Charlatans who exploit the sick

Xeni Jardin is a journalist who was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and is undergoing the difficult treatment that is called for. She has a fine piece where she says she has had it up to here with quacks promoting bogus cures that give false hope to people with the disease and endangers them by luring them away from real medicine.

The trigger for her piece is an Australian wellness guru named Bell Gibson who claimed that she had cured her own brain cancer by avoiding gluten and sugar, taking advantage of the two food villains du jour to gain traction for her tale. It turns out that her entire story is a lie.

The 23-year-old Australian bullshitted the entire world about having terminal brain cancer, and profited from her completely fictional story via her “natural wellness” app, The Whole Pantry. On her blog, she claims she cured her terminal brain cancer by avoiding gluten and sugar.

Gibson gave an exclusive confession to The Australian Women’s Weekly. They asked the obvious: do you have, or have you ever had, cancer?

“No. None of it’s true,” she replied.

There is another feature of cancer reporting that irks Jardin.

But here’s what the rest of us deserve: an end to the “cancer hero” mythos that allows people like Gibson and others before her to exploit ignorance about evidence-based cancer treatments. An end to the exploitation and profiteering of bogus “cures.”

From cannabis oil to vitamin C megadosing to juice fasts, there’s far more bullshit info out there about how to part with your money and line the pockets of fraudsters like Gibson (and Mercola, and Oz, and Burzynski, all sonofabitches and murderers in my opinion) than there is free and science-based info about how cancer works, how treatment works, and how to get affordable and effective care.

NPR had a report that the FDA has finally got around to seeing if homeopathic remedies should be subjected to the same standards as other medical treatments. As some readers will undoubtedly know, homeopathic remedies are based on the dubious principle that ‘like cures like’ and requires the intake of a very dilute solution of whatever one thinks causes the ailment. How dilute? So dilute that not a single molecule of the supposedly active ingredient is even present. So how can it work? Because they believe in a theory that the pure water that remains supposedly contains a ‘memory’ of the active ingredient, even though it is no longer there.

How has this been allowed to continue to be marketed for so long? NPR’s Rob Stein explains.

In 1988, the Food and Drug Administration decided not to require homeopathic remedies to go through the same drug-approval process as standard medical treatments. Now the FDA is revisiting that decision. It will hold two days of hearings this week to decide whether homeopathic remedies should have to be proven safe and effective.

Critics say those ideas are nonsense, and that study after study has failed to find any evidence that homeopathy works.

“Homeopathy is an excellent example of the purest form of pseudoscience,” says Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale and executive editor of the website Science-Based Medicine. “These are principles that are not based upon science.”

For years, critics like Novella have been asking the FDA to regulate homeopathy more aggressively. The FDA’s decision to revisit the issue now was motivated by several factors, including the growing popularity of homeopathic remedies and the length of time that has passed since the agency last considered the issue.

The FDA is also concerned about the quality of remedies, according to Cynthia Schnedar, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance. The agency has issued a series of warnings about individual homeopathic products in recent years, including one that involved tablets being sold to alleviate teething pain in babies.

“So we thought it was time to take another look at our policy,” Schnedar says.

The FDA’s decision to examine the issue is making homeopathic practitioners like Aurigemma and their patients nervous. “It would be a terrible loss to this country if they were to do something drastic,” he says.

That Mitchell and Webb Look had the perfect sendup of homeopathy. Listen especially at the end where they accurately describe the vague symptoms of the kinds of ailments that homeopathy supposedly cures.


  1. Storms says

    ROFL. Love the signs on the walls too:
    Magnetic Therapy Unit
    Scream Therapy Ward
    Crystal Room
    Psi-cology Wing
    Herbal Remedy Dept

  2. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    “She has a fine piece where she says she has had it up to here with quacks promoting bogus cures that give false hope to people with the disease and endangers them by luring them away from real medicine.”

    I see no mention in that article about “real medicine” doctors who give chemotherapy to people with late stage cancer even though there is little evidence that it is effective for most patients at this stage.

    No mention that oncologists often profit from cancer drugs and get “rebates” (aka kickbacks) from the pharmaceutical companies for prescribing them.

    No mention that most oncologists fail to properly inform patients of the odds chemotherapy will be successful.

    No mention that many doctors choose cancer therapies based on the amount of profit they make from them, rather than the benefit to the patient.

    No mention of the staggering numbers of people killed by avoidable medical errors every year (some estimates put the annual death toll at 450,000 a year) let alone the non-error death toll from medical treatments.

    No mention of the massive fraud in this system, with estimates ranging from $250 to $600 billion a year,

    There are plenty of scammers and quacks pushing questionable treatments in the alternative medicine field. But ‘real medicine” is hardly immune to scams and bogus treatments.

  3. Mano Singham says

    There are undoubtedly frauds and hucksters in any field. The point is that here it is the treatment itself that has never been shown to work and whose underlying mechanism (that water contains memories) has no basis whatsoever.

  4. lanir says

    I wonder how they think they’re getting around the water you’re drinking for your “cure” remembering a bit harder that it used to be part of a mud puddle or took a detour through the guts of several plants and animals before evaporating, falling from the sky again and pouring from a faucet to be part of someone’s snake oil.

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