Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I heard a very sad yet all too predictable story on Matt Cooper's Last Word yesterday (roughly 15 minutes into the 1 hour clip). It followed on from an Irish Times story about a GP - Dr Paschal Carmody - who was being prosecuted by the Irish Medicines Board for selling prescription only products without a licence. He has already been struck off but is still allowed to practice alternative (i.e. bogus) medicine because it remains unregulated.

However the radio interview was with a woman whose husband had cancer and who had, in desperation I believe, turned to Carmody for assistance. It's worth listening to - if only to be reminded that for every "it worked for me" story many others do die anyway. My aunt has just gotten cancer again after being in remission following a mastectomy. Unfortunately, because the cancer has returned, she too now wants to try the "alternative" route. Because no one else in my family has anything resembling a scientific background they're easily taken in by the claims and the "it worked for me" stories. Therefore I'm the one doing all the protesting and relationships are strained.

To make my point I dug out the story of Mineke Kamper, a Dutch homeopath living in Mayo who came to attention back in April at the inquest to the death of a man from treatable throat cancer. His wife said at the inquest "Mineke Kamper had repeatedly said to us that we had a choice but if we did get medical treatment [the man] would die and that she could and would cure him". Well he did die and the consultant pathologist who carried out a postmortem at the request of the south Mayo coroner told the inquest [the man's] tumour was localised and could have been removed, treated by radiotherapy or chemotherapy to provide a longer and better quality of life.

This is a bit cowardly but I'm afraid to really knock the alternative crap on the head in case the worst were to happen and emotional family members turn against me. So instead I've suggested that she sticks with *sigh* conventional medicine and does the alternative thing in tandem. I've also made her family promise not to use any quacks that suggest, as Kamper did, that medical treatment will kill my aunt. If she goes back on the chemo and takes a homeopathic remedy (i.e. a drop of water or alcohol) on the side then how bad?...
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