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Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Other ScienceBloggers weigh in on the Cherrix case

Given how much I’ve written about the Abraham Cherrix case, I would be remiss in not pointing out some posts by fellow ScienceBloggers:

1. First, Abel Pharmboy discusses how this might all come down to a failure of communication between Cherrix’s doctors and Cherrix and his parents. While this is probably true, I’m not sure that any amount of communication and empathy would have changed Cherrix’s mind. Abel also makes some good points about “natural” therapies in cancer. I would also agree with him that it is important to be as nonconfrontational as possible when a patient insists on ineffective alternative medicines instead of evidence-based treatments with a chance to cure. Even so, one must be careful. Ethically, as physicians, we must do everything in our power to dissuade patients from ineffective therapy like the Hoxsey therapy. Because we deal so much in the world of evidence, we are at a disadvantage in that we can can never promise what the altie docs can as far as survival chances or lack of toxicity. In addition, we will have a hard time matching the altie docs in terms of empathy and giving the appearance of “empowering” the patient. (Remember, one of the main reasons Cherrix chose Hoxsey’s clinic in Tijuana and then chose Dr. R. Arnold Smith is because they basically bent over backwards to be accepting and caring, never telling him that he was wrong about anything. Ethically and legally, we physicians can’t be so accommodating. We can, however, try to be as nonjudgmental and supportive as possible and educate the patient in evidence-based medicine. Nonetheless, when the rubber hits the road, we are obligated to tell it like it is with regards to these unproven therapies. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

2. Retrospectacle also weighs in with a position that’s closer to mine.

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.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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