February 10, 1995

Cancer Quacks

The Quack is a personage too essential to the comfort of a large class of society, to be deprived of his vocation. He is, in fact, the physician of the Fools, -a body whose number and respectability are far too great to admit of anything of the kind.

Anonymous, 1845

Near the top of my list of human scum is the cancer quack. It is not because he/she doesn't do any good that I consider him to be the lowest form of humanity. There are many treatments that do no good. Worthless remedies are administered by quacks, well-meaning friends, legitimate physicians, drug companies and a wide variety of people out to make a buck. The easiest mark for those hucksters are folks who are in physical and/or mental pain.

Taking money for doing nothing is a firm part of the American tradition, and the more money a person can get for doing nothing, the bigger the score is.

Most of the victims of cancer quacks are people the medical profession has given up on. Those who deal with the forsaken are merely swindlers. You can't do too much harm to a dying person. Unfortunately some of the treatments make the patient worse and result in a more miserable death. Basically they are merely taking money in exchange for nothing.

The kings of the scum are people who convince someone who may have cancer that the medical profession will only make him worse and who discourage their victims from seeking competent medical care. Some are priests in religious cults and a variety of so-called "alternative medicine" cults. Those so-called "healers" are accessories to suicide -or should I call it murder?

If someone has breast cancer, or any of a number of cancers, their chances in the hands of the best of the medical profession can range from a cure rate of over 90% to much less. In the best of hands, a certain percentage of patients will die of the cancer. If they get no treatment, or worthless treatment, their chances of surviving for much more than 5 years is zero, zip, nothing!

If you go back in history, you will find that every healer in olden days administered either worthless treatments or deadly ones. The favorite, in George Washington's time, was bleeding. It either did no good at all or hastened a person's demise. Washington's doctors may have killed him. There is no question that he would have been better off without medical help -as would most people who were ill in those days.

In my childhood, most treatments were worthless. There were some notable exceptions: appendicitis was curable by removing the appendix, localized infections could be treated successfully with hot compresses and surgery, and some forms of cancer were curable with surgery. Diabetes was treated successfully. Most effective were some vaccines against deadly diseases like smallpox, diphtheria and tetanus. There were drugs that could relieve pain and some drugs that were very useful for heart conditions. Repair of fractures and injuries were fairly effective.

During World War II, the sulfonamides and penicillin were discovered. For the first time in history, doctors could actually cure infectious disease. That qualifies as a true miracle. Since then, more antibiotics have been discovered. Cancer treatments have been improved considerably, although much of its success depends on early detection.

Now that medicine is actually capable of curing some diseases, I can't understand why anyone would patronize "healers" whose only tool is the faith of the patient. Fortunately for them, most diseases cure themselves or are emotional in origin. I pity someone who places his faith in these alternative medicine fakers, if he really has a condition, like cancer, that is potentially lethal and potentially curable.

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