Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Politics Quackery

Update: Daniel Hauser must continue chemotherapy

The other day, I came across an update on the Daniel Hauser saga. Specifically, I commented about how he is not only undergoing the chemotherapy ordered by his doctors. As you may recall, Hauser is a 13-year-old boy who, after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and undergoing one round of chemotherapy, refused to undergo any more. His mother supported him, and ultimately a judge had to order Daniel’s parents to make sure that he underwent standard therapy for his very curable form of cancer. Daniel’s mother Colleen took off with him shortly afterward, rumored to be heading for Tijuana. Ultimately, Colleen Hauser turned herself and Daniel in, and Daniel started chemotherapy. What provoked my post was how Daniel’s tumor was shrinking in response to chemotherapy after having grown while he was off chemotherapy and relying on quackery, specifically Daniel and his family’s reaction. Consistent with the behavior of woo fans everywhere, Daniel and his family didn’t attribute his tumor’s response to the chemotherapy, but rather to the vitamins and other stuff in various “alternative” concoctions Daniel was taking in addition to chemotherapy.

In fact, it’s so predictable that woo-fans who “integrate” quackery with their conventional science-based medical therapy almost invariably attribute any good that happens to the woo and any complications to the conventional medicine, that I’m half tempted to call it a law and come up with a name for it.

Be that as it may, there was also a court hearing for an update on Daniel’s condition in which Daniel’s parents requested that the court rescind the child protection order governing Daniel’s medical care and giving Judge John Rodenberg jurisdiction over his care. Given that the last time Judge Rodenberg gave the Hausers too much leeway Colleen Hauser bolted and ran with Daniel to keep him from chemotherapy, the judge’s ruling was about what you would expect:

NEW ULM, MINN. – Daniel Hauser, the 13-year-old cancer patient from Sleepy Eye, Minn., is making “better-than-satisfactory progress” in his medical treatment but still needs to remain under court supervision, a Brown County judge said Tuesday.

At a court hearing in New Ulm, Judge John Rodenberg rejected a request by the Hauser family to rescind a child-protection order governing the boy’s medical care. Even though the family has complied with court-ordered chemotherapy, he said, he wants to maintain supervision of the case.

A wise decision. I highly doubt that Daniel’s chemotherapy would continue for long if Judge Rodenberg were to rescind the child protection order and stop overseeing his progress. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that Daniel’s chemotherapy would stop immediately after the Hausers walked out of the courtroom. He’d go straight back to the ionized water quackery and multiple supplements that he was taking before, and we all know how that worked out.

Not surprisingly, Daniel is angry about having to continue his therapy, and, consistent with the rule I mentioned earlier, he doesn’t think it’s the chemotherapy that’s shrinking his tumors:

I get really sick when I do it,” the teen said during an interview at his family’s farm in Sleepy Eye. “You get so dizzy and I get a headache right away.”

Daniel said he believes the improvement in his condition is being caused by his alternative treatments, which include vitamin supplements, ionized water and organic foods and other dietary restrictions.

Because, you know, those treatments worked so well before, leading his tumor to regrow from the size to which it had shrunk after his first round of chemotherapy to being even bigger than it was when he was diagnosed. Of course, Daniel is only 13 and learning disabled. He can’t really be blamed for his behavior that much; he clearly lacks the maturity to see the long view. The problem is that his mother appears to think the same way:

Colleen Hauser told the AP at her home that doctors said it would take six months to treat her son’s Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was first diagnosed, but they’ve seen improvement in the past few weeks.

“Wow,” she said. “Something’s working.”

But when asked if she credits the chemotherapy, she said, “I’m not going to say it’s not, but I just want to make it clear that I would like a better plan, a better treatment plan, for Danny.”

Believe it or not, so would oncologists. Research is constantly ongoing for newer, less harsh chemotherapy regimens that produce equivalent survival rates. Pediatric oncologists don’t like making children feel sick. That’s not why they went into pediatric oncology. They went into pediatric oncology to save children’s lives. Unfortunately, with our current therapies, that requires medications with serious side effects. There seems to be an attitude among the woo-friendly that somehow oncologists get a kick out of “poisoning” cancer patients with chemotherapy, as if they are all a bunch of sadists. Believe it or not, they take the attitude of the judge, who said:

The judge earlier assured Colleen and Anthony Hauser they can continue looking for other ways to treat their son.

“If at the end of the day Daniel lives through this, I am not going to care … what cures him,” the judge said. “I want Daniel to be well, and I know you do too.”

Because if the quacks could produce evidence that their “cancer cures” can do what they claim they can do, they wouldn’t be quacks, and their “alternative medicine” would cease to be “alternative” and become just medicine. Oncologists would add it to their armamentarium and treat patients with it.

Perhaps the saddest thing about the Hauser case is just how badly his parents let him down. After all, Daniel’s only 13, and any 13-year-old would hate feeling sick after chemotherapy, most not understanding the concept of enduring some discomfort now for a huge payoff later. To them, what matters is the now. That’s why children need parents, but, instead of putting their foot down and telling Daniel that the chemotherapy is for his own good, that it would save his life, instead they catered to his short-term thinking and fed his delusion that he could be cured without side effects.

But that’s what “alternative” medicine tends to appeal to: people’s childish nature. It promises all benefit and no risk, all cures and no failures, treatment of the deadliest diseases without side effects or pain. Who wouldn’t think that’s appealing? However, these promises are the very embodiment of the maxim that says, “If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.”

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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