Respectful Insolence

Over the last month or so, I’ve written numerous posts about Daniel Hauser. Danny, as you recall, is the 13-year-old Minnesota boy who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma back in February, underwent one round of chemotherapy for it, and then decided that he wanted to pursue quackery instead of more chemotherapy. His mother supported his decision and justified it by appealing to a faux Native American religion known as Nemenhah, which is, in reality, nothing more than an excuse for its originator, a wannabe who named himself Chief Cloudpiler, to sell quackery under the guise of “Native American” medicine. Ultimately, his mother Colleen Hauser’s and his refusal to undergo chemotherapy led to child protective services reporting the family. Legal hearings ensued, and the judge ordered the Hausers to make sure that Daniel underwent appropriate therapy for his cancer. Unfortunately, Daniel’s mother took him on the lam from the law. Fortunately, they were only gone a couple of days before Colleen turned herself (and Danny) in to the law. When last we met Daniel, a friend was reporting that he had undergone chemotherapy and that his tumors were shrinking, a good sign.

Over the weekend, CNN weighed in, confirming that Daniel is indeed doing well. However, the story also happened to be one of the rare instances where I’ve seen in the mainstream press where a concept that I’ve emphasized since the very beginning of this blog was illustrated so well: Namely that, when an alt-med believer undergoes both standard, science-based therapy and an “alternative medicine,” he always attributes any improvement to the woo, not the standard therapy. Always. Unfortunately, the story was far too credulous and did not point this principle out. Just look at how the report begins:

(CNN) — A cancerous tumor in 13-year-old Danny Hauser’s chest has shrunk significantly since he was ordered by a court last month to resume chemotherapy treatment, a family spokesman said.

But the Hauser family attributes much of his progress to the complementary use of vitamins and minerals to boost his immune system, Dan Zwakman said.

“The family is doing it on their own, with the doctor’s knowledge,” Zwakman said. “Everybody is pleased that the tumor is shrinking, of course. The goal is to get rid of the cancer, but they’d rather be doing it without the chemo.”

In other words, Daniel is undergoing appropriate, science-based chemotherapy, which has a very high probability of curing his cancer. His tumor, as one would expect based on the known data regarding the efficacy of this approach against Hodgkin’s lymphoma, to Danny and his family the shrinkage of his tumors is not primarily due to the chemotherapy the judge ordered. Oh, no. It’s due to whatever woo he’s using to “boost his immune system” (whatever that means, given that it’s essentially a meaningless concept beloved of woo-meisters everywhere). Emanuella Grinberg, the reporter who wrote the story, then uses this introduction to discuss how the quackery clinics in Tijuana (which is where it was originally thought that Daniel and his mother were heading) continue to thrive by giving cancer patients a false hope of cure:

They eventually returned after an arrest warrant was issued for Colleen Hauser. But had they made it to their destination — the Rubio Clinic in Tijuana, according to Zwakman — they would have joined the ranks of an estimated hundreds of other cancer patients who head south of the border each year for cancer care.

The Rubio Clinic is also known as the American Metabolic Institute and is run by Dr. Geronimo Rubio, who is described thusly:

For the last 22 years, Dr. Rubio has researched and developed a process of RNA transference in lymphocytes, Dendritic Cells Vaccine, Primary Vaccines, Polypeptide Formulas for cancer cells and developed the formula for the blocking factors in tumor cells. His Immuno Vaccines developed from the patient’s own biochemistry are administered to the patient to re-educate the Immune System giving it access to the cancer cells 24 hours a day.

He is presently the Medical Director of American Metabolic Institute/Hospital San Martin, located in La Mesa, Mexico, where his special Immune Vaccines are combined with Rife Technology and Herbal Medicines.

Yes, indeed, immunology woo. Here’s a hint: Whenever you hear someone claim to develop vaccines from the patient’s own biochemistry that “reeducate the immune system,” be very skeptical. Of course, I know what’s going on right from the start when I see that he combines his immunowoo with Rife Technology, which is one of the purest of the pure as far as quackery goes. In any case, when it comes to woo, the AMI has it all, including darkfield microscopy, chelation therapy, DMSO therapy, growth hormone therapy, a 7-21 day tissue cleanse and dental amalgam removal, and, of course, a complete detoxification regimen. But that’s not all. It also offers homeopathy, applied kinesiology, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy, and digestive enzymes therapy, among many others. So what makes these clinics so compelling, given that what they offer is often rank quackery?

Here’s part of it:

Loose regulatory standards in Mexico allow Tijuana’s clinics to thrive, many offering expensive treatment in luxurious, spa-like settings, complete with fresh meals, exercise classes and emotional and spiritual counseling.

Many herbs and dietary supplements used in border clinics are not considered dangerous; they just have not been put through the rigorous clinical trials required for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve them for use as cancer treatments.

Others, like the antioxidants carotene, lycopene and vitamins C, E and A, have produced inconsistent results in large-scale trials and are still being researched. Still others, like laetrile, a chemical compound whose active ingredient is cyanide, can be dangerous, the National Cancer Institute says.

But many patients say they are attracted by the warm, caring relationship between patient and clinic staff.

In other words, warm and fuzzy quackery all too often trumps effective scientific medicine when it comes to attracting patients. And, again, some of these clinics do offer therapies that range from being within the standard of care for scientific medicine to being sort of, kind of, maybe seemingly in the same ballpark as the standard of care, like this:

“They don’t just see the disease. They see the person behind the disease and know how to care for them in every way,” says Sarah Sackett-Hutcheson, who claims she has been cancer-free for 17 years.

When she was 11 years old, her oncologist told her family she had six months to live and recommended chemotherapy and radiation to battle her non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Instead of undergoing the debilitating treatments, she went to the Oasis of Hope Hospital in Tijuana, where she received low doses of chemotherapy along with intravenous vitamins.

The American Cancer Society says there is no scientific evidence that low doses of chemotherapy or large doses of supplements are effective against cancer. But Sackett-Hutcheson believes the small doses of chemo attacked cancerous cells without destroying her immune system while the vitamins boosted her immunity.

“I remember thinking if they’d given me the high doses of chemo I wouldn’t have made it. Even the low doses made me so incredibly sick. I’d be getting up like every 15 minutes, puking in the middle of the night,” Sackett-Hutcheson said.

In other words, Sackett-Hutcheson got less than optimal chemotherapy, but not so low that it didn’t make her nauseated, and that was what almost certainly resulted in her surviving cancer-free for 17 years, not any of the vitamins or various other supplements that she was apparently given while undergoing the chemotherapy. If I were in a generous mood, I could speculate that this clinic had been visionary enough to figure out the concept of metronomic chemotherapy, in which low, frequent (or continuous) doses are used, eight years before it was first proposed and subjected to clinical trials. However, I find that highly unlikely. What is more likely is that Sackett-Hutcheson got a much larger dose than she thought she did, perhaps even something resembling standard chemotherapy. Whatever chemotherapy she underwent, it’s clear that it almost certainly wasn’t the woo that cured her. It was the chemotherapy. But to what does she attribute her survival?

The woo, of course.

At this point, it’s always tempting to point out that dead men (and women) don’t give testimonials. If Sackett-Hutcheson hadn’t been fortunate enough to survive, she ouldn’t be giving this testimonial now. The same thing is true of Jennifer Woods, who underwent the Alivizatos Treatment, which apparently involves a special diet and an intravenous “serum” concoction full of vitamins and minerals. CNN reports:

During her first monthlong visit, Woods paid about $15,000 for surgery to remove her tumors, 20 days of worth of the dosage and two meals a day, plus lodging expenses across the border in San Diego, California.

“I feel well. I’ve never had any ill side effects, and I have learned so much about nutrition and how to maintain my health,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Denver, Colorado.

Woods says she has not seen a doctor in the United States since. She says she returns to IBC about every six months for six days at a time to receive “booster treatments” for about $1,200 a visit.

Righteous bucks for woo, wouldn’t you say? Once those Tijuana clinics hook someone, that person often remains hooked. Of course, for none of these three testimonials, Danny Hauser, Sarah Sackett-Hutcheson, and Jennifer Woods, does the Grinberg point out that the person giving the testimonial had had extensive conventional treatment; in Danny’s case, chemotherapy; in Sackett-Hutcheson’s case, nonstandard chemotherapy; and in Woods’ case major surgery, although in Woods’ case no mention was made of exactly hat kind of cancer she had. In all three of these cases, the patient credits not the chemotherapy or surgery, but rather the quackery, for saving their lives.

If you want to understand one reason why it’s so difficult to convince believers in alt-med that the woo being sold them, be it from a Tijuana clinic, someone like Dr. Rashid Buttar, or other purveyors of questionable therapies has no scientific or evidentiary basis to support it, look no further than this article. Patients, having undergone both chemotherapy or surgery and quackery, almost inevitably credit the quackery for their survival. True, as the article points out, not all Tijuana cancer clinic patients leave happy, but such patients are not the ones whose testimonials are trumpeted far and wide. They are not the people who are interviewed for articles like this. Often, they are dead, and dead people tell no testimonials.

I’ve often criticized the very concept of “integrative” medicine because I view it as “integrating” pseudoscience with science, quackery with real medicine. At best, adding the woo doesn’t help, and at worst it can actively interfere with therapy. Whatever the case, one danger of “intergrating” woo with real medicine is that, as the testimonials in tis article demonstrate, patients credit the woo, not science-based medicine.

Comments

  1. #1 kathleen
    June 23, 2009

    “Warm and fuzzy quackery all too often trumps effective scientific medicine”
    Woo treats the ego.It feeds into the-you know your body, child, etc. better than anyone else-Thus, giving a false sense of control over a very scary situation.
    I don’t know much about “Cancer treatment centers of America”..but their advertising plays on the same sort of emotion. The “we care about YOU-you are not your cancer-you are an effective part of your treatment..”They show the same four or five testimonials from people who in OTHER places were given no hope..but after going to CTOA…they survived…ego and control.

  2. #2 Tsu Dho Nimh
    June 23, 2009

    I saw the same thing on a website selling a set of homeopathic first aid remedies … their instructions told the user to do everything that standard first aid does, and then take one or more homeopathic remedies.

    It was the same company that sells rotted, diluted duck giblets as a flu remedy.

  3. #3 Mu
    June 23, 2009

    Reminds me of the old joke:
    A famous artist is commissioned to make a portrait of a famous professor. The artist tries to schedule at least two sittings for the picture, the professor refuses.
    The professor argues: “I only see every patient once for consultation, why can’t you?”
    The artist counters: “If you screw up, the lawn covers it quietly. If I screw up, it still hangs on the wall for all to see.”

  4. #4 Rogue Medic
    June 23, 2009

    More evidence of why Dr. Gupta would be horrible as Surgeon General. As Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN he does not appear to do anything about this kind of reporting. I have emailed him about other stories that misrepresent medicine. The errors remain. Imagine how effective he might be for the whole country. He could be a great promoter of Tom Harkin medicine. Dr. Gupta’s Complementary News Network.

    not any of the vitamins or various other supplements that she was apparently given while undergoing the chemotherapy.

    How can you pretend that the supplements that were vomited up did not have a magical effect? You’ve just got to be gullible.

    The idea that she was given IV vitamins, rather than all natural oral vitamins does have a scary undertone of western medicine. What’s next, sneaking real medicine into homeopathic medicines?

    That evil western medicine – We’re against it, except when we can make a buck misrepresenting it.

    I could just as easily hire a bunch of hookers to deliver warm caring holistic treatment, if any patients survived, how could they possibly ignore the life-saving medical intervention delivered by the staff who only cared about the well-being of the whole patient as long as he paid his bills and as long as he did not use alternative medicine for those nasty STDs.

  5. #5 kathleen
    June 23, 2009

    @ Rogue Medic…it is already done…google “Tantric massage” :)

  6. #6 becca
    June 23, 2009

    You’re not making a compelling case for why anyone would refuse warm and fuzzy woo with their scientific medicine.

  7. #7 eNeMeE
    June 23, 2009

    What’s next, sneaking real medicine into homeopathic medicines?

    Nah, passing a law that requires saline be homeopathic saline solution – exactly like regular saline, except 30x more expensive!

  8. #8 joe bloski
    June 23, 2009

    Please look at the robot that the Japanese built using Yin Yang Theory.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/5610507/Pictures-of-the-day-23-June-2009.html?image=16

    The movements of this robot can be described by Happeh Theory, because Happeh Theory is aware of Yin Yang Theory.

    Orac. I have abided by your request that I not comment. As one scientist to another, please let this picture and comment go through so your science readers can see what the Japanese people, who are completely fluent in Yin Yang Theory, have created using the special knowledge about the human body that comes from Yin Yang Theory.

    A western company can never create a robot like this because they do not believe in Yin Yang Theory. Westerners do not really know how the human body moves, so they cannot make a robot duplicate those movements

  9. #9 Confused
    June 23, 2009

    In any case, when it comes to woo, the AMI has it all, including darkfield microscopy, chelation therapy, DMSO therapy, growth hormone therapy, a 7-21 day tissue cleanse and dental amalgam removal, and, of course, a complete detoxification regimen.

    Darkfield microscopy?! When was darkfield microscopy a treatment for anything? And why just darkfield? Those damned Nomarski optics just to allopathic for them?

  10. #10 Stu
    June 23, 2009

    I have abided by your request that I not comment.

    …he said, in a comment.

    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*

  11. #11 Confused
    June 23, 2009

    Becca – I think no one, Orac included, would say there’s any reason why you can’t choose to have quack therapy along with your genuine therapy (provided that it doesn’t interfere with the genuine stuff). It’s your money, you can chuck it away if you like.

    The problem is when people claim that rubbing healing crystals all over them cured their cancer, leaving out the fact that they also had chemo, or surgery, or whatever. That gives the quackery a respectability it hasn’t earned, and encourages the next generation of patients to cast off their real treatments altogether.

  12. #12 Laurie
    June 23, 2009

    @bloski
    I’m not sure I understand. Is Kobian expressing joy because it can’t masturbate, or sorrow because it can’t?

    With no genitalia, I guess it’s a moot point.

  13. #13 wfjag
    June 23, 2009

    Who needs physicians, nurse practioners or PAs, when you’ve got this:
    “What Your Body Is Telling You Brittle Nails, Spider Veins and Other Seemingly Innocent Oddities Could Signal Serious Trouble — or Not”
    Tues., June 23, 2009, The Wall Street Journal
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124571709339739367.html#mod=todays_us_personal_journal

    What could Orac have learned in 4 years of med school, plus residency, plus internship, plus, plus, plus, plus (etc.) that I can’t learn reading a newspaper article in the comfort of my own home?

  14. #14 Rogue Medic
    June 23, 2009

    kathleen,

    I did Google “Tantric massage.” It did not work. It caused Tickle Me happeh to change personalities, so that was interesting. OK, it didn’t, but that is consistent with Elmo’s understanding of cause and effect.

    OTOH, there was a lot of sex in the links. Are you hitting on me? Or are you assuming I am alone and trying to tempt me to do something that would enrage Tickle Me happeh? I might go blind or have an unYinning experience.

    MawHeHeHeHe!

    Seriously, I did not see anything that showed that massage is effective at anything more than stress relief. I don’t think anybody denies that massage is good at stress relief. Do you have any well done studies that have been repeated and show that massage, Tantric or otherwise, is effective at treating disease?

  15. #15 kathleen
    June 23, 2009

    Damn Rogue Medic-you caught me-I wanted to go all “Dora the Explorer” on your tickle me Elmo!
    I knew of some “practitioners” in the Oregon area who advertised that tantric massage could cure a whole lot of ills…i.e. men’s health issues(heehee) heart problems etc.
    I guess they are not Happeh hookers.

  16. #16 Kat
    June 23, 2009

    I just went to a professor’s lecture last week regarding the potential of vaccines made for the patient’s “biochemistry”, but I think it should be noted that such treatments are still in the early research phase, and are far from something trustworthy to be used on patients as of yet. It would be entirely dependent on several distinct factors: the patient’s tumor presenting antigens that are unique to the cancer itself and are not presented on normal tissues, the type of cancer (the professor emphasized that this would not be a feasible treatment for most cancers; only some), and that the tumor was in preliminary enough phases to be successfully treated with immunological response. If someone’s offering it now, frankly, they are full of crap.

    I’m endlessly bothered by the whole “boosting the immune system” woo. Last time I was in the Whole Foods (a while ago indeed), a saleslady tried to get me to buy a supplement to boost my immune system “naturally”. After a moment’s pause, I asked the woman innocently, “What is a T cell?”. She tensed her lips for a moment, and then said, “Mam, this WORKS. I never get sick!” Despite this statement filling me with bile, I was in a hurry, and with more woomeisters eagerly swarming the counter, I simply passed on the product and left without tearing their egos to shreds. Next time I’m desperate enough for a good avocado to go to Whole Foods, I may not be so kind.

    Come on, if you’re going to even use the phrase “boost the immune system”, perhaps you should know what the basic components of it are, and how they all function to produce immunity? If you claim vitamins and minerals can cure you of all maladies and problems, perhaps you should be aware of how each one interacts with the body and what biochemical pathways they’re involved in? But, oh wait, I forgot, you learned all of this from Google University! Forgive me, scholars of the interwebs, my molecular biology degree withers in shame next to your glory!

    Good post, though. I’m tired of people thanking God instead of the meticulously skilled surgeon for saving their loved ones’ lives, I’m sick of people thinking that Google can compensate for an abysmal lack of scientific knowledge, and I’m horrified at people discounting the marvels of modern science because the woo appeals to pathos and takes no work to understand. If only something could actually be done. Unfortunately, I think that would entail that most of society would have to take a major blow to their egos and admit that they’re a lot less knowledgeable and wise than they thought they were — not going to happen anytime soon.

  17. #17 Richard Eis
    June 23, 2009

    So they stopped chemo, kept with the alternative treatments and the cancer got worse. Added chemo back in and cancer shrinks. Also if the alternative was supposed to be working, why did they need to go to mexico?

    How humanity ever invented logic with these people around still astounds me. They should really be thankful that breathing runs on automatic.

  18. #18 phantomreader42
    June 23, 2009

    becca @ #6:

    You’re not making a compelling case for why anyone would refuse warm and fuzzy woo with their scientific medicine.

    Except of course that it’s hideously expensive and there’s no evidence that it acutally WORKS. Oh, but surely that can’t be a good enough reason. People love throwing huge piles of money into bottomless pits! And getting nothing in return (or maybe, occasionally, something that will kill or permanently maim them, there’s no real regulation for safety or efficacy on this crap, so if there are painful or deadly side effects there’s no way to know until it’s too late)! Doesn’t it sound like fun? Waste your money, maybe lose your sense of smell, maybe end up in a body bag! YAY!

  19. #19 Chris
    June 23, 2009

    Kat:

    I’m endlessly bothered by the whole “boosting the immune system” woo.

    Someone mentioned “boosting the immune system” in my beginning biology course last fall. To which I said “My immune system already thinks pollen, cat dander and other things are infections and causes me to mount an immune response to these things! If you boosted my immune system you could kill me.”

    Which did lead into a discussion on how finely tuned the immune system is, and what is real and not real. Including information that some conditions (lupus, diabetes, etc) are caused by malfunctioning immune systems.

  20. #20 Rogue Epidemiologist
    June 23, 2009

    I’m Asian. My family has been Asian since humans started inhabiting Asia. But the last three generations of us have been trained in science and medicine. So I think I’m well-qualified to say that happeh is an offensive, racist, sexist, nutjob.

    My entire family thinks happeh’s ideas are junk, and I am doubly offended by the fact that happeh would try to hijack a culture he has no real knowledge and understanding of.

    Not only is Yin/Yang theory superstition, it’s also incredibly sexist. After all, the traditional belief is that man (yang) is supposed to absorb the yin life-force from women. It is bad enough that so many East Asian cultures are so patriarchal, but how much power does one man need to suck from a woman, huh? That belief gave Mao license to (as if killing many of my distant relatives wasn’t enough) subjugate hundreds of women as concubines.

    I’ve sat back long enough. Can’t put up with bullshit from farangs who don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground any longer.

  21. #21 Matthew Cline
    June 23, 2009

    … please let this picture and comment go through so your science readers can see what the Japanese people, who are completely fluent in Yin Yang Theory, have created using the special knowledge about the human body that comes from Yin Yang Theory.

    A western company can never create a robot like this because they do not believe in Yin Yang Theory.

    Yes, making a robot which can imitate human facial expressions and body language requires mastery of Ying Yang Theory. Because having a reference human make the relevant expressions and gestures, and then measuring the relative positions and angles of the various body parts involved, is something that’s beyond the skill of a westerner.

    Also, I bet that the animators at Pixar who do 3-D body language and facial expressions are all Asians.

    @Richard Eis:

    So they stopped chemo, kept with the alternative treatments and the cancer got worse. Added chemo back in and cancer shrinks.

    Aha, I’ve got this one! You see, the alternative treatments were causing a “healing crisis”, which causes the symptoms to get worse before they get better. It’s mere coincidence that the healing crisis ended at the same time that the chemo started.

  22. #22 Matthew Cline
    June 23, 2009

    My family has been Asian since humans started inhabiting Asia. But the last three generations of us have been trained in science and medicine.

    <sarcasm>Pfft, you’re a Westernized Asian. What do you know?</sarcasm>

    After all, the traditional belief is that man (yang) is supposed to absorb the yin life-force from women. It is bad enough that so many East Asian cultures are so patriarchal, but how much power does one man need to suck from a woman, huh?

    Interesting. I thought it was supposed to be that men and women exchanged Yin and Yang, so having a bunch of sex wouldn’t raise anyone’s overall power levels. Do you have any citable sources on this? Googling hasn’t shown me anything.

  23. #23 antipodean
    June 23, 2009

    Rogue Medic. Wow. You really liked my little throw away comment regarding Elmo, didn’t you?

  24. #24 mary
    June 23, 2009

    Keeping our lifestyle in a healthy way can make our immune system stronger. We must realize that our immune system is the body’s defense against infectious organisms and other invaders. It’s our main defense against germs and micro-organisms which cause infections that can lead to dreaded disease.

    Learn more about your immune system and how it protects your body from infections by watching this video. Click http://www.symposier.com/video/3364/INFECTION-FIGHTERS

  25. #25 Chris
    June 23, 2009

    mary (who seems incapable of reading this blog and its comments):

    Keeping our lifestyle in a healthy way can make our immune system stronger.

    My immune system already tries to protect me from everything from grass pollen to the metal nickel. It is working to hard, thank you very much.

    Now explain to me what kind of dreaded disease can be caused by nickel? Present the evidence here, do not post a link to another video.

  26. #26 Matthew Cline
    June 23, 2009

    It’s our main defense against germs and micro-organisms which cause infections that can lead to dreaded disease.

    Well, yes, that’s why we use vaccines, to give our natural, inborn immune systems a head start in fighting off infectious diseases.

    Thought I fail what this has to do with cancer or alternative medicine testimonials…

  27. #27 Valerie
    June 24, 2009

    You make some good arguments here, but you’ve missed an important problem with the practice of medicine in this country and also made a set of statements that are nothing but assumptions with no evidence to support them.

    That “warm and fuzzy” thing you mentioned may seem silly to you, but patients — especially ones who are really sick — need a little bit of honest sympathy sometimes. A lot of doctors come across as being terribly distant; those in the profession may see this as “professional detachment” and therefore desirable. Patients can see it as cold and uncaring. For a confused, frightened person who’s confronted with a lot of scary options, warm and fuzzy can be awfully appealing compared to someone who rushes in and out, doesn’t take time for off-topic conversation, and doesn’t acknowledge a person’s concerns. Most or all woomeisters presumably know this and capitalize on it (think about how cult leaders train members to relate to people as a recruiting technique).

    Obviously, people should make decisions based on the evidence. But most don’t, and that’s where warm and fuzzy comes in.

    Also, your assumptions about Sarah S-H’s chemo doses were just plain silly. If you don’t have evidence, don’t make the claim (ahem). There are plenty of documented cases of quackery going around without wasting space on assumptions. Woomeisters can use this kind of stuff to discredit you. Talk about spinning your own woo. Stop that!

  28. #28 Mandos
    June 24, 2009

    The same word in Urdu is farangi (wrt the farang reference). Apparently, without the -i, it’s Thai. Wikipedia says that it all comes from the Arabic and Persian words for “Frank”, which of course is used as a derogatory term for a white European.

  29. #29 Paul Murray
    June 24, 2009

    @22

    After all, the traditional belief is that man (yang) is supposed to absorb the yin life-force from women.

    Interesting. I thought it was supposed to be that men and women exchanged Yin and Yang,

    Nahh – the whole “exchange” business is a recent-history revision/whitewash of the real story, which is as racist, sexist, classist, and any other “ist” you care to think of as any other philosophy more than a few decades old.

    I just had a look at happeh’s site, BTW. Really hilarious: page after page of how bad masturbation is for you. Some of the pictures are priceless.

  30. #30 sophia8
    June 24, 2009

    Mary, my overperforming immune system is responsible for my arthritis and my non-performing thyroid. Boosting it any more would leave me crippled, at best. There are times I’d love to get it to stop doing its job so well.
    (On the plus side, I haven’t had an infectious illness in years….)

  31. #31 Orac
    June 24, 2009

    Valerie,

    I’m not denigrating the “warm and fuzzy,” and if you had read previous posts in my blog you might have seen that multiple times I’ve pointed out that part of the problem that makes quacks seem so attractive is the impersonalization of modern medicine, which makes people susceptible to the blandishments of pseudoscience. In fact, it’s been a fairly major theme running through the blog intermittently over the last four years. In fact, I pointed it out in one of the very earliest posts on this blog.

    As for S-H’s chemo, I made no assumptions other than what was in her own story and then made conservative, reasonable speculations based on them. The best that can be said is that maybe she got lucky in that metronomic chemotherapy actually worked for her. Given my knowledge of quacks, though, I suspect that my speculation is more likely to be correct. But that’s the thing about testimonials: They never give enough information to make a judgment, whether by intent or ignorance.

    I don’t expect people to read each and every post on my blog, but you know what? You’ve done exactly what you accuse me of doing: You’ve made assumptions and leapt to conclusions based on an incomplete knowledge of what my views are.

    In fact, I call concern trolling.

  32. #32 Tracy W
    June 24, 2009

    We must realize that our immune system is the body’s defense against infectious organisms and other invaders.

    Why must we realise that? I can see arguments that it’s good to know how our immune system works. But it does strike me that my immune system works regardless of whether or not I realise that it works. I can’t recall when I first learnt that I had an immune system, but I suspect it was some time after Mum stopped breastfeeding which means that my immune system must have been keeping me alive without me realising it. And how about all those generations where no one knew we had an immune system at all?

  33. #33 a-non
    June 24, 2009

    If I want warm fuzzies and support, I’ll lean on my family and friends.

    I go to my doctor to get whatever is wrong with me fixed. If the person fixing me is less than friendly, so be it.

  34. #34 Interrobang
    June 24, 2009

    Any time anyone tells me I need to “boost my immune system” I tell them basically what Chris says — I already take drugs to downregulate my immune system, since my stupid immune system hates mould, dust, and the joints in my feet already, and then I start talking about the physiological response to infection, and how it’s more severe the more amped-up your immune system is (my immune system goes to 11!), and so on. I usually finish up by telling how pandemic flu kills the young and strong more or less because they have the strongest immune systems. That usually shuts ‘em up.

    That said, I am feeling much better since I tweaked my B12 and iron levels a bit ago, but I did so on my doctor’s advice with bloodwork to back it up.

  35. #35 James Sweet
    June 24, 2009

    Please look at the robot that the Japanese built using Yin Yang Theory.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/5610507/Pictures-of-the-day-23-June-2009.html?image=16

    The movements of this robot can be described by Happeh Theory, because Happeh Theory is aware of Yin Yang Theory.

    Hmmm… if I apply Happeh Theory to those images, I see in the leftmost image that the robot is clearly gay (it is asymmetrical, like a car with a flat tire!), and in the right most image I can see that it is clearly an anorexic robot. You can see the “anorexia dent” in the left side of the rightmost photograph.

    Wow, now I finally understand the power of Happeh Theory! How else would I learn about gay robots with eating disorders?!

  36. #36 James Sweet
    June 24, 2009

    Please look at the robot that the Japanese built using Yin Yang Theory.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/5610507/Pictures-of-the-day-23-June-2009.html?image=16

    The movements of this robot can be described by H*ppeh Theory, because H*ppeh Theory is aware of Yin Yang Theory.

    Hmmm… if I apply H*ppeh Theory to those images, I see in the leftmost image that the robot is clearly gay (it is asymmetrical, like a car with a flat tire!), and in the right most image I can see that it is clearly an anorexic robot. You can see the “anorexia dent” in the left side of the rightmost photograph.

    Wow, now I finally understand the power of H*ppeh Theory! How else would I learn about gay robots with eating disorders?!

    (LOL, I had to censor H*ppeh Theory to get it past the automatic moderation. Nice…)

  37. #37 Missy Miss
    June 24, 2009

    Every once in a while, my immune system decides to kill all the platelets in my blood. I wish it were as good at knocking out colds and flu as it is at knocking out platelets. My immune system doesn’t need a boost. It just needs better aim.

  38. #38 Sastra
    June 24, 2009

    You know, when I read about the huge amounts of money being wasted on quackery because the patients are attracted to the “warm, caring relationship” I wonder whether it wouldn’t be a good idea for people to start training themselves for a new profession: a professional “Health Carer.”

    When you are sick, you call up and engage a professional “carer.” For a small amount each month, the Health Carer will come to your house, hold your hand, and ask you what’s wrong. Please tell them everything, in detail — several times, if need be. As much as you need.

    They will then tell you that they knew someone who had what you have, only so much worse and you’re so lucky to be doing as well as you are. Or, if you want, they’ll say that they’ve never known anyone who had what you had so bad, and it’s remarkable the way you cope, they have no idea how you do it. They’ll rub your back, wash a few dishes, go with you to the doctor, make you some hot tea, and listen. Sympathize. Empathize. Care.

    And, unlike family members, they’ll never get upset or bored or angry at you, or tired of hearing, again, how you suffer. And they always express admiration and relief over any little improvement, however small, as if it were light breaking at last through darkness.

    Considering what some people spend on unscientific medical nonsense, it’s actually a rather prudent use of a few bucks. I wouldn’t be surprised if it fills a niche, and creates a steady source of income for some. Hell, people might not even have to actually be sick, to hire a Health Carer.

  39. #39 Rogue Epidemiologist
    June 24, 2009

    @Matt Cline
    Despite the ostensible desire for balance between the Yin and Yang, that doesn’t necessarily dictate a balance between a man and a woman. It can be the balance of power WITHIN one human being. Hence some megalomaniacal men think it’s a good idea to absorb the powers of the “fairer” sex. Kind of like Rogue from the X-men comics.

    @Mandos
    The etymology of farang is still debatable. Evidence dictates the term existed before the discovery of white people. No one argues that it arose from the Middle East, but the part about it being a corruption of the name “Frank” is largely discredited. I got an earful of this from a professor back in college when I posited that farang might have come from a transliteration of fran├žais since in Thai, French people are called farang-sed (which coincidentally sounds a lot like a phrase that translates to “leftover white people”). Apparently I was wrong. Very wrong.

    Didn’t mean to spend so much time expounding on Asian cultures and languages. I just wanted to state that happeh is an asshat.

  40. #40 Matthew Cline
    June 24, 2009

    Evidence dictates the term existed before the discovery of white people.

    *snerk*

  41. #41 Mu
    June 24, 2009

    Sastra, they have something like that for birthing mothers, called a dula. Does nothing but physical warm and fuzzies, and people love it.

  42. #42 HCN
    June 24, 2009

    Rogue Epidemiologist said “Didn’t mean to spend so much time expounding on Asian cultures and languages. I just wanted to state that happeh is an asshat.”

    That we can agree on.

    I am amused some folks claim that “western medicine = bad” and “eastern medicine = good”. They get confused when I ask them if Germany is in the “East”, since that is where homeopathy is from (my niece pulled that “western medicine is bad” when trying to defend homeopathy).

    They then get even more confused if I ask them if the DTaP and varicella vaccines are okay because they were both developed in Japan.

    I really hate the “east” versus “west” stuff.

    (by the way, I like the history of math, I am now reading about zero… and how it came from India to the Muslim world, and it took a while for Europeans to accept it!)

    (You might be amused by this: some of my daughter’s friends call her the “whitest Asian”. Perhaps because she finds learning Japanese easy… though to be honest, Japanese is at least a third language for her friends who are usually native Chinese speakers. Oh, that reminds me I have to make hotel reservations for the manga/anime convention next November. sigh… because she is still a minor I have to also attend)

  43. #43 sophia8
    June 25, 2009

    Mu: Yeah, I once encountered a professional dula online. She was most offended when I suggested that a new mother’s greatest need was for practical support around the house, and that there was something a bit askew with paying a stranger to give emotional support.
    She disdn’t seem to be short of business, though.

  44. #44 Rogue Medic
    June 26, 2009

    kathleen,

    Damn Rogue Medic-you caught me-I wanted to go all “Dora the Explorer” on your tickle me Elmo!

    Sorry for the delay responding. Now you have me all sorts of excited. ;-)

    I knew of some “practitioners” in the Oregon area who advertised that tantric massage could cure a whole lot of ills…i.e. men’s health issues(heehee) heart problems etc.

    If you elevate the, um, eh, um, heart rate for long enough (more double entendres), you can provide a workout that is not the kind that is appropriate in public.

    I guess they are not Happeh hookers.

    No. But they may be sex surrogates.

    An amusing video that would get Tickle Me happeh all sorts of upset, which probably applies to everything that is not Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is The Count Censored. This is a YouTube video. It is safe for work, but not for beverages.

  45. #45 Rogue Medic
    June 26, 2009

    antipodean,

    Rogue Medic. Wow. You really liked my little throw away comment regarding Elmo, didn’t you?

    Yes, I did. It is the perfect antidote to the content of the comments. Now I have to explain to people why I start laughing when I hear Elmo talking. :-)

  46. #46 kathleen
    June 26, 2009

    no-Not safe for beverages..hahahaha..makes me kind of wonder about Bert and Ernie though…to totally misquote “All About Eve” I think that Tickle me Happeh would ask Bert for his Ernie…I wonder if they are symmetrical? just pulling your ying…or is it yang?

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