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Annabelle Potts tragically dies. The quacks at Clínica 0-19 didn’t save her.

Annabelle Potts was a girl with the deadly brain cancer known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) whose family was victimized by quacks. Unfortunately, that’s not how the media is reporting it. As is frequently the case, Annabelle’s story is being presented as one of triumph, and the quacks who treated her as legitimate experimental therapy.

I hate to end the week on a down note, but it can’t be helped. I only learned about this late Wednesday night, after I had already finished yesterday’s post. So I’ll cut straight to the chase. Annabelle Potts has died:

Longtime readers will remember when I used to blog about cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski a lot more often. One of the recurring types of posts that I did, with great sadness, was to note the deaths of various patients whose families had been the most outspoken advocates for Burzynski. You might remember these names, such as Amelia Saunders, Billie Bainbridge, Rachel Mackey, McKenzie Lowe, and many others. These were the patients who rose to fame (or at least social media fame, which back then was just becoming a thing) through either their crowdfunding campaigns to raise the money to travel to Houston to be treated with Burzynski’s antineoplastons or his thrown-together “personalized gene-targeted therapy” for whatever deadly cancer they had happend to be unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with or for having appeared in one of the two propaganda movies made to lionize Burzynski as a pioneering researcher rather than the quack that he is. The reason I did this was not to be morbid, nor was it to “dance on their graves.” I had (and have) nothing but empathy and sympathy for the families of these patients and their struggles to deal with a terminally ill family member. Rather, it was to make sure that their deaths did not go unnoted, because one of the problems with alternative cancer cure testimonials, such as the ones provided by many of Stanislaw Burzynski’s patients is that they can take on lives of their own and outlive the patients who provide them, leading new patients astray and thus endangering their lives. I also wanted to provide closure to my blogging about their stories, given that they were usually patients whose glowing testimonials about Stanislaw Burzynski were used to help him sell his cancer quackery and/or to be weaponized against regulators trying to shut the Burzynski Clinic down.

Many of the patients in the stories I’ve blogged about over the years had brain cancer, the majority of which were diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a tumor of the brainstem that is nearly always fatal and, although rare overall, more common in children. It’s true that there are a handful of long term survivors of DIPG reported in the medical literature, and there are occasional patients who show dramatic responses to conventional therapy (and even spontaneous regression), but, by and large, the prognosis for DIPG is very, very dismal. The mainstay of therapy, radiation, is strictly palliative. It will sometimes shrink the tumor, but won’t eliminate it, and the tumor starts growing again not long after. The added survival time is rarely more than a few months.

Now, unfortunately, there is a new quack joining Burzynski to prey on these patients and their desperate families. Or should I say “quacks”? I’m referring, of course to Clínica 0-19 and the two doctors there, Dr. Alberto Garcia and Dr. Alberto Siller, whose practice is the Instituto de Oncología Intervencionista. They both operate out of Hospital Angeles in Monterrey, Mexico. I’ve done a four part series on the quackery at Clínica 0-19 (part 1, 2, 3, 4). So I won’t go into the details explaining why what Drs. Sillar and Garcia do is quackery. If you’re interested, read part 2. Then read part 4, in which I look at the best evidence they can provide for their treatment. (Hint: It’s pretty thin gruel.)

Like Stanislaw Burzynski, Drs. Garcia and Siller use patients to promote their quackery. As happened with a number of Burzynski patients throughout the years, credulous and glowing news accounts of patients whose family see Clínica 0-19 as their “last hope” show up in British and Australia tabloids (and sometimes even in US news papers). Crowdfunding efforts flood the Internet, because Drs. Garcia and Siller charge a lot of money, with bills for patients’ families reaching the six figure range fairly rapidly, with at least one patient’s bills reaching the high six figure range. Like the case for Burzynski, families sell their possessions, drain their bank accounts, max out their credit cards, and devote nearly all their time to fundraising because most of them are not rich enough to come up with $300,000 cash in a matter of a few months or less. Annabelle Potts was just such a patient whose family took her to Monterrey. For instance, here’s a story about her from February last year. Note the headline, Little Annabelle Potts and her family have found hope with brain tumour treatment in Mexico:

But Annabelle’s battle is far from over. Her family know she isn’t cured, and even though Australian doctors don’t support the findings from Dr Siller and Dr Garcia in Monterrey, Annabelle’s parents believe they are their best shot at buying time until there is a cure.

So that means every six weeks, they cough up $30,000 from anywhere they can find it, sometimes through Facebook fundraising, and Adam takes time off work as a carpenter to fly Annabelle from their Canberra home to visit Clinica 0-19.

Often the struggle is described in heroic terms:

Although last Tuesday was gruelling and at times painful for Annabelle, she barely complained. For the four hours News Corp Australia spent with her preparing for and undergoing two scans, her dad was a calm, solid and gentle presence for the little girl with whom every day is a bonus.

When asked how he was handling it all so well, he said it was far from their worst day in Monterrey.

Such a spin is understandable. No one, other than the parents actually suffering through the ordeal of seeing their child diagnosed with a terminal illness. We can only imagine, and the parents are brave and determined. They go to incredible lengths to raise the vast sums of money required to get their children treated in Monterrey and are there with their children every step of the way, like Annabelle Potts’ father. It’s that inspiring parental love and devotion that Drs. Garcia and Siller take advantage of. It’s that same parental love that lead reporters astray covering these quacks, resulting in stories portraying their quackery as “experimental” treatment rather than a proprietary thrown-together concoction of expensive targeted treatments injected directly into the arteries leading to the brainstem combined unproven dendritic cell immunotherapy. Never mind that Dr. Garcia drops the old quack excuse of “we’re too busy taking care of patients to do clinical trials” and has refused to let international experts travel to Monterrey to evaluate his methods and help him set up a proper clinical trial. To reporters, the human interest angle, particularly the hope, is the only angle they care about. They don’t really care if the treatment is a legitimate experimental therapy or not.

Even in death, the Australian press is still spinning her story the same way. For instance, here’s 9News:

Canberra girl Annabelle Potts, who has been travelling to Mexico for experimental cancer treatment, has died, her family has announced.

The brave five-year-old travelled to Mexico several times to treat a rare cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).

Next up, the “she was told to go home and die” part of the testimonial:

She was diagnosed with the cancer two years ago.

Her battle with the illness and her family’s fight to find a cure had captured the nation’s hearts.

Doctors in Australia had refused to operate on the cancer, citing the size and location of the tumour.

Instead her parents were told to “go home and make some memories with Annabelle”.

This is always followed by the family’s refusal to give up, which is portrayed as brave and the family’s efforts to raise money to pay for the quackery laudable:

But her family did not give up, instead going to Mexico for experimental treatment.

Her fight also came with the added difficulty to paying the bills for her treatment.

Flying to Mexico, where her treatment was unsubsidised, cost her family about $33,000 each time.

But the generosity of strangers helped ease the financial burden of the trips.

The families’ efforts are brave and laudable, but the fact that they are also misdirected and placed in the service of quackery cannot be denied. As for the fundraising for quackery, I’ve referred to this as quacks taking advantage of the generosity of strangers. Crowdfunding has become part of the business model of many cancer quacks. Certainly, encouraging families to take advantage of the sympathy people naturally feel for a child and family in this situation leading to their generosity is part of Dr. Garcia’s and Dr. Siller’s business model.

Another newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, used one of the challenges that Annabelle Potts’ family used to raise awareness of brain cancer:

Just 10 weeks ago Annabelle Potts challenged everyone to suck on a lemon and pull a face in an attempt to raise awareness for “the little kids with bumps in their head”.

The five-year-old had the most devastating of all childhood cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.

Yesterday morning she died in the arms of her loving parents Kathie and Adam two years after she had been diagnosed with the brain stem tumour which is always fatal and mostly affects children.

Then, the same narrative:

When Annabelle was diagnosed in December 2016, her parents were told she had just nine months to live and, Kathie and Adam Potts were told to go home and make memories.

In the face of no treatment on offer in Australia, the Canberra family flew to Mexico to trial experimental chemotherapy at a secretive clinic in Monterrey. After 10 rounds at $30,000 a pop, Annabelle’s tumour had shrunk to the point it could no longer be detected. That was March 2018 but the joy was short-lived.
The tumour came back.

For over two years, the Potts have tirelessly campaigned for more money for research, challenging doctors, writing to politicians and facilitating Annabelle’s Lemon Face Challenge.

As I pointed out at the time, the tumor hadn’t really shrunk to the point where it couldn’t be detected. It appears that Drs. Garcia and Siller share another trait with Stanislaw Burzynski, overly optimistic readings of brain MRIs.

Then, here’s the kicker:

On the morning of her death, the Potts finally received what they had been pushing for.

The news report is referencing this:

While it’s a fantastic thing that the efforts of Annabelle Potts’ family have led to the Australian government appropriating funds for DIPG research, it irks me to see real experimental therapies, like CAR-T immunotherapy and polo kinase 1 targeting, being mentioned alongside Clínica 0-19’s concoction, as though they were equivalent.

I end this post, as I end all such posts, by emphasizing that I am not criticizing the parents, who clearly love Annabelle Potts with an intensity that led them to go to incredible lengths to save her life. No child deserves this fate. No family deserves this fate, and I have nothing but sympathy for them. I am, however, calling out the quacks, Drs. Garcia and Siller, for taking advantage of that love by selling false hope to the tune of $30,000 (AUD) per treatment, not just to the Potts family but to dozens of families. I’m calling out the media for hammering all these stories into the same narrative of loving families who had been told to “take their child home and make memories” but refused to give up and instead found an “experimental” therapy, while either not mentioning or very much underplaying the utter lack of evidence for the therapy. Indeed, I just saw another example the other day using that very narrative for Lucy Moroney and Edie Molyneux, both of whom were treated in Monterrey for DIPG and died recently. (They reporter even described Dr. Garcia and Siller’s treatment as “revolutionary” and “pioneering”!) I’m calling out the crowdfunding platforms that make stories like that of Annabelle Potts so depressingly common these days. I’m calling out media outlets who then spin the story of the child’s inevitable death when it happens into a tale of triumph, rather than what it is, the story of a family victimized by unscrupulous doctors..

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]

62 replies on “Annabelle Potts tragically dies. The quacks at Clínica 0-19 didn’t save her.”

I’m pretty sure this is the clinic my extended family fell victim to recently. The really awful part is that they all knew (save the one who “researched” and instigated it) it was quackery, but couldn’t refuse their brother his “hope”. In the end, even the wife saw that it was only prolonging his suffering, not his life. Even the very religious ones switched to praying for “peace” rather than cure. Only the woo-devoted family member clung to “hope”.

Not all patients take the “never give up hope” route, and I think it’s worth looking at the difference in how and why people respond differently. It’s an issue of denial–which is just not helpful, l and I don’t honestly feel that we have to have sympathy with and justify the waste (and possible increased suffering of the patient) with people who take the quack route. It would be nice if the media would report on people who embrace hospice, actually put their affairs in order, spend quality time with their loved ones, and celebrate their lives. I know three people who recently took the latter path and their families have come out of the loss with far more positive feeling and intact legacies–of all types. They weren’t children, and I get how much harder that must be, but I really cannot see the value of flying back and forth to Mexico from Australia (!) with a very sick child as somehow “helping”. Journalists and crowdfunding need to wake up and stop enabling the quacks.

Hospice is a beautiful thing when done right. You have to embrace the philosophy and the service and it works best when patients sign up as soon as they are eligible. Sadly, far too many put it off to follow false hope or because of denial. Hospice can’t do as much for us when we’re hours from death and in terrible pain.

Orac writes,

I’m calling out the crowdfunding platforms that make stories like that of Annabelle Potts so depressingly common these days.

MJD says,

The Annabelle Potts story, and others like it, deserve such Orac-length communications. Well done, Orac!

Q. Should medical crowdfunding platforms be required to disclose life-expectancy data based on their experimental treatment.

Such transparency may affect crowdfunding contributions, and the experimental treatments longevity.

Probably couldn’t get survival data out of these quack clinics (and for good reason).Better if Mexico would just ban them. Don’t you agree?

Mr. Ball, why would you care? You think children should suffer from diseases like chicken pox. Only a cruel heartless sadist wants that.

Again: please explain why it is better to let a baby get chicken pox, rather than protecting them by maintaining community immunity with a varicella vaccine. What is “good” about an infant suffering from dozens of itchy open wounds that are susceptible to bacterial infections, or the possibility of stroke:
https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/a-recent-case-report-highlights-why-skipping-the-chickenpox-vaccine-is-a-bad-idea/

Just support your answer with PMIDs authored by reputable qualified researchers.

Over here there’s a charity whose aim is to fulfil dreams of terminally ill children and teenagers. These are things like meeting their favourite pop singer or footballer, flying a hot-air baloon or a trip to Disneyland. And I think this is one of the best things (apart from proper palliative therapy) that we can give to them.

Not a PubMed indexed paper by reputable qualified researchers. Now for at least the third time: please explain why it is better to let a baby get chicken pox, rather than protecting them by maintaining community immunity with a varicella vaccine. What is “good” about an infant suffering from dozens of itchy open wounds that are susceptible to bacterial infections, or the possibility of stroke:
https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/a-recent-case-report-highlights-why-skipping-the-chickenpox-vaccine-is-a-bad-idea/

No news sites, just PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers not on the Dwoskin payroll.

Typical response from a woo-slinger too inept and/or dishonest to comment on the topic at hand, which is a stunning portrayal of disgusting quacks who prey upon vulnerable families as their primary business model. Your citations are as inadequate as you Mr. Ball.

Hmm, that seems a lot. How much lower do we need to get that before it is acceptable to criticize quack treatments?

How is this relevant in a discussion of a disease that doesn’t have any good treatments, and where there is no indication that the child died of anything except their terrible disease?

Even if this was true (and it isn’t) its still a far far better record than the quacks referenced in this post who kill 100% of their marks

I’m not sure what the point of your comment is relative to this post. That Clinica 10-9 are contributing to those statistics? That because medical errors exist, it’s OK to defraud the desperate parents of children with cancer?

Doctors could kill 100% of their patients – it still wouldn’t make Clinical 10-9’s treatments effective, or justify charging people $30,000 a treatment for something completely unproven to work.

In other child death news:

Associate Chief Justice Rooke of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has denied the application of David and Collet Stephan for four million dollars for the past and future legal expenses for trials in the death of their son Ezekiel, which Orac has written about a few times. They claim they are in debt to their lawyers for their fist trial, have liquidated their assets and don’t have enough money to assure a proper defense at their upcoming retrial. They wanted a million dollars for past expenses and 3 million in trust for future expenses (by which they mean the cost of their fishing expedition to try to build a case that there was some terrible conspiracy against them and evidence was covered up).

The new trial is scheduled to start June 3.

this is in my town. So glad the judge had denied their application. The Stephans are horrible people and what’s really awful is that they have a bunch of supporters.

Well they are a disgusting couple but certainly they have arrogance. I wonder if Associate Chief Justice Rooke was trying not to vomit or not to break out in loud laughter when he heard the case.

These cancer quacks are some of the worst, I’ve worked in palliative care for a long number of years and can’t count all the different quackery my patients have fallen victim to, from potato juice to magic hands. In most cases I’ve seen them end up spending time and money on these false hope scams, but more importantly they suffer far far more than they should have, especially the ones who fall for ‘natural pain control’ scams and because they have been convinced drugs such as hydromorphone are ‘unnatural’ suffer greatly. Part of me always wants the quacks to experience the suffering they cause, but then I’d be no better than the quacks.

I just lost someone I loved deeply to cancer. She fought long and hard but in the end couldn’t beat it. We never thought of abandoning EBM but at the end, you know it would have been easy to fall prey to the false hope peddlers. Easy when all hope is gone to make that million to one bet.

The best advice I received was from someone who had lost a parent in similar circumstances. She simply told me to spend as much time with my mother as I could.

The problem, if you can call it that is that there ARE miracle cures. My MIL was diagnosed with stage 4 Lung cancer, that had spread to her spine and ribs. Her pulmonologist told her that five years ago, he would have told her to find a nice beach, and lots of drinks with little umbrellas in them, but today he was referring her for treatment. She had 15 courses of radiation and now gets an infusion of Keytruda every three weeks. No nausea, no hair loss, and her pain is gone. Is she cured? Probably not, but she’s not getting worse, either. (She’s 87.)

This makes the quack cures seem possible.

“Her pulmonologist told her that five years ago, he would have told her to find a nice beach, and lots of drinks with little umbrellas in them, but today he was referring her for treatment.”

He was remarking on the scientific advances in cancer treatment in the past five years. Which means there was an actual treatment that might work.

“This makes the quack cures seem possible.”

Not really: https://respectfulinsolence.com/2019/01/10/roxli-doss-a-deadly-brain-tumor-shrinks-to-undetectable-without-quackery/

And to note: your MIL is getting actual medical treatment.

There is a disconnect there that is so obvious I wonder how it even happened.
First, there are no miracle cures. The closest thing to a miracle cure is the spontaneous regression of a cancer. But even that is not a miracle cure. It is the result of the immune system recognising the cancer as foreign tissue and reacting against it. And your MIL is definitely not an example of a miracle cure. She hasn’t even been cured. And, if she is fortunate enough to be cured, it will still not be a miracle cure but the result of good medical care.
So, no, it doesn’t make quack cures seem possible.

Hi, Carolyn,

I’m thrilled to hear your MIL is doing so well.

But there’s nothing miraculous about her current condition. It’s the result of solid, scientific research and advances in medical care.

Since quack cures NEVER work, there is no comparison at all, not even at the apples vs oranges level.

I don’t think Carolyn was caliming that it’s an actual miracle, such as only a deity might produce, only that such amazing advances in medical science may appear so, which makes it seem more plausible when some quack comes along saying that oh look, they’ve found another amazing new advance! It is very difficult for the lay public to tell the difference between a revolutionary new chemotherapeutic regimen and a new flavor of antineoplastons, because the quacks are very good at dressing up their snake oil to look like real science. Which, of course, is precisely why we need stronger regulation.

nup..this one is to hard for me to have inpt…but would ask any of the posters on here what would they do in this case if it was there child?? ,,happy bob from oz ..cheers.8

First listen to real oncologists. Then if it was hopeless, call the Make-A-Wish foundation to make the child much happier. There may be a version of that charity in Australia.

The main point is to not drag the child half way across this planet for painful treatments that have not been shown to work. Instead spend that time to love and live for your kid.

By the way, I have a child with a heart condition that could result in sudden cardiac death. He has had surgery and is on medication, but there could be a time when the electrical pulses in his heart could misfire. I live with that everyday.

“The problem, if you can call it that is that there ARE miracle cures. My MIL was diagnosed with stage 4 Lung cancer…She had 15 courses of radiation and now gets an infusion of Keytruda every three weeks. No nausea, no hair loss, and her pain is gone. Is she cured? Probably not, but she’s not getting worse, either. (She’s 87.)

This makes the quack cures seem possible.”

So the fact that some people are living longer with incurable cancer thanks to newer, proven therapies improves the plausibility of quacks whose nostrums lack an evidentiary basis?

If true, it reinforces the necessity for teaching critical thinking skills in elementary and secondary schools, or as part of free or low-cost continuing education for adults.

Well, I obviously didn’t make myself clear. What I meant to say was that science has provided us with so many wonderful things, that when a patient is presented with quackery, they remember people like my MIL, and therapies not available five years ago. Anything seems possible. They read puff pieces and testimonials and don’t read real science. They want to believe.

Is this right? Of course not, but a person facing an incurable illness wants hope, and quacks provide it.

Carolyn – that’s exactly how I read it; I thought it was quite clear that you weren’t suggesting that quack treatments work, but that because of medical advances that seem “miraculous” some people may believe so. One problem is that for many people science in general and medicine in particular is a sort of “black box”. You stick some person/illness in one end and a solution/cure comes out the other end. Perhaps this is exacerbated by the way so many gadgets these days are of the “no user serviceable parts inside” type. They may as well be magic things.

DIPG is not a good example to use to discuss the many problems with alternative medicine. I’m not sure what other DIPG patients you think you are saving from the perils of quackery. It doesn’t translate as a noble endeavour. It seems more goulish. As you said yourself, long time readers are well aware of the quack medicine at Clinica 0-9. Parents of children with DIPG don’t deserve to be humiliated. I generally learn a lot from your articles but I can’t agree that focusing our attention on hopeless cases like DIPG is the best use of anyone’s time.

Parents of children with DIPG don’t deserve to be humiliated.

Well, they certainly don’t deserve to be lied to and swindled.

I agree, but where there is no orthodox treatment parents might understandably and even rationally want to try some treatments with very low probabilities of success. This is then sort of a different case than someone opting for a low probability alternative treatment where there is an orthodox treatment with some reasonable probability of success. The parents might also reasonably want to try alternatives in such cases in order to ensure that they did everything they could to save the child. Such psycho!logical benefits are relevant to the choice as well.

Emily, your statement about “where there is no orthodox treatment parents might understandably and even rationally want to try some treatments with very low probabilities of success.” is exactly why Orac writes these things. Because there is NO probability of success with quack treatments. None. Nada. Zippo.

Families like the Potts family drive themselves into bankruptcy to save loved ones who can’t be saved by quackery. They do this regardless of whether or not there is a real medical treatment that can actually work (which is why Orac mentioned Burzynski, because people who could get real treatments go to him). These families often have other children to support. The needs of those children are ignored to save the dying child who cannot be saved. It is horribly cruel to those families that quacks do this.

The parents are not humiliated in this piece, but others are warned, not to spend money on swindlers.
If one sees what amounts of money are involved in those quack-treatments, that just cause more suffering, I think this is a very important subject, because the money spend on quack can better be spend on things that makes the suffering child happy and on the devellopment of real treatments.
The media are giving a lot of attention to people trying to collect money for quack-treatments, especially if children are involved. The quacks know this and try to get every penny out of it. Are they ever telling, they can’t do anything to save the child? Or course not, they keep selling false hope till the patient dies.
Things like these makes me distrust all crowdfunding actions to collect money for some sort of medical treatment.

If you want an example of a terminally ill child, collecting money for something good, read this:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/24/terminally-ill-dutch-child-raises-2m-with-nail-painting-challenge
Alas the child has died, but I think he is a positive example

DIPG is not a good example to use to discuss the many problems with alternative medicine.

Why not? It seems to be a type of cancer that quacks use to prey upon people. Exposing predators seems like a pretty noble endeavour to me.

Indeed. It seems to be a type of cancer that at this moment is incurable (making it attractive to quacks, because they can offer ‘hope’ (actually false hope) where real doctors are limited in their options) and it happens to children (also making it attractive to quacks, because no-one wants to see a child suffer from some killing disease (except anti-vaccionists), making it easier to collect money from people).

Minor correction: The mainstay treatment for DIPG is focal radiotherapy not whole brain radiation. And it won’t “often shrink the tumor”, I think it usually keeps it stationary that’s all.

“If one sees what amounts of money are involved in those quack-treatments, that just cause more suffering, I think this is a very important subject, because the money spend on quack can better be spend on things that makes the suffering child happy and on the devellopment of real treatments.”

There’s also the issue of spending on false cures leading to bankruptcy, resulting in suffering and lost opportunities for other members of a family. Is it OK (for example) to deplete the other kids’ college funds in a hopeless bid to save a sibling?

Wow. That’s the highest claim for death by medical errors I’ve ever seen. It’s getting up to be almost a third of all deaths in the US (~2.4 million) in any given year.

As part of your math being “off” is that the count of “allopathic” deaths is over exaggerated, and the count of quack deaths is under reported.

Tell me when ” alternative medicine” ever put an end to an epidemic or endemic disease.
I assume when you refer to “allopathic” medicine you are referring to science- and evidence-based medicine, which cuts out virtually all “alternative medicine”.

That’s just your not so humble opinion unless you provide a source.
For starters, you need to add all the lines listed here:

http://www.whatstheharm.net

Snd you need a benefit column.

Alternative medicine lives saved 0

SBM medicine lives saved … millions

“So to summarize iatrogenic deaths:

Alternative medicine: 1
Allopathic medicine: 783,936”

The vast majority of alternative medicine is based on allopathic principles (i.e. remedies intended to produce effects opposite from or incompatible with those of the disease).

So your statistic is nonsensical right off the bat.

Panacea, it is not entirely clear that these treatments have a zero probability of success. Zero probabilities are usually only assigned to logical falsehoods. All empirical claims then have some positive probability even if it is only marginal. This then implies that it can be rational to opt for such a treatment when the alternative option has a very large negative utility (i.e. death) and the low probability treatment option has a high utility (i.e. life). Moreover, other benefits like the psychological comfort of the family knowing that they tried everything may further increase the expected utility of opting for such low probability options. Of course, things like the financial loss must be accounted for as well. But opting for such treatments when there is no orthodox alternative is not ipso facto irrational just because it is not orthodox. It is more complicated.

“Zero probabilities are usually only assigned to logical falsehoods. All empirical claims then have some positive probability even if it is only marginal.”

Personally, I believe that this is a problem with communications around such things
Technically you’re correct, we can never rule out an intervention as having no chance of success.
Realistically, IMO, we are better off saying these things don’t work with no prevarication for the lay people. It’s those carefully hedged “we can’t rule it out completely” that allow the Woo-slingers to apply their crowbars of illogic and false hope.

Technical explanations are good when your audience is appropriately technical but needs to be tailored when talking to other audiences, especially when a segment of them want to misappropriate your words for their profit.

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