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Dec 05 2013

Not the Ducks! – Religion, Quacks and Children

Whenever I debate and talk to quacks or the supporters of quacks it is often under the guise of something called “Health Freedom”. That the patient has a right to choose between equal therapies.

Now the problem is this.

Medicine is not like Plumbing or the wiring of your Home. Those are fields I have no idea about and will defer to the expert. However I understand that water goes through pipes and electricity to cables and that electricity is dangerous and needs safety features.

Medicine may as well be witch craft. The knowledge, education and things done have little to no stepping stone of progress to the average person because it’s such a specialised field.

The quacks recognise this and so they push for “Freedom of Choice”. The nazi medical doctors want you to have no choice! But the thing is the choice is not between Doctor A or Doctor B. It’s between electrician A and a man who thinks exposed wires are good around children.

The choice is between someone who has trained and worked hard to learn the science and method behind medicine and someone who has pretended to do so. Every single Chiropractor and Homeopath has boasted about the hours they spend reading their field and I had to laugh at them. It doesn’t matter if you spend 700 hours a year reading Harry Potter, it won’t make your broomstick fly. And 700 hours IS NOT a lot of hours. My normal week is 60 hours a week. That’s 3 months or so for me. 700 Hours sounds a lot but it’s just one of those “look at my qualifications” boast.

No doctor pushes the hours because if you did one hour of work and finished it all you would be just as correct as if you were like me and a dumbass.

So with that we come to Sarah Hershberger.

A poster child for quacks and religious harm. A 11 year old Amish girl who had lymphoblastic lymphoma, underwent just two rounds of chemotherapy and then quit because the side effects made her sick. Her parents pulled her from the therapy despite the fact her cancer has shrunk and question why Chemo is now necessary. The short answer is? The size does not matter. You have to make sure all the cells are dead and that takes time.

Lymphoblastic Lymphoma has a high survival rate if Chemo is given. Nearly 90% make it and live a life free of disease.

This is a common  misunderstanding. A child suffering causes parents to listen to the voices of quacks. The quacks who insist that the child does not need chemo.

Add in a near total lack of scientific education coupled with a religiously enforced ludditery and you have the recipe for the most fertile grounds for the quacks.

The reason for continued Chemo is that without it the return of the cancer is virtually guaranteed. Without the chemo she is not only prone to getting the cancer again but now that her family fears real medicine she is going to never get the care she needs until it’s too late.

All it needs is one cell. Just one cell to come back.

When Sarah’s parents refused further Chemo laast summer, the Akron Children’s Hospital sued for medical Guardianship. It actually lost the first round but later won. Rather than comply with the legal order to make sure that Sarah’s treatments continued the parents fled.

I remember this period because at this time with just “two” bouts of Chemo the cancer symptoms had subsided. But every single quack from Mike Adams downwards crowed the claims of “alternative medicine” doing the job. They even lied about the fact she got chemotherapy.

The problem is that the authorities are NOT willing to pursue the missing family. Which beggars belief. Why the hell not?

Children are a responsibility. If your belief system puts them in the way of harm out of “Love” then you aren’t doing the children any favours by letting the parents make such blatantly bad decisions. They aren’t chairs or tables but living beings and have a right to the best medical care available.

This is a young girl who has effectively missed all her Chemotherapy treatments since June. Her family’s quaint ludditery may charm many but it is not something to be respected when it harms someone.

Akron Children’s hospital has withstood a barrage of assaults from every corner of the quack community and religious healing community  and has spent it’s own money pursuing the case. At no point did they benefit from any of this. This was all done to save a child’s life from ignorance and the vultures from the alternative medicine community.

But all is not lost.

David Augenstein (Publisher of Journal of Natural Food and Health) has decided to weigh in. He’s in contact with the family and is “protecting them”.

“One of the big issues in this case is not just parental rights — not just about Sarah — but that this opens the door for these hospitals to create a lot of fear in the parents if you don’t obey their orders,” said Augenstein, who is a self-described advocate for parents’ choice in vaccinating their children.

No. He is not an advocate for Parental Choice in vaccination. He is someone who tells people that smallpox is harmless and probably raises fears about autism and the MMR vaccine and various other scares.

He regularly writes and reports on parental medical choice issues in his online journal. He also serves as the co-director of the Foundations of Health Education, which has set up a fund to help the girl’s family pay for her treatments.

We call that a blog. Otherwise I hear by declare A Million Gods to be an Online Medical Journal and therefore I have nearly a 1000 articles and am a super duper expert of everything.

And the best part is he has set up a fund to help the parents pay for their alternative medical treatments.

“This case is not just about Sarah and her cancer treatment,” he said in a press release. “It is about the right for anyone to obtain a second opinion and the freedom to choose you own medical treatments without fear of losing your child.

It is the right of a child to medical care that has been proven by evidence and trial and testing to stand a good chance of saving her life.

If you as an adult insist on drinking Kale till you turn green in the hope that your cancer will give up under the cruciferous vegetable onslaught then that is fine. It is sad, it is stupid but you are a big damn adult and if you wish to die having eaten a shipping container’s worth of cabbage then live your dreams.

There are definite limits though  when it comes to children. In this case the limit is when a parent decides on a course of action that will convert a highly treatable and curable cancer into a fatal disease. And here the problem again is that the parents are from a religious view that ensures that they don’t understand how the medicine works or why the girl will die. Or how much suffering  she will undergo

“If we do chemotherapy and she would happen to die, she would probably suffer more than if we would do it this way and she would happen to die,”

Death from cancer is far far worse. It is painful, slow and intractable and inexorable. The chemo has a 90% chance  of working. Fearing the 10% for a guaranteed 100% is just bad mathematics.

And remember, all the while her quack will keep telling her she’s fine and doing great until her condition deteriorates. Then her parents may realise it too late and take her to a hospital. The quacks will then insist it was the hospital that killed her and not the quackery.

It was the same around the death of Steve Jobs. He died from all the medical procedures that prolonged his life in an incredible fashion. It wasn’t the year of non-scientific care that damaged his immune system through starvation but the 3 years of medical care that corrected all the damage cancer was doing to him.

Thus quacks keep their hands clean. It’s not their fault unless you die in their clinics.

Andy Hershberger has said that they will resume chemotherapy if the traditional methods fail. There are no published statistics on the survival rate for lymphoblastic lymphoma when administered to a child of 10. There are also no published statistics on the deaths due to side effects from the chemotherapy on a 10 year old child.

HO BOY NO!

For starters there is no “traditional  method of chemotherapy”. Cancer used to be something that people just dropped dead of. It was another sickness.

There are also published statistics. My google fu is rather short on time today since I am practicing writing in a time limit so I shall have to keep it short.

That and the real tragedy is by the time  you realise that the “traditional methods have failed” and the quacks take their talons out of her it may be too late for any meaningful course of treatment.

Yet again the idea of Freedom of Health is really the freedom for quacks to make a living.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    There is no such thing as “alternative” medicine: once it is proven to be effective, it is simply “medicine.”

  2. 2
    freja

    The always brilliant Dara O’Briain on quacks:

  3. 3
    karmacat

    As I like to say, if it worked it wouldn’t be called “alternative.”

  4. 4
    Holms

    Thus quacks keep their hands clean. It’s not their fault unless you die in their clinics.

    And since crashes in condition result in urgent hospitalisation, they usually end up dying in a hospital anyway. Checkmate, hospitals!

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