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When Healing Becomes a Crime by Kenny Ausubel

2000; 461 pp. $19.95. Inner Traditions.

Despite being involved in alternative medicine (specifically homeopathic medicine) since 1972, I have always been strongly skeptical of alternative therapies for cancer. I questioned their true effectiveness; even more, I questioned the ethics of their advocates. After reading Kenny Ausubel's newest book, I realize how effective the propaganda against alternative cancer therapies has been on me.

I was truly blown away by When Healing Becomes A Crime. What Silent Spring did for the environmental movement, this book does for the alternative cancer therapies movement.

The misinformation and demonization of alternative medicine by the AMA and the FDA is quite remarkable and sad (no, Saint-John's-wort won't cure this depression!). This McCarthyization of alternative healers didn't simply destroy people's lives as McCarthy did. It also led to the earlier death of hundreds of thousands of people by foisting upon them?as the only appropriate treatments for cancer?the notoriously ineffective and dangerous primitive radiation and chemotherapy of the day.

This book details the experience of Harry Hoxsey and his herbal formulas. Hoxsey was arrested more than a hundred times in one two-year period, and hundreds of other times before and after this, although his leading nemesis, AMA leader Morris Fishbein, acknowledged under oath that Hoxsey's therapy was indeed effective in treating certain types of cancer. Fishbein's statement never changed his heavy-handed efforts to make access to Hoxsey's treatment difficult or impossible. Hoxsey's clinic was forced out of the US and into Mexico in the early 1960s; it has continued to provide care for people since Hoxsey's death in 1974, but is still not allowed into the US.

This book is riveting. It can and will lead to fits of anger at orthodoxy's impressively effective PR efforts to turn successful spokespersons for alternative medicine into quacks and criminals. This book is also extremely well referenced, with both historical records and modern scientific literature. The amount of scholarship that went into writing it is admirable.

"Under California's new anti-quackery laws in 1959, it became a crime to treat cancer with anything but surgery, radiation, and the emerging chemotherapy. The only exemption was for religious beliefs and prayer since [California Attorney General Caspar] Weinberger had Christian Scientists in his family....The restrictive California laws were soon adopted by other states....

As the 1950s drew to a close, the government quackdown was nearly complete. It had taken the full power of the state apparatus to eliminate Hoxsey and the host of other unorthodox cancer practitioners from the medical playing field.

"Until the 1950s orthodox medicine viewed cancer purely as a local disease. Doctors sanctioned only surgery and radiation as effective treatments, both being localized approaches reflecting their belief that tumors were independent growths on an otherwise healthy organism. After decades of taking the position that "there is no known liquid medicine which cures internal cancer," orthodoxy acknowledged a systemic approach with the development of chemotherapy drugs in the 1950s. Even then, the exclusive orientation was to kill cancer cells by using strong poisons.

To the contrary, Hoxsey and the lineage of natural medicine he espoused characterized cancer as a systemic illness..."which occurs only in the presence of a profound physiologic change in the consituents of body fluids and consequent chemical imbalance of the organism. Its real cause must be sought in the basic body chemistry and cell metabolism. We believe that the organism's attempt to adapt itself to the new and abnormal environment causes certain mutations in newly born cells of the body. Eventually a viciously competent cell evolves which finds the new environment eminently suitable to survival and rapid self-reproduction. These cells are what are known as cancer."

Hoxsey believed that a systemic approach could remedy the imbalance. "It follows that if the constitution of the body fluids can be normalized and the original chemical balance in the body restored, the environment again will become unfavorable for the survival and reproduction of these cells. They will cease to multiply and eventually they will die. Then if vital organs have not been too seriously damaged by the malignancy (or by surgery or irradiation), the entire organism will recover to normal health. We attempt to get at the roots of the disorder, rather than deal merely with its end result. Our primary effort is to restore the body to physiological normalcy."

"For decades organized medicine ridiculed the Hoxsey remedies as a bunch of "weeds" and refused to look into them. Typifying this kind of cavalier dismissal was a classic 1940s archival medical film we located called Fraud Fighters. Cast in much the same style as the heavy-handed antimarijuana propaganda film Reefer Madness, the melodramatic movie relates the parable of "Elixerex," an ersatz nostrum in a thinly disguised Hoxsey-like tonic bottle. Under the Dragnet-style narration, the movie follows Elixerex through the FDA's 1950s state-of-the-arts labs, which today look as archaic as the era's Univac computer. Elixerex lands in the blocky hands of grim, square-jawed junior G-men intent on rounding up the unscrupulous crook behind the scam. The medical ideology is as black and white as the film footage.

"Internal correspondence between the AMA and news organizations revealed carefully scripted programs designed to discredit Hoxsey, with copious back story supplied by the Bureau of Investigation....After Hoxsey appeared on a public debate on KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, a member of the AMA legislative committee suggested he would speak to friends in Congress about having the Federal Communications Commission revoke the station's license.

 

ISBN: 0892819251

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