Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 97 in a series

Homeopathy, the treatment that involves no treatment, does not kill directly. It kills through neglect. Here is a story from Australia:

The latest case to come to media attention comes from down under – Penelope Dingle from Perth Australia, according to local news reports, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003. Her doctors gave her a good chance of survival with standard therapy – surgery to remove the cancer, and chemotherapy to mop up any loose cells and reduce the risk of recurrence. It is not a pleasant prospect, but with modern care it’s not too bad, and it buys in many cases a greatly improved quality and duration of life. Penelope Dingle, however, chose to refuse all science-based treatment and opted instead for a regimen of diet and homeopathic treatment.

This is a case of an adult making the decision to die. Instances involving children are not only horrendous but also criminal.


Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 96 in a series

Coffee Enemas. Really? Regular or decaf?

The Gerson Therapy strikes again. This from 20 years back:

Now Charles backs coffee cure for cancer

Angry doctors warn of dangers as Prince of Wales lends support to controversial alternative treatment. Health Editor Jo Revill reports
The mind of Bonnie Prince Charlie is frequently trotted out to illustrate the decline of a royal family. His fascination with things cranky is well appreciated. The above item is from The Guardian. It continues:

Prince Charles has never made a secret of his love affair with alternative medicine. Now he has infuriated the medical profession by backing a controversial cancer treatment which involves taking daily coffee enemas and drinking litres of fruit juice instead of using drugs. Charles gave an enthusiastic endorsement last week to the Gerson Therapy, which eschews chemotherapy in favour of 13 fruit juices a day, coffee enemas and weekly injections of vitamins.

Cancer specialists have told The Observer that there is no scientific basis for the theory and that it can be dangerous because patients who are seriously ill often come off their normal treatment to try something unproven which may leave them badly dehydrated.

One of Charlotte Gerson’s patients was Lady Baldwin:
Another of Charles’s associates, the hereditary peer and crossbencher Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, went to the Tijuana clinic in 1996 when his wife Sally was seriously ill with breast cancer. She spent eight weeks at the clinic, followed by another two years of using the regime at home. Her disease recurred and she died three years ago.
When Jesus is not around, there is always quack medicine ready to step up to the plate.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 95 in a series

I came aware of the “Gerson protocol” in 1992 when Charlotte Gerson brought her medical show to Dallas. In the July issue of the newsletter of the North Texas Skeptics we published a story about my encounter, and I subsequently mentioned it in a post on this site:

Charlotte Gerson proposed such a cure over 20 years ago, and we had a look at her views back then:

Max Gerson seems to have been a very self-reliant man. At an early age he found he could cure his own migraine headaches by controlling his diet, and as a medical doctor he found diet to be a cure for a multitude of other complaints. The list is impressive. According to the flier distributed by the Gerson Institute, the Gerson Therapy can cure or prevent: cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, arthritis and “other diseases of civilization that kill and cripple us.” Just wait until the AMA hears about this.

Max’s daughter, Charlotte Gerson, is living proof of the effectiveness of the Therapy. At age seventy, she looks the picture of perfect health. Slim and vigorous and very neat looking with white hair and wearing white sandals and slacks with a blue blouse and a string of pearls. She looks the way you would like your grandmother to look (or the way you would hope your wife looks at that age). You would never believe that 58 years ago her father cured her of “incurable” bone tuberculosis. Indeed, the only sign of malady she exhibited (that could not be attributed to seventy years) was a “Band-Aid” patch on the middle finger of her right hand.

More recently I wondered whether this sham was still in business, and I found this;

The Gerson protocol, cancer, and the death of Jess Ainscough, a.k.a. “The Wellness Warrior”

David Gorski on March 2, 2015

Less than four days ago, a young Australian woman died of a very rare type of cancer. Most of my American and probably many of my European readers have never heard of her, but in Australia she had become quite famous over the last seven years as a major proponent of “natural health.” Her name was Jess Ainscough, but, like a certain American woman who has become famous for promoting dubious science, she was better known by her “brand” name. That brand name was The Wellness Warrior.

I first encountered Ms. Ainscough about a year and a half ago and have been intermittently following her career ever since. I’ve even blogged about her three or four times during that period over at my not-so-super-secret other blog. However, for whatever reason, even though it was my intent to write about her here on Science-Based Medicine, I never got around to it. Her death prodded me to write now, because her tale is a cautionary one important enough that I believe there should be something written here about it. Given that, those of you who follow my cubical other self will find some of this post repetitive. However, think of it as the first opportunity I’ve had to tell the story from beginning to end, along with a major deconstruction of the Gerson protocol. (Yes, unfortunately the Gerson protocol figures heavily in this story.) It’s a story that has led to the deaths of at least two people, and whose harm to others is impossible to quantify, given that the reach of The Wellness Warrior was long, at least in Australia.

Apparently the plague lives on. Back in 1992 I had this to say:

Max Gerson seems to have been a very self-reliant man. At an early age he found he could cure his own migraine headaches by controlling his diet, and as a medical doctor he found diet to be a cure for a multitude of other complaints. The list is impressive. According to the flier distributed by the Gerson Institute, the Gerson Therapy can cure or prevent: cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, arthritis and “other diseases of civilization that kill and cripple us.” Just wait until the AMA hears about this.

Max’s daughter, Charlotte Gerson, is living proof of the effectiveness of the Therapy. At age seventy, she looks the picture of perfect health. Slim and vigorous and very neat looking with white hair and wearing white sandals and slacks with a blue blouse and a string of pearls. She looks the way you would like your grandmother to look (or the way you would hope your wife looks at that age). You would never believe that 58 years ago her father cured her of “incurable” bone tuberculosis. Indeed, the only sign of malady she exhibited (that could not be attributed to seventy years) was a “Band-Aid” patch on the middle finger of her right hand.

Charlotte Gerson was looking good 26 years ago, and apparently as of last year she was still going strong.

Happy 95th Birthday Charlotte!

As for Jess Ainscough, not so much.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 94

Conventional treatments for cancer are not always successful. However, declining science-based treatment and resorting to alternative remedies will multiply a patient’s risk of early death. An item in Medscape highlights the numbers.

‘Alternative Medicine’ for Cancer Ups Death Risk

Nick Mulcahy August 11, 2017

It’s rare but it happens: a patient with a curable cancer rejects conventional medicine and initially chooses to receive only alternative treatments.

Now researchers from the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut, find that this choice is associated with a 2.5-fold higher risk for death compared with conventional cancer treatment (CCT)

The team had to comb through 10 years (2004-2013) of records in the National Cancer Database to find 280 early-stage cancer patients (with either breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal disease) whose treatment was coded as “other-unproven: cancer treatment administered by non-medical personnel.”

Read the complete article to get the story.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 93

Homeopathy is based on the principle that less is more—that is, the more dilute the medication the more potent it is. Faith in this absurd conjecture continues to result in serious injury and even death from lack of treatment.

NINE-MONTH-OLD Gloria Thomas was in such distress that her crying alarmed some passengers on a plane trip from India to Sydney.

She had been overseas for two months receiving medical treatment, and homeopathic medication from an uncle for severe eczema.

But in that time she missed two appointments which separate doctors had made for her at specialist dermatologists.

In May 2002, less than 10 days after her return, she was admitted to the Children’s Hospital at Randwick severely malnourished and with infections to the skin and eyes.

She had died within three days of sepsis (bacterial infections) which had caused bleeding in her lungs and airways.


Her father, Thomas Sam, who practised and taught homeopathy, had applied homeopathic remedies to try to cure Gloria’s eczema since she was diagnosed with it when aged about four months, he said.

The above was posted to Respectful Insolence by Orac.

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent’s posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 92

Homeopathic remedies are supposed to be devoid of active ingredients, due the the extreme dilution employed in their preparation. That does not prevent products labeled as homeopathic from being deadly.

10 children die after taking homeopathic teething pills

The US Food and Drug Administration is also looking into 400 adverse events related to the tablets

Rachael Revesz New York 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the deaths of 10 children and 400 adverse events surrounding the use of homeopathic teething pills.

The FDA warned that teething children should stop using the treatment, and to go to a doctor if the child exhibits symptoms such as seizures, difficulty in breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation – similar symptoms displayed over the last six years.

This report from Independent relates further that “A safety alert for the tablets was first issued in 2010,” and also that an ingredient in the tablets was belladonna. Belladonna is also known as “deadly nightshade.” All natural, of course.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 91

No names given, but the numbers are frightening:

Herbal supplement Kratom blamed for 36 deaths

Kratom, a plant grown naturally in countries including Thailand and Malaysia, is widely sold in smoke shops and other locations as a powder that can be used in tea to slow the effects of opioid withdrawal.

Citing 36 deaths, the Food and Drug Administration chief will warn consumers today not to use the herbal supplement kratom to ease opioid withdrawal and announce plans to step its regulatory oversight to combat the opioid epidemic.

The FDA public health advisory on kratom follows the Drug Enforcement Administration’s reversal or at least delay of plans to classify kratom as a controlled substance on the same level as heroin and LSD. Gottlieb says the FDA plans to work with the DEA to determine how kratom should be classified.

And, yes, it has been confirmed. Kratom is 100% natural.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 90

Really, not only Jesus:

TEHRAN — The founder of a mystical, New Age version of Shiite Islam was sentenced to death by an Iranian court after losing an appeal, his lawyer said on Monday.

However, the religious mystic, Mohammad Ali Taheri, who was convicted on charges of founding a cult, is entitled to another appeal, the lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, said. An earlier death sentence for blasphemy against the 61-year old Mr. Taheri was overturned in 2014 by an appeals court.

In recent weeks, dozens of Mr. Taheri’s followers have been arrested across the country, especially around the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

But opponents of the spiritual leader say his conviction has nothing to do with proselytizing for a cult, saying he has had “illegitimate” sexual relations with women.

“He has committed sodomy,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line political analyst. Sodomy, if testified to by at least four separate witnesses, also carries the death sentence in Iran. His followers deny the accusations.

Around 2005, Mr. Taheri, a researcher in alternative medicines, founded a group called Circle of Mysticism, focused on faith-based healings and their understandings of the universe. Initially, Mr. Taheri’s teachings were tolerated by Iran’s religious establishment, which is quite restrictive about alternative versions of its understanding of Shiite Islam. He was allowed to give public speeches and publish books, and attracted a following across the country.

Presented as part of an effort to make Duck Dynasty appear normal.

Not So Sacred Visions

The following originally ran in The Dallas Morning News on 27 March 2005. It is also posted in The North Texas Skeptic for April 2005 at http://www.ntskeptics.org/2005/2005april/april2005.htm#visions.

In 1429 a French teenager convinced church scholars and the future Charles VII that God had commanded her to drive the English from France. That Jeanne d’Arc actually spoke to God – or even that God exists – may be debatable, but the consequences are not.

A French army under her leadership turned the tide against the English in the Hundred Years War, and history was changed forever. While the French may have had reason to embrace the Maid of Orleans’ claim of divine guidance, the English were less than amused. They laid hands on her and burned her at the stake after a 14-month trial for heresy and witchcraft.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, in which we have abandoned the burning of witches, but our credulity is still being stretched by claims of heavenly conversations and miraculous visions. How then are we to take stories such as that of six young schoolchildren who reported an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1981 near Medjugorje in what was then Yugoslavia? And what of the supposed miracles that have become associated with this and similar places such as Lourdes, Fatima and the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Mexico City?

For the faithful, apparently, little coaxing is necessary. Thousands visit these sites every year for spiritual inspiration and to seek miraculous cures. The pope has visited the Guadalupe shrine four times, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated every 12th of December.

But did these miraculous sightings and dialogues with God actually occur, or are they the result of self-delusion or even deliberate deception? In one scheme of things it may not matter. The historical result is the same as if they did happen. These days the British pound isn’t recognized on the Champs-Elysees, and the poor in spirit and body still flock to the shrines. No other proof is needed.

Except, there are some for whom the truth is not a sometime thing. For these people “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” This is the mantra of “rational skeptics,” some of whom are even organized. We skeptics want you to carry rationality to its logical conclusion and give weight to the least convoluted explanation. It’s an idea elaborated by William of Occam way back even before my time, and it’s called “Occam’s razor.”

In the case of miraculous sightings we may ask you which is simpler to believe: That a woman who has been dead for nearly 2,000 years has now become visible to a selected few individuals and only to them, or that these are just made-up stories, born of either design or an overwhelming need to believe. And not really true. Not true in the same sense as “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…”

So, what if these stories are not true? Does it make a difference in the course of history? And why do skeptics even give them a second warming? Besides, doesn’t trampling on these sacred toes amount to religion-bashing?

To answer the last, let me tell you what rational skepticism is not. It is not anti-religion. We skeptics don’t want to tell people how to manage their souls. However, we do insist that the physical realm needs to be approached through critical study and reason. We maintain that wishful thinking does not translate into reality. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan is noted for saying, “Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Whether you, as a devout person, would be offended by this stance depends on your approach to religion and how seriously you consider the consequences of mistaken belief. If you need to hang your faith on fake miracles, you may be overlooking the moral benefits of your religion’s teachings. Maybe your faith can benefit from skepticism on your own part.

Outside of that, skeptics take up these issues partly because they object to the outrageous abuses perpetrated on behalf of the shrines. Confusing belief in miracles for religious faith, the gullible are induced to place reliance on magic above common sense. Tragically, real people with real medical problems every year abandon helpful medications and prosthetics at these sites under the delusion they have been healed.

Maybe a moral compass will be found among the abandoned items as well.

[John Blanton is a member of The North Texas Skeptics (www.ntskeptics.org), an organization devoted to the rational and scientific investigation of paranormal claims. His e-mail address is skeptic75287@yahoo.com.]

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 89

The mistaken belief that natural equates to harmless, even beneficial, is being laid to rest, along with some who believe it:

Woman dies after drinking poisonous herbal tea

The deadly ingredient turned out to be aconite. CNN further notes that aconite also goes by the more famous names of monkshood, helmet flower, and wolf’s bane.

In the future, look for more, especially regarding medicinal supplements.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 88

Prevailing medical quackery breeds false belief, leading often to unnecessary death:

Doctor blames Andrew Wakefield and anti-vaxxers for her baby son catching measles

Disgraced former doctor’s discredited 1998 research paper claiming to show a link between the MMR jab and autism led to a heavy fall in uptake among parents

Katie Forster @katieforster

A doctor has said public reaction to Andrew Wakefield’s discredited study linking the MMR vaccine to autism was to blame when her baby son caught measles.

Dr Eleanor Draeger told medics at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual meeting in Bournemouth that her 10-month-old was not yet old enough to receive the vaccination when he developed the disease – which should now be confined to history, she said.

“The reason he had measles is because of the fall-out from Wakefield’s paper,” said Dr Draeger at a debate on parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, sometimes known as “anti-vaxxers”.

Who needs Jesus when you have people like Wakefield, and those who believe.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 87

Putting faith in traditional remedies continues to be deadly:

Ricin poisoning causing death after ingestion of herbal medicine.

Ann Saudi Med. 2012 May-Jun;32(3):315-7. doi: 10.5144/0256-4947.2012.315.


Ricin intoxication is a fatal and an uncommon medical condition. We report a case of ricin poisoning in a 42-year-old Saudi male patient who ingested a herbal medicine mixture containing ricin bean powder, after which he presented with gastrointestinal symptoms followed by gastrointestinal bleeding and hypotension. The patient then passed into a state of shock with respiratory failure followed by cardiac arrest and death. Public health awareness of self-prescribed herbal medications is necessary.

People sometimes get the idea that modern science is aversion to nature, but it is not It’s a reliance on demonstrated fact, disregarding intuition, no matter how compelling. Faith in tradition and reliance on personal preference to the exclusion of rational analysis continues to kill, this the 19th year into the 21st century.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 86

Supposedly natural stuff is safe because… Because it’s natural. Of course, so is purple nightshade. There are others:

Realgar, a commonly used traditional Chinese medicine, has – according to the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – acrid, bitter, warm, and toxic characteristics and is affiliated with the Heart, Liver and Stomach meridians. It is used internally against intestinal parasites and treat sore throats, and is applied externally to treat swelling, abscesses, itching, rashes, and other skin disorders.

Chemically, it is nothing other than arsenic sulphide. Despite its very well-known toxicity, is thought by TCM-practitioners to be safe, and it has been used in TCM under the name ‘Xiong Huang’ for many centuries. TCM-practitioners advise that the typical internal dose of realgar is between 0.2 and 0.4 grams, decocted in water and taken up to two times per day. Some practitioners may recommend slightly higher doses (0.3-0.9 grams). Larger doses of realgar may be used if it is being applied topically.

Toxicologists from Taiwan report a case of fatal realgar poisoning after short-term use of a topical realgar-containing herbal medicine.

A 24-year-old man with atopic dermatitis had received 18 days of oral herbal medicine and realgar-containing herbal ointments over whole body from a TCM-practitioner. Seven days later, he started to develop loss of appetite, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, an itching rash and skin scaling. Subsequently he suffered generalized oedema, nausea, vomiting, decreased urine amount, diarrhoea, vesico-oedematous exanthemas, malodorous perspiration, fever, and shortness of breath.

He was taken to hospital on day 19 when the dyspnoea became worse. Toxic epidermal necrolysis complicated with soft tissue infection and sepsis were then diagnosed. The patient died shortly afterwards of septic shock and multiple organ failure. Post-mortem blood arsenic levels were elevated at 1225 μg/L. The analysis of the patient’s herbal remedies yielded a very high concentration of arsenic in three unlabelled realgar-containing ointments (45427, 5512, and 4229 ppm).

Jesus, take the rest of the week off.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 83

Score one more for Jesus. Sooner or later Jesus will be around to visit your family. Should you let him in?

‘God makes no mistakes’: Couple ignores warning that baby could die, rejects doctors, police say

, Lansing State Journal Published 3:49 p.m. ET Sept. 28, 2017

LANSING, Mich. — A mom refused to seek medical treatment for her newborn daughter even after a midwife warned that the infant’s jaundice could lead to brain damage or death, according to a police detective.

“God makes no mistakes,” Rachel Joy Piland told her midwife, according to court testimony last week from Peter Scaccia, a Lansing Police detective.

Two days later, infant Abigail was dead.

His touch is soft, and deadly. Sleep well.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 82

“Traditional medicine” is another name for medical treatment based on conventional culture rather than scientific study. Lymphoma refers to a group of blood cancers but is a term also associated with non-cancerous tumors. “Paradoxically, high-grade lymphomas are more readily treated and have better prognoses.” The case of Chinese actress Xu Ting appears in a posting on BuzzFeed:

This Actress Died After Trying To Use Alternative Medicine To Treat Her Cancer

She decided to forgo chemotherapy and use cupping and acupuncture instead.

Posted on 

In July, 26-year-old Chinese actress Xu Ting announced she had been diagnosed with lymphoma.

She shared her medical results on her official Weibo account, along with a lengthy post explaining her decision to forgo chemotherapy.

Her last post to her Weibo account was 18 August 2016.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 81

There are many who cannot wait for Jesus to come and  take their children. They elect for the fast track:

A Florida health resort licensed as a “massage establishment” is treating a young Ontario First Nations girl with leukemia using cold laser therapy, Vitamin C injections and a strict raw food diet, among other therapies.

The mother of the 11-year-old girl, who can not be identified because of a publication ban, says the resort’s director, Brian Clement, who goes by the title “Dr.,” told her leukemia is “not difficult to treat.”

Another First Nations girl, Makayla Sault, was also treated at Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach and is now critically ill after a relapse of her leukemia.

When there is a profit to be made, what need have we for Jesus?

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 80

Who needs Jesus when there exists a host of alternative ways to die from stupidity?

The Daily Star reported that 9 children have died in Tripura Para of Sitakunda during the last week. At least 46 other children in the remote hilly area are suffering from the same unidentified disease which has not yet been identified. The children aged between one and 12 suffer from fever and other symptoms include body rash, breathing problems, vomiting and blood in stool.

None of the fatalities was taken to a hospital, and two of them were treated homeopathically. The three-year-old Rupali had fever and a rash all over her body for three days. “We took her to a man who practices homeopathy. He lives some two kilometres away. He had given Rupali some medicines”, said her uncle. Asked why they did not take the child to a hospital, Pradip said the next health complex was 15 kilometres away from their home. Besides, they did not have money to buy medicines which would have been prescribed by doctors.

Modern homeopathy is a rebirth of the snake oil salesman.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 79

Another week, another Tuesday. It’s time for Jesus to call an innocent child back to his loving embrace:

Two members of an Oregon sect that believes in faith healing have been charged with murder in the death of their premature infant daughter. Sarah and Travis Mitchell, 24 and 21, have been under investigation since Sarah gave birth to twin girls at her grandparents’ home in March. The birth was attended by three midwives, church members, and family members. But when one of the twins, Gennifer, struggled to breathe, no one called 911. A church elder contacted the city’s medical examiner only after the baby died.

The Mitchells are members of a Christian sect called the Followers of Christ Church, which has a history of infant deaths. Adherents reject traditional medical care in favor of prayer, and believe that if a person dies, the death was God’s will. An Oregonian investigation in the late 1990s found that 21 of the 78 children in the church’s graveyard could have been saved by medical intervention. Sarah Mitchell’s own sister, Shannon Hickman, and her husband were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter in 2011 for the death of her infant son, who was born two months premature and weighed less than four pounds. The church, which is influenced by Pentecostalism, has about 1,000 members in Oregon and Idaho.

“If a person dies, the death was God’s will.” Now we know.

If a person sacrifices a child on the alter of stupidity, some jail time is due. No they know.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 78

Belief can be deadly? You don’t believe me? I beg to inform:

It’s the worst case scenario when it comes to faith healing and alternative medicine: a woman actually died because, during her seizure, the nurse performed an exorcism instead of offering real medical assistance.

Amanda Freeman (above), a 32-year-old inmate at the Oklahoma County Jail who had been arrested on drug charges, was having a seizure when the nurse was called in. Unfortunately, she didn’t provide any actual help, choosing instead to conduct an exorcism hoping to rid Freeman of her supposed demons.

Freeman died “shortly after” the medical episode, according to KOCO News 5.

Lord, save us from true believers.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 77

Not all death due to false belief can be laid to Sweet Jesus. Some people do it themselves:

Mom’s death blamed on bodybuilding supplements ahead of competition

A 25-year-old fitness enthusiast in Western Australia died last month due to complications from bodybuilding supplements, according to Perth’s Sunday Times.

Meegan Hefford, a mother of a 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, in the coastal city of Mandurah, was reportedly found unconscious by a real estate agent inspecting her apartment on June 19. Doctors at Fiona Stanley Hospital declared her brain dead three days later.

My take, employing extreme measures against your body without prior investigation can be dangerous. She had a genetic disorder that prevented assimilation of her mega intake of protein supplements.