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An Interesting Letter

I received a very interesting email from a reader, who wrote:

  • “It seems like you are skeptical of most alternative treatments due to the lack of publishing in scientific journals. Your responses to questions about ozone and cesium are vague. It is my understanding that nothing gets condoned by mainstream medicine unless it is profitable for someone. When it comes to cancer, people want to do anything that could help them get well whether it is mainstream or not. They also don’t have time to wait ten years for a double-blind clinical peer-reviewed blah blah blah. Do you really believe in alternative approaches, or are you just a politically correct soft-core quackbuster?”

I was amused by this reader’s characterization of me as a “soft-core quackbuster.” I am sure the folks at Quackwatch.org would be equally amused at my inclusion in their ranks. Nonetheless, I admit that I do not “believe” in alternative approaches to cancer if “belief” means the uncritical acceptance of their validity in the absence of proof.

Freedom of Choice

I do believe that all sane and sentient adults should have the freedom to choose any treatment they want and that the government should ease the restriction on relatively nontoxic treatments. In this regard, I  consider myself a follower of John Stuart Mill and his classic work, On Liberty. At the same time, I think that proponents of any cancer treatment have a responsibility to provide scientific proof of the safety and efficacy of their treatments. This requirement extends to conventional, as well as alternative, treatments. I have routinely criticized the medical profession for failing to provide such proof for surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

But this doesn’t give alternative practitioners a free ride. Whether my interlocutor knows it or not, there are a lot of frauds out there. Waste your time and money on a fraudulent treatment and you will not get another chance to avail yourself of a possibly useful one. Patients have an urgent need to know the difference between real and phony “alternatives.” Coley’s toxins, for instance, is supported by a body of reputable data stretching back over 100 years. Some other treatments are based on almost nothing but wishful thinking.

The Scientific Method

I also emphatically disagree that peer-reviewed clinical studies are “blah blah blah.” There is tremendous merit in the scientific method. The struggle lies in getting the money allocated to studies of the most promising alternative treatments. It is funny to be lectured on the economic dimensions of the cancer problem since some people think I literally “wrote the book” on the topic (The Cancer Industry, first published in 1980). The difficulty of getting new treatments across doesn’t absolve proponents of alternative therapies of the responsibility to prove the worth of their treatment.

I intend to continue criticizing shoddy presentations, regardless of whether they come from conventional or alternative medicine. If that makes me a “politically correct soft-core quackbuster,” so be it.