simply nothing more than primitive vitalism, a claim that somehow it’s better to eat “live” food, as if we can somehow absorb its life force by eating it. It also looks no different than the hilarious quackery of “aura” cameras for humans.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any information about all the cancer patients “cured” with Gerson therapy, but let me make a prediction. There will be the usual stories of “being sent home to die” by their oncologists, only to be “saved” by Gerson or his daughter. Most importantly, though, in not a single one of the testimonials in the movie will there be sufficient detail or evidence presented to allow one to draw any reliable or convincing conclusions whatsoever regarding whether the Gerson therapy, in fact, cured the patient’s cancer. (There never is.) Key information will be missing from each and every such testimonial. (It always is.) Call me psychic if you want, but I’ve seen enough testimonials to know what to expect without even having to watch the movie. Indeed, one review, although too credulous by far about the claims that Max Gerson cured anyone of cancer, contains a passage that nonetheless strikes me as just right based on the clips I’ve observed:

Actually, it’s Kroschel who seems to be provoking the investigation, using Garrett as a passive prop to push Gerson’s agenda–the nearly mute kid spends most of the film getting talked at by cancer survivors and scientists who tell him how evil the mainstream medical community is. Kroschel positions The Beautiful Truth as a sort of instructional video for young people on the merits of eating healthy, but its creepy messianic vibe is far more toxic than all the pollutants in all the processed food you could ever consume.

So is the sheer quackery evident from just the clips available on the web.

Here’s one good thing, though, for those of you living in New York and L.A. In New York after one show each day, there will be a question-and-answer session with Howard Straus, son of Max Gerson, and the moviemakers. In L.A., it’s even better. After some shows over the Thanksgiving weekend, there will be Howard Straus, Charlotte Gerson, and Polly Emery. The NYC event sure sounds like an event that the NYC Skeptics might want to crash and report back, and if there’s anyone in L.A. who wants to crash the party there, that would be cool, too. Certainly I’ll link to any reports or reviews that any skeptic who’s seen the movie wishes to post. There’s also the movie’s blog (of course!), and it’s soliciting comments. After all, the blog states:

We will ask director Steve Kroschel, his son Garrett (who is featured in the film), Charlotte Gerson (founder of the Gerson Institute), author/publisher Howard Straus and Anita Wilson (Executive Director, Gerson Institute) to help monitor and reply to your comments.

How can you resist?

The more I look at the trailer for the movie and its clips, the more appropriate I think the comparison to Expelled! is. All the elements are there: Pseudoscience. Check. A scientific orthodoxy supposedly so blinded by greed and ideology that they can’t accept that Max Gerson “cured” cancer and treat it as a challenge to their medical hegemony, just as in the eyes of ID creationists those evil “Darwinists” supposedly can’t stand challenges to “Darwinism” and treat them as a challenge to their scientific hegemony. Check. And, of course, we have at least one Godwin-worthy gratuitous comparison to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, possibly more. Check. True, Expelled! has many, but I’ve only seen a few clips of The Beautiful Truth. However, from these clips and the descriptions of the movie on its website, it seems to me that all The Beautiful Truth lacks is Ben Stein in an Angus Young-style British schoolboy shorts walking up to oncologists and hospitals with a bullhorn or, sans schoolboy pants, looking deeply contemplative and horrified at the ruins of Dachau or Auschwitz.

I suppose we can be grateful for that little mercy, at least, although it is profoundly creepy the way that Kroschel uses his son as the vessel into which he pours his agenda.

Comments

  1. #1 Christophe Thill
    November 13, 2008

    “Of course, if you believe purveyors of many, many forms of quackery…”

    I don’t know about the exact figures. But would it be excessive to speak of “the multi-billion dollar quackery industry”?

  2. #2 Mike
    November 13, 2008

    You can rail all you like against woo and quackery but the desperate will grasp at any straw. The only hope for preventing many ‘conversions’ is a very limited release.

  3. #3 Inquisitive Raven
    November 13, 2008

    One thing that I’ve never seen mentioned is that ISTM that there is a countervailing force against Big Pharma. If there were really a cheap and easy cancer cure, don’t you think the insurance industry and national health services in countries that have them would be all over it? After all, the people who pay for health care would love any available means of saving money, and the insurance industry surely has a lobbying capability to rival Big Pharma’s. And who wants to argue with a government?

  4. #4 ERV
    November 13, 2008

    …in an anti-fluoridation segment that’s complete with images of Hitler and his concentration camps, along with claims that Hitler wanted to use sodium fluoride to sterilize people.
    omg wouldnt that be awesome?? Non-hormonal, ridiculously cheap birth control that helped fight cavities.

    I wish.

  5. #5 Inquisitive Raven
    November 13, 2008

    Let me rephrase that last sentence.

    Who can put more pressure on an industry than a government?

  6. #6 I am so wise
    November 13, 2008

    Inquisitive Raven,

    If you watch Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born you’ll learn that insurance companies are “the establishment” and do whatever the doctors’ tell them without any consideration of cost.

    Speaking of that movie, Orac is any truth to the claims (through implication) by Marsden Wagner that the “spike” in austism cases is due to obstetric interventions?

  7. #7 Charles Perry
    November 13, 2008

    Years ago I was assigned to write a story about an expert on marine invertebrate poisons. The subject was interesting but he was creepy, with a wild stare and a threatening manner. I dithered and postponed writing the story until I didn’t have to write it at all, because he got sued for grand theft by fraud for treating cancer patients with extracts of pond scum.
    So there’s another cancer cure the establishment is suppressing.

  8. #8 Dianne
    November 13, 2008

    Does it make any sort of sense logically that every single one of them would dismiss or conspire to suppress (or participate in a conspiracy or even “business as usual” to suppress) such an amazingly effective cure, if it really existed?

    I have this vision of how that might work…Someone discovers The Cure. I call Orac on the secret conspiracy phone and say, “Psst…orac. Someone’s on to us. You disparage them on your blog while I go call our cronies at the FDA to get them shut down.”

    Uh, no. Doesn’t work that way. If Orac and I were in the same room with someone–anyone, no matter how non-”big medicine”–who provably had a cure or even an improved treatment for any one of a number of currently incurable cancers, we wouldn’t be trying to shut them up, we’d be racing each other out the door to get to our computers and write the clinical trial that will definitively prove the efficacy of the propopsed treatment FIRST and get the glory. And would the drug companies be trying to stop us? Not a chance. They’d be busy trying to make sure that they were the ones who produced the cure, be it drug, device, or natural product. You say it’s really raw carrots that cure cancer? Fine, they’d have the carrot market bought up and be marketing OncoCarrot within the week…

  9. #9 Dangerous Bacon
    November 13, 2008

    Is there any mention in this drippy film of Prince Charles? He’s one of the biggest Gerson/coffee enema proponents around.

    “So when I was introduced to the work of Dr. Max Gerson on human nutrition by an associate, I wanted to investigate these amazing claims.”

    Uh-huh. To rephrase this accurately, it should read “So when I was introduced to the work of Dr. Max Gerson, I swallowed it hook, line and sinker and ignored the inconvenient evidence piled up against it.”

    Wonder what gaudy threads Mike Adams and Hulda Clark will wear to the movie’s grand premiere in Salina, Kansas.

  10. #10 Dangerous Bacon
    November 13, 2008

    It just occurred to me that “Expelled” is the perfect title for a movie about coffee enemas.

  11. #11 CyberLizard
    November 13, 2008

    What is it with all these woo-mongers and their fascination with shoving stuff up their butts?

  12. #12 sophia8
    November 13, 2008

    Quacks going on about how their marvelous cures are “suppressed” are just like the “free energy” guys – they’re also always ranting about how Big Whatever doesn’t want their invention to get out.
    Why don’t these “suppressed” people just get on quietly with selling their cures/inventions? People who buy the free energy machines will start noticing a big drop in their power bills and will tell all their friends and nieghbours to get a machine for themselves; people with cancer will start surviving and they’ll tell other cancer sufferers about this great cure. In both cases, word-of-mouth, spread entirely by satisfied customers, will be enough to get the invention/treatment recognised and “unsuppressed”, with Big Business/Big Pharma helpless against this huge groundwave of popular support.
    Or is that too logical?

  13. #13 khan
    November 13, 2008

    I like that they misspelled: “flouride”

    …in an anti-fluoridation segment that’s complete with images of Hitler and his concentration camps, along with claims that Hitler wanted to use sodium fluoride to sterilize people.

    omg wouldnt that be awesome?? Non-hormonal, ridiculously cheap birth control that helped fight cavities.

    I wish.

    What she said.

  14. #14 D. C. Sessions
    November 13, 2008

    I like that they misspelled: “flouride”

    No comment.

  15. #15 IBY
    November 13, 2008

    Darn it! Cooked foods are dead?! I thought I was torturing them everytime I ate them!

  16. #16 Dr. T
    November 13, 2008

    Just what we need, another movie like Lorenzo’s Oil: no science, just a touchy-feely sense that quackery is better than medicine.

  17. #17 Rowan
    November 13, 2008

    i suspect the film’s release on those dates and cities is merely to make it eligible for an academy award. i presume the documentary category.

    the sad thing is that there will be people gullible enough to believe this twaddle.

  18. #18 llewelly
    November 13, 2008

    In the region of flyover country I live in, altie med is widely beloved, and I suspect said movie would play well here. (I live in the home state of Basic Research, who produces most of drek you see in the altie health aisles of grocery stores, which is also the home state of Senator Orrin Hatch, who represents the interests of the altie med industry in the Senate.)

  19. #19 Katrine Kirk
    November 14, 2008

    It seems that everyone here agrees that “alternative medicine” has nothing to offer whatsoever. I’m just curious about something:

    All of you in favor of western medicine: what, if any, role do you believe that nutrition plays in healing cancer?

  20. #20 Ranson
    November 14, 2008

    It seems that everyone here agrees that “alternative medicine” has nothing to offer whatsoever. I’m just curious about something:

    All of you in favor of western medicine: what, if any, role do you believe that nutrition plays in healing cancer?

    To adress the first part of your strawman, many of us here, in general, believe that if an alt-med treatment were to show significant results that could be reliably replicated under controlled conditions, then it may certainly have something to offer. That’s what research is for. Given that most alt-med treatments routinely fail to meet even a basic test of efficacy or reproducibility, and that many of the people here have spent a lot of time and effort investigating such claims, a lot of us laypeople are pretty good at separating potential wheat from likely chaff.

    As for nutrition “healing” cancer? First, define “heal”. Tumor shrinkage? Improved quality of life? Less pain? Greater survivability? “Healing” is a buzzword that covers a lot of things, and many people who use it are dealing in crap.

    Now, if you are trying to make the point that diet is a factor in cancer risk, well, then, yeah, no shit. We’ve known that forever.

    If you are saying that a proper diet is a miracle cure-all will remove cancerous tissue and prevent recurrence, I’d advocate slapping you around a bit and making you sit in a field of graves of those who followed such advice.

    If you are saying that a proper diet may mitigate some factors of some of the incredibly complex range of diseases that we blithely throw under the heading “cancer”and its treatments, show me the evidence. The solid, double-blind, reproducible evidence. Customer testimonials don’t count. Otherwise, you’re not worth listening to.

  21. #21 Dianne
    November 14, 2008

    All of you in favor of western medicine: what, if any, role do you believe that nutrition plays in healing cancer?

    In general, less than one might like. There is some evidence that low fat, high fiber diets can help decrease the risk of some forms of cancer, particularly colon cancer. And adequate calorie intake is necessary for a good outcome in some cancers, particularly head and neck, where people can get very malnourished both from the disease and the treatment. But the trials so far have failed to establish any role for vitamins in the treatment of cancer or, as far as I know, any other dietary intervention beyond simply making sure that the patient isn’t starving. If you have other evidence, please present it.

  22. #22 Scott
    November 14, 2008

    It seems that everyone here agrees that “alternative medicine” has nothing to offer whatsoever.

    Actually, that’s pretty much true by definition. If a so-called “alternative” treatment were to demonstrate efficacy, it would be accepted as part of mainstream medicine and would no longer be considered alternative.

    The only reason treatments are considered alternative is because they have not been shown to work. It has nothing to do with whether said treatments are “eastern” or “western.”

  23. #23 Karl Schwartz
    November 14, 2008

    The title should be the Ugly Lie.

    The truth being that patients sometimes buy into it and delay and avoid effective therapies for treatable cancers. Or otherwise squander life savings.

    Should movies and books that promote theory-based medicine be required by FDA to state prominently: This is Fiction? Why do we only have such standards for ads?

  24. #24 Pam
    November 14, 2008

    There is a single purpose for my posted comment. That is for the benefit of anybody who may be struggling with what course of action to take if they, or someone they love has/have been diagnosed with an illness. I have personally recovered from an advanced state of cancer, one which the medical establishment proposed I be treated aggressively (years ago) with chemotherapy. I declined and chose (carefully and after speaking with several other recovered Gerson patients, one of whom had been recovered for 12 years from a ca that usually claims life within three years of diagnosis) the Gerson Therapy. My gratitude towards Dr Gerson and his daughter Charlotte, both of whom dedicate(d) their lives to saving others, is boundless.
    There is one other comment I would make. The level of consciousness that seems evident in this blog, is not the level of consciousness humanity so desperately needs if we are to overcome the threat we currently face, to our very survival.If we are to survive and thrive, there is great hope if more of us lift the quality and vibration of our individual thoughts and intentions. We need to support and uplift each other, not tear each other down. I for one, am grateful to and admire Garrett Kroshel for undertaking this film project, especially given the personal challenges he has so recently faced.
    I would encourage anyone to listen to their intuition, to ask questions, and to read between the lines of any such article as this.
    Finally, I wish you fortitude and blessings.

  25. #25 pam
    November 14, 2008

    There is a single purpose for my posted comment. That is for the benefit of anybody who may be struggling with what course of action to take if they, or someone they love has/have been diagnosed with an illness. I have personally recovered from an advanced state of cancer, one which the medical establishment proposed I be treated aggressively (years ago) with chemotherapy. I declined and chose (carefully and after speaking with several other recovered Gerson patients, one of whom had been recovered for 12 years from the same ca that usually claims life within three years of diagnosis) the Gerson Therapy. My gratitude towards Dr Gerson and his daughter Charlotte, both of whom dedicate(d) their lives to saving others, is boundless.
    There is one other comment I would make. The level of consciousness that seems evident in this blog, is not the level of consciousness humanity so desperately needs if we are to overcome the threat we currently face, to our very survival. If we are to survive and thrive, there is great hope if more of us lift the quality and vibration of our individual thoughts and intentions. We need to support and uplift each other, not tear each other down. I for one, am grateful to and admire Garrett Kroshel for undertaking this film project, especially given the personal challenges he has so recently faced.
    I would encourage anyone to listen to their intuition, to ask questions, and to read between the lines of any such article as this.
    Finally, I wish you fortitude and blessings.

  26. #26 Katrine Kirk
    November 14, 2008

    I wrote earlier:
    It seems that everyone here agrees that “alternative medicine” has nothing to offer whatsoever.

    To which Ranson responded:
    To adress the first part of your strawman, many of us here, in general, believe that if an alt-med treatment were to show significant results that could be reliably replicated under controlled conditions, then it may certainly have something to offer. That’s what research is for.

    “Alternative medicine” is such a broad, sweeping term, that I can accept the “strawman” accusation. It would help if we used more precise language. I am just amazed at the cockiness of this forum. It’s as if most of the posters here have blind faith in evidence-based medicine. Excuse the pun. And while I hold a deep respect and admiration for the medical community and all the groundbreaking knowledge that has come out of meticulous science, I am still baffled by what I perceive as a lack of acknowledgement of the importance of stimulating the patient’s regenerative processes. Thus therapies aimed at reinforcing hope, eliminating stress, supplying the patient with optimal nutrition, strengthening the physique, or even strengthening spiritual faith are often – by scientists – labelled quackery and other demeaning terms. And slapping around the proponents of holistic approaches to health and healing is done indiscriminately of whether the therapies are proposed as supplementary or alternatives to orthodox medicine.

    I’ll tell you where I’m coming from. In 1998 I was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of lymphoma (T-cell lymphoblastic). I was treated with standard chemo and radiation, and achieved complete remission. I relapsed after a year. At the time, the 5-year survival rate for relapsed lymphoblastic lymphoma was in the 5-10% range, taking into account that not every patient could find a suitably matched bone marrow donor.

    I was, as you can probably imagine, VERY interested in what could be done to improve my odds. Yet when I asked my haematologist “Which individual characteristics or supplementary therapies distinguish the patients who survive from those who don’t?” he was at a loss for an answer. Extensive research in the medical library yielded very few clues. There were occasional case studies in well-reputed medical journals detailing unusual courses of the disease – unexplained remissions etc. Yet even in those case studies, the focus was exclusively clinical: socio-demographic factors were mentioned, but there were never any references to how the patient had coped with the disease or what sorts of other interventions (psychological, nutritional, or other alternative therapies) the patient had initiated.

    Searching through some of the more “alternative” literature I came across many anecdotes of cancer patients who had survived against the odds. Some authors, with varying scientific credentials, attempted to summarise the characteristics of survivors. Based on this literature review (and I’m sorry, the only English-language references I can remember were Lerner’s 1996 “Choices in Healing” and the writings of Dean Ornish and Bernie Siegel), I concluded that there did seem to be a pattern:

    Those patients who survived against poor odds shared some common characteristics: they were active participants in their care, they had hope even if their doctor didn’t, and they very often supplemented their medical treatment with nutritional and/or psychological support.

    And there are plausible explanations for why so-called alternative therapies can make a positive difference in outcome:
    1) Emotions/moods affect brain chemistry. Brain chemistry affects physiology. (The placebo effect has been proved beyond question, and I believe a causal relationship has been established between stress and a number of pathological conditions. Hopeful patients have been shown in well-designed studies to have better outcomes than other patients.)
    2) The body needs nutrients. Chemotherapy destroys cells. The quality of the “building blocks” gained from food and supplements necessarily makes a difference in how well the body can regenerate. So why discount that some dietary regimens are more beneficial to regaining health than others?

    To get back to Ranson’s comment about the purpose of research and the scientific community’s interest in replicable results: the mind-body connection has been established beyond question, e.g. the placebo. But it seems to me that the prevalent interpretation among scientists is that it is a source of scientific error to be ruled out, rather than a potentially powerful connection that can be harnessed with alternative therapies such as visualisation to improve the outcome for patients. And as far as nutrition goes, I am not sure exactly what has been shown by well-designed studies, but isn’t it evident that patients who don’t eat die quickly, patients who eat but don’t get all their nutritional needs met will have poorer chances of recovery than those whose nutrition covers all bases?

    I am genuinely interested in your responses to this. I’d be interested if people responding to this post could mention what their own vantage point is (professional occupation for instance).

    And I am hopeful that responses will avoid such vivid metaphors as slapping me around and making me sit among the graves of the misguided…

    Respectfully,
    Katrine Kirk
    (ex-cancer patient in Denmark)

  27. #27 Mike
    November 14, 2008

    Glad you survive and flourish. Same for all others who’ve beaten cancer or any debilitating illness. As with any human endeavor on a population-wide scale, a bell curve of outcomes is expected. For the few who survive with (in spite of?) Gerson’s teachings, some percentage would end as you do, healthy and alive. There is a very high likelihood that without the good doctor’s teachings you’d be in the same position. Human life and responses to disease are complicated beyond imagining and in a population large enough, most people with terminal cancer die. A few survive. Good for you. Credit goes to your genetics far more than Gerson.

  28. #28 Scott
    November 14, 2008

    Beyond what Mike said, a consciousness that rejects rationality and critical thinking is most definitely NOT what the world needs.

  29. #29 Katrine Kirk
    November 14, 2008

    Mike, you’re sidestepping my questions. Stating that there is statistical variation in any population is not an answer to the question of whether or not nutritional and/or psychological support plays a part in improving patients’ odds of recovery.

    Why does that seem so implausible? Do I detect a hint of confirmation bias?

  30. #30 khan
    November 14, 2008

    It’s as if most of the posters here have blind faith in evidence-based medicine.

    Reality’s a bitch.

    Will my arthritis et al go away if I put some herbs into a bag, wave the bag around my head, and scream like a chicken?

  31. #31 Polly Emery
    November 14, 2008

    There is a single purpose for my posted comment. That is for the benefit of anybody who may be struggling with what course of action to take if they, or someone they love has/have been diagnosed with an illness. I have personally recovered from an advanced state of cancer, one which the medical establishment proposed I be treated aggressively (years ago) with chemotherapy. I declined and chose (carefully and after speaking with several other recovered Gerson patients, one of whom had been recovered for 12 years from the same ca that usually claims life within three years of diagnosis) the Gerson Therapy. My gratitude towards Dr Gerson and his daughter Charlotte, both of whom dedicate(d) their lives to saving others, is boundless.
    There is one other comment I would make. The level of consciousness that seems evident in this blog, is not the level of consciousness humanity so desperately needs if we are to overcome the threat we currently face, to our very survival. If we are to survive and thrive, there is great hope if more of us lift the quality and vibration of our individual thoughts and intentions. We need to support and uplift one other, not tear each other down. I for one, am grateful to and admire Garrett Kroshel for undertaking this film project, especially given the personal challenges he has so recently faced.
    I would encourage anyone to listen to their intuition, to ask questions, and to read between the lines of any such article as this.
    Finally, I wish you fortitude and blessings.

  32. #32 Bronze Dog
    November 14, 2008

    Just doing a bit of this:

    And while I hold a deep respect and admiration for the medical community and all the groundbreaking knowledge that has come out of meticulous science, I am still baffled by what I perceive as a lack of acknowledgement of the importance of stimulating the patient’s regenerative processes.

    Isn’t that pretty much the concept behind a large chunk of medicine? Direct repairs are probably less common, and preventative medicine is another large chunk. One piece of preventative medicine – vaccines – are so effective, many people have forgotten there’s something worth preventing.

    Thus therapies aimed at reinforcing hope, eliminating stress, supplying the patient with optimal nutrition, strengthening the physique, or even strengthening spiritual faith are often – by scientists – labelled quackery and other demeaning terms.

    Reinforcing (real) hope: Considered important because patients with hope are more likely to comply with their prescription routines. A patient without hope is more prone to skipping out on his medication.

    Eliminating stress: Stress is very real, has physiological effects, and doctors will do what they can. The problem is that stress is often very unique and requires a different sort of personal touch than looking at allergies, personal medical history, and such. It takes a lot of time and effort to resolve that sort of thing and there isn’t an infinite supply of staff.

    Optimal nutrition: In my experience, doctors are always telling me to eat more fruits, vegetables, and fiber. They also tell me to cut down on the junk food. Nutrition’s mostly a preventative. Alties commonly exaggerate it into cure-alls so that they can sell you “supplement” megadoses in capsule form, a practice so profitable “Big Pharma” started copying them.

    Spiritual faith: Rather vague term, there. Doctors are there to help you get healthy and comfortable, not debate philosophy.

    And slapping around the proponents of holistic approaches to health and healing is done indiscriminately of whether the therapies are proposed as supplementary or alternatives to orthodox medicine.

    We slap down that which does not have evidence or logic in its favor. It’s the same reason why I tend to slap down claims of unicorns: I’m just more vocal about quackery because many of these people don’t seem aware that they’re playing with people’s lives. It’s all political games to them.

    We discriminate based on evidence, and alties generally aren’t willing to talk about evidence when challenged.

    Worse, many alties I’ve seen are actually anti-holistic. Homeopathy claims to treat “real causes”, but the system is based entirely on symptoms. It’s a good thing homeopathic remedies seldom contain anything.

    Real medicine is holistic, but limited by infrastructure: If doctors could have more personal time with their patients to listen to their concerns and reassure them, they probably would. Too many patients are out there, and not enough medical staff.

    A kind word and quackery is equal to or less than a kind word.

  33. #33 Joseph C.
    November 15, 2008

    I declined and chose (carefully and after speaking with several other recovered Gerson patients, one of whom had been recovered for 12 years from the same ca that usually claims life within three years of diagnosis) the Gerson Therapy.

    The patients for whom Gerson didn’t “work” who are most definitely the preponderance are now, conveniently for Gerson true believers, dead. These patients and the ones who are sadly dying at present are not likely to give you any glowing testimonials. It’s great that you beat the odds, but your post, though nice to hear, is merely cherry picking and offers no convincing evidence that Gerson’s therapy is any better than random chance or placebo.

  34. #34 StM
    November 16, 2008

    Sophia:

    The reason they don’t just get on with selling their woo, be it Perpetual Motion woo or Sovereign Specific woo, is that if they start engaging in large-scale commercial transactions they will eventually run afoul of regulators and/or plaintiff’s lawyers when their woo fails to wow, which it will. Some medical-woo practitioners do practice their non-approved therapies in small batches, but they can’t scale it up for this very reason.

    Free Energy wooers can’t even get up to small-scale practice because unlike human bodies, some of which will for reasons we don’t yet understand just somehow get better even when we thought they were done for, machines are quite predictable. If you hook up a power source that doesn’t work to a machine, the machine won’t work either. If a Perpetual Motion wooer sells Consolidated Edison a woo-device that doesn’t work, they will want their money back and they will not be shy about asking for it. A Sovereign Specific woo-purveyor can always claim that the cure failed because it was too late even for their remedy or the patient deviated from the therapy or a drug company had the patient poisoned or something, but ConEd will just say, “There’s the power plant. If we’re doing something wrong tell us what it is and make it work. Otherwise, we’re stopping payment on the check.”

    M

  35. #35 Rogue Epidemiologist
    November 16, 2008

    There is a single purpose for my posted comment: To tell Pam, pam and Polly what a bunch of fucking hippies stupid dipshits they are for posting/plagiarizing a bunch of boilerplate dreck to glorify the Gerson diet. Trolls and loonies come here to challenge us all the time, and they at least usually bring an original sort of crazy to the table. But you? You can’t even be arsed to talk with your own words. You love Gerson so much that you’ll Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V for them? Get bent and DIAF.

  36. #36 Katrine Kirk
    November 16, 2008

    Bronze Dog,
    Thanks for a thoughtful response. I agree with a number of the things you said, but I still beg to differ on a few key points. You wrote:

    “Reinforcing (real) hope: Considered important because patients with hope are more likely to comply with their prescription routines. A patient without hope is more prone to skipping out on his medication.”

    There’s more to hope than compliance. In “The Anatomy of Hope”, Jerome Groopman (Random House, 2004) explores how hope or the lack of it has influenced his patients and himself. He relates how the experience of a new sense of hopefulness immediately helped relieve serious back pain that he had suffered from intermittently for 19 years. Intrigued, and curious to understand the physiological underpinnings of this experience, he set out to interview serveral well-aknowledged researchers in the area of mind-body connections. I gather from reading his book that although there is still much to be learned, it is highly probable that hope (defined as a positive expectation) directly influences perceptions of pain, fatigue etc. And that the emotional state of a patient directly influences the physiological response to treatment. It’s a complex issue, though, and I don’t claim to understand it.

    I do know from personal experience (and innumerable anecdotes described by athletes and other patients) that mental imagery can alleviate pain. I’ve had severe spinal headaches several times, and the pain has been intolerable. Neither conventional OTC pain killers or morphine helped, but having someone quietly talk me through a guided visualisation of pain removal actually worked well enough to let me get some sleep.

    I agree with you that there are time constraints on doctors and other staff, which makes it difficult to take a thorough and highly individual approach to conversations with patients. And while medicine at its best is indeed holistic, it very often isn’t when patient visits are crammed into 15-minute time slots.

    You also write:
    “Nutrition’s mostly a preventative. Alties commonly exaggerate it into cure-alls so that they can sell you “supplement” megadoses in capsule form.”

    I’m not going to argue about supplements in megadoses. That worries me too. But nutrition is so essential to all manners of bodily processes at all times that it’s just plain narrowminded not to consider the patient’s diet as an integral part of the treatment for illness. It’s not that I am a devotee of the Gerson diet, but it does concur with quite a few other nutritional strategies that have been shown to have an effect on how well people recover from serious illness. Michael Lerner (“Choices in Healing”, 1996) reviewed and critiqued a large number of studies and concluded this.

    My own survival strategy comprised 5 main elements: 1) the medical treatment 2) strengthening my mind using visualisation techniques as well as seeking out activities and relationships that increased a sense of happiness and hopefulness, 3) optimising my nutritional state by following a diet similar to the Gerson approach 4) increasing my physical stamina by training and 5) systematically trying to understand my illness and eliminate its underlying causes.

    Yet if you were to ask my haematologist why I was one of the lucky few to survive relapsed lymphoblastic lymphoma, I’m quite sure he’d say something like “there are 5-10% who do survive on standard medical treatment. She was just lucky.”

    The point I’m trying to get across is quite simple: it’s harmful to patients when doctors speak demeaningly of the patient’s need for a holistic approach to fighting disease.

    Just as many of you here think many “alties” are dangerous because they deter patients from following the advice of their doctors, I think many doctors are dangerous because they deter patients from fighting their disease with all available weapons. I’m advocating more balance.

    With respectful insolence,
    Katrine

  37. #37 cm
    November 17, 2008

    I’m pretty sure in that “smoking tooth” video, it’s not water vapor–it’s smoke, because part of the tooth is smoldering. If you look in the video there are moments when there the classic orange glow of a smoldering substance in what would be the root of that tooth. There’s no way that much water vapor would come off the tooth in that manner even if it were soaked in hot water beforehand.

    The guy has essentially made a smudge pot of a tooth!

  38. #38 cm
    November 17, 2008

    Katrine,

    My own survival strategy comprised 5 main elements: 1) the medical treatment 2) strengthening my mind using visualisation techniques as well as seeking out activities and relationships that increased a sense of happiness and hopefulness, 3) optimising my nutritional state by following a diet similar to the Gerson approach 4) increasing my physical stamina by training and 5) systematically trying to understand my illness and eliminate its underlying causes.

    Yet if you were to ask my haematologist why I was one of the lucky few to survive relapsed lymphoblastic lymphoma, I’m quite sure he’d say something like “there are 5-10% who do survive on standard medical treatment. She was just lucky.”

    You were lucky, in the sense there are others who do similar things to try to stave off their cancer, and they die of it anyway. You don’t know to what degree any of what you did helped you–you can’t know. Nobody knows yet.

    Just as many of you here think many “alties” are dangerous because they deter patients from following the advice of their doctors, I think many doctors are dangerous because they deter patients from fighting their disease with all available weapons. I’m advocating more balance.

    If a doctor is good, of course s/he should advocate the patient using all available weapons. No doctor should tell their patient that good sleep, nutrition, low stress (if possible), social suppport, being informed, etc. aren’t probably good ideas to help with the cancer (though I suppose even this could be overturned by a medical finding). Maybe some doctors focus so much on cutting edge therapeutics they tend to forget to remind the patients of the basics of good health, and if so, they shouldn’t.

    But can you really expect doctors to actively advocate methods that have no statistical backing, and no mechanistic underpinning?

  39. #39 Katrine Kirk
    November 17, 2008

    CM wrote: “But can you really expect doctors to actively advocate methods that have no statistical backing, and no mechanistic underpinning?”

    This debate is going in circles.
    There ARE findings to support that emotions and nutrition have profound effects on clinical outcomes. I have not read the research articles themselves, but Harvard Medical School’s professor Jerome Groopman provides a good review of some of this research in “The Anatomy of Hope” (2004), Clinical Professor of medicine at University of California Dean Ornish reviews and theorises on the scientific basis for how human relationships affect survival of especially cardiac disease, and Michael Lerner has done excellent literature reviews of studies on the effects of alternative therapies in “Choices in Healing” (1996) where he finds that psycho-social support and nutritional therapy actually work – albeit not to the extent claimed by many alternative therapists.

    I am not a medical researcher, and I do not have the time to evaluate many individual studies. I take it on faith that acclaimed professors of medicine from reknowned medical schools who annotate their books with scores of references to peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals… can actually be trusted.

    So in answer to your question, CM, I’ll have to rephrase the answer: Yes, I expect doctors to know about the documented effects of so-called “alternative” methods and advocate them to their patients.

    Katrine

  40. #40 Andrew Dodds
    November 17, 2008

    Katrine -

    Problem is, if a CAM approach is proven to work then it almost ceases to become CAM..

    But as a counterpoint to your final statement, I would expect that any practicioner of ‘Alternative’ medicine would drop these methods and advice people against using them if they were found to be ineffective. Do you consider that reasonable?

  41. #41 Scott
    November 17, 2008

    There ARE findings to support that emotions and nutrition have profound effects on clinical outcomes.

    And where there is good evidence for it, mainstream doctors DO actively advocate it, and it is NOT considered alternative.

  42. #42 Mike
    November 17, 2008

    Katrine,
    I do not think that what you have specifically done, your 5 steps, would necessarily had any different outcome if you skipped ANY or ALL of the 5 steps but I’d prefer them in order 1, 3, 4, 5, 2. Because with each step, less is known, understood, and studied.

    If there were a well correlated, large scale, positive health response to red wine or chocolate or smoking or anything, this would be a very easy conversation but no definitive answer exists. Our bodies, thanks to millions of genetic quirks coupled with thousands of environmental variables are just too complex to study with the kind of certainty required to say what will work or not work. We rely on studies to statistically reduce our risks or enhance our chances. Do all that you can or wish in this regard but do not take the few successes that could very easily be statistical flukes and insist that everyone needs to have this presented as anything more than a dim possibility of hope.

  43. #43 Katrine Kirk
    November 17, 2008

    Oh, F¤%¤#%¤!

    I just wrote a long response to Andrew, Scott and Mike but it disappeared when I pressed post because I had forgotten to write my email address. So here’s a summary:

    I do agree that the world would be a safer place if CAM practioners could be relied upon to aknowledge what has and what has not been proved about their treatments. And yes, I too worry about practitioners who make grand claims and ask their patients to disregard medical advice. In some cases the mainstream medical treatment may be quite dangerous, though, and gentler approaches can be tried first.

    (For instance, I have a friend who suffered from a slipped disk in her neck. The Royal National Hospital said an operation to insert a titanium cage was urgent due to impending risk of paralysis from the neck down. The operation carries a great risk of long-term pain and a reduction in mobility. In spite of the professor himself using very strong language to try to convince her to come in for the operation immediately, she held off using a CAM treatment and good oldfashioned rest. The problem resolved itself and she is in fine health today, 4 years along. She still needs to be carefuld about straining her neck, but she is perfectly mobile. She would have accepted the operation if all other avenues had been tried and failed.

    At the same time, many CAM practitioners provide patients with something that is very important in terms of increasing the patient’s odds: the time and care to inspire hope – and set off a positive chain reaction that can actually (according to Groopman et al) improve outcome. So for that reason alone, I don’t want to ban practioners with ineffective “treatments” (e.g. homeopathy) so long as they are not directly harmful. But the alternative medicine market is a jungle, and very difficult to navigate for patients who are desparate to increase their odds of overcoming a difficult illness.

  44. #44 Scott
    November 17, 2008

    What does that anecdote have to say about CAM? Absolutely nothing! (Even just from what you’ve said.) Based on your account, the sequence of events was:

    1. The hospital said there was a risk of paralysis.
    2. Your friend decided to accept that risk.
    3. She got lucky.

    No indication whatsoever that the CAM treatment did anything at all. I’ll also note that your assertion “She would have accepted the operation if all other avenues had been tried and failed” is grossly wrongheaded, since if “all other avenues had been tried and failed” she would have been paralyzed already and there would have been nothing to be done.

  45. #45 Bronze Dog
    November 17, 2008

    At the same time, many CAM practitioners provide patients with something that is very important in terms of increasing the patient’s odds: the time and care to inspire hope – and set off a positive chain reaction that can actually (according to Groopman et al) improve outcome.

    Then why don’t they just give up quackery and take some nursing classes or something so that they can lighten the load on doctors that prevents them from getting personal?

    Quackery and a kind word is equal to or less than a kind word.

  46. #46 sandy
    November 18, 2008

    But… but… what about the high readings on the “mercury sniffer” thingy in the smoking tooth segment?

    Sigh.

  47. #47 Katrine Kirk
    November 18, 2008

    Scott,
    I’m not sure that I can get through to you no matter what I say, but I’ll give it a shot on the specifics of the slipped disc case I mentioned.

    My friend took a calculated risk by telling the hospital she wanted to try other means of a cure before accepting surgery. There was a very high probability (80% or so) that the recommended surgical treatment would give her longterm side effects such as stiffness of the neck and pain in her arms.

    Her symptoms of the slipped disc had been noticable for several months, gradually worsening until diagnosis. During this time, she was leading a very busy life with a stressful career. With her symptoms and with the risk of paralysis from the slipped disc, she went on sick leave, stopped driving a car, got lots of rest and generally stopped lifting anything heavier than a quart of milk. And she started looking for someone who could help her. She was on strong pain killers to make it through the day.

    She consulted a few CAM practitioners and ended up choosing a healer who used his hands to induce a sense of warmth and energy release in her neck and upper body. This gave her immediate relief. Over the course of a few weeks, she noticed that her symptoms were lessening around the clock.

    After two months and a number of treatments, she was able to resume her old life. A CT scan showed that the protruding disc had receded significantly. She no longer has pain or numbness in her arms – severe symptoms stemming from her neck. And as I said, that was now 4 years ago. I am not saying the the healer was totally responsible for her recovery – but rather that the life style changes she made, treatments she got from him, mental imagery, physiotherapy and emotional support from me and others worked together to produce a profound effect. If you were to study the effects of the CAM healer in isolation and without factoring in her other initiatives, I doubt you would find strong evidence for his efficacy.

    The holistic approach used by my friend and myself (discussed in other posts) is difficult to research using the methods of evidens-based medicine because there are so many components that will vary from one individual to the next.

    So to get back to your summary above.

    ad 1) the hospital told her there was risk of paralysis Yes, and the professor said in no uncertain terms that she had NO CHANCE of recovery without the operation. And he understated the risk of side effects of the titanium cage. I did a literature search at the medical library to find out what long term follow-ups to that type of operation had found – and 80% of patients reported significant discomfort or debilitation two years out.

    ad 2) she decided to accept the risk
    But it was a calculated risk – she changed her lifestyle fundamentally to minimise the risk while researching alternative treatment options. Her risk assessment was something like this: 80% risk of complications associated with the operation versus high risk of paralysis with an unchanged lifestyle, and a somewhat smaller but unknown risk of irreversible damage with a change in lifestyle. And holding off on the operation while trying other approaches would not preclude the option of having the operation if she didn’t get better soon.

    3) She got lucky.
    Do you honestly think that a progressively worsening slipped disc just resolves itself spontaneously when the medical assessment of two different specialists is that she has absolutely no alternative to surgery?

    The irony is that if a medical researcher were to study her medical records – that would have to be his/her conclusion. Because her medical records don’t mention what she actually did to heal herself. So in the statistic – she’s just out there on the lucky end of the bell curve.

    I know there are lots of people who die in spite of having alternative treatments. But even for the best of them, (and just like the mainstream medical treatments), outcomes are probabilistic. It’s just extremely interesting to look at it from the other angle.

    Here’s a hypothesis: If you were to take ALL the patients with a given diagnosis who had recovered in spite of poor odds (with or without medical treatment) and you were to probe each of them about their recovery, you would find that a very high proportion of them have followed a treatment strategy that includes CAM therapies. A study like that was done by the Danish Cancer Association.

    In Danish, there’s a proverb that “to a carpenter, every problem looks like a nail”. In other words, carpenters tend to want to use the tools they have. It is clear that medical doctors have cognitive biases in their recommendations for treatments. All professions have such biases – it’s human. But it’s also dangerous to patients when the scientific paradigm prevents doctors from being rational, in the sense that it’s rational to explore all options before making an important treatment decision. Not only do the doctors not know / understand the non-medical options, but they often discount the patient’s effort to explore alternatives. In consequence, only the most confident, resourceful patients make truly informed decisions. To make matters wors, sometimes doctors don’t even know about mainstream treatment options from other specialties than their own.

    (The name has slipped my mind, but some Swiss researcher who studied the prevalence of hysterectomies a few years ago found unnerving correlations between the frequency of hysterectomies, survival rates for cervical cancer and the educational level of the patient – a difference that could not be explained by the medical conditions. Also, quite a number of studies have shown that the well educated patients have better treatment outcomes, and generally live longer.)

    While I do think the professor in the case we’re discussing had my friend’s best interests in mind, he did not – could not – see that her recovery did not hinge on a binary choice between surgery or not. And he STILL can’t see it, because the anomaly of her “spontaneous remission” gets chalked up to pure luck. Keep in mind that he told her there was absolutely no chance of recovery without surgery, and also keep in mind that her risk of harm from the operation was in the vicinity of 80%.

    The methodology of evidence-based medicine incurs blind spots such as these all the time. But you can’t see it because you don’t believe it’s worth taking a closer look. So all the evidence gets recorded in a manner that supports the existing paradigm: she “just got lucky”. This is a prime example of confirmation bias at work.

    For what it’s worth.

    Katrine, feeling like Sisiphus

    P.S.
    (I can add that the debate we’re having here is following a well-recognised pattern. Have a look at Thomas Kuhn’s seminal book: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions for an in-depth discussion of how impossible it is for two people with differing epistemological outlooks to communicate, even as they examine the same phenomenon.)

  48. #48 Scott
    November 18, 2008

    Oh, so now you’re changing your story in very fundamental details. You said very specifically that she was told there was a RISK of paralysis, now you’re saying the opposite. Make up your mind! The shifting nature of the story means the only conclusion I can reach is that

    Do you honestly think that a progressively worsening slipped disc just resolves itself spontaneously when the medical assessment of two different specialists is that she has absolutely no alternative to surgery?

    never actually happened.

    Your various claims about “blind spots” and “not worth taking a closer look” are also completely false. These methodologies have been extensively examined and demonstrated to be useless.

  49. #49 khan
    November 18, 2008

    What a gem of disordered thinking:

    dangerous to patients when the scientific paradigm prevents doctors from being rational

  50. #50 Katrine Kirk
    November 18, 2008

    Scott,
    I am absolutely NOT changing the story. I haven’t ventured into every single detail – I’m not writing a book here. But if there was a point to it, this case could be documented with CT scans before and after her treatment as well as the written evaluation given by two specialists, a neurosurgion and an orthopedic surgeon.

    The message from the professor/surgeon at the Royal hospital was that she was in grave risk of paralysis if she didn’t have the operation immediately. Any small accident like a whiplash or a simple fall could trigger it. This was what she was told.

    When I say she accepted the risk, but “it was a calculated risk” I mean she actively reduced the likelihood of an event that could trigger paralysis by a) not driving a car (not even as a passenger) and b) staying at home a lot and c) not straining her body in any way. These measures were to gain time to figure out what all her options were.

    And my point about “blind spots” in medicine (and other sciences) is sound. There is a large body of literature on the pilosophy of science that agrees on it. The argument is in essence: “what you see depends on what you look for”. In my friend’s case her recovery is considered unexplained, and her medical records don’t reflect what she actually did to get better. So, to anyone studying her medical record, she was “just lucky”.

    Do you not get it?

    Katrine

  51. #51 Katrine Kirk
    November 19, 2008

    Khan wrote:
    “What a gem of disordered thinking:” quoting me:

    “dangerous to patients when the scientific paradigm prevents doctors from being rational”

    and he/she conveniently snipped the context.
    What a gem of manipulative posting.

    Rational decision making requires exploring all alternatives and their consequences before making an informed choice in accordance with the goals and risk preference profile of the decision maker.

    ANY medical specialist who only considers one course of treatment for his or her patients is dangerous.

    Khan, do you not see that in the slipped disk case I’ve presented here, the patient ended up better off by opposing the doctor’s recommendation?

    Katrine

  52. #52 khan
    November 19, 2008

    < ,blockquote>Khan, do you not see that in the slipped disk case I’ve presented here, the patient ended up better off by opposing the doctor’s recommendation?

    So what woo do you suggest to heal my arthritis/carpal tunnel syndrome/ulnar nerve entrapment?

  53. #53 Katrine Kirk
    November 20, 2008

    Khan wrote: “So what woo do you suggest to heal my arthritis/carpal tunnel syndrome/ulnar nerve entrapment?”

    Khan, that’s a troll if ever I saw one.

    There are so many sceptic blogs that critisize so-called alties for not answering direct questions and for never being able to answer to the specifics of an anecdote. And alties are apparently prone to trolling… I invite you all to have a look at the way this thread has developed.

    I NEVER claimed that I have all the answers. I am not a doctor, and I am not prone to taking health matters lightly. So of course I can’t take your bait.

    I CAN tell you how I would go about supporting you in findng a strategy if I were your friend, though:

    0) before doing anything, I’d ask about the history of your symptoms, what has been tried already and how those things worked
    1) I’d take a very close look at your lifestyle – such as stress, nutrition, sleep… looking for clues to understanding your problem
    2) I’d read up on the medical literature about the diagnoses,
    3) I’d go with you or help you prepare questions for one or two well-reputed doctors about what they say could be done. I’d ask them to explain their reasoning and the conclusions they draw. I’d pay careful attention to the types of explanations they give – and I’d be especially careful if they seemed to have jumped to a conclusion about diagnosis or treatment.
    4) I’d evaluate their recommendations carefully, and perhaps do further research.
    5) I’d try to find an explanation for why your problems developed in the first place.
    6) I’d also look at your specific dynamic interplay of pain, self-limitation and psyche… (About this last element: Groopman talks about how Dr. Rainville at the New England Baptist Hospital helped him overcome 19 years of severe back pain. Not sure if that avenue would be applicable to your situation.)
    7) On these grounds, I’d expect that we together would be able to put together a combined coping/treatment strategy that would produce the best possible outcome for you.

    I don’t know what the conclusions to this approach would be. It would probably be different from an approach that limited itself to “go to doctor, do what she/he recommends”.

    That being said, there might be an easy first step to take: fatty fish or fish oils containing N-3 fatty acids have been documented to relieve arthritic pain. They also show a host of other benefits at dosage levels of 1-2 grams per day. Talk to your doctor before deciding to take it if you also have diabetes or heart disease.
    References: (Fortin, Paul R.; Lew, Robert A.; Liang, Matthew H.; Wright, Elizabeth A.; Beckett, Laurel A.; Chalmers, Thomas C.; Sperling, Richard I. (November 1995). “Validation of a meta-analysis: The effects of fish oil in rheumatoid arthritis”. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology (Elsevier) 48 (11): 1379-1390. doi:10.1016/0895-4356(95)00028-3. PMID 7490601.) (Kremer, Joel M.; Bigauoette, J.; Michalek, A.V.; Timchalk, M.A.; Lininger, L.; Rynes, R.I.; Huyck, C.; Zieminski, J.; Bartholomew, L.E. (January 1985). “Effects of manipulation of dietary fatty acids on clinical manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis.”. The Lancet (Elsevier) 1 (8422): 184-187. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(85)92024-0. PMID 2857265, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2857265. )

    Will you now please answer my question?

    Katrine
    Steeling myself for the charge of hotheaded sceptics :-)

  54. #54 James Boston
    November 28, 2008

    I just saw the trailer for this ‘documentary’ at apple.com/trailers. What a shameful piece of work. A person facing life threatening illness can be very fearful and desperate for any hope. Anyone who peddles quack medicine to someone so vulnerable is the lowest of the low.

  55. #55 Me
    November 18, 2009

    Orac, you freakin moron! you haven’t even watched the whole movie. You’re just drawing your conclusions from short clips. An important part with the tooth video is they use a instrument called a Jerome Mercury Vapor Analyzer to measure the emissions from the tooth. The results are well above EPA standards!

    watch!
    http://iaomt.blogspot.com/2008/06/fda-and-mercury-hit-fan-with-bs.html

  56. #56 Chris
    November 18, 2009

    Um, why did you wait a year for that less than powerful response?

  57. #57 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 18, 2009

    Chris,
    He had to think about it.

  58. #58 Lew
    March 11, 2010

    I can’t even be bothered to start a debate with someone on here about the Gerson Therapy, so all i’ll say is this:

    I’ll be running around exploring the world in my natural, de-toxified state, drinking my flouride, chlorine and copper residue free water and eating my better tasting raw, natural organic food from fertile soils. You people who are completley ignorant will be placing aliminum deodorants under your arms, rubbing steriod creams on your eczema and eating and drinking polluted food and water over the space of your lifetimes and will shrug your shoulders when you get ill from some chronic disease or cancer and just think to yourselves ‘I’m just one of the unlucky ones’.

    Good luck to you all, each is free to choose to believe what they want and live their lives accordingly. I however am sensible, no matter what any of you say and I will be shaking my head when you all pass away 30 years early.

  59. #59 MartinM
    March 11, 2010

    Yes, because no one could have failed to notice the sharp decline in life expectancy over the past century, as we moved away from our natural state.

  60. #60 Orac
    March 11, 2010

    I’ll be running around exploring the world in my natural, de-toxified state, drinking my flouride, chlorine and copper residue free water and eating my better tasting raw, natural organic food from fertile soils.

    Coffee enemas (part of the Gerson protocol) are natural?

    Megadoses of vegetable juices are natural?

    Megadoses of supplements are natural?

    Natural. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  61. #61 Dawn
    March 11, 2010

    Wonder where he is getting his water from? Doesn’t he know that most “natural spring waters” have amounts of fluoride, chlorine, and copper? They may not be very large amounts, but they are usually there. (And possibly other things…my parents have a lovely well in Northern Michigan that they had tested which showed all sorts of minerals in varying amounts.

    I like some foods raw (especially most vegetables). I’ll continue to cook other foods. Wonder if his foods are really “organic”? The limitations on the labeling are rather interesting as to what “organic” means.

    As a woman, with a average lifespan of 75 or so, if that’s dying 30 years early…I’ll accept that. (I’ll have to use a time machine to die 30 years early and go back a few years, though) However, family genetics seem to say that I’ll live till I’m at least in my 80′s. So, to die 30 years early, I need to die in the next few years (my midcentury is awfully close….) Or is Lew implying we should all live well into our 100s?

    Guess I’ll continue to take my chances with modern life and modern medicines. They’ve been good to me so far.

  62. #62 Scott
    March 11, 2010

    Particularly amusing is the blasting of aluminum, when groundwater often contains very large amounts of it. And I simply can’t resist:

    drinking my flouride, chlorine and copper residue free water,

    That being the ultra-distilled water produced in a lab? After all, that’s the only kind of “flouride, chlorine and copper residue free water” in existence.

  63. #63 Anne
    August 16, 2011

    This is taken from the United States Government’s National Institutes of Health website:
    “This year, more than 1 million Americans and more than 10 million people worldwide are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, a disease commonly believed to be preventable. Only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants etc. Therefore, cancer prevention requires smoking cessation, increased ingestion of fruits and vegetables, moderate use of alcohol, caloric restriction, exercise, avoidance of direct exposure to sunlight, minimal meat consumption, use of whole grains, use of vaccinations, and regular check-ups. In this review, we present evidence that inflammation is the link between the agents/factors that cause cancer and the agents that prevent it. In addition, we provide evidence that cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle changes.”
    2 different oncologists recently told me these exact same statistics & said that ALL the patients who have their cancer return, are the ones who have done nothing to change their diet, lifestyle, or attitudes = ) How’s that for food for thought ?!
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515569/?tool=pubmed

  64. #64 augustine
    August 16, 2011

    How’s that for food for thought ?

    Don’t worry, a buzz fly and self appointed sgt at arms of old threads will come by and give you her antagonistic opinion.
    She has absolutely no credentials or expertise in matters of health but her philosophy of life has given her free reign to talk just about any subject in absolute authority.

    Chris is NOT a man, but the arrogance which is a cover for low self esteem, and testosterone will fly at such high levels it will confuse you.

    A second rate version of her self titled, Liladay may also spout her 2 cent’s opinions worth.

    welcome to the nonscientific insults known as medical based science in 3…2…1…

  65. #65 Gray Falcon
    August 16, 2011

    What did any of that have to do with the article?

  66. #66 lilady
    August 17, 2011

    “What did any of that have to do with the article?”

    Nothing, nada, zilch…just a bunch of necromancers keeping a thread going…They must have set a record for their postings on an almost three year old article.