Thursday, May 21, 2009

Charlatans and alternative medicine are still a big part of medical practice. When conventional therapies are no longer effective and life is threatened, people resort to almost anything offered as a lifeline. In the news this week is the story about a mother in Minnesota who is defying a court order for her son to get chemotherapy and radiation for his Hodgkins Disease. They are on the run from the law and have probably fled the country. She says she doesn’t want poisons put into his body, but instead is going to get herbs, vitamins and prayer for his treatment. Hodgkins is a highly curable cancer. He has a 95% chance of dying without treatment and a greater than 90% chance for cure with treatment.

The movie actress Farrah Fawcett has cancer of the anus with metastasis to the liver. A couple of years ago she refused the surgery, which would require a colostomy, and offered the greatest chance for cure. Now that she has advanced disease she is off to Europe to seek unconventional and alternative treatments that will almost certainly be of no avail.

Medicine has always had plenty of wonder cures and alternative therapies. They were very popular at the turn of the 20th century but are still with us today. The most notorious of the charlatans was John R. Brinkley, also know as the goat doctor. He implanted testicles of the goat into men who were impotent or seeking enhancement of their libido. A more reputable and highly successful doctor, who had some pretty good ideas, was Dr. John Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan. He invented corn flakes and peanut butter and was the founder of the great cereal company. He started with a Sanitarium where people checked in to rid their bodies of toxins. Dr. Kellogg was convinced that toxins were the cause of most of our problems and eating meat was the main culprit. The patients were placed on a strict vegetarian diet and given five enemas a day. The enemas consisted of yogart that was used to reestablish the normal bacterial flora in the colon.

We laugh at some of the old treatments and remedies but my grandchildren will be getting a kick out of some of the ridiculous things done today in the name of science.

As I sit on the porch, I keep an eye out for a rare white deer that I would definitely kill. These deer usually have a bezoar or stone in their stomach called a madstone. This stone has all sorts of healing powers and I would give anything to have one.


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