“The Quest for the Cures…Continues” is an eleven-episode video documentary series made available intermittently online at thetruthaboutcancer.com to promote dubious cancer treatments euphemistically labeled “alternative medicine.” The most recent “replay marathon” began November 27th and ran for five days.
In Part 1, I discussed the marketing of the documentary and the background of its host, Ty Bollinger.
In Part 2, I began my discussion of the 68-minute Episode 1. That episode has now been viewed more than 176,000 times on YouTube. I introduced the commentators interviewed in the video, provided a list of ten types of deceptive ploys that commentators make to shift viewers’ trust away from standard treatment methods and toward so-called “alternative” methods, discussed the activities of some of the commentators, and described details about the first three types of deceptive ploys: #1 the passionate personal ploy, #2 the doctors-don’t-know-about-nutrition ploy, and #3 the oncologists-wouldn’t-give-themselves-chemotherapy ploy.
In Part 3, I discussed two more deceptive ploys used in Episode 1: #4 the Hippocratic Oath ploy and #5 the allopathic medical monopoly ploy. I also discussed the weird, unimpressive qualifications of the two commentators who pitched ploy #5.
In Part 4, I discussed ploy #6: the medical industrial complex ploy, which blames the supposed suppression of supposed cures on vested interests of medical organizations and personnel. I also discussed the vested interests of the commentators who complained about the medical and cancer industrial complex.
In Part 5, I described how Burton Goldberg, “the voice of alternative medicine,” misled viewers with ploy #7: the cancer holocaust ploy.
I now examine the remaining three of ten ploys I identified in Episode 1 and the commentators that pitch them.
Ploy #8: The Health Freedom Ploy
Quacks, their apologists, and their devoted customers often participate in “health freedom” advocacy organizations. They insist that consumers should have “freedom of choice” in the consumer marketplace and that the free enterprise system is based on the principle of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).
NCAHF [the National Council Against Health Fraud] had several answers to the health freedom pitch. Consumers have only the illusion of free choice when they are led to make decisions based on false or misleading information that comes with quackery. There is no health freedom in what is based upon misinformed consent. When you’re being deceived, you’re not free to choose. And when your health is threatened, it’s especially difficult to be wary of quackery. “Health freedom” advocates expect health consumers to beware despite their disadvantageous bargaining position, but they don’t expect those offering products and services to be fully accountable to consumers. Caveat emptor is an important educational message for the James Randi Educational Foundation to offer, but it’s unreasonable to rely on caveat emptor without public policy based on the notion of caveat venditor (or caveat vendor): let the seller beware.
The NCAHF motto was: Freedom of choice through reliable information.
Selenium may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Scientific evidence concerning this claim is inconclusive. Based on its review, FDA does not agree that selenium may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Emord’s pitch in Episode 1 begins:
Well there’s nothing more disgusting frankly and certainly a gross abuse of individual liberty than to have the government stand in your way of access when you’re dying to a[n] experimental treatment that can save your life.
Steven Novella, MD recently summarized the “Risks of CAM Treatments for Cancer” and concluded: “Overall the evidence for the effectiveness, side effects, drug interactions, and net effects on survival and quality of life with herbs and other unconventional treatments for cancer is of poor quality, showing mixed and complex results.”
It really is amazing to me in a land that is supposed to be dedicated first and foremost to individual liberty that you could have a government of our own standing in the way of people who desperately need an alternative due to failed conventional treatments. And that’s what our government does.
It’s a travesty and it’s really when you think of the number of people who died and suffered immeasurably because of it, you want to hold those responsible to account and yet they’re protected by sovereign immunity from being prosecuted despite the fact that they are very directly responsible for taking the lives of these people from denying them the freedom to choose an alternative that works for them.
The language “freedom to choose an alternative that works for them” makes it sound like cancer patients know before they receive “alternative” treatment what will work for them. But “alternative” treatments tend not to work the way patients who choose them expect. See, for example, the stories at The OTHER Burzynski Patient Group.
There is no freedom of choice when cancer patients base their decisions on the deceptive marketing efforts of promoters of “alternative” cancer treatments. The supposed freedom of choice for patients turns out to be the freedom of “alternative” cancer treatment promoters to defraud them. As noted by Dr. Novella, “The claims made for such treatments often greatly exceed the evidence. Patients, therefore, are generally met with misleading information, suggesting efficacy where the evidence is thin, and downplaying the potential for harm and negative interactions.”
Ploy #9: The Cancer-Is-the-Symptom Ploy
The cancer-is-the-symptom ploy is the rationale provided by “alternative” practitioners who offer what I call a shotgun health care, but which they describe as a “holistic” approach. Those who pitch this ploy recommend a wide variety of supposedly non-toxic products, services, and regimens that together are claimed to restore health and promote optimum wellness, thereby resulting in health problems including, but not limited to, cancer, going away.
This shotgun approach is appealing to some patients for several reasons such as it: (1) provides a means for them to take control of their health; (2) gives an impression that they are doing all that can be done to enhance spirit, mind, and body; and (3) assures them that their “cures” are not worse than their diseases.
For practitioners, the shotgun approach has several advantages, as well, such as: (1) they need not specialize in any single type of disease and can provide similar treatments to all patients regardless of what health problems they face; (2) they need not learn about the complex biology of any particular types of cancer since they presume to treat the underlying deviation from optimum health that makes it possible for manifestations of “dis-ease” such as cancer; and (3) they can charge patients for many different products, services, regimens.
The trouble is the shotgun approach has not been shown to work or be safe.
Four of the featured commentators in Episode 1 pitch the cancer-is-the-symptom ploy.
According to Véronique Desaulniers, D.C. (“Dr. V.”), described as “Author, Lecturer, Cancer Survivor,” “It doesn’t make sense to poison, to irradiate, to cut a body that’s sick in the first place.” By sick in the first place, she doesn’t mean sick from cancer. She goes onto explain: “People don’t get sick because they have cancer. They’re already sick and they develop cancer.”
I had not heard of Dr. V. before watching Episode 1. I found her tabloid-style Web site 7essentialscoachingwithdrv.com and learned that she describes herself as a “Bio-Energetic Chiropractor,” which means that she blames “dis-ease” on a demon-haunted world in which the demons are various supposed toxic exposures at the root of “cancer (or any chronic ‘disease’)”: mercury fillings, radiation, acidic water, emotional baggage, junk food, parasites, and yeast. She left out cigarette smoking, which, as I pointed out in Part 5, is the exposure that accounts for more than a quarter of all cancer deaths in the U.S.
She promotes seven types of shot in her coaching shotgun: (1) a raw-food detoxing diet; (2) eliminating environmental “toxins” and that includes “electro-pollution” for which she offers protection with “scientifically based products;” (3) energy balancing (after all, “we are only 1 billionth physical matter…the rest is ALL energy);” (4) energy psychology and coaching to “clear the body of toxic emotions” and “release emotional wounds;” (5) embracing biological dentistry, which includes removing amalgam dental fillings; (6) therapeutic herbs, tonics, tinctures, and homeopathy; and (7) early detection with breast thermography (which, is no substitute for mammograms, as I pointed out in Part 5).
Rashid Buttar, D.O., described as “Best-selling Author and Lecturer,” says, “Cancer is not the problem. Cancer is the symptom.” Dr. Buttar says that chemo and radiation don’t work because it’s like fixing the check engine light without fixing the engine. He then mixes his metaphors by suggesting it’s better to take the manure out instead of putting a carpet on it.
Dr. Buttar’s activities were described in seventeen pages of the 2013 book Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Paul A. Offit, M.D. Consistent with cancer-is-the-symptom thinking, Dr. Buttar provides unapproved treatment for cancer, arthritis, autism, diabetes, and heart disease patients with potentially dangerous chelation, which he uses on almost all of his patients to remove toxic heavy metals. In 2010, Dr. Buttar received a reprimand from the North Carolina Medical Board, which investigated his use in treating five of his patients with various unproven treatments known to have adverse effects. He is now required to provide patients with a consent form disclosing adverse effects. Yes, that means he is free to provide dubious “alternative” treatments.
Chris Wark, described as “Cancer Survivor, Author, and Lecturer” agrees with Dr. Buttar. “Cancer is a symptom of a sick body,” he says. “You cannot cut a tumor off, or shrink a tumor, or poison a tumor and expect to stay well and healthy.”
The cancer surgeon and researcher who blogs as Orac has analyzed Wark’s personal survival story and notes that he had surgery for his stage III colon cancer, which may have cured him, but he refused the chemotherapy that would give him the best chance of avoiding cancer recurrence. Wark errs in attributing his survival on his use of a shotgun regimen of nutritional and natural therapies he received from a naturopath and now recommends to others.
Chris Wark charges $100 an hour or $175 for two hours to impart his “healing wisdom” to you. One wonders how many people with cancer this not-a-doctor has led astray, potentially to their demise and how what he is doing isn’t practicing medicine without a license.
“We all get cancer every day,” Major says. “We have an immune system that takes care of it.” This is an allusion to immune surveillance theory. While there is some evidence that supports this theory, even people with severely compromised immune systems such as people with AIDS are not at elevated risk for developing the most common types of deadly cancer. Efforts to improve immune system functioning using various “natural health” products have not been shown to prevent cancer development or recurrence.
The Setup for Ploy #8
The setup for the cancer-is-the-symptom ploy in Episode 1 consists of the seven ploys I discussed in previous parts of this series plus the doctor-bashing commentaries provided by Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D. (described as “Lecturer and Integrative Physician”) and Roby Mitchell, M.D. (described as “‘Dr. Fitt,’ Orthomolecular Medicine Specialist”).
“That’s what doctors do,” says Dr. Connealy. “They maintain a person’s illness.”
So what does Dr. Connealy offer? She’s the medical director of the Center for New Medicine (formerly the South Coast Center for New Medicine) in Irvine, California which claims its “approach of integrative medicine determines the root cause of illness first, while combining both conventional and homeopathic protocols with the best of all sciences for each individual patient.”
In other words, the “New Medicine” of her clinic is the aforementioned shotgun approach to health care. Within the Center is the Cancer Center for Healing which offers a wide-range of new and old aberrant treatments and testing methods including live cell therapy, low dose insulin potentiated chemotherapy, ozone therapy, wheatgrass, thermography, and the Oncoblot early detection test, which is mentioned, but not validated, in only one paper indexed in the PubMed database.
In 2008, Dr. Connealy and the South Coast Center were named in a lawsuit on the grounds of negligent hiring and retention of an incompetent employee: a dentist employed by the Center. Dr. Connealy and her clinic settled for a modest undisclosed sum before the case was tried.
In 2010, another patient sued the same parties and others. After visiting the center in 2007 for bio-identical hormones, the patient was referred to the dentist who convinced her that she needed removal of 16 amalgam fillings and two teeth removed which resulted in infections requiring additional surgery, pain, and difficulty chewing.
Also in 2010, Dr. Connealy was named as a defendant in a suit a suit filed by Pamela McGreevy, a California woman who, among other things, had been tested with a ZYTO, a computerized device promoted for determining what dietary supplements, herbs, or homeopathic products might be useful, at the South Coast Center for New Medicine. The suit stated that Dr. Connealy, M.D., had engaged in negligent misrepresentation by telling McGreevy that ZYTO’s limbic stress assessment (LSA) test would identify "stressors, such as bacteria, injury, allergies, lack of sleep, toxins, emotional strain and traumatic events" that affected her body in order to induce her to “undergo an unnecessary and expensive medical treatment, as well as to induce the sale of supplements profitable to Defendants.”
I thought that Dr. Roby Mitchell came off as the least unreasonable commentator in Episode 1. He at least acknowledges that some cancers such as blood cancers can be treated effectively with conventional therapy. In noting that conventional therapy doesn’t work well against cancers that have spread throughout the body, he sets viewers up for the “alternative” approach offered by those who pitch the cancer-is-the-symptom ploy.
Dr. Mitchell’s activities deserve close scrutiny. At his Website, drfitt.com, he sells 111 different products at his site. Most of them are Dr. Fitt-branded dietary supplements of dubious health benefit (such as his number 1 bestseller a dried thyroid glandular from organically raised New Zealand cows to “support thyroid function” priced at $30.20 for 60 capsules); he also sells DVDs and books promoting his views on health.
He notes that he does not “practice medicine,” but he also tells visitors to his site, “If you want to take responsibility for your health and need education about what Dr. Mitchell terms ‘Divine Healing’, submit form or call for an appointment.”
His site has a “Symptom Profiles” page in which he promotes the notion that optimum health depends on preventing “Deterioration, Oxidation, and Activation.”
He says: “Using the following symptom profiles will help you assess if you have a hormonal imbalance or yeast imbalance. If you do, the next step is to find a healthcare professional that can help you get back in balance.” The symptom profiles consist of the Yale Food Addiction Scale; questionnaires that are supposedly useful for assessing “estrogen deficiency,” “estrogen dominance,” “growth hormone deficiency,” “hypothyroidism,” “low adrenals,” “progesterone deficiency,” “testosterone deficiency,” “yeast overgrowth;” and a warning about “The Detox Healing Crisis,” which means that people can expect to feel worse “a few days into the candida-cleansing regimen.”
In the bizarro universe of “alternative” healing, many practitioners will say that following “alternative” treatment, it is good news if the patient feels better or worse following “alternative” treatment. It’s very convenient to be able to attribute feeling worse to “healing crisis.
Dr. Mitchell says the questions on the forms “pertain to male and female patients.” [Emphasis added.] I guess they’re supposed to be patients for “Divine Healing,” if not the practice of medicine, since Dr. Mitchell no longer practices medicine. On the About Us page of drfitt.com, it says:
Dr. Mitchell voluntarily surrendered his Texas Medical license in 2005 after realizing the corruptness of an industry that has no concern for the health of Americans.
On August 26th of 2005, the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners revoked the medical license of Roby Dean Mitchell, M.D. Among the conclusions of law in the Final Order was that Dr. Mitchell “committed a prohibited act or practice…based upon unprofessional or dishonorable conduct that he is likely to deceive or defraud the public or injure the public.”
I mentioned Dr. Mitchell in a piece I wrote that was published at the Healthy Skepticism Network of Skeptic Ink: “Kevin Trudeau Tops the List of the Dirtiest Dozen Ducktors of 2013.” Mitchell came up in my discussion of #8 on my list, Jonathan Wright, M.D., founder and medical director of the Tahoma Clinic in Kings County, Washington:
In May 2013, the Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission suspended Wright’s license for 90 days, to be followed by 30 months of probation, and ordered him to pay a $7,500 fine after concluding that he engaged in unprofessional conduct by:
* employing at his clinic Roby Dean Mitchell, M.D., an unlicensed physician whose Texas license was permanently revoked in 2005
* failing to cooperate with the Commission’s investigation of Mitchell’s wrongdoing
Ploy #10: The Untested Drug Combination Ploy
K. C. Craichy, described in the Episode 1 as “Author and Nutritional Expert” and “CEO of LivingFuel,” pitches the untested drug combination ploy. According to the company Web site, Living Fuel, Inc. is “the preeminent superfood nutrition company in the United States.” In other words, it sells various food concoctions advertised with extra doses of health hype that goes beyond referring to the products as superfoods.
I can’t figure out what kind of expertise Craichy has for him to have been selected as a commentator on the quest for cures. His Web site offers a story of how he supposedly helped his wife, a former Miss Florida and Miss Florida USA, overcome her health challenges. I guess that’s supposed to have made him some kind of health authority.
In Episode 1, Craichy drops the name of Jeffrey Bland, whom he describes as the founder of functional medicine (which I would describe as a euphemism for recommending a wide range of supplement products from Bland’s corporations for just about everyone). He says Bland has been criticized by not practicing double-blind, placebo-controlled medicine (although Bland has been criticized for much more than that). Craichy says that same criticism can be made when cancer patients receive conventional care and are put on multiple medications that haven’t been tested, making it impossible to guess the clinical response to five drugs.
I asked cancer research scientist David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D., who is an associate professor of surgery and oncology at Wayne State University about Craichy’s untested drug combination ploy. He explained:
Many of the standard drug regimens for hematopoietic malignancies consist of five or more drugs. …the drugs are usually not all given at the same time. These regimens have been worked out and are usually into stages, such as induction, consolidation, reinduction, intensification, maintenance, etc.
In short, Dr. Gorski’s reaction to the untested drug combination ploy was: “What utter nonsense!”
The utter nonsense in Episode 1 of “The Quest for the Cures…Continues” is overwhelming, but many unsuspecting viewers who are wary of modern medicine are likely to find it convincing. Viewers who most strongly relate to Emord’s notion of health freedom and the idea of fighting cancer naturally, holistically, and with a strong focus on nutrition are least likely to be persuaded by the in-depth analysis I provided in the six parts of my critique. My hope is to reach the least ideologically committed viewers and potential viewers, who might recognize some reasonable concerns I’ve raised
On the surface, the notion of “health freedom” appears to be a fair-minded approach to public policy. A close look reveals that it amounts to freedom from professional accountability that undermines progress in consumer protection.
The cancer-is-the-symptom ploy is a deceptive basis for recommending numerous non-validated and invalidated products and services to replace treatments with well-established benefits and risks. This shotgun approach to health care is misleadingly represented as holistic; I consider it to be merely exploitive.
The drug combinations used in standard cancer treatment have been well tested in clinical trials. Such combinations are very different from the shotgun health care promoted by those who pitch the cancer-is-the-symptom ploy.
I didn’t get around to discussing several curious characters interviewed by Ty Bollinger in Episode 1. Perhaps, I’ll get around to discussing them some time in 2015.
Happy, healthy new year!