I'm moving this topic from Facebook because of their ridiculous privacy settings, which will permit "friends of friends" to see a thread, but not permit them to comment in that thread, and I'm interested in a wider discussion.
I originally posted a short message about my curiosity with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and how after seeing their commercial hundreds of times, I was finally motivated to go look into what they actually do. The commercials are extremely non-specific, but seem very "spiritual" in nature, and it turns out I wasn't wrong. CTC seems to be of the "throw everything including the kitchen sink at this disease" type of business, which I like, when that plumbing is cutting edge research based scientifically valid basins and knobs. However, CTC seems to pitch a "Whole Person" approach which intermingles actual medicine with whatever bronze age hokum people wish to partake in, from "Energy Therapy (Reiki)", to acupuncture, and even homeopathy. These treatments seem to be given the same footing as science, and I think that's wrong. It's deceitful and takes advantage of customers when they are at their absolute weakest and most vulnerable.
It should be said that I'm not opposed, even though I am an atheist, to people praying to whoever for help and a cure, and doing whatever they feel makes them more psychologically fit to go through radiation and chemo. If their god gives them strength to keep fighting, more power to them. I'm not ever going to try to convert someone during their fight with a hopefully-not-terminal disease.
My problems come when water and needles are given as treatments and therapies, by people who are allegedly doctors, to customers as treatments. No responsible medical or scientific institution would ever give credence to homeopathic charlatans and give their patients hope that drinking a gallon of water will cure anything. To those who say that does no harm, I disagree vehemently. The harm it does is in the act of a nominal-'physician' giving someone utterly false hope that a proven non-cure will fix their illness. Someone who is presumed by the patient to be authoritative in their field, callously dishing out nonsense to those most in need.
It seems as if the founders intentions were based in his own pain, and the feeling of his loved one being treated as a "subject" rather than as a "person". That is a definite complaint I've heard from people about their oncologists, radiotherapists and surgeons, and I would definitely agree that it will make patients feel isolated and detached from the process of their own healing. In the case of /my/ loved one, that was absolutely not the case, the doctors were as warm as they could reasonably be expected to be, and kept us well informed about everything that was happening and would happen. However, in the case of my family member, the cancer was deemed "very treatable, although also rather advanced", and in the end, was never positively identified (it's a case-study at conferences, no shit…). In the end it was decided that rather than keep taking biopsies to identify this thing, let's just go fix it, and they did.
The reason doctors must maintain a professional detachment is that if they became involved on a personal level with their patients, it would surely drive them mad with grief and out of the profession at a cheetah's pace. If you're working in a field where your subject is something so much more sinister than a broken bone or stuffy nose, and you know for a fact you're going to lose 20 to 40% of your patients regardless of your effort, it can't be healthy to be everyone's buddy. This is where the patients other support network comes in with friends and family and counselors and support groups. My mom's long, long, long term hairstylist even took her wig shopping and styled it perfectly. Those are the things that matter. I personally don't care if my doctor thinks of me as subject #627829, as long as he does his job and I do mine in fighting the disease.
Going in with that mindset, it's easy to see why CTC's founder meant to bring in all faiths and styles of healing. However, putting homeopaths into a hospital-like setting and setting them next to actual physicians is to give homeopaths a seat a table they have no business laying the place settings on, let alone sitting down at.
I chalk this up to "nice idea, horribly executed, and which now fills people with false hope, and makes what I can only imagine is a goddamn fortune doing so", based on their rabid lobbying efforts.
"Naturopathic Medicine" reads like the longest con ever, melding "ancient Chinese remedies" and "homeopathy" and "hydrotherapy" into a great big ball of falsehoods and platitudes meant to raise hopes without actually curing disease. It's crass and ridiculous.
I know people have gotten great comfort from CTC, and hear that their staff are a world apart from the doctors on the cutting edge of medical science. People are treated as humans with feelings and customers are made to feel comfortable about asking questions, taking as long as you'd like, and that you have everything explained plainly and earnestly by caring people.
Those are all laudable goals, but when the subject being explained is a ludicrous non-cure, dressed up in a lab coat, that is when it becomes wrong. It would be terrific if surgeons and oncologists had better rapport with their patients and were able to take the time out of their day to chat with them, beyond even the scope of their treatment, to become "friendly" if not "friends". We had the luck of having just such a surgeon, who even though he was probably a borderline personality himself and had a very full plate between different hospitals and teaching, took the time to stop in the hallway at a chance encounter, months after his part of the game was over, to check in and see how treatment was going and explain anything he could explain.
That is how to be an effective cancer institution, by adding the human touch to medicine, not by making false claims about complete non-medicine and getting people's hopes up in the name of making them feel better and be more comfortable.
CTCA patients also get insurance coverage for these services. Let it sink in. Your insurance company and mine, is using our premiums to pay for people's very, very expensive water from CTCA.
This is a terrible shame for CTCA's Advanced Treatment physicians, who for all I know are absolutely top of their field and riding the bleeding edge of cancer treatment technology. As a consumer I would be driven by Occam to derive a diminished opinion of these doctors, when they are listed side by side with the Supportive Therapies on their Cancer Treatments page. The thinking goes: "Any doctor who would associate themselves with acupuncture and homeopathy must therefore be as much a quack as the homeopath they associate themselves with". That too does a huge disservice to potential customers. If I had cancer, I would miss out on potentially genius oncology and radio therapy because those doctors choose to work under the same roof as homeopaths, chiropractors and acupuncturists.
My sources for treatments at CTC were taken from their site, read real doctors responses to such claims here at ScienceBasedMedicine.org.
The original FB thread and direct message which prompted me to fill this out to blog-post-size are captured below:
And the positive review from someone who had the least fortunate outcome, but appreciated CTCA's work:
I certainly don't want to give individual people the impression that I'm against them spending their money the way they want on whatever faith-based treatment they choose. I will not "go after" regular person-on-the-street folks. I do attack ideas and institutions. CTCA bills itself as medicine, and takes insurance dollars, when much of what they offer is, in the politest possible description, not medicine, but hope. Hope, and water.