Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

An astoundingly inaccurate headline about the Daniel Hauser case

It’s a lovely, sunny day here, so I’ll be brief. I’ve written several posts about the case of Daniel Hauser, the 13-year-old who refused chemotherapy and is now on the run from the law with his mother to avoid having to comply with a judge’s order that he receive effective, science-based treatment. One strange aspect of this story is that he may be receiving aid from Billy Best, a man who, as a teen, also had Hodgkin’s disease and, at age 16, also ran away to avoid chemotherapy.

Here’s the story headline:

Man Who Survived Without Chemo: ‘I’d Still Fight’: Man Who Ran to Avoid Chemo in 1994, Says He’d Help Mom and Teen Now on the Lam

What’s so breathtakingly inaccurate about this headline? Easy. Billy Best actually did undergo at least a couple of rounds of curative chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease, possibly more, over four or five months before he decided to run away. He did not “survive without chemo.” Most likely, he survived because of chemo. But, like virtually everyone with an “alternative cancer cure testimonial,” he doesn’t attribute his good fortune in having survived 14 years to his conventional medical therapy. He attributes it to woo:

“I ran away because I believe the chemo was poisoning me and it would kill me before it cured me,” said Best.

In the past Best claimed that roots, Indian rhubarb and slippery elm helped him stay cancer-free, but told “GMA” on Saturday he “used something called 714-X.”

He’s also making disingenuous and dubious statements:

“That’s not an issue here,” said Best, who instead critiqued the widely circulated statistic that Daniel Hauser’s cancer would have 90 percent cure rate with chemotherapy.

From the video:

The 90% you’re talking about is a big issue because that’s an ideal statistic they’ll put out there. And I know that he’s had treatment and then stopped treatment. So, if he was to begin it, it wouldn’t be 90%, and that was something we talked about in court. So I just wish that people would understand that 90% I don’t think it applies to him at this time.

This is probably true, but even relapsed Hodgkin’s disease after a full course of treatment still has a good probability of complete remission. One figure I’ve seen quoted on the NCI website is around 75%. The woo that Daniel is pursuing provides about as close to a 0% chance as there is, and his odds of being cured fall the longer his mother keeps him away from effective treatment.

Billy Best is not a good example upon which to base decisions in the Daniel Hauser case, but that doesn’t stop him and other advocates of cancer quackery from pointing to him repeatedly as a “proof” that “alternative cancer cures” work.

Orac’s commentary

  1. Another child sacrificing himself on the altar of irrational belief
  2. Daniel Hauser and his rejection of chemotherapy: Is religion the driving force or just a convenient excuse?
  3. Judge John Rodenberg gives chemotherapy refusenik Daniel Hauser a chance to live
  4. Mike Adams brings home the crazy over the Daniel Hauser case
  5. The case of chemotherapy refusenik Daniel Hauser: I was afraid of this
  6. Chemotherapy versus death from cancer
  7. Chemotherapy refusenik Daniel Hauser: On the way to Mexico with his mother?
  8. An astoundingly inaccurate headline about the Daniel Hauser case
  9. Good news for Daniel Hauser!
  10. Daniel Hauser, fundraising, and “health freedom”

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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