Monday, July 07, 2008

The danger of woo

Over at Science-Based Medicine, David Gorski recalls a chilling tale of a surgeon who encountered a woman with early-detected breast cancer. Because of the early detection, her survival rate was predicted at 93%. However, the woman refused chemotherapy in favor of "alternative" treatments. She dropped off of the radar and came back three years later to that same surgeon. The result: the tumor had progressed QUICKY, and was now at a stage that was very difficult to cure. Of course, once into woo, always into woo, she refused treatment even though her condition was degrading. And right now.... Gorski predicts that she's probably dead.

This is a reminder that the world is not yet a boom de ah dah paradise. There are still problems which science hasn't been able or hasn't been allowed to solve. And this woman is a tragic case. Yet, this is a perfect rebuttal to the claim that "alternative" medicines aren't dangerous. The claim that patients will be willing to forgo medical treatment for "alternative" treatments seems speculative and unbelievable until something like this happens. A person is "successfully" conned into believing that tea is a better cure than chemotherapy.

And there's also another unfortunate thought in this situation. That most doctors can't deal with this as House, M.D. can. Which is namely to tell unwilling patients that they're being idiots and are going to die, and treat them anyway. I'm starting to wonder how many of these cases doctors have! But anyways, doctors: You have my deepest sympathies. No one should have to deal with having to see someone basically self-destruct due to ignorance and misinformation. Hopefully... and I really do hope so... science will start to be more widely accepted in this society.

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