Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Woo invades my favorite city

It’s times like this that I really wish I were back in Chicago. Actually, it’s times like any time that I wish I were back in Chicago, but this in particular brings out that feeling:

The Health Freedom Expo is invading Chicago beginning today.

Of course, whenever you hear someone advocating “health freedom,” it’s a pretty good bet that it’s an altie advocating quackery. After all, lacking data to support the efficacy of their favored treatments, alties often resort to the argument that attempts to suppress them are an attack on “health freedom.” Of course, much of the time, what is being suppressed is not health “freedom” but the freedom of altie hucksters to sell ineffective “cures” for handsome prices.

And, boy, the Health Freedom Expo doesn’t disappoint when it comes to that!

Look who’s going to be there. First off, über-quack supporter Kevin Trudeau (1, 2), will be there in all his glory. Trudeau has made quite the name for himself, when, after his conviction for credit card fraud and being banned from making infomercials because of false claims he had made, he decided to publish a book entitled Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About. Trudeau’s book has sold millions of copies duping the credulous with claims that there are cures for cancer and a variety of other serious diseases out there that “they” (meaning the government, the pharmaceutical companies, “conventional” medicine) don’t want you to know about, so that doctors, big pharma, and the government can keep ready access to your money. And now he’s back with another book, called More Natural Cures Revealed. No doubt he’ll regale attendees of the Health Freedom Expo with this sort of pitch:

The United States Federal Trade Commission censored Kevin Trudeau’s first book, Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About. That book still saved lives. Hundreds of thousands of people have reported better health and the curing of their diseases without drugs and surgery after reading it. Now, Kevin Trudeau takes on, and goes head-to-head against, governments worldwide, the international pharmaceutical medical cartels, and even the news media. He reveals for the first time never-before released secret information about his covert involvement with Big Pharma, the food industry, governments in over sixty countries, and some of the richest and most powerful families, people, and private organizations in the world. He is being called the most daring whistleblower of corporate and government corruption of all time. Risking potential criminal prosecution, Trudeau now releases the material previously censored by the U.S. Government: the specific product brand names that Trudeau believes can be used to prevent, treat, and cure disease.

The “most daring whistleblower”? More like the cleverest huckster. As for Trudeau’s previous book having “saved lives,” I almost choked on my iced tea when I read that. If anything, it’s far more likely that his book has probably kept people who mistakenly believed his claims from pursing effective conventional therapies. If anything, his book has probably cost people their lives, or, at the very least, delayed them from seeking effective treatments. I’d love to see the “evidence” Trudeau presents to show that his book has saved a single life. No doubt it will be testimonials. And, like all good alties, Trudeau wraps himself in–what else?–“health freedom” to appeal to his audience.

But that’s not all. Arch-quack Hulda Clark will be there too. She’ll even be giving a two-hour workshop on the last day of the conference. Clark, as you may recall, claims to have the “cure for all cancers,” indeed the “cure for all diseases.” You see, according to her, all cancer is caused by an intestinal fluke, and a device she invented (called the “Zapper”) will kill this fluke and thus “cure” all cancer. Here is what she said in her book entitled, yes, The Cure for All Cancers (what else?):

All cancers are alike. They are all caused by a parasite. A single parasite! It is the human intestinal fluke. And if you kill this parasite, the cancer stops immediately. The tissue becomes normal again. In order to get cancer, you must have this parasite…

This parasite typically lives in the intestine where it might do little harm, causing only colitis, Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome, or perhaps nothing at all. But if it invades a different organ, like the uterus, kidneys or liver, it does a great deal of harm. If it establishes itself in the liver, it causes cancer! It only establishes itself in the liver of some people. These people have propyl alcohol in their body. All cancer patients (100%) have both propyl alcohol and the intestinal fluke in their livers. The solvent propyl alcohol is responsible for letting the fluke establish itself in the liver. In order to get cancer, you must have both the parasite and propyl alcohol in your body.

This is all nonsense, of course. Cancer is not caused by an intestinal fluke. (Of course, Clark seems unable to explain how people living outside this fluke’s range of habitat somehow still manage to die of cancer at rates comparable to those living where the fluke is found. Those flukes apparently do get around.) Worse, Clark tells patients with advanced cancer that they need to remove their amalgam dental fillings and all teeth with root canals because these things “damage the immune system,” leading patients with advanced cancer to undergo painful and completely unnecessary dental procedures.

And, of course, wherever Hulda Clark goes, her pit bull Tim Bolen can never be far behind. Known for vicious PR campaigns aimed at discrediting those whom he becomes aware of who call it like it is and call Hulda Clark the quack that she is, he runs a site called Quackpot Watch (I refuse to link to it) and distributes a newsletter called the Millions of Health Freedom Fighters Newsletter. A few years ago, I somehow ended up on his mailing list under a different e-mail address, and let me tell you the contents of his newsletter would do Kevin Trudeau proud, accusing essentially all the “enemies” of “health freedom” of being in the pockets of big pharma. Also, this is a guy who doesn’t understand the concept of spamming (as shown by this rather amusing e-mail exchange) and has trouble giving a straight answer about where he lives.

And, looky who else is here: Karl Donsbach. As you may recall, Coretta Scott King died at the altie hospital in Tijuana run by Donsbach). He’s been involved in so many dubious health care “endeavors” that he probably surpasses Hulda Clark simply by the number and variety of them. And look at some of the titles of the talks:

Quantum Nuwati Healing
Chakra Chanting & Toning
Body Balance, Reflexology, Lymph Drainage & More
Ways You Can Help Win the 40-Year Medical Monopoly War
Parasites, Their Involvement with Cancer
Medicinal Herbs: An Answer to Cancer

And, of course, what altie conference would be complete without some antivaccination rhetoric:

Vaccinations: Bucking a State Mandated Marketplace Through Grassroots Activism

Yes, I think it would be a lot of fun to check out this “Health Freedom Expo.” Too bad I no longer live in Chicago. I could have been a mole, taking notes or recording the lectures. I could have gotten up and asked annoying skeptical questions. Although Kevin Trudeau has shown himself to be a master snake oil salesman and con man, who, given his slick, unctuous manner, would probably be very difficult to rattle with skeptical questions, I’m sure I could have caused considerable discomfort among many of the other alties there. Heck, such an experience would have provided blog fodder for weeks critically analyzing all the lectures and presentations. Who knows? Perhaps I could have even gotten into Hulda Clark’s workshop and learned how to zap those parasites and cure all cancer! I could then quit my day job doing surgery to treat cancer and, because Hulda apparently has the “cure for all cancers,” I could also either close up my lab or refocus it on a different line of research! Particularly amusing would have been the exhibition hall, which I’m guessing will be chock full of companies selling supplements, acupuncture, Reiki, crystal healing, and all manner of woo. There are dozens of booths listed on the floorplan. Maybe Don Lemmon will be there, too, preferably with his wife.

Ah, well, maybe it’s all better this way. Were I to subject myself to that level of altie woo, the effect might be the same as if I were to try to read Ann Coulter’s new book: I might blow a gasket dealing with the concentrated attacks on my critical thinking skills.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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