Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Danny Hauser’s doing well, and (as usual) Mike Adams is going off the deep end

Last month, a frequent topic of this blog was the case of Daniel Hauser, the 13-year-old boy from Minnesota with Hodgkin’s lymphoma who made the national news for his refusal (and his mother’s support of that refusal) to undergo a second round of chemotherapy. Instead, he wanted to pursue “natural” therapy, including what sounded like alkalinization quackery. What was especially disturbing about this case was that he had a highly treatable form of cancer with close to a 90% expectation of long term survival with conventional treatment with chemotherapy and radiation. As with the cases of Abraham Cherrix and Katie Wernecke, the case of Daniel Hauser made national news and stoked a debate over parental rights to decide medical care for their children and what should be done when parents choose ineffective quackery (i.e., medical neglect) over effective scientific medicine, as well as the question of when a child is old enough to make such a decision for himself. Throwing a curveball into the mix were reports that Daniel is illiterate due to a learning disability.

The original reason given was that Daniel was a follower of a pseudoreligion called Nemenhah, which is led by a Native American wannabe who goes by the name of Chief Cloudpiler. Indeed, he even claimed to be an elder in the religion. This initially led me to conclude that this was yet another case of a child being sacrificed on the altar of irrational religious belief. Learning more led me to conclude that the case was a lot more complicated than that in that when he was very young apparently Daniel had watched his aunt die while being treated with chemotherapy, which had profoundly affected both him and his mother. When Daniel reacted very badly to the first round of chemotherapy, he became scared, and his mother freaked out, and I suspected that the claim that it’s against Daniel’s religion to undergo chemotherapy was more of a convenient excuse to justify the refusal of chemotherapy than due to a genuine belief in that religion. Whatever the reason, when the judge ruled that Daniel had to undergo chemotherapy, he and his mother went on the lam from the law, ostensibly to head for Mexico. Fortunately, eventually they came back, and Daniel’s mother Colleen Hauser agreed to have him undergo chemotherapy. Since then, Daniel’s case has been used as a rallying cry for quackery supporters about the supposedly intolerably overbearing “fascism” of the State of Minnesota.

During the two weeks or so that this case captivated the nation, I got tired of dealing with nonsense laid down by the many supporters (such as the aforementioned Mike Adams) and stuff like this:

Doctors have said Daniel’s cancer has up to a 90 percent chance of being cured with chemotherapy and/or radiation. Without those treatments, doctors say his chances of survival are 5 percent. Now I find those 90%-5% odds to be rather misleading. First of all, it’s not actually a 90% chance of “survival” but a 90% chance that the tumor will shrink. (You can argue that the tumor shrinking equals survival, but only if the side effects of the chemo and radiation don’t deteriorate his health even more).

The stupid, it burns. Or maybe I should say, the ignorance, it sucks all knowledge from the brain of those reading it. No, survival means survival. It means the percentage of patients who are still alive after five or ten years, and, as I described when schooling Daniel Hauser’s lawyer. In any case, that’s a taste of the medical misinformation I had to deal with, along with the usual claims of “suppression” of “alternative” cures and the context-free rants about how chemotherapy can predispose to second malignancies later in life. (Of course, never mentioned is that children with cancer who don’t undergo treatment don’t survive long enough to worry about those risks.)

In any case, it’s been nearly three weeks since I last wrote about this case, and I was wondering how Danny’s doing, since it’s been over two weeks since he underwent his first round of chemotherapy. Fortunately, there was a report over the weekend in the Mankato Free Press that suggests Danny is doing as well as can be expected:

A recent X-ray of a 13-year-old Sleepy Eye boy with cancer who reluctantly agreed to chemotherapy shows the tumor has shrunk, a family spokesman said.

“There’s quite a bit of reduction in the tumor,” Daniel Zwakman, a Cottage Grove man close to the family, said of Daniel Hauser.

That indicates the tumor has not become resistant to chemotherapy. Hauser had a single chemotherapy dose in early February, and doctors worried the tumor would grow back resistant to the chemicals.

If that happened, his chances of survival would drop from about 90 percent to 50 percent, said doctors at the Mayo Clinic and Children’s Hospital, who were cited by Brown County’s child neglect petition.

This is good news. One of the fears that I had was that exposing the tumor to one course of chemotherapy and then letting it grow again for three months would select for resistant clones, resulting in a tumor much less responsive to standard chemotherapy regimens for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If that had happened, then Daniel’s chances of being cured of his lymphoma would have gone way down. If this report is accurate and his tumors are shrinking rapidly in response to the first course of chemotherapy, that is good news indeed. Although it’s no guarantee, it suggests that Daniel is likely to do well.

Of course, as expected, apparently Daniel and his mother are attributing how well he is doing not to the chemotherapy, but to the unspecified “natural” therapies that he’s using along with the chemotherapy:

Zwakman said using alternative medicine with the traditional treatment has been beneficial. “We’re looking at this as the reason it’s responded as well as it has is the natural therapies that have gone along with it,” he said of the tumor’s reduction.

He said doctors are saying it’s too soon to talk about Daniel Hauser’s chances of recovering from his Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer.

Zwakman said the boy is still “very angry” about receiving chemotherapy, and is suffering through its side effects, including a very sore throat, a lack of energy, vomiting, dizziness and a lack of appetite.

But he said his gums are not swollen this time around, an improvement he attributed to the use of natural therapies planned by his mother.

I’m sorry to hear that Daniel is having side effects from the chemotherapy. I’m not surprised that he’s angry. He didn’t get his way. But at least he has a good chance at surviving. If he attributes his survival to the woo he’s using instead of the chemotherapy or in addition to the chemotherapy, who cares? At least he’ll be alive.

And no doubt that will allow everybody’s favorite promoter of quackery, Mike Adams, the man who can bring home the crazy better than anyone else I’ve seen outside of the Time Cube guy, fodder for years to come. The result? Articles entitled USA Patriot Act Defines Chemotherapy Pushers, CPS Aggressors as Terrorists:

In observing the outrageous acts of doctors who have turned 13-year-old Daniel Hauser and his mom into “fugitives from the law” over their refusal to submit to toxic chemotherapy treatments, I began to wonder whether existing U.S. law covers the crimes being committed against the Hauser family. It turns out the U.S. PATRIOT ACT already defines these cancer doctors and Child Protective Services zealots as “terrorists.”

What is a terrorist? A domestic terrorist is a person who engages in illegal acts that are “dangerous to human life” and which are intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population (among other things).

I suppose I should be glad that Adams isn’t calling oncologists and the State of Minnesota Nazis. By his standards, referring to oncologists as “terrorists” is actually exceedingly tame rhetoric. Actually, though, as is typical for Adams, he can’t even get his definitions correct and he leaves out a very big point that utterly demolishes his analogy. Let’s take a look at how the USA Patriot Act actually defines “domestic terrorism”:

(5) the term `domestic terrorism’ means activities that–

`(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

`(B) appear to be intended–
`(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
`(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
`(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

`(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.’.

Do you see the problem? What the State of Minnesota did was not a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state. Not that that stops our intrepid woo-meister from trying to get around little things like the law:

  • Chemotherapy is dangerous to human life. There’s no question whatsoever about that. Even the cancer doctors will tell you chemotherapy is poison.
  • The fugitive manhunt for the Hauser family, along with the threat of arrest from Child Protective Services, was part of a campaign to intimidate or coerce a civilian population into bowing to conventional cancer treatments (a political and financial aim).
  • The kidnapping of Daniel Hauser by state authorities is a violation of United States law, not to mention the 4th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

So we actually have all three elements here: Danger to human life, intimidation of a civilian population and the violation of law.

That makes this assault on the Hauser family an act of domestic terrorism!

Woo boy. Yes, chemotherapy can be dangerous, but so is the cancer that it treats. In Daniel’s case, chemotherapy is potentially life-saving. As for “coercing” a civilian population, somehow I doubt that that even went through the judge’s mind when ordering Danny to undergo chemotherapy. Indeed, his ruling was nuanced, and he appeared to bend over backwards to try to fashion his ruling to be as minimally coercive as possible. For example, he didn’t take Danny away from his parents, which, ironically enough, was what made it possible for Colleen Hauser to run off with him. He told the parents to get Daniel effective treatment, in essence putting the responsibility in their hands to choose physicians who practiced within the standard of care. After Colleen Hauser bolted with Danny, it was made clear that there would be no repercussions if she just brought Danny back, and there weren’t. How terroristic! How intimidating!

As for the 4th and 14th Amendments, as you might expect Adams is full of paranoid, conspiracy theory nonsense. The 4th Amendment is the guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures and searches of a person’s property without a warrant issued for probable cause. I fail to see where Minnesota authorities searched the Hauser’s property without reason or without a proper warrant. The 14th Amendment deals with several things, but I’m guessing the part that Adams is referring to is this:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Again, Adams can’t explain how Daniel Hauser or his parents were denied due process of law or equal protection of the law. Indeed, the very purpose of the action taken reluctantly by the State of Minnesota was to protect Daniel’s life. But, then, Adams never was one to let the facts stand in the way of a good conspiracy theory. Adams even goes so far as to ask why the cancer doctors and child protective services officers who acted to protect Daniel from quackery haven’t been shipped to Gitmo, concluding that it’s because states define “terrorism” as acting against the state. While there is a grain of truth in that, when applied to the Hauser case such rhetoric serves more to show just how far off the plantation Adams has wandered.

Never one to let a chance to go even further into the depths of crazy to pass, Adams can’t resist generalizing from the Hauser case, labeling it as the enforcement of “conformity”:

And yet I would argue that conformity is more harmful to children than living an “alternative” lifestyle. Conformity means feeding your children hot dogs, injecting them with over a hundred vaccines by the age of six (not a hundred individual shots, but a hundred vaccines combined into far fewer shots), exposing them to thousands of hours of television violence, taking psychiatric drugs and engaging in other destructive acts that ultimately harm children.

Healthy child rearing is, by definition, alternative in nature. Because most children (mainstream children) are not anywhere close to healthy. The truly healthy children are those raised by parents who reject mainstream junk foods (and medicine) and, instead, raise their children on real, unprocessed food made by Mother Nature.

Personally, I always laugh at the claims of “naturalness” that come from the likes of Adams. After all, how “natural” is pumping one’s body full of various supplements? Yet that’s what Mike Adams would recommend. How “natural” is it to pump various liquids up one’s posterior in order to “cleanse” the colon? Yet Adams can do nothing but speak well of colon and liver cleansing. In fact, how “natural” are “bioidentical hormones,” given that they are chemically synthesized from plant substances by pharmaceutical companies (just like a number of regular pharmaceuticals) and mixed by compounding pharmacies? Yet Adams castigates the FDA’s attempts to regulate bioidentical hormones as big pharma assaulting “natural cures.”

That is, of course, because to woo-meisters like Adams “natural” means whatever he needs it to mean. Right is left; up is down; and the world is upside-down. And Danny Hauser is nothing more than a convenient tool in Adams’ endless campaign to bring quackery to the masses.

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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