I'm going to lose two of my relatives to cancer. That is sad, of course, but what is really unfortunate is that they could have been cured at early stages of their disease. What happened? They became enmeshed in the folly of "alternative medicine", and they are going to die because of that.
I won't name names or give any identifying information. One relative had cancer of the tongue that could have been excised and eliminated when it was quite small. He refused conventional therapy proposed by one of the leading cancer centers of the world, and instead used diet and supplements to treat himself, on the advice of a "practitioner" with barely a high-school education. Three years later, the disease advanced to the point that he had to seek conventional therapy, and he underwent a glossectomy. That's a nice word for having your tongue cut out of your mouth. He "eats" through a tube in his stomach these days.
The other relative has breast cancer. She and her husband, very smart and well-educated people, decided that nutrition and other alternative methods were the only treatment for her. A year later, this formerly healthy woman is an orange, jaundiced skeleton. She just had a biliary stent placed, and she can't even consider chemotherapy until she builds up her strength. Which she can't because she had starved herself trying to follow various cancer diets. My wife and I made an emergency trip to see this relative over the weekend, and she still doesn't realize what has happened to her. She fears most that the cancer has spread to her brain, because the local practitioner of ElectroDermal Screening told her it had done so.
People, I don't know whether to cry, scream, or what. How did this happen?
In the short space of one post, I can't properly cover the entire topic of alternative medicine. I strongly refer you to http://www.quackwatch.org. Dr. Stephen Barrett has spent the last 30 years examining the phenomena, and his articles are mandatory reading on this sad subject.
There is no single reason for people to suspend reason and go for the alternative therapies. Victims include rich, poor, educated, illiterate, black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim. No one is immune. The only common thread is that most people will be vulnerable at some point in their lives to the ministrations of charlatains, and those with a chronic or recently diagnosed illness are right at the top of the list. Why go through painful and debilitating chemotherapy when nutrition and electrotherapy can cure you of your cancer?
The "practitioners" usually have no scientific background, and learned their trade by weekend seminar, or perhaps right here on the Internet. Their idols, the inventors of the wonderous therapies, assure them with false testimonials and bogus science that their therapy works. Why are these miracles not accepted by the mainstream medical community? My relative with the tongue cancer was quite convinced that there is a conspiracy amongst all physicians, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers to keep these "cures" away from the public, so we, the conspirators, can keep raking in the cash. Just take a look at this "infomercial" from Kevin Trudeau, who is revered among the alternative believers. He has since been banned from making such blatantly false statements. He was interviewed on TV recently, along with someone from mainstream medicine, and someone else from the alternative community. The mainstream doc lambasted him, and the alternative "doc" praised him. My relatives believed the latter.
In some cases, the victims of this deceit really do distrust the traditional medical community, and many are prone to believe conspiracy theories anyway. There is a very simple counter argument: Doctors and their families get cancer as often as any other group, and they live and die in the same percentages as everyone else. If there were some "secret" cancer cure, don't you think somebody would "break ranks" and reveal it to the public after all this time? Perhaps the greatest irony is that we are accused hiding and suppressing this stuff so we can make money. The quacks, however, are very quick to charge as much as much as they possibly can for unproven, untested, ineffective, and often harmful products.
Human beings are well known for believing what they want to believe, even when faced with heaps of evidence to the contrary. Throughout history, quacks, charlatains, witch-doctors, and all of their ilk have misled those who get caught up in their lies. It is no different in the 21st century, I am sorry to report.
Not being bound by the conventions of political correctness, I am going to call this what it is: MURDER. These criminals convince the naive to shirk medical treatments in favor of their patent medicine and snake oil. Many of the victims will die needlessly, and often horribly. That constitutes murder in my book.
Don't think for a moment that I am cannonizing the medical community. As you have noted in the pieces on self-referral, I think we need to fix a few things ourselves. M.D.'s are not above trying to make an extra buck, and I don't excuse them for it. But the methods we use for diagnosis and treatment have evolved via the scientific method. We do not think we possess the Absolute Truth, and we are constantly testing and retesting our diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. I am not ashamed to charge for what we do; we know we are offering the best we have, not something mired in secrecy and obscurity, and "proven" by handwaving and innuendo.
Again, I keep creeping toward more governmental intervention. The government MUST step in and stop this madness. People that make bogus claims need to be prosecuted. Those that have led their victims to their deaths should be up for murder. Because that's what their lies and deceit accomplished, the death of innocents whose only crime was believing the sales pitch. Perhaps there is a greater punishment awaiting these false practitioners, but for the moment, I'd rather trust the government to take care of these murderers. That's what they are.