'PATIENT CARE' STIRS UP RUCKUS
IN 'PLAYGROUND FOR QUACKS'
From The Cancer Chronicles #23
© Sept. 1994 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
It is sometimes claimed that "quackbusting" has been neutralized by the existence of the OAM. Apparently not, as was demonstrated by an eight-page article, "Alternative medicine‹or quackery?" dated 6/15/94, and published in Patient Care, a magazine for doctors.
The article was "prepared" by one Malorye Allison. Above the title, however, are listed four names: "Helene Brown; Barrie Cassileth, PhD; Jerry P. Lewis, MD; and John H. Renner, MD.: These people are identiÞed as "Article Consultants," with brief biographies, in a box at the bottom of page one. Cassileth is also a member of the OAM advisory board (AMPAC) and the American Cancer Society¹s "questionable methods" subcommittee.
In a letter to AMPAC members (8/16/94), Cassileth claimed that some board members may have been "stating or insinuating" that her views rendered her an inappropriate member of the Council. She angrily denied that the Patient Care article, which uses her name, was an expression of her views. "That is simply not true," she said.
The article, however, is typical of the ACS quackbusting subcommittee on which she serves. In the article, patients who use alternative medicine are depicted as a pitiable and contemptible lot: the "sickest and most desperate...in pursuit of immediate relief," seeking "quick cures either of no value or outright dangerous." BeneÞts are ascribed to the "placebo effect."
There are some astonishing leaps of logic. The article states that "bee venomŠcan cause anaphylactic shock in susceptible patients." It follows this statement with a parenthetical remark: "A hockey coach in Michigan was forced to resign earlier this year for giving bee pollen pills to help 'energize' his 7- and 8-year-old players just before a play-off game." There is no recognition of the fact that bee venom injections are essentially different than bee pollen pills, and taking something yourself is different than giving it to unrelated minors.
Some of the more "dangerous" alternative treatments, we are told, are "daily enemas" or "a morning glass of urine." (Exploiting fear and loathing of human waste is a gambit found in many such quack attacks.) "The treatment of allergies," they also claim, "is a particularly popular playground for quacksŠ."
"Conventional medicine may label these patients as hypochondriacs," the article reassures conventional doctors, "but they have found a sympathetic ear, particularly in the Þeld of clinical ecology, where environmental sensitivity is treated as seriously as any other allergy." So, to get yourself labelled a quack, take your patients complaints seriously and treat them sympathetically.
Cancer therapy, it says, has "the longest and most tragic history of quackery" and "patients with cancer and AIDS are vulnerable to promoters of unproven therapies." There is no mention of the unproven uses of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Even in many so-called terminal cases, doctors are told, it is "clearly unwise" to counsel patients to take alternative treatments. "Severely wasted patients" should not take mega-vitamins (no reason given) and should not be encouraged to fast. (Who is advising this?)
"Most often," doctors are reassured, "unproven cancer therapies remain unproven because their developers won¹t allow them to be studied." In fact, the OAM has been besieged by hundreds of developers wanting their treatments evaluated. Those who don't want their treatments studied are really a small fraction, not typical.
Even alternative medicine¹s proper emphasis on "the right mental attitude" is twisted to allegedly mean "if you aren't cured, it¹s your own fault."
"Examples of these [quack] treatments" are IAT immune therapy, the Hoxsey herbs, and the Gerson diet. And, of course, laetrile: "Studies have conÞrmed that it is ineffective and potentially toxic." There is no mention of Dr. Sugiura's positive results at Sloan-Kettering.
Cancell's promoters are accused of "selling" their treatment, when in fact they gave it away free to thousands. Shark cartilage is called "the miracle cure of the moment" and it is said that OAM "has no immediate plans for additional clinical trials." But, at least on paper, OAM has scheduled a Þeld investigation of cartilage.
Most shockingly, doctors are urged to turn in "promoters of quack therapies" to "the FDA, the consumer protection division of your state attorney general¹s ofÞce, the state medical licensing board, or even the post ofÞce...."
If these are not Dr. Cassileth¹s opinions, as she avers, why doesn't she renounce them in print, or, better yet, resign from the ACS committee that gives them birth?
GLASS HOUSES DEPARTMENT
The Patient Care article not only provides lessons in medical heresy
detection but in literary sleuthing, as well. We learn that "books about
quackeriesŠare usually reprinted without any editing, so that the same
typographical errors occur in edition after edition." Talking about editing,
however, the article claims that the famous Hoxsey herbal method was "developed
in the 1950s." But Harry Hoxsey offered his treatment starting in 1924,
based on a formula he claimed was "developed in 1840" by his great-grandfather,
according to the OTA report on unconventional cancer treatments.
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