Untruths About Cancer in the Failed “Quest for Cures”
Part 3 of the review of “The Quest for Cures…Continues” highlights the promoters of “alternative medicine” who present themselves with eyebrow-raising credentials. Please link to these JREF pieces anywhere you see this documentary series being promoted. It is extremely important to promote evidence-based and science-based critique to counteract the alternative and questionable information.
“The Quest for 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.” A “replay marathon” is began November 27th and run 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. 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.
My critique continues by discussing two more ploys in Episode 1 and much more than I expected on two commentators pitching one of the ploys. The unusual qualifications of the commentators pitching Ploy #5 turned out to be more interesting than I had realized.
Ploy #4: The Hippocratic Oath Ploy
Sunil Pai, M.D. (see Part 2) followed up his pitch of the oncologists-wouldn’t-give-themselves-chemotherapy ploy by arguing that the Hippocratic Oath forbids doctors from giving patients poisons and that the drugs given in oncology are poisons.
This ploy takes advantage of viewers’ lack of understanding of what the Hippocratic Oath represents and the nature of poisons.
The Hippocratic Oath is was written in the fourth century BCE. While some of the ethical tenets in the oath are relevant today, others are anachronistic. Graduating medical students in the U.S. and Canada generally swear to modernized versions of the oath such as the one written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, who was academic dean of the Tufts University School of Medicine.
A recitation of the original Hippocratic Oath by a physician involves swearing to Apollo, Aesculapius, Hygeia, Panacea, and other gods and goddesses to: regard their medical educators as they would regard their own parents; judge the children of their medical educators as equal to their own male siblings; provide medical education without fee; refuse to perform any kind of cutting (since that’s the job of surgeon, a different occupation at the time); and refuse to induce abortion.
The Oath also includes this statement: “And I will not give a drug that is deadly to anyone if asked [for it], nor will I suggest the way to such a counsel.” I read that as a prohibition against physician-assisted suicide with substances at toxic, non-therapeutic doses. It doesn’t look like a prohibition against doses of drugs with both therapeutic and adverse effects prescribed when there they offer greater potential for benefit than for harm.
Dr. Lasagna’s modernized oath refers to “avoiding those twin traps of over-treatment and therapeutic nihilism.” In the video, Dr. Pai leaped into the trap of chemotherapy nihilism.
To counter chemotherapy nihilism, we need to promote the two most under-appreciated concepts in toxicology: (1) “the dose makes the poison” (meaning all chemicals are poisonous when administered in excess), and (2) there are no good or bad chemicals, only good or bad uses for chemicals. The organization Sense About Science has provided additional relevant perspective about balancing the risks and benefits of drugs and combating irrational thinking about chemicals.
Ploy #5: The Allopathic Medical Monopoly Ploy
This is a ploy to portray medicine as a system of healing (allopathy) with undeserved special privileges that other systems of healing lack because of political and business conspiracies. The ploy comes with a seductive appeal to fairness: the implication that the playing field should be leveled so that practitioners of other healing systems can be free to compete with “allopaths.” And it feeds into the common misconception, often promoted by medical sociologists and anthropologists—and even some physicians—that licensed physicians in the United States who have the M.D. degree are practitioners of allopathy.
Two practitioners of “alternative” healing systems—Robert Scott Bell and Darrell Wolfe—pitch the allopathic medical monopoly ploy in Episode 1. Although they are both introduced with “Dr.” before their names, I would charitably describe the doctorates they have as unusual.
Bell is the host of an Internet radio program that promotes superstition-based health care as “alternative” medicine. He is presented in Episode 1 as a homeopathy practitioner with the letters D.A. Hom (and no other letters) after his name.
D.A. typically stands for Doctor of Arts degree. It’s a degree offered by a few accredited institutions as a terminal degree to prepare students for specific discipline-focused teaching careers. I’m not aware of the D.A. as a terminal degree for any kind of health profession.
The D.A. is also sometimes awarded as an honorary degree. But’s really bad form for people awarded honorary doctorates to call themselves doctors unless they have earned their doctorates by completing university doctoral programs.
After Googling “Robert Scott Bell” and “D.A. Hom,” I still have no idea where one can go to receive a D.A. Hom or where Bell received his. I was also unsuccessful in my attempt to find Bell’s name in the directories of the three U.S. states that license medical doctors and osteopaths in homeopathy and in three other directories of homeopaths in North America.
In Episode 1, Bell (sounding much like Art Bell pitching conspiracy theories from the radio show Coast to Coast in the 1990s), offers what he says is the “history that is not taught” not the “official story” of the “Fear and Death Administration [FDA].” He says that in the Civil War, medical field kits included homeopathic medicine and contrasts homeopathy with allopathy, which he describes as poisoning. He says that medicine was eclectic prior to the Rockefeller and Carnegie group’s efforts to reform medicine leading to the “preordained” Flexner report to “get a hold of the education system and create a medical monopoly basically eliminating competition to petrochemical medical education.”
Bell doesn’t describe homeopathy in the video. Many people who have heard of homeopathy think of it as a fancy term for natural medicine, but they are shocked when they learn how bizarre homeopathy is. Homeopathy involves assessment of a patient’s combination of symptoms followed by administration of repeatedly shaken and diluted substances that are otherwise expected to produce the symptoms the patient already has. Homeopaths believe that the greater the dilution, the more potent the medicine. They aren’t troubled by dilution to the point of completely losing the active ingredient.
Homeopathy originated in the late 1700s by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who was justifiably distressed about the predominant medical practices of his day that were based on ancient Greek medical principles of restoring health by balancing four body “humors” (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood) using methods such as bloodletting, leaching, purging that were ineffective and harmful. Hahnemann labeled those practices “allopathy” from the Greek words állos (different) and pathos (suffering) in contrast to homeopathy from homoios (similar) and pathos.
Allopathy is a misleading slur as a label for modern medicine. After the Civil War, mainstream medicine discarded practices based on humoral theory. The treatments Hahnemann called allopathic are practiced today in some parts of India and Pakistan as part of what the World Health Organization recognizes as one of the ‘alternative medical systems of the world’: Unani (an Arabic adjective meaning Greek) medicine. Allopathy isn’t the monopoly; it’s really a form of so-called alternative medicine. Referring to modern medicine as allopathy mischaracterizes it as just another tradition-based, ideologically driven, sectarian healing system rather than a profession that progresses as new scientific knowledge is gained.
“Dr. Darrell Wolfe, Ac.Ph.D.,” Kelowna, who calls himself “The Doc of Detox” complains that the standards of medical colleges initiated in the early 1900s following the Flexner report drove thousands of herbalists out of business. [Considering that they practiced what botanical medicine scientist Varro E. Tyler, PhD, ScD called paraherbalism, I’d say that was nothing to complain about.]
“The 22 homeopathic medical colleges that flourished in the 1900s dwindled down to just 2 by 1923,” says Wolfe of the situation in the US. “By 1950, all the schools teaching homeopathy were closed.” [Unfortunately, we’ve seen a resurgence of homeopathic nonsense in recent decades.]
Wolfe bemoans the American Medical Association’s efforts to “shut down the larger respected homeopathic colleges.” [This is one area in which size does not matter.]
Wolfe points the blame right where Bell does: “These natural health colleges were not pushing enough chemical drugs [as if there are non-chemical drugs] manufactured by who? Carnegie and Rockefeller.”
At first, I thought the Ac.Ph.D. following his name onscreen in the video might be a typographical error and that he might be an L.Ac. (licensed acupuncturist) who happens to also have a Ph.D. in some field. So I checked his docofdetox.com site, which indicates that he’s a resident of Kelowna, British Columbia. I found that he refers to himself there as Dr. Darrell Wolfe without indicating what kind of doctor he is. But on one page at drdarrellwolfe.com, he presents himself as “Dr. Darrell Wolfe Ac.PhD,” though without any mention of the institution that conferred the degree.
The LinkedIn page of Darrell Wolfe of Kelowna, British Columbia indicates under the heading Education:
Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy
Registered Massage Therapist
Open University of Sri Lanka
Doctorate of Acupuncture
The Australian Naturopathic College
Certified Colon Therapist, Colon Therapy
It looks like he doesn’t even have the equivalent of bachelor’s degrees granted in the U.S.
I found no evidence of any doctoral or acupuncture programs at the Web site of the Open University of Sri Lanka. The similarly named Open International University for Complementary Medicine in Sri Lanka offers various acupuncture training opportunities including a Doctor of Philosophy in Acupuncture-Ph.D., but that Ph.D. program is open only to those who have already completed the institution’s Doctor of Medicine in Acupuncture-M.D (Acu.) Program.
Still, I would not be impressed if Wolfe actually has a doctorate in acupuncture. As noted by consumer advocate Stephen Barrett, M.D.:
Traditional acupuncture theories and practices are not based on the body of basic knowledge related to health, disease, and health care which has been widely accepted by the scientific community. Moreover, schools that teach traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) do not prepare practitioners to make adequate diagnoses or provide appropriate treatment.
Perhaps he is no longer involved in his version of clinical practice. According to the Web site of the Wolfe Clinic in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he from the clinic he founded after 25 years of working there. The site doesn’t indicate who is now operating the clinic, but advertises a product line “exclusive to the Wolfe Clinic” and various preposterous cleansing, immune-boosting, and other services.
Numerous clinics and spas offer the kinds of “natural health” products and services promoted at the Wolfe Clinic. This scandalous state of affairs clearly indicates there is no medical monopoly in the United States.
I Googled “Australian Naturopathic College” and found only twelve results including one mentioning Wolfe. It appears that a college with that name was established in 1947, but a “colon therapy” certification is about as impressive as the contents of a colon. Consumers should be wary of “colon therapy” for “detoxification.”
More to Come
Episode 1 of “The Quest for Cures…Continues” has now been viewed more than 146,000 times on YouTube. Many viewers are unsuspecting and unprepared to recognize that they are being pitched deceptive ploys commonly offered by promoters of “natural” approaches to treating cancer. Commentators appear to be confident and sincere, but it’s important to take a close look at their backgrounds, activities, and arguments.
As we are continually reminded, the strange remains the same. There is much more alarming, disgraceful, strangeness in “The Quest for Cures…Continues.” I’ll continue to discuss the strangeness next week for Swift.