Given that I trained as a cancer surgeon, do laboratory and translational cancer research, and spend my clinical time taking care of breast cancer patients, not surprisingly one topic that gets me the most irritated and provokes a lot of my verbiage for SBM is cancer quackery. As I was perusing my list of posts the other day, it occurred to me that there’s one huge topic that in the more than a year and a half I’ve been blogging for SBM I’ve never covered. It’s a particularly pernicious and dangerous quackery. Indeed, it’s a quackery I mentioned during part of my talk at the Science-Based Medicine Conference, which Steve organized and where several SBM bloggers spoke the day before TAM7 started.
I’m referring to the dangerous and vile quackery known as the German New Medicine (Die Germanische Neue Medizin). Pioneered by Ryke Geerd Hamer, it is a quackery that claims lives. So what is this German New Medicine? Well, it appears to be a Theory of Everything Medical, and in particular everything having to do with cancer:
THE GERMAN NEW MEDICINE provides us with illuminating explanations about the origin, development and healing of both physical and mental disorders. In 1981, Dr. Hamer discovered that every DISEASE is caused by a shock experience that catches us completely off guard. He found that this shock not only occurs in the psyche but simultaneously in the brain and on the organ level. At the moment the unexpected trauma takes place the shock impacts a specific area in the brain causing a lesion that is clearly visible on a brain scan as a set of sharp concentric rings. With the impact the affected brain cells communicate the disturbance to the corresponding organ. Whether the organ responds with a tumor growth (cancer), with tissue degeneration, or with functional loss, is determined by the exact type of conflict shock. Based on the analysis of over 40,000 case studies Dr. Hamer is the first to provide scientific proof that cancer is not caused by a malfunctioning organism producing deadly cancer cells but is rather the result of an innate meaningful survival program that has been successfully practiced for millions of years. Since HEALING can only occur after the conflict has been resolved, the GNM-therapy focuses on identifying and resolving the original conflict. By understanding healing symptoms such as painful swelling, infections, fever, or inflammation in their psychological, biological and evolutionary context, we are able to liberate ourselves from the fear and panic that often come with the onset of an illness. Dr. Hamer’s findings offer a completely new understanding of so-called diseases. His scientific discoveries revolutionize entirely our view of medical conditions and their causes.
The German New Medicine presents a comprehensive system that allows us to understand what type of conflict causes the onset of a particular disease, how the disease manifests itself in the conflict active phase, what can be expected in the healing phase, and how all the developments are connected to the brain, verifiable with a brain scan.
The German New Medicine is a natural science, based on FIVE empirically disovered BIOLOGICAL LAWS that apply, in a strong scientific sense, to each and every case of disease of man and mammal.
The repository of quackery known as Mercola.com describes the “Five Biological Laws” of German New Medicine thusly:
GNM is based of five biological laws that apply scientifically to each and every case of disease. They include:
- Every disease is caused by a conflict shock that catches an individual completely off guard.
- Provided there is a resolution of the conflict, every disease proceeds in two phases, a conflict-active phase and a healing phase.
- Ties the findings of the first two laws into the context of embryology and the evolution of man. It illustrates the biological correlation between the psyche, the brain, and the organ from an evolutionary point of view. (The Ontogenetic System of Tumors and Cancer-Equivalent Diseases.)
- Addresses the role of microbes in the context of evolution and in relation to the three germ layers from which our organs originate. Microbes are indispensable to your survival.
- Every so-called disease has to be understood as a “meaningful special biological program of nature” created to solve an unexpected biological conflict.
Further, Dr. Hamer believes that a person cannot die of cancer in and of itself.
If someone dies during the conflict-active phase of disease, he says, it’s because of energy loss, weight loss, sleep deprivation, and emotional and mental exhaustion. The stress of receiving a cancer diagnosis, or being given a negative prognosis, is often enough to deprive a person of their life-force. Conventional cancer treatments only accelerate the downward spiral.
Oooh, boy. So much woo in such a concentrated form. Oddly enough, it never occurs to Hamer that it might be–oh–the metastatic cancer that results in weight loss and the gradual decline of cancer patients. Also note how Hamer blames the doctors. If we tell a patient that that patient has a life-threatening cancer, it’s a “psychic shock” or a severe stress that actually “deprives the person of his life force.”
When I first heard of this particularly odious form of cancer quackery, my first question was: Why five BIOLOGICAL LAWS? (And in all capital letters, yet, as in “FIVE empirically disovered BIOLOGICAL LAWS”?) Why not four? Or six? It reminds me of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, with a little change:
… And the Lord spake, saying, “First shalt thou take out the Unholy Conventional Medicine. Then, shalt thou come up with FIVE LAWS. No more, no less. FIVE shall be the number of laws thou shalt find, and the number of the laws shall be FIVE. Six shalt thou not find, neither find thou four, excepting that thou then proceed to FIVE. Seven is right out. Once the number FIVE, being the fifth number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy BIOLOGICAL LAWS towards cancer thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.” Amen.
Yes, I can see it now, except with German accents.
In case you’re curious, the creator of the German New Medicine, Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer, named the DHS after his son, Dirk. You see, Dr. Hamer’s son was tragically shot in his sleep by Vittorio Emanuel, the last crown prince of Italy. After a prolonged course requiring multiple operations, his son unfortunately succumbed to his wounds, which undoubtedly caused Hamer immense emotional trauma, as the sudden loss of a child always does. Three years later, Hamer developed testicular cancer. So, in a perfect case of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning, Hamer decided that it must have been the psychic shock of his son’s death that caused his cancer. Forget about all that molecular biology. Forget about oncogenes and tumor suppressors. Forget about increased mutation rates. Forget about all that. Dr. Hamer is here to tell you that it’s “Hamer-time.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) In actuality, he’s here to tell you that everything that scientists think they know about the pathogenesis of cancer is wrong. Cancer is really due to a “psychic shock,” not genetic alterations in cells that lead to uncontrolled proliferation. What about cancer patients who have lived happy lives devoid of “highly acute, dramatic, and isolating shocks”? There’s no such person. If you search back far enough, you could probably find such a shock, and if that fails you could alway postulate some sort of birth trauma. I don’t mean to minimize the tragedy that Dr. Hamer must have suffered because of the shooting of his son and the fact that the killer got off with a slap on the wrist because of his title and wealth, nor am I claiming that mental stress doesn’t contribute to disease, but Hamer took his tragic personal experience and generalized it to a ridiculous extreme, even to the point of basing rather arrogantly-named “biological laws” on it. It’s as if the shock of losing his son unhinged his mind.
So what are these “laws” that Dr. Hamer so confidently postulated? Well, let’s look at the First Law, a.k.a. the Iron Rule of Cancer. Naturally, it’s subdivided into three criteria:
- Every cancer or cancer-equivalent disease originates from a DHS (Dirk Hamer Syndrome), which is a serious, highly acute, dramatic and isolating shock that catches an individual completely off guard. The conflict shock occurs simultaneously in the psyche, the brain and the corresponding organ.
- At the moment of the DHS, the content(s) of the conflict determine the location of the Hamer Focus in the brain and the location of the cancer or cancer-equivalent disease in the organ.
- The development of the conflict determines the exact development of the Hamer Focus in the brain as well as the exact development of the cancer or cancer-equivalent disease in the organ.
By analyzing thousands of brain computer tomograms (CT) in relation to his patient’s histories, Dr. Hamer discovered that the moment a DHS occurs, the shock impacts a specific, pre- determined area in the brain, causing a “lesion” that is visible on a CT scan as a set of sharp concentric rings (In 1989, Siemens, the German CT scanner manufacturer, certified that these ring formations are not artifacts of the equipment). Upon impact, the affected brain cells communicate the shock to the corresponding organ, which in turn responds with a particular— predictable!—alteration. The reason why specific conflicts are indissolubly tied to specific brain areas is that during our historical evolution, each part of the brain was programmed to respond instantly to conflicts that could threaten our survival. While the “old brain” (brain stem and cerebellum) is programmed with basic survival issues that relate to breathing, eating, or reproduction, the “new brain” (cerebrum) is encoded with more advanced themes such as territorial conflicts, separation conflicts, identity conflicts, and self-devaluation conflicts.
Dr. Hamer’s medical research is firmly tied to the science of embryology, because whether the organ responds to a conflict by a tumor growth, by tissue meltdown, or by functional impairment is determined by the embryonic germ layer from which both the organ and corresponding brain tissue originate (Third Biological Law).
Here’s a video further describing Hamer’s bizarre ideas about cancer:
I find it particularly despicable how Dr. Holt, the narrator of this video, blames osteoporosis in a psychic conflict or blow that comes from menopause, in which loss of estrogen supposedly leads women to feel that they “aren’t the woman they used to be” and that that conflict is manifest in the bone. Equally despicable is the part where he talks about an athlete’s being angry because of an injury that screws up his ability to perform and that anger leading to an osteosarcoma of extremity. Here’s a further explanation:
The therapeutic focus of the New Medicine is to identify the original DHS and to find a solution to the conflict that is as real and as practical as possible. For example, a man who lost his business and suffers a territorial loss must find a new occupation; the shock from an unexpected early retirement could be resolved by establishing a new “domain”, such as by joining a club or taking up a neglected hobby. As soon as the conflict is resolved, healing runs its natural course.
Is Hamer really saying that, for example, if a new retiree was forced out of his job and then later develops colon cancer, his colon cancer could be cured just by finding him a hobby or other productive way to spend his time? How nice. I guess that would put us surgeons out of business, given that most colon cancer is cured primarily by surgery, with chemotherapy and, if it’s rectal cancer, radiation therapy decreasing the rates of post-surgical recurrence. More likely, if you tried to use that concept to treat GI malignancies it would give us more of the business that we really don’t like: malignant bowel obstructions that require urgent, rather than elective, surgery, with a resultant decrease in cure rates and increase in complications.
This is pseudoscience with an implausibility on par with that of homeopathy. Really. First, let’s take a look at the photo of a brain CT that, according to the “Second Law,” allegedly shows a “Dirk Hamer” focus (right). I’m not a radiologist, but this “Dirk Hamer focus” looks a lot to me like your basic CT scan artifact. One also has to wonder: If this were real, why has no other physician or investigator reported finding similar lesions in cancer patients? If all cancer really is due to the presence of the DHS lesions in the brain (which, according to Hamer, are due to whatever “psychic trauma” that supposedly caused the DHS and therefore caused the cancer), then why is it that no other oncologist or radiologist has ever reported them? After all, if every single cancer patient suffered some sort of psychic trauma resulting in DHS rings that in turn result in cancer, the correlation between such lesions and cancer should have been really easy to see, particularly with more modern CT scanners. Is Hamer so much more brilliant than everyone else? Whenever anyone claims that there is one cause for all cancers, run, don’t walk, from him! Hamer and his “DHS rings” are no different than Hulda Clark and her liver flukes, which Clark claims to be the cause of all cancer.
Here’s how Hamer views cancer, described in his Third Law, which he calls the “Ontogenetic System of Tumors’ Meaningful Special Biological Programs of Nature” (whatever that means):
In it, Hamer divides all tumors into two phases that he calls “sympatheticotonia” (conflict active phase) and vagotonia (conflict resolution phase). He explains how these phases work thusly:
GNM’s “Ontogenetic System of Tumors” illustrates that “old-brain”-controlled organs, which derive from the endoderm or the “old-brain”-mesoderm, like the lungs, liver, colon, prostate, uterus, corium skin, pleura, peritoneum, pericardium, breast glands, etc., always generate cell proliferation as soon as the corresponding conflict occurs. Tumors of these organs therefore develop exclusively during the conflict-active phase (initiated by the DHS).
Let’s take lung cancer, for example: The biological conflict linked to lung cancer is a “death-fright conflict”, because in biological terms the death panic is equated with being unable to breathe. With the shock of the death- fright the lung alveoli cells, which regulate breathing, instantly start to multiply, forming a lung tumor. Contrary to the conventional view, this multiplication of lung cells is not a pointless process but serves a very definite biological purpose, namely, to increase the capacity of the lungs and thereby optimize the organism’s chance of survival. Dr. Hamer’s brain scan analyses demonstrate that every person with lung cancer shows a distinct target ring configuration in the corresponding area in the brain stem, and that each patient had suffered an unexpected death panic prior to the onset of cancer. In the majority of cases the death scare was triggered by a cancer diagnosis shock that the person experienced as a “death sentence”. Given that smoking is on the decrease, this sheds new light on the enigmatic increase of lung cancer (“The #1 Killer”) and calls into question whether smoking is per se an actual cause of lung cancer.
That’s right. According to Hamer, smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer, so smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em!
He also blames breast cancer on either a “mother-child” or “partner worry” conflict. To him, these sorts of “conflicts” involve a child becoming ill or being seriously injured. According to the article above, Hamer’s “many case studies” show that women develop cancer of the breast from “obsessively worrying about the well-being of a loved one”, such as a child who is in trouble, a parent who is ill, or a dear friend who is a cause for concern. This concept is, of course, the purest poppycock, utter woo.
Of course, no good piece of cancer woo would be complete without its creator telling us “conventional” types that we have it all wrong about some key aspect of cancer. Not content to tell us that we have no idea what we’re talking about regarding the pathogenesis of cancer, like Hulda Clark, Hamer boldly tells us that we also have no clue about the real reason for cancer metastasis:
The standard metastasis theory suggests that cancer cells of a primary tumor travel via the blood stream or the lymph system to other parts of the body where they cause a cancerous growth at a new site (theoretically, this assumption would imply a potential risk of contracting cancer through a blood transfusion). The New Medicine does not dispute the fact of secondary and third cancers. However, according to the Five Biological Laws, second and third cancers are not the result of migrating cancer cells but of a second or third DHS, often triggered by a diagnosis or prognosis shock that puts the individual into total panic, causing a new conflict or even several new conflicts leading to additional cancers. For example, a cancer diagnosis shock can trigger a “death fright conflict” leading to the development of lung cancer.
Sorry, dude. If your cancer metastasizes, it’s not really the same tumor at all, but a new one. Moreover, obviously you’ve had some sort of other “psychic trauma” that caused the metastasis to pop up. It’s also pretty convenient that Hamer attributes metastasis to a “death fright conflict.” Pretty much each and every single cancer patient fears that his or her cancer will kill him. Thus, every cancer patient has a “death fright conflict.” Now that I think of it, though. If it is the case that most, if not all, cancer patients fear that their cancer will kill them, isn’t it true that most, if not all, cancer patients have a “death fright conflict”? If that’s the case, then why don’t all cancer patients develop metastases? Just a thought.
Let’s move on to the Fourth Biological Law, which supposedly addresses the role of microbes in disease and evolution, but for the life of me I can’t figure out exactly what the heck Dr. Hamer is saying about disease. Let’s whittle it down to two sections:
When our organs developed over the course of evolution, very specific types of microbes developed with them. The biological purpose of the billions of micro-organisms that inhabit our body is to maintain all the different tissues and keep them in a healthy state. Given the purposeful co-existence of man and microbes, the New Medicine identifies fungi, bacteria or viruses as loyal helpers that are indispensable for our survival.
It is the discovery of the New Medicine that microbes become without exception only active in the healing phase. In the phase of Normotonia as well as in the conflict active phase they are dormant and do not cause any infection. But at the moment of the conflict resolution, they receive a signal from the brain to start the work that was assigned to them. Pathogenic (active) microbes are totally harmless to all other organs.
It is true that microbes are present in infectious diseases, but it is not the microbes that cause the disease. On the contrary, our organism uses the microbes to optimize the healing process. It is also true that microbes can be transmitted, but they stay inactive as long as we are not in the healing phase of the appropriate conflict.
Ah, so all of those pathogenic bacteria? Don’t worry about them. They only work for your good. So, if you have a big abscess, a gangrenous foot, pneumonia, AIDS, or hepatitis C, it’s just your body using bacteria or viruses to “optimize the healing process.” You don’t need antibiotics or antiviral drugs. If you die in the process, it just means that you weren’t able “resolve your inner conflict.”
Wrong. Especially this part about microbes:
Fungi and myco-bacteria (yellow group) are the oldest microbes. They exclusively work on organs and tissues that originate from the endoderm and are directed from the brain stem. Fungi like Candida or myco-bacteria like tubercular bacteria are the “destruction crew”. They decompose tumors such as colon tumors, lung tumors, kidney tumors, or liver tumor. During the healing phase they break down the extra cells that are no longer needed. Usually, this decomposing process is accompanied with fever and night sweats. What makes myco-bacteria remarkable is that they start to multiply immediately at the moment of the conflict shock. They multiply at a rate which parallels the growing tumor. The moment the conflict is resolved, the exact amount of tubercular bacteria is available that is necessary to decompose the tumor cells. If the microbes are absent because, for example, they were eradicated through vaccination, the tumor will be encapsulated in scar tissue and stays in place with no further cell augmentation. In this case the tumor will be viewed as “benign”.
Bacteria (orange group) inhabited the organs and tissues that derive from the mesoderm directed from the cerebellum (old brain mesoderm) or the cerebral medulla (new brain mesoderm). Bacteria are the “cleanup-workers. In old brain mesodermal tissue they decompose tumors such as glandular breast tumors or melanoma, and assist by clearing away the remnants. Bacteria also help to restore the tissue by forming abscesses that will be filled with scar tissue. In new brain mesodermal tissue, bacteria such as staphylococcus bacteria fill the gaps in the bone that were caused by the meltdown of callus cells and reconstruct the bone with granulating callus forming tissue. During the healing phase, bacteria also rebuild the cell loss (necrosis) of ovarian or testicular tissue.
Viruses (red group) are the youngest microbes. They exclusively work on tissue that derives from the ectoderm and is controlled from the cerebral cortex, e.g. the epidermis, the cervix, the intra-hepatic bile ducts, the mucous membrane of the stomach, the bronchia or the nose. Viruses are the “reconstruction workers”. They replenish the tissue that was lost during the preceding ulceration process. While old brain directed myco-bacteria start to multiply immediately with the onset of the conflict active phase, viruses start to divide and to become active only upon the resolution of the conflict. With viruses involved the healing phase is more dramatic, often accompanied with fever and inflammation. Examples for viruses at work are: pneumonia, hepatitis, herpes, or the “flu. If the necessary viruses are absent, healing still occurs but not to a biologically optimum degree.
Like tumor cells, microbes never cross the germ layer threshold (diagram). For example: pneumonia viruses only work on bronchial tissue which originates from the ectoderm and is controlled from the cerebral cortex, while tubercular bacteria are specialized to operate exclusively on lung alveoli tissue that originates from the endoderm and is directed from the brain stem. That is why we will never find tuberculosis in the bronchia.
Uh, no. Just one example: Tuberculosis can infect many organs and sites and not just ectodermally derived tissues, including lungs, kidneys, the meninges (lining of the brain), and bones and joints (which, happen to be derived from mesoderm, by the way). It is also not true that you don’t find tuberculosis in the bronchi.
But the bottom line for Hamer is the Fifth Biological Law, and, if you’ve been paying attention to alt-med concepts, you will realize that this “Law” echoes so much woo that you have to wonder if Dr. Hamer thought of it himself or simply synthesized many varieties of woo into a single concise statement that seems to sum up huge swaths of alternative medicine:
Every so-called disease has to be understood as a Meaningful Special Biological Program of Nature created to solve an unexpected biological conflict.
Every “so-called disease”? Yes, indeed. According to Dr. Hamer:
All so-called diseases have a special biological meaning … While we used to regard Mother Nature as fallible and had the audacity to believe that she constantly made mistakes and caused breakdowns (malignant, senseless, degenerative cancerous growths, etc.) we can now see, as the scales fall from our eyes, that it was our ignorance and pride that were and are the only foolishness in our cosmos. We could not understand such a ‘sewn up’ totality, and so brought upon ourselves this senseless, soulless and brutal medicine. Full of wonder, we can now understand for the first time that nature is orderly (we already knew that), and every occurrence in nature is meaningful, even in the framework of the whole, and that the events we called ‘diseases’ are not senseless disturbances to be repaired by sorcerers’ apprentices. We can see that nothing is meaningless, malignant or diseased.
Unfortunately, these ideas have power and resonance among cancer patients, and this attractiveness, coupled with the fear of science-based cancer therapy, particularly chemotherapy, has led all too many cancer patients to believe in Hamer’s quackery. For example, there was the case of Olivia Pilhar. Olivia was six years old in 1995 at the time she was diagnosed with a Wilm’s tumor, a highly treatable childhood malignancy, and her parents discovered Ryke Geerd Hamer. Her parents withheld conventional medical therapy and persued Hamer’s German New Medicine. In an echo of later cases in the United States of children whose parents decided to pursue “alternative medicine” rather than scientific medicine, such as Abraham Cherrix and Daniel Hauser, the Austrian government finally removed the parents’ rights of care and control, and they fled from Austria to Spain with Olivia. Despite Hamer’s “treatments,” Olivia’s tumor continued to grow. After negotiations including the intervention of the Austrian president, the parents were persuaded to return with the condition of no punishment. By then, Olivia’s tumor weighed several kilograms. The child was finally given emergency medical treatment, including chemotherapy and surgery, after a court order against the parents’ wishes. Olivia is still alive in 2009 and very lucky to be so. In the end, her chances at survival had been eroded, and she suffered far more than she needed to in order to treat her cancer. Her parents received an eight-month suspended jail sentence in Austria.
Another victim of Hamer’s quackery is Michaela Jakubczyk-Eckert (note: photos on this site not for the squeamish). This is the patient I spoke about at the Science-Based Medicine Conference in July. Michaela developed stage III breast cancer and initially underwent chemotherapy, with good response. If she had continued, likely she could have undergone surgery with curative intent. Unfortunately, she discovered Ryke Geerd Hamer, who persuaded her to give up chemotherapy and pursue German New Medicine. As a result, her cancer returned with a vengeance. She developed en cuirasse disease, which is cancer growing over a large portion of her chest wall. Her death in 2005 was unpleasant and very painful.
There’s another, equally unsavory aspect to Hamer, and it ties into another aspect of any serious cancer quackery, namely a foe that keeps The Truth from the people. Basically, Hamer is a raging anti-Semite. He has become convinced that the German New Medicine is being suppressed by the “International Jewish Conspiracy,” that Jewish scientists have stolen from him the idea of German New Medicine, and that they are hiding it from the world. Indeed, he further claims that the Jews use German New Medicine for themselves to cure their cancers but keep it from Gentiles, all the better to allow two billion people to die “needlessly” from cancer. In this, the German New Medicine shares with many other forms of quackery another essential ingredient: A conspiracy theory to explain why Hamer’s quackery isn’t more widely known, practiced, and above all appreciated for the “genius” that it is. In most cases of cancer quackery, it’s the pharmaceutical companies, governments, or some cabals made up of both who are said to be “suppressing” the latest cancer cure. In the case of Ryke Geerd Hamer, it’s…THE JEWS!!!!!!! (Cue scary music.)
If there’s one thing about the German New Medicine that feeds in to what I’ve thought for a long time now, it’s that many “alternative medicine” beliefs seem to demand some sort of “meaning” from disease. The cancer patient, when faced with the horror of his or her disease, will rail against the unfairness of it all. And indeed it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair at all. Cancer sucks. Regardless of the type of cancer, it’s a horrible, nasty disease, and some varieties are particularly deadly. But life itself isn’t fair. Sadly, bad things (like cancer or other life-threatening diseases) happen to good people. Personally, I don’t see much difference between Hamer’s quackery, in which all diseases are postulated to have a “special biological meaning” where the symptoms are the result of an inner mental conflict and the beliefs expressed by many religious people that bad things (like being afflicted with a horrible disease like cancer, whatever type) must be the result of a “higher purpose,” that they must serve a “greater good.” The only difference is that Hamer has replaced the appeal to an unknown and unknowable “meaning” dictated by God with an appeal to a greater “meaning” dictated by Nature. The hope that one’s suffering is all in the service of a greater good may well help many people deal with cancer or other life-threatening or debilitating diseases, but it’s not such a good idea as the basis of any sort of medicine, whether “New German” or otherwise.
The second, even worse thing, about the German New Medicine is that it feeds into another common strain in “alternative medicine” thought, namely to blame the victim. In the case of this particular form of cancer quackery, cancer isn’t a disease but rather a manifestation of something going on in the mind. If the cancer patient can’t overcome this “trauma” and thus dies, the implication is that it’s the cancer patient’s fault. If only he had believed more or done more to follow the particular woo that is supposed to save him, he would still be alive today.
That, I find to be the most despicable aspect of all when it comes to cancer quackery.