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The (Not-So-)Beautiful (Un)Truth about the Gerson protocol and cancer quackery

Note added by editor: The complete movie is now available on YouTube:

The Beautiful Truth

Although this blog is about medicine, specifically the scientific basis of medicine and threats to the scientific basis of medicine regardless of the source, several of us also have an interest in other forms of pseudoscience and threats to other branches of science. One branch of science that is, not surprisingly, critical to medicine is the science of biology, and the organizing theory of biology is the theory of evolution, which was first reported by Charles Darwin and subsequently synthesized with the developing science of genetics in the early 20th century and then with our increasing knowledge of molecular biology, genomics, and proteonomics whose rise ushered us into the 21st century. However, the implications of evolution, namely that humans and apes both evolved from a common ancestor and that humans, for all their belief of being different and superior to animals, are in fact related to animals in the great chain of life going all the way back to single-celled organisms, does not go down well with certain religious fundamentalists, particularly Christian fundamentalists. Whereas I (and I daresay several of my cobloggers) find the interconnectedness of life, including humans, implied by Darwin’s theory to be beautiful and uplifting, many fundamentalists see it as a profound threat to their world view. Consequently, they have attacked the theory of evolution at every turn and tried to insert creationism, particularly the latest incarnation of creationism known as “intelligent design,” into science classes as an “alternative” to “Darwinism.” The manner in which they torture science, logic, and reason to try to cast doubt on a theory that is every bit as rock solid in terms of massive quantities of experimental and observational evidence to support it as any other theory in science, if not more so, is legendary and well documented at blogs such as The Panda’s Thumb and websites such as Talk Origins.

Although one day I plan on writing about how insights from evolutionary theory have led to deeper understandings of human disease and strategies to improve human health in the future, this time I want to concentrate on the similarities in techniques of spreading disinformation between creationists and purveyors of unscientific medical “treatments.” For background, first, you need to be aware of a movie that was released in April. The movie, Expelled!: No Intelligence Allowed was released. Starring Ben Stein at his most unctuous sporting a bullhorn and styling himself as a conservative, buttoned-down version of Angus Young through his choice of apparel in its promotional material, the movie’s main theme is that any academic who “questioned Darwinism” is “expelled” from academia. The basic idea is that “intelligent design” creationism is being “suppressed” by biologists who just can’t accept the thought of the existence of a “designer” (i.e., God). Indeed, the movie goes so far as to equate biologists and scientists who accept the theory of evolution as the best current explanation for the diversity of life to Hitler and the Nazis and their “suppression” of “alternatives” (word choice intentional) to “Darwinism” to Nazi and Stalinist persecution of dissidents and perceived threats to the regime. The movie even features a sequence where Ben Stein visits Dachau and Auschwitz, as though to imply that biologists are busy firing up the ovens for the Brave Maverick Scientists who “dissent from Darwin.”

These Brave Maverick Scientists are a lot like the Brave Maverick Doctors who champion unscientific medicine. After all, Kevin Trudeau has made a cottage industry and sold millions of books based on the claim that there are “natural cures” that “they” (as in doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the government) don’t want you to know about and that as a consequence the full forces of these groups are being marshalled to “suppress” them and “persecute” the Brave Maverick Doctors who dare to question the “orthodoxy” of “allopathic medicine,” up to and including claims of “Nazi”-like suppression. (Just read those repositories of quackery NaturalNews.com and Whale.to if you don’t believe me.) For the “alternative medicine” movement, it’s all there, in websites, blogs, and books. But one thing that the movement pushing unscientific treatments has lacked, and that’s a movie to call its own, a movie to spread the same message.

That is, until now.


The (Not-So-)Beautiful (Un)Truth

A number of readers have e-mailed to me links and references to a new movie, which recently completed a run in New York City from November 14 through 20 and is scheduled to open on Wednesday in Los Angeles and show there through December 4. I’m referring to a movie entitled The Beautiful Truth. Before the e-mails started, I had had no inkling that this movie was being made or that its release was on the horizon. Maybe it’s because the movie is only showing in New York and Los Angeles and hasn’t made it out of the media enclaves of those cities out to the rest of us in flyover country, or maybe its release is so limited that I just hadn’t heard of it. Or maybe it’s because it didn’t have the multimillion dollar marketing push from religious fundamentalists, coupled with a famous face like that of Ben Stein fronting it. However, what this movie reminds me of, more than anything else, is Ben Stein’s pseudoscience- and lie-filled bit of “intelligent design” creationism propaganda Expelled!. The similarities are eerie, at least in terms of the message. The Beautiful Truth may not have the marketing muscle or celebrity behind it that Expelled! had (and still has behind its release as a DVD), but it does have slick website, not to mention a lot of trailers and clips from the movie on YouTube and elsewhere.

These trailers and clips make it quite obvious that The Beautiful Truth is nothing less than a credulous paean to cancer quackery in much the same way that Expelled! was a credulous paean to “intelligent design” creationism coupled with a conspiracy theory casting advocates of pseudoscience as brave “skeptics” of scientific orthodoxy. Specifically, it’s a paean to the quackery known as the Gerson therapy, mixed in with a veritable cornucopia of dubious and fraudulent cancer treatments. If the dozen or so clips on the website and YouTube are any indication, this movie is nothing less than a tour into the dark heart of American quackery led by a credulous guide who has drunk deeply from the Kool Aid on sites like Whale.to, NaturalNews.com, and Mercola.com. Just as Expelled! claims that academics are “suppressing” any criticism of “Darwinism” or research into “intelligent design,” The Beautiful Truth postulates a grand suppression of this “alternative” cure for cancer that “they” don’t want you to know about. The movie is described thusly:

Garrett is a 15-year old boy living in the Alaskan wilderness with a menagerie of orphaned animals. Growing up close with nature has given him a deep understanding of nutritional needs required by diet sensitive animals on the reserve. Unfortunately, the untimely and tragic death of his mother propelled him into a downward spiral and he risked flunking out of school. This led to his father’s decision to home-school Garrett. His first assignment was to study a controversial book written by Dr. Max Gerson.

Note the religious overtones to this plot device holding the movie together. Indeed, this is nothing less than a conversion story, of which we hear many from religious fundamentalists, the kind where after a tragedy a troubled youth falls into a pit of despair, complete with substance abuse, bad grades, and falling in with the “wrong” crowd. Either as a result of his fall or as the cause of his fall, the youth rejects Jesus. Then, in such stories, inevitably someone shows the troubled youth the Bible and tells him all about Jesus again, and eventually the youth “sees the light” and is saved from the darkness. This movie sounds exactly like this, except with “alternative” medicine being the savior and Max Gerson providing the “miracles” in the form of a “miraculous cure” for cancer. This is not surprising, because so much of “alternative” medicine is more like religion than anything else–and a cult religion at that, as has been argued by my cobloggers at various times. No amount of evidence or science deters its adherents from their belief. But, if you really, believe, the Messiah Max Gerson will cure you–yes, you!–of your cancer, no matter how advanced

The description of the movie continues:

Written over 50 years ago, Dr. Gerson found that diet could, and did, cure cancer. Controversial at the time (and even today), Garrett took on the challenge of researching this amazing therapy, which drew the interest of his neighbors in the small Alaskan community. With the help of Dr. Gerson’s daughter, Charlotte Gerson, and grandson, Howard Strauss, they gave him the ammunition needed to go in search for the truth – a truth that would affect not only him, but his entire Alaskan village – all of whom wanted to know if these claims were true. After a number of cancer patients, who were diagnosed as terminal, shared their stories and their medical records with Garrett, it became abundantly clear that, contrary to the disinformation campaign spear-headed by the multi-billion dollar medical and pharmaceutical industry, a cure for virtually all cancers and chronic diseases does exist – and has existed for over 80 years!

Of course it has. It always has–at least, if you listen to people like Mike Adams, that is. Indeed, I wonder if he had a hand in this movie. Alas for my speculation, according to the press kit, at least, he didn’t. In any case, if you believe purveyors of many, many forms of quackery, there is always a cure for cancer out there that big pharma and the government have been “suppressing” because–well, it’s never entirely clear exactly why they would keep such a cure a secret or, more incredibly, how they could possibly keep such a secret. Indeed, these cancer “cures” strike me as being either the world’s most well-kept conspiracies of all time (after all, I’m a cancer surgeon and researcher and I’ve never heard from my colleagues even a hint of such an amazing cure for cancer in general or any specific cancer) or the worst-kept (after all, filmmakers like Steve Kroschel, writer, producer, and director of The Beautiful Truth, seem to have very little difficulty finding out all about it). In actuality, whether the secret of these “natural cures” is well or poorly kept seems to vary with the needs of the advocate telling the story.

Moreover, none of these claims makes much sense on a strictly logical basis. Think about it this way: So many people die of cancer every year that virtually every person in developed countries, doctors and cancer researchers–and, yes, even big pharma executives–included, have known, know, or will know someone with cancer. Many have seen or will see someone they love die of cancer, sometimes in horrific ways. Certainly over the more than four decades of my existence, I have had multiple family members who have died of cancer. In fact, right now my wife and I are dealing with the heartbreak of a close family member recently diagnosed with widely metastatic breast cancer, and I’ve been trying to work every contact I know to get her to the best oncologist in order to provide her with the best possible palliation. Do the makers of this movie think that I or any other cancer researcher (or even big pharma executive) would withhold knowledge of such a “cure” or keep it from others if I knew of it? Indeed, because cancer kills so many people, many of these very same doctors and researchers will end up battling the disease at some point in their lives, and many of them will end up dying of it themselves. I might even end up dying of cancer someday. You might end up dying of cancer someday. Does it make any sort of sense logically that every single one of these doctors, executives, and bureaucrats would dismiss or conspire to suppress (or even blindly ignore the evidence for its existence because of dogma and “business as usual” of) such an amazingly effective cure, if it really existed? No, it does not. Someone would talk, probably a lot of people. I know I would. Again, given how cancer has recently touched our family, I assure you, if such a cure existed, I would make damned sure that family member got it, no matter what it was, and if it truly worked as advertised I would make sure everyone else knew about it too. You can be sure that quite a few of those supposedly nefarious cancer researchers, government bureaucrats, and big pharma executives would too.

So now, not surprisingly, the filmmaker (through Garrett) has a mission:

Garrett’s mission now is to tell the world.

Of course it is. It always is. Because he’s been converted and is now an evangelist.

The Gerson “Therapy”

Let’s review a bit about just what the Gerson therapy is. It’s a so-called “nutritional” therapy for cancer that involves consuming large quantities of fruit and vegetable juices, raw liver, coupled with a “detoxification” regime that involves frequent coffee enemas. It is described thusly on the movie’s website:

The Gerson Therapy is a powerful, natural treatment that boosts your body’s own immune system to heal cancer, arthritis, heart disease, allergies and many other degenerative diseases. One aspect of the Gerson Therapy that sets it apart from most other treatment methods is its all-encompassing nature. An abundance of nutrients from thirteen fresh, organic juices is consumed every day, providing your body with a super dose of enzymes, minerals and nutrients. These substances then break down diseased tissue in the body, while enemas aid in eliminating the lifelong buildup of toxins from the liver.

With its whole-body approach to healing, the Gerson Therapy naturally reactivates your bodys magnificent ability to heal itself with no damaging side-effects. Over 200 articles in respected medical literature and thousands of people cured of their incurable diseases document the Gerson Therapy’s effectiveness. The Gerson Therapy is one of the few treatments to have a 60 year history of success.

Although its philosophy of cleansing and reactivating the body is simple, the Gerson Therapy is a complex method of treatment requiring significant attention to detail. While many patients have made full recoveries practicing the Gerson Therapy on their own, for best results it is recommended to begin treatment at a Gerson Institute licensed treatment center. For more information, visit www.gerson.org.

All the usual buzz words are there, the “naturalness” of it (although I’ve never been able to figure out how advocates of these sorts of “natural detoxification” regimens can think that pumping coffee up one’s posterior is in any way “natural”); the vague and scientifically meaningless “boosting the immune system” claim; and, above all, the “detoxification” claim. Apparently believers in the Gerson therapy (not to mention many other forms of “alternative medicine,” believe that our bodies (and colons) are packed with hideous toxins that are making us ill. Once again, how shoving coffee up one’s posterior removes “toxins” I fail to understand, but then I’m thinking about this scientifically rather than religiously. Adherents who believe in detoxification appear to me to do so more out of a belief analogous to religion that they are “unclean” and need “purification,” much the same way that some fundamentalist Muslims engage in ritual self-flagellation or the manner in which in Christian religions Baptism is believed to cleanse the soul. The Gerson protocol provides that “purification,” just as a wide variety of “colon cleansers” and “liver flushes” beloved of “alternative medicine” mavens. Unfortunately, they do not work against cancer and can lead to delays in treatment and, even worse, can rob patients with fatal cancer of effective palliation when they usurp scientific medicine.

Actually, the Gerson protocol was a precursor to the now more commonly discussed and more (in)famous Gonzalez protocol, which my co-blogger Dr. Kimball Atwood IV deconstructed in such exquisite detail over the course of several posts right here on this very blog a while back (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Grafted onto the therapy by his daughter Charlotte since Max Gerson’s death have been other forms of woo, such as liver extract injections, ozone enemas, “live cell therapy,” thyroid tablets, castor oil enemas, clay packs, laetrile, and “vaccines” made from influenza virus and killed Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Gerson’s “evidence” in the form of his case series was examined by the National Cancer Institute back in the 1950s, and this is what was found:

In 1947, the NCI reviewed ten cases selected by Dr. Gerson and found his report unconvincing. That same year, a committee appointed by the New York County Medical Society reviewed records of 86 patients, examined ten patients, and found no evidence that the Gerson method had value in treating cancer. An NCI analysis of Dr. Gerson’s book A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases concluded in 1959 that most of the cases failed to meet the criteria (such as histologic verification of cancer) for proper evaluation of a cancer case [16]. A recent review of the Gerson treatment rationale concluded: (a) the “poisons” Gerson claimed to be present in processed foods have never been identified, (b) frequent coffee enemas have never been shown to mobilize and remove poisons from the liver and intestines of cancer patients, (c) there is no evidence that any such poisons are related to the onset of cancer, (d) there is no evidence that a “healing” inflammatory reaction exists that can seek out and kill cancer cells [17].

And:

Charlotte Gerson claims that treatment at the clinic has produced high cure rates for many cancers. In 1986, however, investigators learned that patients were not monitored after they left the facility [19]. Although clinic personnel later said they would follow their patients systematically, there is no published evidence that they have done so. A naturopath who visited the Gerson Clinic in 1983 was able to track 21 patients over a 5-year period (or until death) through annual letters or phone calls. At the 5-year mark, only one was still alive (but not cancer-free); the rest had succumbed to their cancer [20].

The cancer doctor in me knows that this is pretty much what would be expected if one were to follow 21 patients with advanced cancer who were being given no treatment. The exact timeframe for their deaths would vary depending upon the mix of cancers, but one could be pretty confident that very few, if any, of them would be alive after five years–or even two or three years. Moreover, because the Gerson regimen, like the Gonzalez regimen, is quite onerous and difficult to follow, only patients in relatively good shape to begin with can follow it, thus selecting for patients more likely to live longer with their metastatic cancer anyway.

But Back to the Quackery Propaganda…

If the clips posted to YouTube are any indication, this movie wastes no time in plunging down the rabbit hole of paranoid conspiracy-mongering. For example, here is its account of what happened to a reporter in the 1940s after reporting on Gerson’s claims:

And here is an interview with Gerson from 1957 in which he claims so many patients that “you” (meaning doctors) had “sent home to die” whom he “cured”:

In fact, as was the case for Expelled!, unacknowledged conspiracy or even outright dogma is at the heart of the movie. Be sure to check out this trailer for The Beautiful Truth as well. It’s got it all, including a leading question: “If your doctor knew of a cure for cancer that didn’t require expensive drugs, he would tell you, wouldn’t he?” In the typical “science has been wrong before” combined with “doctors will say anything if they’re paid enough” gambit, there are also the obligatory excerpts from cigarette ads from the 1940s and 1950s asking “What cigarette do you smoke, doctor?” Then there’s a woman who (I assume) is Charlotte Gerson ranting about how doctors can’t afford to let patients see “alternative” doctors because “alternative” medicine cures people when “conventional” medicine can’t and about how people have been “so brainwashed for so long.” In other words, it’s the same, tired old propaganda that so many quacks have been claiming for so long. It is propaganda that the esteemed director of this film seems perfectly predisposed to believe, as he appears not to have an ounce of skepticism in him, at least if his Director’s Statement is any indication:

I have worked with injured and orphaned wild animals and have been moved by the rcovery of wildlife from illness and disease by the nutritional therapies that I used. So when I was introduced to the work of Dr. Max Gerson on human nutrition by an associate, I wanted to investigate these amazing claims. I was startled by these discovereds, and, frankly, it has changed my life–especially when I was able to meet the people who should have been dead due to terminal cancer.

Since I am a filmmaker, I wanted to meet Dr. Gerson’s family and do a short film for charity. The fallout from that earlier work was so controversial, far-reaching, yet uplifting; I decided to make a feature length film.

I’ve spoken with hundreds of people about Gerson’s therapy and many people related their recovers, their skepticism and bias–most of which came from the medical community. But what I quickly found out that those who dismissed the therapy did not have conclusive evidence that it didn’t work. In doing more investigation, it quickly became evident that an almost criminal set of priorities has been in play when it comes to treating human disease.

In other words, Steve Kroschel is a credulous soul who hasn’t the slightest clue about how to evaluate scientific evidence relating to the efficacy of a cancer therapy (or any therapy, for that matter). He clearly has no idea how scientists and doctors determine whether any given therapy has any activity against cancer and assumes that they dismiss the Gerson therapy because of their bias against “unconventional” therapies. In other words, he’s a clueless wonder. In fact, he’s so credulous that the Gerson therapy and cancer aren’t enough for him. Here’s where the next similarity to Expelled! comes in, as Kroschel descends to the same level as Ben Stein did in Expelled! in an anti-fluoridation segment that’s replete with images of Hitler and his concentration camps, along with claims that Hitler wanted to use sodium fluoride as a technique for mass sterilization, presumably of the Jews:

Calling Mr. Godwin! Your presence is requested in the movie theater immediately!Kroschel also delves into dental amalgam quackery. The deconstruction of this particular form of “alt-med” is beyond the scope of this post, but Quackwatch and our very own Harriet Hall have provided excellent discussions for why the claims that the mercury in dental amalgams is some sort of horrific health threat is nonsense and why dentists and “alternative” practitioners who insist that people need to have their amalgam fillings removed in order to “detoxify” are almost invariably quacks. Suffice it to say that there is a widespread and paranoid belief that somehow the mercury in dental amalgams is causing all sorts of horrific health problems, much the same way that the mercury militia thinks that mercury in vaccines causes autism, and clearly Kroschel believes this pseudoscience as well:

Hilariously, there’s a segment in the video above of the dreaded “smoking tooth” video which in reality caught nothing more than water vapor. It’s one of the most amusingly silly bits of extravagant quackery that I’ve ever seen and always good for a hearty belly laugh (or a cry when I realize that there are a number of people who actually believe this sort of stuff) whenever I watch it. Unfortunately, Kroschel actually seems to think that this video is slam-dunk evidence of anything other than the video maker’s utter credulity. Now, like Harriet, I’m not saying that it isn’t possible that small amounts of mercury may escape from amalgams over many years, but no one has yet produced any remotely convincing evidence that (1) it is any more than trace amounts; (2) that any significant amount is actually absorbed at significant levels; or (3) that amalgams are linked with any health problems at all. In reality, the crowd that believes that dental amalgams cause all sorts of horrific chronic health problems is very much like the anti-vaccine crowd known as the “mercury militia,” which clings to the scientifically discredited belief that mercury in the thimerosal preservative that used to be common in childhood vaccines was a major cause of autism or people who try to link mercury from the smokestack emissions from power plants with autism. Both rely on misunderstandings, confuse correlation with causation, and a studied ignorance of the principle that the dose makes the poison. Yes, mercury is toxic, but not at all doses and not at the doses that were in vaccines and are in dental amalgams.As amusing (in a warped way) as I find the dreaded “smoking tooth” clip, my favorite segment is this next clip. Really, if you watch only one of the clips in this post, make this next clip the one. You won’t regret it. You really won’t. I swear. It has that sort of paranormal buzz about it that I find irresistable:

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stop laughing after I watched this clip. In it, two pictures are shown. One, we are told, is of a cooked baby carrot. The other, we are told, is of an uncooked baby carrot. The narrator proclaims, “The uncooked carrot has a startling line of strong energy” that–surprise, surprise!–the cooked carrot obviously lacks. Never mind that we have no idea what techniques were used to take these pictures or even what this “energy” is supposed to be. The conclusion? Pasteurized food is “dead, dead, DEAD” apparently just like the parrot in a certain famous Monty Python sketch and not unlike Steve Kroschel’s brain. Now, whatever negative nutritional changes cooking may induce in food, which may include the breakdown or degradation of some nutrients, this sort of nonsense is simply nothing more than superstitious vitalism, an ancient belief that there is a “life force” or “life energy” that animates life and is the difference between living matter and dead matter. It turns out that belief in vitalism is at the heart of many unscientific “alternative medicine” practices, for example, virtually any “energy healing” modality, such as reiki, therapeutic touch, acupuncture, or any other therapy that claims to manipulate qi. Those who believe in vitalism also often believe that it is somehow better to eat “live” food, as if we can somehow absorb its life force by eating it. It also looks no different than the hilarious quackery of “aura” cameras for humans or perhaps so-called “bioluminal” photography.Call me psychic if you want (or say I have delusions of being a psychic), but I’ll hazard a prediction here, not having seen the whole movie and noting the fact that there isn’t any information about all the cancer patients “cured” with Gerson therapy. My prediction? I predict that there will be the usual “testimonials” by people who say they were “sent home to die” by their oncologists, only to be “saved” by Gerson or his daughter. There will be Messianic overtones (with Gerson as the Messiah, of course) and a strong similarities to religious conversion stories in the testimonials, as I’ve pointed out before about such stories. Most importantly, though, in not a single one of the testimonials in the movie will there be sufficient detail or evidence presented to allow one to draw any reliable or convincing conclusions whatsoever regarding whether the Gerson therapy, in fact, cured the patient’s cancer. (There never is.) Key information will be missing from each and every such testimonial. (It always is.) I realize I’m going out on a limb here, but what’s the point of being a blogger if you don’t take outrageous risks from time to time? In any case, I’ve seen enough testimonials and observed how they are used to sell “alternative” medical therapies to know what to expect without even having to watch the movie.

Unfortunately, it’s too late for those of you in New York, as the film’s run there is over, but here’s one good thing about this movie for readers living in L.A. After some of the shows during the film’s L.A. run over the Thanksgiving weekend, there will be question-and-answer sessions featuring Howard Straus, Charlotte Gerson, and Polly Emery. This looks to me like an excellent opportunity for any enterprising medical skeptical doctors to try to put Gerson’s offsprings’ feet to the fire and try to get them to provide answers consisting of more than just the usual testimonials and claims that “they” are “suppressing” the “Truth.” Certainly, were I still living in New Jersey, I would have been highly tempted to make an appearance. On the other hand, it takes a hearty soul to do this sort of thing and plunge into the proverbial lions’ den. After all, people likely to make up the audience for such a movie want to believe, and likely the reaction to skeptical questions would be about the same as the reaction from the audience of the screening of Expelled! at which Richard Dawkins showed up. After all, on The Beautiful Truth blog, all I find are glowingreviews” and posts about how popular and well-received the movie supposedly was in New York, not to mention a testimonial or two about “natural” cures.

The Beautiful Truth and Expelled!: The differences are only skin deep

The more I watch the clips from this movie, the more appropriate I think the comparison between The Beautiful Truth and Expelled! is. All the elements are there: Outrageous pseudoscience. Check. A scientific orthodoxy supposedly so blinded by greed and ideology that it can’t accept that Max Gerson “cured” cancer and therefore treats the Gerson protocol it as a challenge to its medical hegemony, just as in the eyes of ID creationists those evil “Darwinists” supposedly can’t stand challenges to “Darwinism” and treat them as a challenge to their scientific hegemony. Check. And, of course, there is at least one Godwin-worthy gratuitous comparison to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. (Whether there are more or not, I can’t know without seeing the whole movie.) Check. From these clips and the descriptions of the movie on its website, it seems to me that all The Beautiful Truth lacks is Ben Stein in an Angus Young-style British schoolboy shorts walking up to oncologists and hospitals with a bullhorn and demanding why they don’t offer the Gerson therapy to their patients or, sans schoolboy pants, looking deeply contemplative and horrified at the ruins of Dachau or Auschwitz, and implying that doctors, the FDA, and the government are busy firing up the ovens for Dr. Gerson’s descendants, metaphorically speaking at least.

I suppose we can be grateful for that small mercy, at least. Ben Stein looks ridiculous in a British schoolboy uniform.

Be that as it may, as a cancer surgeon, I find such promotion of the most obvious and blatant cancer quackery to be utterly despicable and fear that it will lead some patients to believe that the Gerson therapy really does cure cancer and to abandon effective cancer therapies. Also as distressing, the manner in which Kroschel uses his son Garrett as the vessel into which he pours his “alternative” medicine agenda and his defense of quackery is profoundly creepy. One hopes he is not damaged by the experience. Even better would be if in a year or two Garrett rebels against his father, as so many teen boys do, and decides to become an oncologist (or, better yet, a surgical oncologist) who rejects the Gerson protocol as the quackery it is and dedicates himself to using only the best science-based cancer therapy. The irony would be delicious.

Sadly, I realize that such an outcome is highly unlikely. After all, the apple usually doesn’t fall too far from the tree. But a science-based medicine boosting surgical oncologist can always dream, can’t he?

Posted in: Cancer, Dentistry, Health Fraud, Science and the Media

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66 thoughts on “The (Not-So-)Beautiful (Un)Truth about the Gerson protocol and cancer quackery

  1. overshoot says:

    Consequently, they have attacked the theory of evolution at every turn and tried to insert it into science classes as an “alternative” to “Darwinism.”

    I don’t think that’s what you meant to write. The referent to “it” is missing (yeah, we all know you mean creationism) and we’re left with “Science as an alternative.”

  2. bushpigeon says:

    My favourite part was the funeral for the almond.

    Also, you’re right about the commonalities between this effort and the anti-evolutionary crowd. In fact, there are commonalities to the whole range of crackpot conspiracy theories. In my own field — Shakespeare — the Shakespeare-didn’t-write-those-plays advocates employ exactly similar rhetorical strategies. You know – a dogmatic establishment stubbornly refuses to face the facts because of its vested interest in the status quo….

  3. David Gorski says:

    My favourite part was the funeral for the almond.

    Yeah, I love that part too. You just can’t make stuff like that up. At least I can’t.

  4. carpedm says:

    One’s first notion after reading such a post is how could anyone with even partially functioning gray matter fall for such hoaxes as the Gerson therapy. But, I’m now experiencing the full face attack and sadness of alternative therapy gone wrong. I have a friend who has terminal prostate cancer that has now also eroded through the bladder wall. At last CT scan he was informed that he has enlarged lymph nodes in the vicinity of the trachea. My friend ingests 15 16 oz glasses of juice and gives himself two coffee enemas per day. He eats very little solid food and has lost a lot of weight. He is convinced that Gerson’s methods are truthful and this is the direction he should remain adherant.
    My friend, a highly educated man in his 70s, has always expressed a sincere mistrust of conventional allopathic medicine. I, along with some of his other friends, have been scratching our heads trying to figure out what it was that caused him to veer over to the very unorthodox lane for his healthcare. Was it a bad experience with a allopathic doc? Was there something stemming back from his childhood that is at the root of this mistrust? He doesn’t really want to talk about it much.
    It is very sad to watch the decline of my friend and to see him continue to be sickened by the aftertaste of so much juice. He did do through a few schedules of chemotherapy, however, this left him with significant peripheral neuropathy and lympthedema (the latter not necessarily causative). He is in a bad way now with a mellon-sized scrotum, swelled legs and feet, and numbness of his extremites. We are all very frustrated.
    Generally speaking, I think there needs to be more confrontation of the quacks who pedal such dangerous drivel and some of the more articulate intelligensia of allopathic medicine. They get away with too much and are not challenged enough…in the media.
    Larry King should be held accountable, for instance, to hold another discussion on autism, but this time with people from both sides of the fence.
    Kevin Trudeau has a license to steal. He purposefully stays off official talk shows for fear of being squashed. Instead, he does all his damage through the portal of infomercials that consist of paid actors. He has a license to steal and continues to do so. I saw him recently where he sat with a “panel” of very dumb people, oohing and aahing about Trudeau’s newest forray ….a book about finances. He has a license to steal.
    Back to my point….these quacks and scam artists are not challenged openly enough, at least from what I’ve seen. If things get bad enough I guess the state attorney general steps in. Of course there are lots of web sites (Quack.com) that do a good service…however this is not mainstream enough. The intelligensia of allopathic medicine need to go on the offense here. Kevin Trudeau, with his dangerous books on health care, is a public health threat. Sick people watch the late night infomercials and get sucked in. They are desperate and willing to try anything. These same people need to see more panel shows confronting the Kevin Trudeaus of this world.
    Thanks for your good work.
    carpedm

  5. Fifi says:

    May I just say it’s ignoble of you to besmirch the name (and shorts) of Angus Young in such a manner! ;-)

    So who is bankrolling this infommercial masquerading as a film?

  6. Fifi says:

    May I just say it’s ignoble of you to besmirch the name (and shorts) of Angus Young in such a manner! ;-)

    So who is bankrolling this infommercial masquerading as a film?

  7. Fifi says:

    carpedm – You have my sympathy, it must be very painful and frustrating watching your friend choose to suffer. Having cared for a number of dying friends who were fighting for their lives who didn’t reject medical care, I can only imagine how extra hard it is when someone refuses treatment on irrational grounds and is harming themselves in the belief they’re actually helping themselves.

    It’s annoying enough watching friends who fall for regular SCAM stuff when it’s relatively harmless to anything but their wallet and intelligence.

  8. David Gorski says:

    May I just say it’s ignoble of you to besmirch the name (and shorts) of Angus Young in such a manner!

    I didn’t besmirch his name. AC/DC rocks. Unfortunately Ben Stein besmirched the name of Angus Young by dressing up like him, as shown here on the cover of the Expelled! DVD.

  9. Fifi says:

    Dr Gorski – Fair enough, I went off half cocked there. A man who wrote speechs for Nixon is clearly intent on destroying all that is good in this world, such as Angus Young rocking out, and I overreacted.

    I wonder how Angus felt about his image being used to pimp Stein’s little attempt to cash by making a crappy pseudodocumentary that he thinks panders to the imbecilic public…

  10. Peter Lipson says:

    Among the cast listed, Dr. Russell Blaylock, AAPS member and all-around crank…

  11. pmoran says:

    My heart sank on learning of this stupidity. I had quite a lengthy exchange with Howard Strauss some years ago in which I challenged him to supply me with one case of proven established cancer that remitted with the Gerson treatment alone, and he could not do so. Every case he supplied was either completely misrepresented (e.g. the supposed “stage 1V” melanoma of their flagship testimonial at that time was actually “level 1V” – the doctors here will know what that means), or the results were as expected from other treatment, or consistent with the natural history fo the disease.

    He appears sincere, but if so he is the worst kind of ignorant fool, believing that conventional methods never work. When the method fails, as it invaribaly does when used on its own for proven established cancer, it is always the patient’s fault for not doing everything right in a very complex and arduous routine.

    It is not merely the implasuibility of Gerson’s treatment that tells us it won’t work. The material produced by Gerson himself and by his own clinic subsequent toi his death is consistent with the method having no beneficial effect on established cancer, even those cancers where the clinic believes they get their best results, such as melanoma.

    I have analyzed some of this material on these pages http://www.users.on.net/~pmoran/cancer/Alternative_studies.htm

    and
    http://www.users.on.net/~pmoran/cancer/Gerson.htm

    Peter Moran

  12. David Gorski says:

    Peter,

    Thanks for the links. I should have referenced them, as I now do recall having seen them and read them before…

  13. DogLady says:

    Of worrisome note, those two natural websites you linked to above, Natural News and Whale.to, are currently comparing the Nazi medical experiments with the entire experimental process used by pharmaceutical companies to develop all of our science-based medicines. The comparison on Natural News goes far beyond just accusations of ‘Nazi-like’ suppression, to attempts to skewer the entire research process (and misrepresenting it in the process).

  14. David Gorski says:

    Yeah, that’s Mike Adams. To him, science-based medicine and entire regulatory apparatus are just like Nazi Germany.

  15. Digital Dreamer says:

    The thing that gets me is all you have to do is take a step back, look and the broader perspective, and ask yourself: what has medical science, with the billions of dollars that is pumped into it every year, ever really done to prevent or cure chronic diseases such as cancer or aids? Very little I might add. People are still sick; and people are still dying of diseases that needn’t be a death sentence.

    Sure there have been 1000’s of research papers handed in by numerous ‘so called’ experts in the field, and a plethora of chemical drugs synthesised. But what has come of it all?
    I’m certainly no expert in either science or medicine, but it’s very clear to me that medical science and the corporate interests that sponsor it have a vested interest in keeping people sick, suppressing the symptoms of disease and not treating the cause. The industry itself is run by an elite group of self serving, unscrupulous, unethical businessmen, whose interests lie not in improving health, but improving wealth for its shares holders.

    Medical science and science as a whole have a lot to answer for. The human body simply can’t cope with the levels of toxicity it is subjected to, especially in the western industrialised nations. Our lifestyle is toxic! Everything is pumped full of artificial chemicals these days. It’s no wonder people are getting sick. One thing science fails to recognise is the synergistic effect that all these chemicals have on the body in the long term.

    And to make matters worse, the majority of people are overweight, yet undernourished because they’re filling their faces with nutrient deficient, genetically modified, artificially enhanced, processed Frankenstein creations. These substances don’t even warrant the label ‘food’. Compiled with this you also have the numerous toxic substances that are added to the water supply; to the air through pollution; the toxins that are absorbed through the skin in personal care products – the list goes on and on.

    The western lifestyle is the plague of civilisation, and no amount of toxic medicine based on bad science is ever going to resolve the problem.

    It’s interesting when you compare the health of people from less developed cultures to our own, and see that the incidence rate of a lot of the chronic diseases that are all too common in west – such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc, are practically unheard of. Why? I’d say it’s because they live a simple and natural life in accordance with the natural laws. They get plenty of sunlight, fresh water and exercise. They live a more balanced life. Their bodies are not assaulted 24/7 by toxic chemicals. Even more interesting perhaps is what happens to these cultures when they adopt the western lifestyle and disregard their own: they get sick! They start to develop the very same diseases that I’ve just mentioned.

    Coincidence? I don’t think so. You only have to try dropping the western toxic lifestyle yourself to see the health benefits that quickly follow.

    We are an aspect of this eco system just like all the other animals and plants we share it with. Nature seems to get along just fine on its own – aside from domestic and farm animals (those with human contact); they are just as diseased as us. Funny that. Those in the wild have a very low incidence of disease. Yet we humans with all our ‘so called’ science and technological knowhow are riddled with sickness.

    The meddling and experimentation of those who know little of the things they touch, who arrogantly presume they know better than the creative force that brought everything into being, should take a leaf out of nature’s book, and see that the secret to a healthy life is not medicine or science, but balance.

    We have everything we need to not only survive, but to be healthy and full of vitality all around us. Yet we ‘choose’ this sorry mess we’ve created.

    Food is medicine. And until we realise this and stop poisoning ourselves with the latest greatest toxic product endorsed by bad ‘scientists’; we will continue to slip down a slippery slope as a species.

    Medical science… (sighs)

    “There are none so blind as those that choose not to see”

  16. Harriet Hall says:

    Digital Dreamer said,

    I’m certainly no expert in either science or medicine

    It shows.

  17. David Gorski says:

    Harriet beat me to the snarky response.

    What I find more fascinating about Digital Dreamer’s response is this:

    It’s interesting when you compare the health of people from less developed cultures to our own, and see that the incidence rate of a lot of the chronic diseases that are all too common in west – such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc, are practically unheard of. Why? I’d say it’s because they live a simple and natural life in accordance with the natural laws. They get plenty of sunlight, fresh water and exercise. They live a more balanced life. Their bodies are not assaulted 24/7 by toxic chemicals. Even more interesting perhaps is what happens to these cultures when they adopt the western lifestyle and disregard their own: they get sick! They start to develop the very same diseases that I’ve just mentioned.

    Coincidence? I don’t think so. You only have to try dropping the western toxic lifestyle yourself to see the health benefits that quickly follow.

    This is, in essence, the fallacy of the “primitive Eden,” as I like to call it; i.e., the concept that living a more primitive existence is “closer to Godliness” and much better for one’s health than a modern one. Another name for it is the naturalistic fallacy; i.e., that being more “natural” and “close to nature” is always better.

    The only grain of truth in the fallacy is that a lot more exercise and a lot less fatty food would do many of us modern slugs a world of good. However, one part of the myth of primitive health that is always forgotten is that the reason people living in the bush, jungle, or on the plains didn’t see a lot of cancer, heart disease, or a lot of the chronic health problems that plague us now is because they didn’t live long enough. They were too busy dying of infectious diseases in childhood or at young ages because there were no vaccines, antibiotics, or adequate sanitation. They also died of trauma suffered during hunts or wars or during childbirth due to complications that we can now prevent or treat. Moreover, those who did have health problems starting at a young age tended not to live long enough for their health problems to become chronic.

  18. pmoran says:

    Anyone can theorise in their armchair, but eventually all ideas get to be tested against the facts. So Digital Dreamer, you have impugned OUR motives and OUR intelligence; let’s find out what YOU really know. Explain to us precisely which diseases you mean with “people are still dying of diseases that needn’t be a death sentence”.

    All we are asking for here is that those with such cla

  19. pmoran says:

    Sorry, misfire

    Anyone can theorise in their armchair, but eventually all ideas get to be tested against the facts. So Digital Dreamer, you have impugned OUR motives and OUR intelligence; let’s find out what YOU really know. Explain to us precisely which diseases you mean with “people are still dying of diseases that needn’t be a death sentence”.

    All we are asking for here is that those with such claims back them up with evidence.

    PM

  20. wertys says:

    Funny that DigitalDreamer should mention ‘slippery slopes’ at the end of a post which was replete with logical fallacies.

    Coincidence ? I think not.

  21. Digital Dreamer says:

    Oh you are a smug lot aren’t you lol

  22. Digital Dreamer says:

    OK, judging by the tone here, the cheap shot is to be expected.

    I’ll be honest and state that I’m in over my head here a little. I’m not a doctor or a scientist; I’m just somebody who is interested in health and has become very disillusioned by the food and drug industries. So that being said, my opinions are not professional, they are personal. Let me make that clear. If that is reason to try and make me look stupid, then be that as it will. It speaks volumes about your character.

    My original post was in response to the contemptuous and downright scornful attitude expressed towards natural / alternative health. Just because something hasn’t be proved by scientific investigation to be true doesn’t necessarily make it untrue. It just means that science either doesn’t hold the answer yet, or somebody has a vested interest in the information being swept under the carpet.

    You look down on people as if they are doing something terribly wrong. They are not. They, like me, are just not happy with the way things are and are looking at alternatives. Is that such a crime? Modern medicine through side effects and complications often makes people sick. This is a Fact. The number of people that die every year through Iatrogenic Deaths is shocking! And I would be willing to bet money that the figures given are just the tip of the iceberg. After all, what doctor in such a prestigious position would like admit to his / her peers that they made a mistake? Heaven forbid!

    Actually,on second thoughts, I don’t the time or energy to get into a debate here. What would be the point? We obviously see things very differently. And that is all there is to it. I have nothing to prove to anyone.

    No personal offense intended.

  23. gwsmith says:

    Hi Everyone.

    The truth is the truth whatever that may be. But many well educated people throughout history have had their “thoroughly accepted” theories/models debased (i.e. the sun revolves around a flat earth)… so being arrogant, derogatory, egotistical about your opinion seems foolish whatever your view may be….regardless of your academic and professional credentials…b/c even top professors from top universities argue about their opinions right?

    The rampant public arrogance (observed throughout this blog) would seem to impede upon the progress of science, as one’s hurt ego would be very reluctant to accept anything that it (one’s inflated ego), once misinterpreted as ludicrous, at the risk of looking foolish to others if legitimately proven wrong about any particular phenomenon.

    It might very well be that some of the professionals responsible for the Gerson documentary might be guilty of scientific negligence in trying to convey their point about the heavy load of modern industrial toxicity on the human body… but this does not fully discredit their claim that their protocol has shown some very positive effects. I think every branch of “legitimate” science (allopathic medicine included) has been guilty of errors throughout history… so does this make science and medicine as a whole just a load of garbage?

    But about the Gerson situation, this filmmaker ( in the youtube embedded below– if it lets me embed– if not here’s the link — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10Xq2TUhFnw —–) interviews a group of allopathic doctors in Japan who were once skeptical until it worked for one of them too (and many of their patients apparently). (it’s near the end of the video) Maybe someone here want’s to fly to Japan themselves to see if this is true?

    carpedm wrote:

    “My friend ingests 15 16 oz glasses of juice and gives himself two coffee enemas per day. He eats very little solid food and has lost a lot of weight.”

    Whether the Gerson protocol works or not, if what you stated was indeed correct, your friend is following the protocol incorrectly as that is more juice than you’re generally supposed to have and there is plenty of solid food that he should be eating (including certain supplements that they consider very important especially when dealing with enemas). There is also a significantly modified protocol for people undergoing Chemotherapy.

    If the Gerson protocol does indeed prove to be scientifically valid, I’d hope that allopathic medical professionals like some of you would be open to it rather than just make egotistical remarks comparing it to primitivity and religion.

    And about religion, though many throughout history have poorly interpreted (or misrepresented) some aspects religion (and some forms of philosophy), some highly regarded professionals in the scientific arena (i.e. E.A. Rauscher) are apparently starting to understand it for what it really has to legitimately contribute to humanity. (Don’t get me wrong, lunacy in religion is a very real factor also), Please read the information in the link below (including the research papers and the credentials of E.A. Rauscher). What is being discovered in advanced physics clearly has fundamental implications on our understanding of the true nature of reality including biological mechanisms.

    http://www.theresonanceproject.org/research.html

    And with all due respect, please keep your egotistical remarks to yourselves until you’ve fully analyzed and publicly debunked the work of the researchers in the above link. And if they turn out to be wrong, well, then they’re wrong!?….Many researchers throughout history have been wrong at times, so what? You admit it and move on. I don’t make personal remarks about the highly regarded physicists who’s paradigms are currently being shattered or revised by these researchers and i never called anyone here a closed minded tool of hierarchical, bureaucratic, ego driven academia so no need to call me quack/ lunatic/ or whatever you can concoct in your minds.

    Quackery clearly exists all over the place and it is what it is, but the illusive side of reality can also seem like quackery, especially when it’s propagated by the poorly educated in an uneducated kind of way.

    But sincerely, thank you for your guys’ contributions to medicine, we need all that we can get. And we know that it’s a lot of hard work and you don’t want it to be mixed with quack bullshit. Your work is greatly appreciated (by me at least)

    Cheers :)

    P.S. Humility is severely underrated in our society…don’t people see that it can at least prevent humiliation in worst case scenarios?

  24. David Gorski says:

    My original post was in response to the contemptuous and downright scornful attitude expressed towards natural / alternative health. Just because something hasn’t be proved by scientific investigation to be true doesn’t necessarily make it untrue. It just means that science either doesn’t hold the answer yet, or somebody has a vested interest in the information being swept under the carpet.

    It might mean that science doesn’t hold the answer yet, or it might mean that it’s a load of bollocks. The difference is that the scientist does not assume that it does work without some evidence that it works. You assume that it works and then dismiss the science that shows it doesn’t, relying instead on the unreliable: personal belief and anecdote. The scientist is open to the possibility that it might work and will change his mind if evidence and science warrant. You, on the other hand, appear closed to the possibility that it doesn’t work, and no amount of evidence will change your mind.

    Actually,on second thoughts, I don’t the time or energy to get into a debate here. What would be the point? We obviously see things very differently. And that is all there is to it. I have nothing to prove to anyone.

    Digital Dreamer brings to mind The Ballad of Brave Sir Robin (the last 30 seconds or so).

  25. wertys says:

    Sorry Digital Dreamer but I cannot allow you to try to say its nothing personal. Many of the readers and posters here are health professionals, and you had better believe that we take our work very seriously indeed. We take it so seriously that we use our leisure time to educate enthusiastic amateurs like youself about what it means to take healthcare seriously.

    You make completely unsubstaniated claims that apart from being ignorant (which can be perfectly excusable) are deliberately offensive to those of us who spend hours on committees (often for no pay) which look at systematic quality improvement in healthcare. Personally I’d rather be at the dentist getting my root canals done than sitting through these meetings, but I and many others do it because we care enough to take this seriously. Unlike people like yourself who claim to be shocked and dismayed by the state of the healthcare system, we have the courage and integrity to bring our mistakes into the public arena and hold them up for review. For you information doctors, nurses and other health professionals routinely hold review meetings to examine their errors and lapses, and they have the nerve to hold themselves up to scrutiny because they believe that it may prevent similar mistakes happening to other patients. What SCAM modality does this ? What other profession apart from the aviation industry does this ?

    Deciding that “there must be an alternative’ to medicine is a bit like deciding that because of the number of car crashes, it would be better to go back to horse and buggy. What is needed is committed professionals to make the system safer and smarter, and even more effective, and to do this in a way which maintains the compassion and humanism which defiones high quality healthcare. What is not needed is to seek refuge in delusions of supposedly effective and non-toxic ‘therapies’ which would have to violate the known laws of the universe to be effective.

    So I’m afraid that before you post an inflammatory rant like you did, you should have tried reading some of the back posts which would give you an idea of what sort of people read these posts. The editors in particular have boundless patience and energy it seems, to explain and educate enthusiastic lay people who value rationality and science in their health care delivery. What is never appreciated is poorly-informed and unsubstantiated ravings about the ‘great medical conspiracy’ that you appear to perceive.

  26. pmoran says:

    Digital Dreamer, my main interst is cancer q

  27. pmoran says:

    Damn — I wish this editor wasn’t so sensitive to my clumsy fingers.

    Weing is right. It is unfair to insult us and then slink off without being prepared to explain precisely where we have gotten things wrong and how you know this. That is what normal rational discourse involves, but you prefer to think of medicine as a vague, comfortable abstraction that you can dream nice dreams about. Medicine is actually about a lot of quite nasty and quite difficult practical challenges, and has to deal with hurdles such as that most of the population won’t follow the dietary and lifestyle advice that we have been pushing for years.

    I have spent days and days looking at the claims of Gerson and others and challenging all and sundry to produce for me cases where establsiehd cancer has been cured by alternative methods and alternative methods alone. This is what our patients want to know about and I am sure they do not regard it as subject to any kind of “seeing things differently”.

  28. Joe says:

    Digital Dreamer on 25 Nov 2008 at 3:27 pm Asked “… what has medical science, with the billions of dollars that is pumped into it every year, ever really done to prevent or cure chronic diseases such as cancer or aids?”

    Prevention of AIDS? I hope you have been taught safe sex practices. Prevention of cancer- have you heard that tobacco causes cancer? Hodgkins lymphoma, which was simply fatal in the 1960s, is now curable.

    Now, I ask you- who was responsible for these advances? I’ll give you some hints: it wasn’t chiropractors, naturopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists, etc. They have not contributed anything to disease prevention or treatment. In fact, unlike the medical professionals who try to identify and prevent mistakes, the quack community seeks to hide their mistakes.

  29. Digital Dreamer says:

    “So I’m afraid that before you post an inflammatory rant like you did, you should have tried reading some of the back posts which would give you an idea of what sort of people read these posts.”

    Fair comment. I should have taken more time to evaluate what kind of people might receive my post. Truth be told, I only found this website through looking for the movie “The beautiful lie”.
    And I would have simply passed on by if it wasn’t for the arrogant, derogatory and extremely egotistical attitude expressed by the author. It offended me, as I’m sure it would many who value their health and seek to better it through natural means.

    So I didn’t come here looking for a debate or to prove anything. Once I realised how much of a stir I created and how many people were clearly offended by my views, I decided there was little need to aggravate the situation further.

    I don’t doubt for a second that there are many dedicated people working for the greater good. It is these people I don’t want to offend. It is the system as a whole and how it operates that I have issue with.

    David Gorski, in your post you stated:

    “It might mean that science doesn’t hold the answer yet, or it might mean that it’s a load of bollocks. The difference is that the scientist does not assume that it does work without some evidence that it works. You assume that it works and then dismiss the science that shows it doesn’t, relying instead on the unreliable: personal belief and anecdote. The scientist is open to the possibility that it might work and will change his mind if evidence and science warrant. You, on the other hand, appear closed to the possibility that it doesn’t work, and no amount of evidence will change your mind.”

    I completely disagree. We are surrounded by evidence that health through natural means is effective; nature stands as testament to this. There is nothing presumptuous in the knowing that living in alignment with the natural order of the planet is always going to be more favorable than going against it and living by artificial means. I’m not closed to any possibility; and I’m not bound by a rigid system of beliefs like some. I’ve chose the natural path, as I’ve already said, because I’ve lost faith in the orthodox medical institutions. I have personally suffered quite badly through the side effects of modern medicine, so I think I have good reason to feel the way I do. The day I see that the natural progression of life is wrong and ineffective then I will revaluate my current stance.

    Your last comment pretty much sums up the derogatory attitude I speak of.

    “Digital Dreamer brings to mind The Ballad of Brave Sir Robin (the last 30 seconds or so).”

    Yet another cheap shot. It was quite funny though!  lol

    Wertys, in your post you stated:

    “Unlike people like yourself who claim to be shocked and dismayed by the state of the healthcare system, we have the courage and integrity to bring our mistakes into the public arena and hold them up for review. For you information doctors, nurses and other health professionals routinely hold review meetings to examine their errors and lapses, and they have the nerve to hold themselves up to scrutiny because they believe that it may prevent similar mistakes happening to other patients. What SCAM modality does this ? What other profession apart from the aviation industry does this ?”

    You have missed my point. I was not referring to the review procedure; I was referring to the sheer number of people that become ill or die through bad practice of western medicine.
    Whoever died of an over dose of wholesome fruit, vegetables, exercise, fresh air and sunshine? All of these things strengthen the body’s own inbuilt defence mechanism – our only true line of defence against sickness, unlike unnatural chemicals that the body can’t process.

    Have a look at the statistics yourself:
    http://tabacco.blogcity.com/iatrogenic_deaths_americas_dark_secret__leading_cause_of_dea.htm

    You then go on to say:

    “Deciding that “there must be an alternative’ to medicine is a bit like deciding that because of the number of car crashes, it would be better to go back to horse and buggy. What is needed is committed professionals to make the system safer and smarter, and even more effective, and to do this in a way which maintains the compassion and humanism which defiones high quality healthcare.”

    My decision to look at health alternatives was not an arbitrary decision; it is based on personal experience of poor medical practice, and much research. Besides, the best thing about alternative medicine is that unlike orthodox medicine, the emphasis is on preventative maintenance of one’s own health. What Hippocrates called “La medicratix naturea”; supporting our bodies natural and amazing ability to heal itself by removing obstacles that have got in the way of health.

    “Those who do not learn by the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them” is an old proverb, and the fact that “history repeats itself” demonstrates that most of the time the mistakes of the past receive only temporary notice and are repeated over and over. Nothing is different today and many of today’s crop of mistakes are common knowledge, more of a nuisance than a danger. But what is not common knowledge, not even in the ranks of our “better informed” citizens, is that, woven into our traditional day to day lifestyle, there are dangerous errors that are responsible for most of the current health problems in the world and for their ever-increasing severity. These errors, which are gradually becoming more evident, are the result of human over-confidence and gross ignorance of the fundamental laws of Nature. The ignorance has persisted so long because, obsessed with our fancied superiority of science and technology, we tend to disregard the simple as being beneath notice. It’s as simple as that.

    People who are never sick and who live long are not lucky–they, knowingly or unknowingly, have merely followed habits of life in accord with Nature’s simple guidelines. Their good health is not a reward; it is a consequence–natural and predictable.” – Ross Horn, Health & Survival in the 21 century.

    http://www.soilandhealth.org/02/0201hyglibcat/020122horne.21stcentury/020122toc.html

    Then you say:

    “What is not needed is to seek refuge in delusions of supposedly effective and non-toxic ‘therapies’ which would have to violate the known laws of the universe to be effective.”
    What laws would these be exactly; please elaborate?

    When all is said and done, if you were to weigh up all the pros and cons of orthodox medicine versus alternative, overall which has the biggest negative impact on health?

    That’s a rhetorical question.

  30. Digital Dreamer says:

    One of the links I posted doesn’t appear to work.

    Here it is again:

    http://tabacco.blog-city.com/iatrogenic_deaths_americas_dark_secret__leading_cause_of_dea.htm

  31. Digital Dreamer says:

    Joe, you stated:

    “Prevention of AIDS? I hope you have been taught safe sex practices.”

    I assume this is your idea of a joke. I afraid I don’t think it very funny.

    Please show me the evidence valid evidence that a virus passed on through sexual transmission, namely HIV, actually causes AIDS.

  32. David Gorski says:

    I completely disagree. We are surrounded by evidence that health through natural means is effective; nature stands as testament to this.

    Cite your evidence, then. Vague statements about how we are “surrounded by evidence” are not persuasive to anyone with a scientific background. Specific evidence might be, but it had better be strong.

    “What is not needed is to seek refuge in delusions of supposedly effective and non-toxic ‘therapies’ which would have to violate the known laws of the universe to be effective.”
    What laws would these be exactly; please elaborate?

    Oh, please. Homeopathy violates many of the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and pharmacology. To start out with, a 30C homeopathic remedy contains on average not a single molecule of the original remedy. Indeed, we have a whole section of this blog devoted to discussions that touch on homeopathy.

  33. Fifi says:

    As someone who has nursed close friends as they died from complications from AIDS, I really resent propagandists exploiting AIDS to promote their commercial ventures and turn a quick buck (such as this advertisement for Gerson masquerading as a documentary).

    Digital Dreams, your abusive and exploitive use of AIDS and the suffering of others for propagandistic commericial ends and to turn a profit is duly noted.

  34. Digital Dreamer says:

    “As someone who has nursed close friends as they died from complications from AIDS, I really resent propagandists exploiting AIDS to promote their commercial ventures and turn a quick buck (such as this advertisement for Gerson masquerading as a documentary).

    Digital Dreams, your abusive and exploitive use of AIDS and the suffering of others for propagandistic commericial ends and to turn a profit is duly noted.”

    What are you going on about Fifi? I have no affiliation with the film of any sort. I haven’t even seen it for goodness sake! YOu are way off the mark here. And if stating my personal opinion is to be seen as propaganda, then yes, I’m guilty as charged.

    Whatever happened to open discussion and freedom of speech?
    And besides, I don’t see how I’m exploiting AIDS or anything else for that matter. I’m just not convinced by the available evidence that I’ve reviewed. I think I stated a fair question in response to somebody else’s criticism; which I note that no valid explanation has been offered.

    So please don’t try and take some high and mighty moral high ground just because I question the dogma of modern medicine.

  35. Digital Dreamer says:

    “What is not needed is to seek refuge in delusions of supposedly effective and non-toxic ‘therapies’ which would have to violate the known laws of the universe to be effective.

    Oh, please. Homeopathy violates many of the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and pharmacology. To start out with, a 30C homeopathic remedy contains on average not a single molecule of the original remedy. Indeed, we have a whole section of this blog devoted to discussions that touch on homeopathy.”

    The laws of the universe never change; our understanding of them does. History attests to this fact. As someone else has already stated; it wasn’t so long ago that the dogma of science theorised that the world must be flat. Evidently this is completely wrong.

    Our understanding of the known universe, seen and unseen, and the forces that operate within it, is nothing more than work in progress. And anyone who thinks otherwise is ignorant to the facts. The dogmatic world view set down by our forefathers, i.e. the Newtonian principles which view all phenomena in the universe as being mechanistic and determinable, is today being shown to be incompatible with new discoveries at the cutting edge of physics.

    All I’m saying is that if something violates the “so called” accepted laws of the universe, then maybe, just maybe, we are missing a bit of the picture through our lack understanding into the nature of reality at a fundamental level.

  36. HCN says:

    I see that someone has not been keeping up with the news:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE4AO8P920081125 … “Cancer rates have dropped for the first time in the United States and previous declines in cancer deaths are accelerating, a report released on Tuesday showed as cancer-fighting efforts produced solid results.”

  37. Fifi says:

    Please don’t try to claim you’re some high and moral neutral ground when you’re clearly exploiting AIDS and the suffering of others.

  38. Fifi says:

    The impact of AIDS denialists on the South African governments policy towards AIDS and the deadly cost of their approach which was hostile to medicine and friendly SCAM style treatments…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/26/world/africa/26aids.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

  39. Harriet Hall says:

    Digital Dreamer,

    Isn’t it presumptuous of you to admit you are not a scientist, to come into a blog without understanding its purpose or knowing what has gone before, and to think your opinions outweigh all of ours? Especially when you don’t produce any acceptable evidence to support your opinions?

    You have made a number of statements that have already been refuted on this blog. You are under a number of misconceptions and there is much you don’t understand about the scientific method. I would urge you to go back through our archives and read all the posts before you make any more uninformed comments.

  40. Digital Dreamer says:

    “Please don’t try to claim you’re some high and moral neutral ground when you’re clearly exploiting AIDS and the suffering of others.”

    I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous. All I did was ask a simple question in response to criticism voiced against me. It really doesn’t matter what I say, if it’s against the official orthodox view, then I must be attacked. Attack him!! He’s believes something different to us!! Shut him up!!

    Please… you are starting worry me now; you’re coming across like a religious fundamentalist or something.

    Free free to answer my original question thought if you like? Evidence…

  41. Digital Dreamer says:

    Sorry, typo on that last line. It should read:

    Please feel free to answer my original question if you like?

  42. David Gorski says:

    All I’m saying is that if something violates the “so called” accepted laws of the universe, then maybe, just maybe, we are missing a bit of the picture through our lack understanding into the nature of reality at a fundamental level.

    One notes that Digital Dreamer has not produced a single piece of evidence refuting my contention that homeopathy violates several well-established physical laws or that it represents anything more than a mixture of water, shaking, and wishful thinking.

  43. David Gorski says:

    Please… you are starting worry me now; you’re coming across like a religious fundamentalist or something.

    Unfortunately, you’ve come across as a religious or ideological fundamentalist from your very first comment on this thread.

  44. Digital Dreamer says:

    “Isn’t it presumptuous of you to admit you are not a scientist, to come into a blog without understanding its purpose or knowing what has gone before, and to think your opinions outweigh all of ours? Especially when you don’t produce any acceptable evidence to support your opinions?

    You have made a number of statements that have already been refuted on this blog. You are under a number of misconceptions and there is much you don’t understand about the scientific method. I would urge you to go back through our archives and read all the posts before you make any more uninformed comments.”

    I’m just presenting an alternative view point Harriet. I may not be qualified to hold an opinion in the eyes of many people here, but there you have it.

    It really is very sad to see grown adults, professionals at that, reducing themselves to such vindictive and childish means of attack. It seems to be a crime to think different these days.

    I’m not going to waste any more time with this thread.

    Good will to all

  45. Fifi says:

    Your “good will” means nothing in the face of all the deaths and suffering caused by people spreading disinformation about AIDS as a means to promote SCAM and supplements for personal profit.

  46. Peter Lipson says:

    DD, a list of links to cranks isn’t “evidence”. Jeez.

    I’ll never understand why some people are so arrogant that they think that they have somehow found some simple secret that all the smart folks who do real work on a problem somehow have missed.

    The arrogance if ignorance is a sad an dangerous phenomenon.

  47. Mark Crislip says:

    My medical career in infectious diseases roughly started with the HIV epidemic and has been a major part of my professional life.
    I have seen patients go from a 9 month life expectancy to an almost normal life expectancy by knowing and understanding the following:

    go to pubmed.com

    enter HIV as your search criteria

    there are 192,272 articles as of 11/26 at 11:30 am pst.

    i have read thousands of them over the last 25 years.

    that’s evidence.

  48. David Gorski says:

    http://www.virusmyth.com/aids/hiv/pddrdrugaids.htm
    Here is your evidence.

    I didn’t bother to look at your other “references,” but citing the Virus Myth website is about the same as citing Whale.to. The material on Virus Myth is so full of crankery and pseudoscience, that you find it a credible source tells me that you have no clue about medicine or science.

    Peter has you nailed perfectly: The arrogance of ignorance.

    I wonder, Digital Dreamer, you wouldn’t happen to have had anything to do with the production of The Beautiful Truth, would you? You appear to have the perfect mindset to have produced this movie.

  49. Karl Withakay says:

    I honestly didn’t think he could say anything more to lower my opinion of him any further until he wrote this:

    “Please show me the evidence valid evidence that a virus passed on through sexual transmission, namely HIV, actually causes AIDS.”

    I mean, that’s some SERIOUS, off the wall crackpottedness there.

    I did like it when he posted:
    >>>
    “I’m not going to waste any more time with this thread.

    Good will to all”

    And then made one more post.

  50. Karl Withakay says:

    By the way, who left out the troll food? I think that was some of the high quality Purina Troll food! (Feeding the trolls/ watching the trolls get fed can be really entertaining, it’s hard to resist.)

  51. David Gorski says:

    I’m actually rather disappointed that I didn’t get Steve Kroschel’s attention by linking to The Beautiful Truth website and blog. :-(

    Maybe I’ll e-mail him a link to this post. :-)

  52. Peter Lipson says:

    Just remember, Carl Karl, when someone on the internet is “leaving and never coming back” you can only be guaranteed of one thing…

  53. dcardani says:

    Sorry – I realize this was posted months ago. I was searching for info on a documentary on Gerson quackery that I recently noticed on the iTunes store, called “The Gerson Miracle.” It appears to be a different movie from the one reviewed here, as “The Beautiful Truth” is also now available on the iTunes store. I’d be really interested to know who’s funding all these movies about this nonsense? Were you aware of the newer movie?

  54. David Gorski says:

    No, I was not. I wouldn’t mind actually seeing The Beautiful Truth, but I’m unwilling to see any of my money go to its producers. Sort of the same reason I refused to go and see Expelled! or rent it now that it’s out on DVD.

  55. dcardani says:

    It turns out that both of those (“The Beautiful Truth” and “The Gerson Miracle”) were directed by the same person, and there’s a 3rd movie he directed (also available on iTunes) called “Dying To Have Known,” also about the Gerson treatment. It’s obviously a very concerted effort on someone’s part to produce these things. I also notice that “Dr. Wallace Sampson” is listed as being an actor in 2 of the 3 movies. Is this the same Wallace Sampson who writes on this blog? If so, did he know he was being interviewed for these movies? Here are the links if you’re interested:

    http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewMovie?id=306518314&s=143441

    http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewMovie?id=299559262&s=143441

  56. emilee says:

    Hi,
    I’m not a doctor, I’m a 26 year old female just searching for answers aboutmy health. I’m intrigued by the number of doctors
    on this blog. I’m still confused about the evidence side of the Gerson therapy. I’m pretty unbiased. I try to look for the positive to both sides of the fence. I don’t want to upset anyone, I just appreciate the time of highly educated doctors. I’m having a hard time with attempting to try more doctors visits. I have health problems that the doctors I’ve seen haven’t been able to help me with thus far. I came across the Gerson therapy and as you know, it claims to be effective in curing deppression and chronic fatigue. I believe I suffer from both of these. Can someone give me some recources to convince me why I should disreguard The therapy? I’m frusterated because the concepts in the books by charolette Gerson I read made so much sense and just eating organic raw fruits and a glass of veggie juice has been helping me a lot but everyone here seems to be angry about the methods. Are you mainly upset about the claims to cure Cancer or do you think I might be helped by using some of the methods and concepts from the books ? Thanks for your time…

  57. Joe says:

    Emily,

    The best source on the web, for starters, is http://www.quackwatch.org Also, http://www.skepdic.com covers a lot of medical topics. I heartily recommend Rose Shapiro’s book “Suckers.”

    Ms. Gerson is rich because she is a great salesperson. She is not constrained by facts, so she can tell a good story. That is why it is not enough to read her books and decide they make a reasonable case.

  58. Wallace Sampson says:

    Dcardini and emilee:

    Funny thing happened. A few months back either David G or someone called my attention to A Beautiful Truth plus another movie – trailers on You Tube. When I watched the “Truth” trailer I could not recall being filmed, or even identify where the scene took place. I did not recognize the house across the street where we walked – the fence had been painted and some shrubbery removed since then. (The segment on the “Dying to have Known” is longer and shows my home and dog.) I had to email Steve Barrett who reminded me about Steve Kroschel’s visits 2-3 years before, although he also did not have strong memory of the interview.
    I slowly began to recall. Kroschel had called for an interview saying he had previously made a movie about Gerson but felt he should make another one more critical. He pitched himself as having been misled in making the first one. He spoke and asked as though he was being critical of Gerson. After he left I did not think about it again. As an aside, I was having pain from hip arthritis at the time and had difficulty walking. I am amused that I also appeared so dour Also happy that the pain resolved (without any treatment at all.) But truly, I usually become unhappy and crabby when I discuss these problems.
    When I viewed the “Truth” trailer it was evident the film was a push piece and as my memory re-formed, I concluded I had been had.
    The film had been edited – a lot. I said more things than shown, and probably so had Steve and Dean. (who also had not recalled Kroschel when I emailed him.)
    Kroschel did not mention to me he was also interviewing Barrett and Edell. Want to ask yourselves why?
    The lesson for dcardini, for Emilee, and for us here is that we have been shown an edited propaganda film made by a probable contract advertiser, likely financed by the Gerson Clinic itself or a support organization, who presented false or incomplete credentials and misrepresented his approach.
    This is even more important: We do not know the whole stories of any of the patients. Have you asked yourselves why the patient testimonials were filmed and the records “shown” to the camera, but were not shown to us, the critical docs, and why our opinions were not requested?
    Kroschel made no reference to any specific case to me, although he already knew of cases, used in the prior film. Wonder why?
    The trailers present the sequences of us first and then the interviews, making it seem that the cases are evidence in opposition to our statements. The order should have been reversed. That would have required record viewing.
    Moreover, the film does not mention what if any, other standard treatments the patients had received. So I reviewed the trailer again for statements of other treatments or denial of them.
    Kroschel selects two cases “at random.” I do not believe that. If the clinic had so many successes, they could have written them up and presented the report to a scientific forum or journal like the rest of us do. They have not done so. Those were probably setup – selected cases. Selected from a group of 100? Out of thousands of people who have gone there, dating to before WW II?
    Second, Gerson Clinic is not a primary care institution – people go there for a few weeks at most, return home and records there are not complete. They often do not know what other treatments the people get. Now for the two patients shown .
    The first woman with melanoma. The diagnosis was apparently confirmed by biopsy. Good. But melanoma is one of the 4-5 most common tumors that regress “spontaneously“. This single episode is credible, but cannot be used as a proof of Gerson effectiveness.
    The second, a man with testis cancer, referred to receiving chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is 90 percent effective in producing complete remissions, and about 80 percent of those are considered cures. As for the doc’s surprise, I also usually showed surprise and enthusiasm when a person had a good response. People often considered their responses as “miraculous” or a least special – an assumption I did not discourage.
    The third, the Japanese professor, relates an ultrasound as the evidence for the colon cancer metastases. In absence of a biopsy proof, we do not know what the ultrasound finding really was.
    So I cannot believe that all three had the respective cancers and had complete responses to the diet and coffee enemas. I do not know what evidence was withheld. And why was the third film made or recreated out of material made for the second one? Were the cases collected since the “Beautiful Truth” film ws made? Then why not call us back to review the cases? Kroschel considers 3 principles for validity- replication, confirmation, and publication – some sort of journalistic scale of things. The viewers are assumed to accept them as proof. They are not those of science.

  59. pi3141 says:

    Always interested to read a serious article about this subject from some one actually involved in the field. I watched a documentary in Britain about Apricot Kernels and vitamin B17 for curing cancer and towards the end of the video, the consultant who had been dealing with the case portrayed in the documentary stated that he “couldn’t imagine how eating something like B17 could possibly find its way to a cancer cell and then kill it while not harming other cells” or something similar and I imeadiately realised – here is a man whose job is to give people the best medicine available and sometimes inform them of imminent death and he obviously had never read a single thing about alternative therapies for cancer! Then I thought, wow if that was my job then I would be absolutely sure I had read EVERYTHING I could and investigated it before I told people there was nothing else I could do. Just so I could give people informed advice and explain exactly why it wouldn’t work. I would see that as my duty considering the gravity of the situation.

    So, obviously you have done the research into alternative cancer therapies – haven’t you?

    Also, I thought vitamin B17 been synthesied into a cancer drug called Laetrile? Which is administered to cancer patients. So does that mean laetrile does have an effect? So it follows B17 also has an effect? Otherwise why would they synthesize it? I understand Laetrile has terrible side effects, but I have also been told that when we synthesize a natural drug the DNA helix gets reversed and thats why drugs that are produced artifically have side effects. So if Laetrile is effective but not widely used because of side effects, and the bad effects are present because its synthesized and not natural – where does that leave B17? Why are we not using it – if it has some effect?

    Of course the old conspiracy theory states the reason is because you can’t patent a plant, so you can’t corner the market and make money off it! But of course that wouldn’t be true.

  60. David Gorski says:

    So, obviously you have done the research into alternative cancer therapies – haven’t you?

    Why yes I have. Rather extensively, actually.

    I understand Laetrile has terrible side effects, but I have also been told that when we synthesize a natural drug the DNA helix gets reversed and thats why drugs that are produced artifically have side effects.

    I think you’re confusing chirality with somehow reversing the DNA helix. No drugs that I’m aware of, natural or synthetic, can “reverse” the DNA double helix.

    Most natural compounds are one or the other of the two possible enantiomers (mirror-images). However, when they are synthesized synthetically, often they end up being a 50-50 mix. Sometimes the “wrong” enantiomer is ineffective. Sometimes it can have a different effect. I rather suspect that’s what you’re trying to get at, although what relevance it has to whatever point you’re trying to make escapes me.

  61. plasticcar says:

    Dear David Gorski,

    Thank you for your blog.

    Much to my consternation my father, who has pancreatic cancer has opted for the Gerson Treatment. It is sad to see a man who has always had a logical approach to life have such an illogical approach to the facts of his illness.

    It is traumatic to see the Gerson treatment in action. It is so blindingly obvious that it is dangerous. The five enemas per day, the juice overdose (the special juicer costs $2500 ) and the injections seem to me to be a threat to his life. One month into treatment and I estimate that he has spent at the very least $20 000 with Gerson.

    He has refused to read your blog or read any other negative facts offered up by the “puppets of the Pharmaceutical conspiracy” and is evangelical about the treatment .

    But I have a dilemma that perhaps you wonderful doctors might be kind enough to help me with. The Gerson Therapy has given my father hope. I think that to give false hope to a terminally ill person is to strip someone of their ability to live now and come to terms with death. However alternative medicine offers hope and gives the patient something to do. It can make them feel in control, at least for a time.

    I run the risk of alienating myself from my father and his crystal waving wife ( don’t get me started ) if I appose his treatment any more than I have.

    All I can do I just sit back at see the whole sorry tale unfold.

    What is the doctors ethical opinion of the false hope that the quacks pedal?

    Most gratefully,

    Plasticcar

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