Who’s the Quack?

Posted by on Oct 31, 2015 in alternative health, Death, Featured, Food and Nutrition, Surgery | 2 comments

Who’s the Quack?

Friends got me a subscription to Reason Magazine. Last night I read an article titled, The Alternative Medicine Racket, A decades-long campaign of federal funding for quackery. I was stunned by the bias and lack of reason. You, my reader, don’t have the benefit of what they wrote to compare and contrast my argument, but you’ll get the gist. I woke up this morning and wrote the editor-in-chief and the two authors. I thought it worth sharing.

“To: Todd Krainin, Stephanie Slade and Matt Walsh

RE: The Alternative Medicine Racket, December 2015

Friday night. World Series. A cup of tea. Reason Magazine. Sweet. I read Matt’s editorial and then scanned the table of contents. “The Alternative Medicine Racket.” Uh oh. When I finished reading I sat stunned. What just happened here, I thought. It read like a Salon hit piece, one-sided, biased. You threw the baby out with the bath water by excoriating alternative medicine and made the earth flat all over again.

It’s true there are alternative therapy quacks and sometimes people die while trying alternative therapies. There are also allopathic quacks posing as doctors and people die at their hands as well, sometimes because of allopathic therapies. But both paths have their benefits and both have their shortcomings. But to statistically tear into alternative medicine without doing the same to allopathic medicine presented as irresponsible journalism.

However, and to accede to your main point, alternative therapies may not be the best choice for treating cancer; for some people, like Steve Jobs, that was his choice. Jobs, like some doctors given the same diagnosis, opted out of chemotherapy and radiation. And if he had a rare form of pancreatic cancer, how did anyone know how treatable it was. Both modalities offered suppositions at best. And just because Jobs is famous doesn’t mean he’s the poster boy for what’s wrong with alternative therapies. And in that paragraph about Jobs, you cited “Whatstheharm.net,” which could easily have a clone directed at allopathic medicine.

Different paths lead to different outcomes and determining what that might be is the task put before responsible medical practitioners and scientists as well as responsible journalists who are also tasked with looking at both sides of issues to offer people best possible outcome (unless you are writing an opinion piece).

I will offer some examples of both. At age 95, my mother developed a lymphoma in her pharynx. No alternative therapy was going to remove the tumor. She had surgery. It grew back. She said, “I’m an old woman. Let me die.” The doctor said, “You are going to die a horrible choking death unless you do something.” The tumor had metastasized into the skull bone and she had chemo and radiation. Five and a half years later, mom died quietly at nearly 102 of an aortic aneurysm. We were grateful it wasn’t a horrible choking death and we honor the doctor, Dr. Palmer Wright, who encouraged her to receive radiation.

Two years ago my ex-brother-in-law was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. His brother wanted him to use alternative therapies. Richard chose surgery to remove half his esophagus and had chemotherapy and radiation. He now weighs 115 pounds and a large tumor is causing excruciating pain; he’s receiving radiation to reduce the tumor to give him “quality of life.” His brother wants him to stop all treatments. His sister tells him to come sit with him and watch Richard vomit up everything he takes in. It’s too late for either. He’s dying. He was dying two years ago when he was diagnosed, before he chose his path.

Richard chose the allopathic path. My mother chose the allopathic path. Steve Jobs chose an alternative. My mother lived, Richard is dying, Steve Jobs died. If Richard’s brother is ever given the same diagnosis, he will use alternative methods, and given the disease, he will most likely die. But we don’t know that for sure. Different diagnoses, different paths, different outcomes out of two choices. You live or die. But how you do both is also important.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. A gynecologist recommended surgery. My naturopath recommended surgery. I wasn’t going to go to Deepak Chopra’s medical center. I wasn’t going to drink wheat grass juice. I was going to have the cancer removed. A week later I was seriously ill with an intestinal bacterium I picked up at the hospital. I used probiotics, herbs, the BRAT diet, and acupuncture to pull me through a six-week, six-pound weight loss (on a 110 pound frame). Allopathic/alternative balance. Both served me.

As a homebirth midwife in the 80s and 90s, 95% of the time our birth outcomes were excellent. We used hot comfrey compresses, essential oils, massage, oxygen, pitocin if necessary, herbs if appropriate, encouraging words and women delivered their babies at home in safety and joy. Occasionally, a woman presented with a problem. We transported for a Caesarean section—and glad for it. Alternative/Allopathic balance.

When I developed severe ear and jaw pain I went to the allopathic doctor to see if I had an ear infection. He said, “No, you have trigeminal neuralgia [commonly referred to as the suicide disease because it’s so painful].” Within seven minutes he prescribed a drug, telling me not to read about the side effects. I went home and read the side effects and was appalled. I went to my chiropractor who adjusted my jaw; within four treatments all pain was gone. I got better because I did my research and took control of my own health, and made a decision.

Perhaps if we stop defining the paths as either/or, but as options with benefits and downsides. Perhaps someone does choose chemo and radiation, there are alternative therapies that can make that process easier. Acupuncture, essential oils, massage, diet can ease a person through harsh therapies. Our medical insurance system, however, makes it difficult for people access some of the alternative therapies that would make the allopathic modalities easier to bear, although thankfully, and you documented as such, that is changing.

Alternative medicine also goes farther in creating a culture of health prevention, something the allopathic model is lacking.

What would have been a more reasonable and balanced article would be to compare and contrast allopathic medicine versus alternative medicine; in that process removing the versus. If you look at the number of people who die each year because of drug interactions, the number of people who are being treated for high cholesterol with drugs that cause early senility and muscle wasting, (never mind they’ve changed their minds numerous times about cholesterol), the number of women receiving unnecessary caesareans, the reasons America has a high infant mortality rate, that would be a good starting list to compare and contrast to the seeming failures of alternative medicine to “cure” cancer. And never mind that allopathic medicine hasn’t come with a cure either.

If this article was written as an example of reason, then I’m sorely disappointed.

Martha Goudey, B.A., Journalism/Community Health”




  1. The very fact that I had to look up the word “allopathic” is a pretty good indication that my knowledge of these issues is limited at best. But you certainly laid out your case well. Being inclined by nature to a both/and approach to most things in life, rather than either/or, it makes sense to me.

    It’s good to see you out and about. I hope all’s well, and that you’re having a beautiful fall.

    • I had fun with this reporter’s article. It was so dramatically one-sided and based on his own set of personal beliefs, I couldn’t help myself. When he responded with more of the same I wrote him back again. He had cited a web page, “whatstheharm.net” that had links that didn’t work, and which called witchcraft, voodoo, and ghosts as part of alternative medicine along with acupuncture and chiropractic. I told him repeatedly I wasn’t arguing for or against a particular system, but for balanced reporting. In his last email he insisted that there was no basis at all to alternative healing of any kind. I can only hope made him think, but it’s doubtful.

      Yes, it’s a beautiful fall here. We’ve been burning wood for a couple of weeks now and hoping for a good winter to fill the empty reservoirs. You know about that. Your drought looks to be on the run, but we know that massive amounts of rain all at once don’t necessarily end droughts. Will be interesting to see what El Nino brings this season.

      Thanks for checking in. I may yet find my voice so it’s nice to know a few stragglers remain interested in what I might pop up with. I’m still working on the memoir, at least several times a week. Having trouble with chronology. It’s a puzzle.

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